Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Thought to Chew: Why I Enjoyed Paper Mario: Sticker Star

A while back, I posted an article regarding why I love Super Paper Mario, frequently regarded as the black sheep of the series. Then, of course, there was the other one: Paper Mario: Sticker Star. I think that at one point I foreshadowed doing this, but I didn't look at the post, but with the Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, which looks absolutely amazing, I decided to knock it off my bucket list.
At some point, in the hazy months of 2013, when the blog was unsurprisingly underdeveloped (even though it still is), I started a tiny review which I never finished. You can find it in the terrible "Video Game Reviews (Kinda Defunct)" section which I won't link to because it's absolutely awful. It was extremely half-baked, but one of the few things I wrote was as follows: "Everybody's all like 'This game sucks. Set on fire,' which I just don't get. It may suffer in comparison to Thousand Year Door, and may not be as original as the first in the series, but when you push the legacy of its family aside, it's a great game. Those games are amazing, but they overshadow Sticker Star and makes it look like dirt." Even though I hate practically everything I wrote two years ago, it carries some semblance of what  I still think.
 You see, back in the heydays of the 2000s, Paper Mario was a completely fresh and innovative concept. Take Mario, flatten him out, and change the environments into paper. Yes, I know, it's a complete shocker. I'm willing to bet you had no freaking idea based on the title, but as I say at least twenty times per post, I digress. They were built up similarly to Super Mario RPG, frequently heralded as one of the best Mario games, and for good reason. Typically, taking video game franchises and making spin-offs resulted in disasters. Whoever wanted to learn how to use a crossbow with Link or talk to Pikachu, a creature who is inevitably so braindead that the voice detection is about as bad as subway announcements? Okay, so admittedly crossbow lessons with the hero of Hyrule would be pretty awesome, but with a plastic stick? Ehhhh, no thanks.
Mario, however, pulled it off, and while this can be partially attributed to the fact that it was made by the jolly folks at Squaresoft, the entirety of the franchise simply clicked into the new style. Paper Mario is essentially a sequel but made of paper, so it was a complete success, and the first two installments are frequently handled with the highest of regards. 

Now, Super Paper Mario was another beast. I've already talked extensively of it, of course, For a foreshortened summary, it was a completely different beast, reverting the RPG style of the first two into a standard platformer while still keeping the entertaining plot and eccentricities of the series. It got decent reception, but as far as I know, everybody hated it,
Then, a couple years later, a new Paper Mario game was announced, and it was gonna be an RPG! Were the gods of Nintendo parting the clouds, revealing the gate to gaming heaven and bestowing us with the gift we all so desperately needed. No. That's dumb. 
If anything, it was more in vain with Super Paper Mario. Sure, it was a turn-based RPG, but it also focused more on platforming and the like. In addition, many were infuriated by the new and questionable RPG element of using stickers. Basically, your attacks consisted of stickers. The standard weapons were shoes (which let you jump on opponents) and hammers (which, uh, lets you hammer things, uh-doi!). Then, there were variations of them, such as line jump (letting you jump from one opponent to the next), iron jump (allowing you to jump on spiky opponents without injury), slaphammer (allowing to literally slap the enemy across the screen), and the elemental hammers, burnhammer, freezehammer, and baahammer (which despite being one of the suckiest weapons in the game, put opponents to sleep.) There were also several classes of weapons, which were damaged (meaning they sucked terribly), standard, shiny, flashy, big shiny, and big flashy. Lastly, there are three final classes: the overpowered stickers, consisting of infinijump (which allows you to jump on an opponent 100 times) and clone jump (which I have no idea what it does), weapon stickers (standard drops from certain enemies including bones from Dry Bonses [?], spike balls from Spikes, and wrenches from those moles that I can't remember the name of), and last but certainly not least, the eloquently titled Things. These are sticker versions of real-life objects, such as a curling iron, hair shears, and a soda can, which other than being OP as heck are also used for solving puzzles. For example, in World 3, you come across a sleeping Wriggler blocking the way. By flipping dimensions, you become able to place a sticker. Naturally, you need a sticker to wake him up, so you use a trumpet to blast his poor self awake. 
While the system to me was fairly addicting, the issue arose in the fact that they were stickers. They were all one-use, replaceable stickers. This meant two things happened to me. The first is that there was a dilemma on what stickers to use, the more valuable ones to make it quicker or the worse ones to save for later, potentially more dangerous foes. Then there was the laborious task of replacing them repeatedly, which frequently meant memorizing the levels where certain stickers were found, and doing them repeatedly to stockpile. That alone contributed to half of my entire playtime of the game.
While that was a huge problem, I also noticed that people were annoyed by how much the game flaunted its paper aesthetic. This is completely true to be fair. For example, while some standard status effects exist such as poison or sleep, there's also crumple and clipping, meaning you can get crumpled up into a ball or clipped by a paper clip. The dialogue is also heavy on paper puns, and several elements of the game seem to revolve around the fact that everything is paper. For example, in a haunted chateau called the Enigmansion, you are tasked with defeating ghosts hidden all over the place. 90% are found by opening a cabinet, unleashing 82 Boos who fall out before forming into a ream of paper. For the most part, they didn't bother me at all. Seriously, the game has paper in the title. Everything's made out of PAPER. What did you expect? While I found them to have the same endearing wit as the Wii installment, I assume others found that they fell flat. GET IT? 'CUZ PAPER IS FLAT? OLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!111! Alas, I fold. GET IT AGAIN?! I'M ON A ROLL!111! HAH! GET IT?!?!?!?!? A ROLL OF PAPER!?!?!?!?!?
The jokes more often then not fell into that kind of category. Sure, they weren't as annoying, but they were alarmingly consistent. Still, from a series known for its wit, I can't complain.
In the end, it's those two issues that cause the game to fall short. Is it necessarily bad though? No, not at all. In fact, I enjoyed the game a lot. I've beaten a lot of the game, collected all the stickers, completed every level, and have essentially been through the whole game, and I thought it was great. Sure, it's not as innovative as the first two titles, but it was just as enjoyable as any other big Nintendo title, offering the same ingenuity we've come to expect from the big N. In the end, that's all that matters, and hopefully, just hopefully, they won't flunk the next one.

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