Late To The Party: Paper Mario

6

From what I’ve been able to gather, Paper Mario: Sticker Star has been the least popular game in that franchise. I don’t think I’ve ever entered a franchise of games starting on an entry with such a distinction.

The reason I decided to try out Sticker Star when it was on sale is actually the precise reason a lot of fans probably dislike the game — the changes it made to series staples. Maybe that means Paper Mario isn’t for me, maybe Miyamoto has a point about the series.

The main thing I hear got people riled up when the game launched last fall was when Miyamoto stated his opinion that story isn’t really all that important for Paper Mario. The game is an RPG and the previous three entries are known for their great writing, so I understand the concern. I’d personally say that Sticker Star has just enough of that writing to still make the game’s characters fun.

My first crack at a Paper Mario was a rental of the second game Thousand Year Door on the Gamecube a few years ago, and while I thought it was a great game, the massive amount of text really put me off. Oh it was very entertaining to read, but if it gets in the way of me actually playing the game it doesn’t really matter how well-written it is for me.

The spinoff Super Paper Mario wasn’t too bad in this area. Sticker Star still has a lot of colorful dialogue and a good amount of characters to interact with. You just won’t spend 50 percent of the game reading that dialogue. I especially appreciated the little pop-up stories with poems at the end of each world.

Yeah RPGs are one of the few genres often defined by narrative, but I say non-interactive elements shouldn’t get in the way the core game, and Sticker Star at least attempts a unique approach with that gameplay.

Nintendo is known for building entire games around single-interaction concepts, and I think they came up with a lot of cool design ideas with this whole sticker thing. It’s just like Nintendo to do something like make you literally rip stickers off walls — anything to try to simulate the tactile feedback of interacting with stickers.

The changes to the RPG elements to accommodate this probably understandably pissed off Thousand Year Door fans further, but as a new player of the mainline games I’m less attached. All I see is a unique combat system inventively designed around a unique subject for games. Turning the bottom screen into a sticker album, with the amount of stickers essentially replacing your MP is a smart move I think. It actually sounds eerily familiar to card battle RPGs, which I usually hate, but in Sticker Star “card” scarcity isn’t that much of a problem.

The only things that really annoyed me while playing through Sticker Star were some of the puzzles, which took me a bit too long to figure out. They’re pretty smart for the most part but not quite as intuitive as what you would expect from a Nintendo game. Sticker Star becomes somewhat frustrating as a result.

Otherwise, Sticker Star to me is further proof that a thick story isn’t an absolute imperative for RPGs. It’s just one of those various reasons one can be enjoyable, along with things like fun gameplay, an interesting world to explore, or well-written characters.

BULLETS:

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