First Impression: Paper Mario Sticker Star

Disclaimer: This is a first impression, by which I  am in no way reviewing the game, only giving my opinion on what I’ve played so far and what I feel does and does not work within in the game.

Well it’s finally here folks, the long-awaited third installment into the paper Mario series and no Super Paper Mario didn’t count. Brand me a hipster until your blue in the face but I’ll never accept that game as part of the franchise. Not because I think it was terrible, it just wasn’t the Paper Mario I knew and loved. But fear not Nintendo has brought the game back to its turn based roots making it feel just like old times, but does it live up to the hype? Guess we’ll find out.

Crinkle, Crinkle Little Star:

We join our mustachioed hero partying his gloves off at the mushroom kingdoms annual “Sticker Fest” where all the little toadlings gather and celebrate the passing of the all-powerful sticker star which has the ability to grant any wish. But of course just when everyone was having a grand ole time captain buzz kill, aka Bowser, and his loyal little underlings, crash the party and try to steal the power all for themselves and unfortunately… he succeeds. After granting himself unimaginable power the star splits into 5 “royal stickers” and are scattered across the land. Now its all up to Mario, who is joined by Kersti, a spunky magical sticker who serves under the sticker star as an envoy, to collect all the royal stickers, defeat Bowser, and save the princess…again.

So yes, it’s a bit of the same old routine. Everyone’s having a blast, then SURPRISE here comes old man Bowser trying to hang with the cool kids. Now, seeing as I’ve only gotten as far as the first boss, I will give it the benefit of the doubt and reserve my judgment for a later day when I’ve gotten further into the story BUT, even if it turns out to be a “new dog, old tricks” kinda situation I wouldn’t necessarily call that a bad thing. Mario has been a staple in the gaming world for as long as I can remember and the reason is because it’s consistent and it works. Sure we could go on and on about how it hasn’t changed much from, well, its beginning, but the real question is, do we want it too? Paper Mario Sticker Stars story is as whimsical as any of it predecessors and some of the line of dialogue will leave you rolling on the floor laughing. Kersti is a nice little addition to team Mario. While she certainly can’t replace all the colorful characters and companions of the previous titles, she has her own spunky charm and is helpful in your time of need.

It’s A Flat World After All:

Now you’d assume with the name “Paper Mario” we would be used to the whole paper theme, but not even the previous games emphasized it to this extent. Sure there was the occasional “turn sideways to fit in the crack” or “fold into a paper plane to glide to this ledge” but when it came to the overall world it really just felt, 2D. In Sticker star you are constantly reminded that the world is literally made of paper from the bushes on the ground that fall over flat when you strike the ground with your mighty hammer, to the boxes that explode into sheets when you jump up to hit them from below. Before it felt more like, the world was normal but the people were paper. They’ve brought it to a whole other level of papery goodness… and I quite like it.

It’s also important to mention that they decided to return back to the old super Mario Bros. over world map from the NES days, which is really helpful when you find your self running low on items and need to pop back to the plaza for a quick shopping spree. Although, I will miss the feeling of a huge , albeit restricted and incredibly linear but open, world where i didn’t even know if could make it back to the nearest save point alive. In  a way it takes the challenge out of the exploration. I loved making the tough decision whether or not to risk battle upon battle to see what was in the next area, or making the long trip back home and do the smart thing by stocking up on supplies where as in this world everything is readily available. While I absolutely love the re-defined and heavily emphasized paper aesthetic, the over all word seems a bit small and to easily accessible with not enough exploration in between.

It’s As Simple As Jump, Swing, Throw:

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The one thing that makes Paper Mario, Paper Mario (well other than the fact that every thing is made of paper). Of course I’m talking about the battle system, turn based to be exact. I’m a sucker for a good turn based RPG, which is why even though I’m not the biggest Mario fan I had to pick up the first game in the series day one and man oh man did it work. To any fan of the series this was probably, above all else, the most worried about aspect of the game. Would it be like before? What changes did they make? Are we gonna have companions? Unfortunately that last one should have become painfully obvious by now. The lack of side-kickery is a darn shame and it does hurt the games over all standing as a new entry into series BUT the basic fighting mechanics are still there, just with a little twist which some, including myself, have a love hate relationship with. Well, more of a “meh, i can deal” kinda feeling.

Mario and his foes must use the power of stickers to duke it out on the battlefield. All actions, whether it be a simple jump or the most basic hammer swing, must be executed by an item which is kept in a catalog as a sticker on a page. Pages do have limited space and some stickers are larger than others so you have to choose wisely what attacks and status remedies you find to be the most important. I don’t mean to insinuate that items are scarce. In fact it’s quite the opposite. You can’t move two steps without finding a sticker stuck on the ground or glued to a wall, and most enemies will drop them once defeated, as well as ample coinage which you can then use to restock every page with whatever you choose. Some see this as an annoyance, complaining about being constantly bombarded with stickers, but you have to remember once you use an item, its gone for good. There is no mp system by which you just refill a gauge and everything is all honky dory. I learned the hard way to get while the getting good and to choose what i get with the utmost care. If, i had to give one criticism it would be that because you don’t want to lose your best sticker before a boss fight it discourages you from fighting the little battles and its frustrating when you can’t avoid them.

Overall it’s not to complicated. You average battle is over in 3 turns so every thing is much faster paced. Although there are many different stickers I still wouldn’t say there’s much variety in attack, just different styles.

My First Impression:

So lets look at what we have so far. The story is nothing we haven’t seen before. Same cast, new costumes. The over all world is a pretty sight to see and I can’t help but smile at the at which they emphasized the worlds papery make-up. Gameplay, specifically combat, is a bit more simplistic than I would have hoped for but the good news is anyone who’s had the pleasure of experiencing the first 2 titles will feel right at home from the very start.

Like I said before, this isn’t a review, just my thoughts on what I’ve experienced, so this is in no way a final verdict. Paper Mario Sticker Star is a wonderful addition to the Paper Mario franchise and I think it will have no problem settling its way into the hearts and wallets of avid fans. While it does suffer from its somewhat stifling simplicity and hand holding nature it makes up for it or rather breaks even with the beautiful aesthetic and a fresh take on turn based battle. If you are a fan of the previous games i recommend you pick it up as soon as you can. Maybe it’s not like old times, but it’s still a whole lotta fun.

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