Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GameCube) Preview

By Rory W. Renehan 15.10.2004 2

Mario, Nintendo's plucky plumber mascot has starred in a vast array of game types including platformers, puzzlers and even beat 'em ups. Unbeknownst to most, though, he has also starred in some fantastic RPGs that have unfortunately never been as heavily pushed as his other genres, or enjoyed by nearly as many people as they deserved. Paper Mario 2 looks to cahnge matters, with it being touted as one of the strongest titles in the run-up to Christmas and one that looks like proving action and role-playing can be mixed to produce spectacular results.

At first glance, the game may seem to be a step backwards in what is widely believed to be the traditional RPG form. When compared to the super realistic Final Fantasy, Paper Mario may, initially, pale in the visual department. It is not until you begin to experience the game first-hand, however, that you are stunned into silence, well, from what we have seen so far, anyway. It is the element of vibrant, abstract beauty that we find so refreshing; the game is proof Nintendo can be intelligently original and still make a damn stylish game. Forget the realistic RPGs of old, Paper Mario 2 looks to show us a new way to step forward with role playing games.

Apart from a unique aesthetic approach, Paper Mario 2 can also boast some smart gameplay mechanics, such as the very well implemented paper theme. Mario can now take full advantage of being two-dimensional, folding himself into an aeroplane in order to cross seemingly impassable gap and, more frequently, use this ability to turn side-on and slip through prison bars and other small spaces. The paper idea is also set to introduce lots of magnificent set pieces. For example, pages turn to put into play environmental effects such as raising bridges and when Mario jumps up and literally slides between the sheets of tavern beds. These are just some of the highlights of what sort of shenanigans Mario's 2D form will offer, though. Paper Mario 2 appears to be trying to show the world that 2D can beat 3D any day, and this masterpiece looks to be winning the heated debate...

Screenshot for Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door on GameCube

Something that does remain the same, however, is the Mario formula: Princess Peach has been captured once more. The twist this time is that the dopey woman has been carried away by Hooktail, a new foe. Obviously Bowser is enraged by this turn of events, as it makes him look slow and rather shame-faced. The story now leaves the game open for Mario to collect seven magical stones, beat the bad guy and save the pretty Princess in pink, no matter how annoying it is to find her recaptured so often. Mario's new quest will see him roaming towns, exploring buildings and chatting with numerous, charming non-player characters that will no doubt have some whimsical side-quests for you to partake in. Also, the rumours of controlling Bowser have proved to be true and in-between some sections you can play a Mario-style platformer where you take control of Bowser and smash enemies, grab meat from blocks, super-size and pull a flag down a pole, in true Super Mario Bros. fashion.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door on GameCube

As you may have expected already, Paper Mario 2's combat system is as original and refined as the rest of the game; your fighting party consists of the Italian plumber and company, with so far only one ally being shown with Mario at any given time, following behind as you run around the many castles, forest, caves and other locations. The game offers, in true platforming style, the ability to jump and swing Mario's hammer as you see fit. As you proceed through the different locales, you will encounter actual moving enemies who, if alerted to your presence, will make a bee-line straight toward you, initiating combat.

This approach then not only gives you the ability to stealthily avoid battles if you are low on Hit Points, but also allows you to score a free hit by using your jump command or the special hammer you can obtain and gaining the upper-hand before your foe knows what has happened! Paper Mario 2 does not stop with originality once the battle begins, though, as although the fight is still turn-based, you have the ability to make your attacks stronger by hitting the right buttons at the point of your attacks impact, thus inflicting extra damage. In addition, hitting 'A' before an enemy attack lets you soften the blow and reduce the overall effect.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door on GameCube

As is to be expected, each character has a range of special attacks and many new ones to be learned as you progress, which will involve control stick wiggling and button combination bashing, to name but two examples, to utilise them effectively. All of the game's battles are also performed on a stage in front of a crowd, who if displeased by your boring performance will throw assorted damage causing baddies at you, and if pleased with your style will throw health power-ups and other useful freebies. The fighting stage is also interactive as a strong hammer blow can bring set pieces toppling down, and for each area the stage changes to keep in style. It is little changes like this that help to ensure Intelligent Systems' RPG stands high above its N64 little brother and prove to be far more than a run-of-the-mill sequel.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door on GameCube

Final Thoughts

Positive is a complete understatement for Paper Mario 2. Simply the idea of a sequel to the fantastic Mario RPG series had the entire C3 team fainting with glee, but to find out that Intelligent Systems is producing such a first class title is beyond even our dreams. With a wonderful visual physique, the trademark gameplay mechanic with some extra twists, undoubtedly lashings of that crazy Nintendo humour and plenty of nostalgia to keep retro-heads content, the fourth Mario RPG looks like keeping us all warm over the chilly Christmas period!

Developer

Intelligent Systems

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (20 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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