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Paper Mario: Sticker Star (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Paper Mario: Sticker Star on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

When it was first announced at E3 2010, many presumed that the then-titled Paper Mario was in fact a remake of the Nintendo 64 original, especially given how Star Fox 64 3D and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D were on the cards. Eventually it transpired that Intelligent Systems was working on the fourth entry into the series, following the superb Paper Mario, Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door, and the disappointing misstep, Super Paper Mario.

Paper Mario was always an RPG series, following on from Super Mario RPG and it is why many people adored the N64 and GameCube versions. However, Shigeru Miyamoto has stepped in now to remove as much of the elements that made it so popular, as well as stopping the inclusion of as many characters as possible, instead focusing on Toads. Yes, Miyamoto-san's decisions are not always golden, sadly. The result is positive in a way, as it does indeed focus more on Paper Mario himself, but at the same time the real mish-mash of gameplay styles in place of a regular RPG feel is awkward and really takes time to click, undoubtedly leaving many people disappointed in the process. For the purposes of this review, it was only after a good five or so hours that the adventure started to become more enjoyable and not too many people will have that level of patience.

The adventure features Mario, the Toads, a little helper by the name of Kersti (ambassador to the Royal Stickers and helper throughout the adventure), and the big bad of Bowser waiting in the wings, with his cronies plaguing Mario throughout the journey, using special Royal Stickers to augment their powers and cause havoc constantly. The whole adventure is based around stickers, with Bowser touching the Sticker Comet at the annual Sticker Fest and using the resultant effect to his advantage, with his minions also going crazy with power from the Royal Stickers that must be retrieved by the portly plumber. Mario must work his way around a top-down map reminiscent of games such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, playing various short stages and collecting comet pieces, gradually working towards retrieving the Royal Stickers from King Koopa's underlings.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: Sticker Star on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

There is no character levelling-up, with Mario's energy being increased in a similar fashion to in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda line, with special hearts located in various places that upon collection add an extra section to his health meter. There are no defence or weapon upgrades, either, with the emphasis purely being on collecting powerful stickers that are consumed one at a time during battle -- or in multiples of three should the fruit machine-esque reel be used, matching three of a kind to do three attacks in one round. This brings up the other annoying point of having to always ensure sticker supplies are kept high, for fear of not being able to keep enemies at bay during fights. It proves highly frustrating as there is limited space for sticker storage until later in the game when more 'sticker pages' are provided, thus giving more room. Uncovering new elements or solving puzzles by 'Paperising' the world to place certain sticker types onto the scenery is novel at first, but the gimmick also wears thin as Sticker Star continues to somehow lose its way on a regular basis, not knowing quite what genre it wants to fall into. In some instances it even feels like a wannabe point-and-click adventure, except with the pointing and clicking part!

One of the other big annoyances is the amount of back-tracking required. There are special items that can be found throughout the world and changed into super stickers, such as a large fan, a pair of scissors, baseball bat, trumpet, sponge, and so on. The amount of weird and wacky items is quite immense, and they can all be used in some way during battle, normally to great effect. The problem is, however, that some are imperative for story progression or have to be used against particular bosses in order to gain victory. What this means is that should you use them in excitement at the wrong time, it leaves players stuck, having to traipse back to the beginning of the game to access a hidden shop where they can be bought again. It certainly is a flawed design because no indication is given that these specials must be hoarded away for the exact right moment, and having to return to the secret shop repeatedly grates quickly.

Sadly, on the whole Paper Mario: Sticker Star, whilst it has its brief moments of glory, is not a patch on its N64 and GameCube brethren. No doubt it will sell enough copies to warrant the change in style, but true followers will be waiting now to see what AlphaDream has in store for 3DS owners instead.

Screenshot for Paper Mario: Sticker Star on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The core mechanic of jumping on and hammering enemies to reduce their energy remains, but using stickers as a form of attack is misguided and frustrating due to its implementation. There is also far too much back-tracking involved, making what could have been a delightful adventure into a somewhat tiresome one.

Graphics

The whole paper-thin world looks as lovely as ever, with all the characters and landscapes being filled to the brim with colour. However, some of the non-paper sections look quite bland, and the added 3D depth is negligible.

Sound

Plenty of quaint, cute tunes throughout, with lots of bright and breezy remixes of previous soundtracks, taking the highlights of the past and sprucing them up with a great touch of instrument-led goodness that is reminiscent of Kirby's Epic Yarn at times, with shades of Super Mario Sunshine.

Value

Breezing through some of the tiny stages takes mere minutes and the majority of the game's duration will involve traipsing backwards and forwards to talk to people, collect items missed (or used without realising their importance), and so on. Clearly an overworld was ditched to ease the pain of back-tracking, but even in its top-down level selection format, what could have been an entertaining journey in the long-run proves ultimately disappointing.

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Average

About this score

For all its beauty in the presentation stakes, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is certainly not the RPG than many fans of the series in general were expecting. It does prove to be a satisfying enough adventure after becoming accustomed to the mix and match of gameplay styles included, but the back-tracking and frustrating limitations of the sticker battling system fail to impress. The whole package feels a bit 'lost and confused.' With this being the second deviation from the role-playing genre, and with the usual humour also surprisingly absent, all eyes turn to AlphaDream for a new, true RPG with Mario & Luigi 4.

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30.11.2012

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Developer

Intelligent Systems

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Guess  I'll buy BiS instead then as I didnt play that one yet.

" all eyes turn to AlphaDream for a new, true RPG with Mario & Luigi 4."

hell yes.

Please give our little random review show a try;
http://randomreviewshow.com/index.html
We have special effects and umm...stuff...
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I love Bowser's Inside Story, and am just putting the finishing touches to a review at the moment Smilie

I've just been checking other Sticker Star review scores and wow, the range is all over the place! Seems I've given it the lowest score according to Metacritic Smilie but that's really how I felt, and it looks like there are other reviewers talking about how frustrated they were. They shouldn't have messed with the formula Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

So disappointing...

Thanks.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

The phrase 'style over substance' springs to mind. Even then, though, I don't why the usual humour seems so lacking. I've been playing Bowser's Inside Story again recently and it's laugh-out-loud funny at times.

Red XIII said:
I actually like the idea of taking away the level up system. Not making me grind and keeping the game moving along is great.

Wait until you try it...You'll quickly want the levelling-up system back. In Sticker Star, you have to run around finding loads of stickers instead of gaining experience from fights to get stronger.

The cute animation for pulling stickers off anything (walls, bushes, trees, etc) is nice at first, but quickly grows tiresome as you need hundreds of the damn things and just multiply the two seconds it takes to pull each one off and you'll realise how much time is wasted.

Also, you don't always know if you've got enough of the strongest stickers to overcome a certain big boss (or even random mid-level bad guys). Therefore, there will be more than one time where you just have to let Mario run out of energy because trying to escape isn't that easy (or just isn't possible in some cases). This happens in RPGs, I suppose, but at least you're always able to attack. Here, the game gives a token random single sticker if totally out, but if you still have some left...ones that aren't good for attack (defence items or health mushrooms) then you don't get anything, meaning fights just drag out until your supply is finally out and you DO get a cursory attack item, or you die. Sounds a barrel of laughs, right?

Then there is the matter of the special stickers mentioned in the review -- where if you use them out of sheer excitement to see what wacky effects they have on enemies you're screwed and get stuck until having to track back and find the 'secret store' to buy more.

Back-tracking, wow, SO annoying.

You may read this and think I was overly generous with a 6...but there are redeeming factors, and it starts to grow on you after the third or fourth world. However, by that time most would have likely given up, shaking their head at Miyamoto-san for kerbing Intelligent Systems' creative flow. You know WHY that has happened, right? It's because Super Paper Mario sold more than the previous two PM games Smilie

( Edited 01.12.2012 10:32 by Adam Riley )

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

What a huge shame :c I'll prolly still get it, but all my excitement has died, simply not fair.

Adam Riley said:
You know WHY that has happened, right? It's because Super Paper Mario sold more than the previous two PM games Smilie

Wasn't that simply because it was on Wii, rather than because it used more ~Mario~ elements?

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I've seen a few 6/6.5 out of 10 and 3/3.5 out of 5, plus a lot of reader reviews at GameFAQs have been very disappointed, giving it 3/10 in cases. A game that once was one of the reasons I might have picked up a 3DS when it was announced has been completely crossed off my list now. Like you say, all eyes are on the fourth game of Mario & Luigi now - a fantastic humorous RPG series, that this game should have been.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
...Upupu.
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Is a fourth M&L game definitely happening?

And will Miyamoto be ruining that one too?

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

Huge shame, I was really looking forward to this. Smilie Ah well, I still need to get Bowser's Inside Story too, so that'll have to fuel my Maro RPG cravings for now!
Thanks for the review!

3DS Friend Code: 4425-1453-7061

This is so disappointing. The first two Paper Mario games were amazing RPG's. The series is really going down hill Smilie

If something isn't broken - don't fix it. We've seen this with the 2D Mario titles, I have no idea why Nintendo won't apply this same principle to the Paper Mario games...

"Do a Barrel Roll!"
NSMB2 sucks though (guest) 01.12.2012 22:04#10

I have to admit this is getting slightly ridiculous.

There's nothing wrong with dispensing a score you think the game deserves. Yet you seem to rationalize the lower score by somewhat overstating the degree of offense committed, say, by the sticker system and lack of conventional experience-based growth. There's hardly anything "frustrating due to their implementation" about picking a sticker and attacking with it.

Since you mention backtracking, is it fair to say that The Thousand Year Door was just as egregiously designed in this regard? Is it not relevant to note that the segmented level design makes "backtracking" about as obnoxious as using "Fly" in the Pokemon overworld? Perhaps you could more accurately fault the seclusion of 'thing stickers' in elusive, doorway-bereft grottos around the map since, while a problem easily remedied by always trying to keep one or two door stickers handy, it is an understandably beleaguering system. "Backtracking" is hardly an issue.

Why emphasize the shorter areas which can be "breezed through in minutes" without noting how some can take up to an hour? Why not emphasize the level variety and creativity unless you simply have a bone to pick?

The actual problems with this game - less concentration on dialogue, some maddening and unintuitive puzzles ("THAT was the solution?"), little character variety and some serious nerve in invisible block placement - would have been more appropriately cited than "bactracking and stickers". As the reviewer the content here is entirely at your discretion, but you seem to eschew rightfully calling out more important, almost insultingly bold artistic decisions in favor of knocking features which are fairly tame, considering.

i felt playing one paper mario was enough. played th super one quite a bit, bu disappointing yeah.

...but that japanese name-san, is that really necessary? it looks so silly in a wall of englsh text. I don see a reason for  either. like you'd write monsieur Ancel or whatever his name is eveytime yo write an article on Rayman...?

You are not alone. I am here with you. Though we're far apart...you're always in my heart. Love u!
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

NSMB2 sucks though (guest) said:
There's nothing wrong with dispensing a score you think the game deserves. Yet you seem to rationalize the lower score by somewhat overstating the degree of offense committed, say, by the sticker system and lack of conventional experience-based growth. There's hardly anything "frustrating due to their implementation" about picking a sticker and attacking with it.

I'm stating the majority of the issues that really made sure I didn't enjoy the adventure as much as I really wanted to. I can see what the design team was trying to do with the changes, but it all just falls flat on its face.

Since you mention backtracking, is it fair to say that The Thousand Year Door was just as egregiously designed in this regard? Is it not relevant to note that the segmented level design makes "backtracking" about as obnoxious as using "Fly" in the Pokemon overworld?

It all depends, really, as in some games it doesn't seem like a chore. There are far too many elements in PM: SS that felt stale, so the whole idea of having to traipse back and forth for damn special stickers that I had used for fun was annoying. The same goes for popping back to the harbour early in the game on what seemed like a far too regular basis.

Perhaps you could more accurately fault the seclusion of 'thing stickers' in elusive, doorway-bereft grottos around the map since, while a problem easily remedied by always trying to keep one or two door stickers handy, it is an understandably beleaguering system. "Backtracking" is hardly an issue.

As I say, the backtracking was indeed an issue for me in this game. Why? I touch upon it slightly above, but 'backtracking' in itself isn't always bad. The points you mention are equally valid. Some of the puzzles were rather obtuse (for instance the one where stickers are required to open certain doors in a stage), and yes, having to always have spare door stickers to unlock secrets was a bugbear, but certainly not worth mentioning in the review at large due to them normally being mere extra bonuses.

Why emphasize the shorter areas which can be "breezed through in minutes" without noting how some can take up to an hour? Why not emphasize the level variety and creativity unless you simply have a bone to pick?

I did have a bone to pick, and it would be the same bone other fans of the first two PMs would want to pick. Sure, some levels differ in length, but certain stages don't even deserve that name - if going for the SMB3 or SMW style level layout, you tend to expect full levels at each stop (unless it's a Mushroom house, obviously, when you know it's a bonus stage). Here you're fooled into thinking there's more on offer than there actually is. Even the longer levels, though, are not exactly challenging. You have NO reason to fight enemies any more due to the lack of levelling-up, and the battles aren't fun this time (in my opinion the balance is a bit off - not as smooth as before), so it's a case of charge through the standard fare stages, sometimes coming across some clever ideas (there are positives - 6/10 is after all 'above average'), and quickly grab the comet piece. Rinse and repeat.

The actual problems with this game - less concentration on dialogue, some maddening and unintuitive puzzles ("THAT was the solution?"), little character variety and some serious nerve in invisible block placement - would have been more appropriately cited than "bactracking and stickers".

I can live with the lower amount of dialogue. There are still the Toads to talk to, Kersti always has some extra advice if you chat to her, etc. It is a bit sad that Miyamoto-san has had such a strong influence on the way Intelligent Systems handled the final game, though. The puzzles element is what I meant before about the game not quite knowing what it wants to be. Have you read the comments about how Miyamoto was pleased with the changes put into Tingle's Rosey Rupee Land? Maybe he didn't read the reviews discussing some of that game's biggest weaknesses Smilie

As the reviewer the content here is entirely at your discretion, but you seem to eschew rightfully calling out more important, almost insultingly bold artistic decisions in favor of knocking features which are fairly tame, considering.

Bold artistic decisions? I didn't notice any, unless you mean the special stickers that I feel could have been developed far better. If they wanted to make it more like a traditional point-and-click with platforming mixed in, that could have worked...but they didn't, and in the end I felt the whole thing was a pretty mess. 'Style over substance' is the comment I put in a previous message, and I still stand by that.

I can't cover every tiny little detail in a review, and it's good to have discussion like this in the comments Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Surprised at the low score. I've played the game for 7 hours now and I'm loving it. Did a 3 hour run one night until I realized it was VERY late hahaha.

The fights are fun and I'm constantly managing stickers so I'm ready for any hard fight. Sure, you only get coins... but you also get some special stickers unique to some characters, thus allowing you to complete the sticker museum.

This game seems to have broken a "love it or hate it" review burst, so be careful about buying/skipping the game after reading a review.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

EdEN said:
The fights are fun and I'm constantly managing stickers so I'm ready for any hard fight.

Really didn't feel it, as I'm sure you've gathered. The battle mechanic even seemed tweaked. I used to like having to hold the attack button when using the hammer, for instance, releasing at just the right time. Now you have to wait and hit it once, hoping to get a better result with correct timing of the depress. Minor change, sure, but it was yet another niggle that added to the pile.

Sure, you only get coins... but you also get some special stickers unique to some characters, thus allowing you to complete the sticker museum.

Really not an incentive for me. Filling the museum seemed like such a boring, pointless venture, and getting coins in return for battles was also another fruitless venture, which is why I spent most of the time dodging nearly every fight possible to reach the end goal.

This game seems to have broken a "love it or hate it" review burst, so be careful about buying/skipping the game after reading a review.

That is very true. I'd probably say that anyone who enjoyed Super Paper Mario may well like this. Those that liked the series for its RPG side, though, it probably won't be to their tastes. Obviously that's not a clear cut truth, as with any review!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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