Power Hour: Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
I will start off this article by saying I am cheating, and I realize I am cheating, but let’s explain why it works. First off, it is cheating because I’ve already played through a great big chunk of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door when it was originally released way back in 2004. That said, I feel like 7 years, and a sequel is more than enough time to revisit this classic and see how it holds up.
Starting off, the first thing one would notice about the game is theÂ aesthetics. The paper motif, which is an element shared by both itsÂ predecessorÂ and its successor, still remains highly unique to the franchise. With that said, the style holds up remarkably well. It may not be as sharp and as detailed as one would expect on an HD console, but since it isn’t polygonal nor has much competition, it still looks surprising good.
It isn’t just theÂ aestheticÂ look of the game though, as the paper theme is woven masterfully into all elements of the game, which has always added to the experience for me. Mario is paper-thin, and you’ll notice this when he flips directions or walks. Doors open and close as if out of a pop-up book, and special moves such as turning yourself into a paper airplane also factor into the game. The way the graphics goes hand in hand with game play design is something to behold.
But pretty looks can only get you so far in life (though further in video games it seems), you really want to know how the game holds up. Much like the graphical style, the game does get an easy pass because there are so few games on the market (if any, really) that uses a battle system as different as this one. While it has a lot of common elements to RPGs (being turned based, a magic system, HP, EXP), there are elements that works in concert with both the style of the game, but with the ideas/mechanics introduced in Super Mario RPG.
The basic elements as I mentioned before are ripped from any number of jRPGs. If anything, they are extremely simplified in this game. The battle system is turn-based, and works on a 2 party-system. One party is ALWAYS Mario and the other is one of his numerous sidekicks. In my time playing, I had gained Koops and Gombella as partners. Each comes with their own unique fighting style and special-ability in and out of battle. Gombella for example can use her Tattle ability to give you detailed information about enemies including their HP while Koops’ shell ability is used to solve several puzzles in the overworld and grab hard to reach items. The system of switching in/out partners is simple and painless both in battle and on the overworld. It adds an element of strategy that isn’t overly complicated nor simple enough for gamers to get bored.
While the partner system is nice, you will spend the bulk of the game in control of Mario. Having a central character makes for an interesting dynamic in an RPG. As the various equipment, gear and badges only works for him so its deciding on the best combination to allow both an offensively minded and defense-solid character all in one package. In addition to this, Mario is capable of many special moves in battle. Including action-based commands during attack/defend sequences where he can increase the damage dealt during an attack or negate the effects of a foe’s move. Now this is done with timing and skill, and not just luck or random button pressing. You can even pull off stylized moves to get the audience amped (more on the audience in a second) with even greater timing! The battle system has always been one of the reasons I was drawn to the franchise as it keeps the player engaged at all times!
As I mentioned before, there is also an audience during battle (the whole thing plays out sort of like a stage performance), and they serve several purposes. The most basic is they watch you battle. Yay for that! But there is also audience participation. At times, the audience will throw items into battle and can be both negative and positive objects. If an audience member is ready to attack Mario with an object, you can press X to quickly boot them out of the audience, while if someone is prepping something like a Mushroom or Fire Flower, it is in your best interest to leave em be. However, the most important role the audience plays is helping to fill up your special meter. By pulling off combos and stylized moves, you bring the audience into the match, and as it goes on they fill up your special meter faster to pull off dazzling moves. It is an interesting and fun system, as it gives you feedback on how well you are doing and helps you out during battle.
The battle system all in all is what makes this franchise great. Its a mix of simplified RPG elements with enough depth and nooks to keep the player engaged throughout their entire experience. Combined with a unique art style, and a great sense of humor this game comes highly recommended by me. So check it out.