8.8: Game Informer originally gave the game a 6.5. This would have been bad enough, but the reviewer's primary complaint? The writing was bad. The ensuing fan backlash actually prompted two letters of apology. The first one claimed that the reviewer gave the score not of his opinion, but guessing how well consumers would like it. This caused more complaints about the review, so a second apology letter was written with the exact opposite message.
Anticlimax Boss: Macho Grubba from Chapter 3. Despite having a whopping 60 HP, which is massive for this point, considering that the last chapter boss only had 30 HP and the next one will only have 40 HP, he's still incredibly easy to beat with attacks that are easy to Superguard.
The Glitz Pit in Chapter 3. It is primarily battle-focused with no two enemies being the same, the plot is interesting, and even Bowser pops up at the most appropriate time.
Chapter 6's train ride is an incredibly varied and interesting chapter. It focuses on Mario riding a train across the country, and has elements of mystery. You visit a number of different and varied locales, and the boss of the chapter is challenging but fair and looks awesome.
A lot of them. The chapter boss fights are some of the best parts of the game, and even some of the minor bosses are fun to fight against, too. However, the Shadow Queen stands out. After her introduction and the Hopeless Boss Fight, followed by one of the best moments in the entire game, she reveals herself as a severely difficult boss in an otherwise not-too-difficult game (depending on how you play it, of course) with a very varied moveset, dark blood-pumping music and the fact that she's an all-out Marathon Boss with a whooping 150 HP, which is impressive considering that no other enemy, let alone boss in the main game has HP going past triple digits (the only other boss with triple-digit HP in the whole game is Bonetail, and even then he's entirely optional).
Grodus. He's the boss of Chapter 8 (not counting Bowser, who's fought right after with no chance to stop and heal), and boy, does he put up a fight, being a Shielded Core Boss that uses several dangerous tricks but isn't unfair at all, and best of all, this is the same asshole that has been hunting you down for nearly the entire game, kidnapped Peach and threatened to rule the world, so beating up his ass results in a very strong Catharsis Factor.
Also, Bowser in both instances he's fought. Yeah, he has almost zero reason to be thereexcept for accidentally saving Mario from Grodus, but he puts up one hell of a fight either way, especially the second time around when he's aided by Kammy Koopa and you're likely worn out from defeating Grodus.
Smorg. Yeah, he's a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, but the fight itself is very fun, and a great conclusion to Chapter 6. The blood-pumping music especially helps.
Doopliss, one of the best examples of a Mirror Boss. It helps that he's fought after one of the more annoying parts of the game.
Rawk Hawk is a mid-boss, but his awesomeness is comparable to that of a major one. With epic rocking music, awesome build-up and a challenging but fair fight (especially in BP-only runs), it makes for a memorable fight, especially when beating him.
The Smorgs, (the boss of Ch. 6). They just show up to block the switch to lower the drawbridge at Riverside Station, then the next morning, they just attack the train, kidnap the passengers, get a beatdown from Mario, and are never seen from Again.
Bowser ambushing you in the Glitz arena. Made especially strange in that a little later in the game, Bowser's subplot involves him attempting (and failing) to go to Glitzville.
Doopliss does not have many fancy attacks and he has less HP and attack than the previous boss. He also comes between Macho Grubba, who can attack twice in a turn and up his attack and defense, and Cortez with powerful attacks. Even in his second battle which is harder the real threat comes from your partners who fight alongside him.
Breather Level: The Excess Express in Chapter 6, for the most part. It's more puzzle-oriented than battle-oriented, but it does have a "dungeon" portion with some fairly tough enemies, including an enemy who is obscenely difficult to deal with for the game's standards.note Specifically the Spiky Parabuzzy, a very sturdy flying enemy with a spike that also happens to be immune to fire and explosions. This means no jumping without a specific badge on, hammer attacks are nigh-useless due to the enemy's ridiculous defense, and only two partners have some way to damage the enemy at all—resulting in what is essentially the game forcing you to use a Crystal Star attack or some other alternative method to take it down. Professor Frankly even lampshades just how easy a three-day train ride will be compared to the backbreaking work of the other chapters (while you still have work to do, of course).
Like with the first game, just about every experienced player only ever focuses on leveling up their Badge Points and never raises any other stat past 20. It's an even bigger case than before thanks to the addition of Superguarding, which negates all damage if pulled off, and the max BP cap being raised from 30 to 99.
For partners we have Goombella with her Tattle ability to let you see enemy stats and Bobbery who has the highest HP and attack of any of your partners. Vivian as well, since her Veil and Fiery Jinx abilities can be very useful in combat.
For the exact same reasons as Goombario in the previous game, it's particularly easy to just stick to Goombella. To reiterate from Paper Mario 64's YMMV page, the main reasons are A) Tattle, B) Multibonk, and C) good, solid attack power. And again, if you have the Quick Change Badge, it's even easier because you can just switch in a partner who can swap out someone to defeat an enemy that Goombella can't fight (likely Bobbery or Vivian) and then immediately go back to her.
Contested Sequel: Although almost unanimously considered better than its threesequels, whether this game is better than the original Paper Mario can be a touchy subject in some circles of the fandom, even though it doesn't happen always. Common reasons for this include less interesting area design (as in, several areas being merely horizontal corridors) and some tedious backtracking, even though the first game also had its fair share of annoying backtracking, among other things.
Crack Pairing: Vivian and Doopliss are very often shipped together for no apparent reason.
Amazy Dayzees. Their attacks can deal twenty points of damage, and put both of your characters to sleep. Also double as a Metal Slime. Fortunately, they usually run away, and give out more star points than any other enemy in the game even after the point where all battles only earn you one or two.
Regular Crazee Dayzees are usually no big deal, but their singing attack can be annoying, as it can put Mario and/or his partner to sleep if not blocked, which can be quite difficult if one doesn't get the timing down right. Worse, they are almost never alone, which means that if you're unlucky, you'll repeatedly get put to sleep by their attacks and take a lot more damage than you normally would, as you can't guard (and thus avoid falling asleep) while asleep. This is especially dangerous during Mario's brief time alone, as not only are all attacks obviously geared towards him (versus the enemies occasionally targeting the partner in normal battles), but the Dayzees are sometimes accompanied by hyper enemies or Amazy Dayzees; the former can boost themselves up to deal huge damage and the latter sometimes runs away, but if it doesn't, can inflict 20 damage. The threat of a Game Over during this part is very real.
Some of the later monsters in the Pit of 100 Trials can be BRUTAL. Namely, Wizzerds of any sort, Arantulas, and even the dreaded Amazy Dayzees can show up (and always accompanied by Bob-ulks!). Pretty much any enemy on levels 81-99 are beyond brutal and dangerous, as well as exclusive to the pit.
To elaborate, almost everything in the last 30 floors falls squarely into this. The first ones you'll encounter are the Badge Bandits who are also found after the half-way point of the pit, whose attacks are hard to guard against and, as their name suggests, they can steal your badges. Later, you face Wizzerds, more powerful versions of the Dark Wizzerd enemy from the Palace of Shadow. It gets even worse near the bottom, with Spunia, Piranha Plants, Arantulas, and Dark Bristles, which are very difficult to hit without getting hurt and have a whopping 4 defense! On the lowest levels, you'd run into aforementioned Amazy Dayzees, Poison Puffs (with the ability to store up poison, surrounding them in a cloud of unapproachability and allowing them to do a breath attack for 10 damage and chance of poisoning), Swampires (with and the ability to drain your HP and replenish their HP, which is at an absurdly-high 20), Bob-ulks (which would charge up before unleashing a self-destruct attack so that they'd be up to 16 by the time they hit—including a defense boost almost immediately in the sequence.), and the absolute worst, Elite Wizzerds—12 HP, 7 attack (8 with beam), 5 defense, and the full complement of buffs. And for some reason, they tended to appear in groups of four or five. 5 Elite Mooks at once practically amounts to a boss battle. The only saving grace is you no longer need the Spike Shield to jump on any enemies.
If you can manage to survive all of that, you'll probably find the actual boss at the bottom floor to be, ironically, an Anti-Climax Boss.
A rather infamous one is the Spiky Parabuzzy found in Chapter 6. Take Jr. Troopa's fourth form in the first game (itself already considered That One Boss there) and multiply him by about 3 per room in the Brutal Bonus Level. And you might not have the Spike Shield badge if you can't get past the retracting Spikes of Doom trap protecting it. To make things worse, the only partner to hit them without being damaged themselves is Vivian, who can't damage them because of its immunity to fire! If you haven't equipped Hammer Throw, either just run away, use Flurrie's defense penetrating Lip Lock on them, Earth Tremor, or Thunder Rage... hope you've been warming that audience up. This regular enemy is essentially a Boss in Mook Clothing and has quite a reputation among fans of the series.
There is only one X-Yux in the game, and its HP isn't very high, but you had better kill it before it gets a turn. If it attacks, its beam will immobilize Mario regardless of if he blocks it. While Mario's unable to act or defend, it will build up its mini-Yuxes until it has four, which allows it to shoot five beams every turn. Once that happens, it's pretty much Game Over. Fail the Thwomp quiz, and you must fight TWO at once.
For a character that only plays a major role for a short time, Jolene is pretty popular with the fans. Might be because of her Sugar and Ice Personality and being one of the more attractive Toads.
Rawk Hawk, to the point where he's one of only three Paper Mario characters to get a nod in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, along with Parakarry and Goombella.
The Yoshi partner. Not only is Yoshi already a popular species, but he's a newborn that the player gets to hatch. The fact that you get to name him and he can come in different colors, you're allowed a basic level of customization as well. Helping things is his endearing CuteBoisterous Bruiser personality.
Doopliss, for being the source of a lot of the game's funniest moments while also being a surprisingly effective and savvy villain. The Chapter 3 and 4 areas are chock full of darkhorses, it seems.
The Shadow Queen, thanks to being an Eldritch Abomination that's played shockingly straight for a Mario game.
Goombella is beloved for her sassy personality, her good design, her use in battle and her mix of sweet-hearted charm and Deadpan Snarker moments.
Flavio. Even though his crew hate him, the fans surprisingly adore him. Even moreso after the discovery of a glitch that lets him stay in Mario's party permanently.
Even Better Sequel: Widely agreed to be a better game than its predecessor for multiple reasons. The first game was already great to begin with, but The Thousand-Year Door takes almost everything that made the original great and cranks it Up to Eleven, with an improved battle system, awesome locales, even more memorable characters, an intriguing, more original story, epic boss fights and more. The result is a game that is often seen as the best of the Paper Mario series and even the Mario RPGs in general, let alone one of the best Mario games ever made as a whole.
Sticker Star's Thing weakness system was also one of the biggest criticisms the game had, but The Thousand-Year Door did something similar with the Hooktail battle, in that she hates the sound of crickets, and if you used the Attack FX R badge (which makes cricket sounds) she would become a pushover, on top of this being foreshadowed previously. However, you don't need to use it to beat her, and if you do so, she becomes much more challenging, especially in BP-only runs.Sticker Star on the other hand, required to use a Thing sticker in almost every boss fight to be winnable, and most of the time clues would be very vague, but the moment you find it the bosses become a complete joke, meaning that skill and strategy are essentially replaced with "guessing the correct sticker".
Game Breaker: The "Danger Mario" setup, the epitome of a Glass Cannon. By setting his max HP at 5 thanks to Chet Rippo and equipping tons of Power Rush badges, which can easily be gotten at the casino, Mario can deal obscenely huge amounts of damage. Add to that the Spike Shield, which allows you to jump on spiked enemies safely, Close Call, which sometimes causes enemies' attacks to miss when Mario is in Danger mode and can be gotten by stealing them from any Goomba, Ice Power, which allows you to jump on fire enemies safely, and several Life Shrooms in case Mario dies, and you can kiss the difficulty good-bye. This is alleviated somewhat by the fact that you can only make the best use of it late in the game, as you need Bobbery to reach Chet Rippo, but it still makes the rest of the game (As well as the Pit of 100 Trials, if you haven't cleared it already) a breeze.
Let's just say that there's a very good reason why the Rogueport citizens feel uneasy whenever they're near the Thousand-Year Door. It's fabled in legend as the door leading one to a grand legendary treasure. It's actually the gateway to the Palace of Shadow, where the Shadow Queen has remained sealed for a thousand years.
The tune that comes with X's e-mails as well as Grubba's when he threatens you (from the ice world in Super Mario Bros. 3). It doesn't help that the controller rumbles whenever you receive one of these calls, which will often jolt the player's focus.
The Shadow Queen is basically a nightmare incarnate. And when she actually makes an appearance in the story, the first thing that happens is the entire world is plunged into darkness. Instantly. It gets worse from there.
The 'victory' music that plays at the end of a battle and your partner has been knocked out. Ugh...
While Mario explores the unused rooms of Glitz Pit, finding the half-dead forms of two of your former opponents-turned-allies.
From Chapter 6, waking up the third day to find that all of the passengers on board the Excess Express have been abducted by a weird tentacle monster made up of smaller creatures that are abundant enough to swarm the entire train, covering every single window.
The abilities of the Chapter 4 boss, Doopliss. The boss himself might be Nightmare Retardant, but him first turning the villagers into pigs, then performing identity theft in the most literal manner possible is definitely scary. Hits home if you try to take the pipe to Rogueport during the second bit; you can't, because that pipe requires you have something with your name written on it...and you no longer have a name.
Bonetail and the Pit of 100 Trials in general. The Pit itself was made by the Shadow Queen as a sort of dungeon that is almost completely filled with dangerous and non-stop monsters! There are ways out, but they were most likely never there before. Meaning that anybody that got trapped there was left to either be killed by the monsters or to eventually rot! And there are one hundred floors of this! And Bonetail is filled with Fridge Horror. First of all, he's a skeleton... Meaning that he's undead! Secondly, he's most likely undead because he starved to death! And thirdly, the ONLY thing keeping him alive is the Shadow Queen's dark magic. So by "killing" him... You're essentially putting him out of his misery... And reuniting him with his brother and sister. It gets even worse if you consider that the only reason he attacked you was because of how hungry and possibly delirious he was.
Grodus' ultimate fate. Not just the fact that he's only a head now, and he's still alive, but then you realize that the Shadow Queen said that her powers weren't fully recovered... Meaning that her not being at full capacity was the only thing that kept Grodus alive.
Doopliss has abilities that remain terrifying throughout Chapter 4, but that doesn't change the fact that the one responsible for the town's curse is a Bedsheet Ghost in a party hat and bowtie who is sitting in an easy chair watching TV when you first meet him. Your partner even lampshades how ridiculous Doopliss looks.
The black chests count as well. The first time you open one, the encounter is (at first) somewhat scary...until the spirit explains the nature of the curse just put upon you. The second one is less scary because of the choice of words, and also because you end up getting Cursed with Awesome again. The third time, you already know how it's gonna go, and by the last one, Mario is clearly just letting the last spirit put on its act.
Some of the fight conditions Grubba sets down for you can be this such as "Don't attack for the first three turns" or "Let your enemy damage you five times" as it only unnecessarily drags out the fights.
Then there's the backtracking in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.
While not as bad as Chapter 4's backtracking, the search for General White makes Chapter 7 much longer than it needs to be and the order you visit past locations seems to be designed to take as long as possible, even with the warp pipe shortcuts. To say nothing of the sidequest where you have to chase him around again.
The 100 "I love yous" Francesca makes Frankie say, when they lose the ring on the island. It's unskippable and really feels like it drags on far too long for a quest that shouldn't even be that long. The only other gag even present is a counter for each "I love you" starting from 10.
Sir Grodus shutting TEC-XX down, if you really felt for TEC.
Seeing Doopliss possess Mario's body and running around pretending to be him, while the player is unable to do anything about it just yet or even return to Rogueport, can be a little jarring.
Sacred Cow: In the eyes of popular gaming sites like GameFAQs and classic RPG fans, this game is the golden standard for Mario spinoffs and even Mario games, period. Nowadays it's practically immune to criticism, especially as the newer games get considerable backlash while this one (along with the first and to a lesser extent Super) still gets a lot of praise from gamers, just like it did back when it was released.
Flurrie is easily the least popular partner, which can mostly be attributed to her odd and creepy design and her abilities are outclassed by later partners.
General White is despised for the copious amount of backtracking he makes the player go through during Chapter 7. He does it again if the player takes up Goldbob's request in the Trouble Center.
Scrappy Mechanic: A few of the random elements injected by the audience/stage into battles are not well-regarded, mostly for being random events that can screw you over even in the Pit of 100 Trials:
Falling stage props. While the background scenery tipping over is slow and predictable to defend against, sometimes buckets or spotlights will fall from above at way too high a speed to properly react to, and some can inflict the Dizzy condition.
Random stage fog reduces everyone's accuracy to about a 50/50 chance. While this can potentially save your hide if an enemy misses you, it can also ruin you just the same. Bobbery's explosions can dispel the fog, but you need to have him on hand for that and there's no guarantee the attack will also hit the foe, potentially wasting an attack just to get rid of the fog.
Once you reach higher ranks, the nozzles on the front of the stage will sometimes spew ice jets, fire, or explosions at the combatants. Unlike other stage elements these all deal more than one damage, and the ice jets can potentially freeze you while the fire and explosion jets can make Bulky Bob-Omb enemies explode instantly so that you either die from their explosions or get weakened enough so that another attack can kill you.
As far as audience members go, Bulky Bob-ombs. They take up two chairs in the pit, thus reducing your maximum audience size, never throw any items onto the stage, and sometimes will light their fuse and explode, taking out a huge chunk of the audience. Dull Bones are also similarly disliked, as they do not provide any Star Power to Mario and only ever throw damaging objects at him, being an effective waste of a seat.
For first-time comers, the audience can be a horrendous distraction as if you screw up the timing on your attacks or counter poorly, your audience starts to leave. But you get Star Power from the audience, which you need to pull off your special attacks. Things can get really hectic in boss fights causing you to accidentally attack someone throwing a gift at you, leading to more people bailing again. The audience can be the not-Glitz Pits.
Shocking Swerve: Beldam, not Grodus, was the one behind everything. While the Shadow Queen turning on Grodus is to be expected of powerful evil beings, the subsequent reveal that Beldam was using Grodus and knew this would happen came completely out of left field — this revelation may have been mitigated by the fact that the Shadow Queen is a Living Shadow, just like the Sirens.
X-Yux's primary attack can immobilize you, and it can only be neutralized with a well-timed Superguard. If that doesn't kill you, then its attack when it has four mini X-Yux shielding it definitely will.
The Crazee Dayzee's sing attack. It has an obscure timing for dodging and can put you to sleep if you fail to dodge it correctly.
The Shadow Queen is quite hard, even by Final Boss standards, although Bonetail himself is harder. Despite having only 1 Defense and her Attack being outmatched by a boss from 10 minutes ago, she gets multiple attacks per round, as well as being very difficult to time for dodges. And all of said attacks ignore your defense, so the damage starts racking up very quickly. She also has an attack that will drain your HP to replenish her own, and at one point, eats the audience's SOULS to restore her health. Speaking of which, she has more health than the two preceding bosses combined. Oh, and there's a pair of very long unskippable cutscenes before the real fight starts.Have fun.
Magnus 2.0. He's got That One Attack where he sucks up the audience in a hose and rapid-fires them at you, dealing completely massive damage unless you can block correctly. Hope you still have Star Power left for Sweet Feast and/or Power Lift!
There's also Bowser's appearance out of nowhere in the Palace of Shadow, primarily because Mario is likely worn out from the preceding battle with Grodus, Bowser and Kammy both have quite a bit of health and hit like a truck, and you have no opportunity to heal in between. Thankfully, Showstopper works here, and if one wants to fight said boss fair and square, they can also deliberately attack Grodus while having enough Star Points to ensure a level up, which fully heals Mario and his partner.
Cortez can be a real pain, especially when you go for a BP-only run. He's a Flunky Boss with several hard-hitting attacks and multiple forms, and every time you "defeat" him he becomes even tougher. And even if you're not going for a BP-only run, he can still be surprisingly difficult, especially at that point in the game.
Hooktail if you don't have (and/or equip) the Attack FX R badge, since Hooktail has an attack power of 5 and 20 HP, then when she's defeated, she replenishes half her HP. Oh, and she has a defense of 1, which is a lot for that early in the game.
Chapter 4 is infamous for the amount of backtracking, requiring four trips on the Twilight Trail at the minimum. What makes it a pain is the enemies, who are capable of very strong attacks, and the fact that all your partners have left you for this segment. It gets a little better when Vivian joins you halfway through, but only a little.
Pirate's Grotto from the fifth chapter, particularly with the part where Boat Mario has to get past some rolling waves.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Jolene's brother and the Glitz Pit's first champion, Prince Mush. After you beat Grubba and the Crystal Star releases him, he could have been a good Bonus Boss along with Bonetail and the Atomic Boo. He was at one point intended to be a bonus boss... but instead, after the end of Chapter 3, you never see him again.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: More than a few fans would have enjoyed a defictionalized version of Luigi's adventure. That there's a Toad kid in Petalburg who was playing the Paper Mario games and speculates if they'll release a "Paper Luigi" doesn't help.
Vivian would be very difficult not to feel sorry for. To elaborate, she's blamed for literally everything that goes wrong for the Shadow Sirens, has a necklace she found taken from her by Beldam and repetitively kicked around by her sisters, and she's implied to be transgender, which Beldam isn't any kinder about in the versions where it's inferred. The player is quite surprised that it took her that long to finally be fed up with Beldam's abuse, and join up with Mario.
Bobbery's backstory involving Scarlette qualifies him as one as well.
Podley the bartender is difficult not to feel sorry for given his guilt in his connection to the aforementioned tale of Bobbery, even if it is warranted, as well as his mysterious past involving the character Eve in the sidequest involving said character.
Jolene and Prince Mush certainly qualify too. Their family was poor, Mush disappeared as a result of Grubba's machine resulting in Jolene having to work for Grubba to find her brother and Jolene seems to be putting on a brave face the whole time. It helps that Jolene is popular with the fans and a lot of fans thought Mush would've been a cool Bonus Boss.
Even Mario qualifies to some extent. Having your body and name stolen by a Jerkass, and no-one recognizing you with nothing but your jump, a hammer, some badges, and whatever items you had. While everyone talks about how great you are. Not to mention having your girlfriend transformed into the Big Bad before your eyes.
Luigi is either this or Iron Butt Monkey due to a certain request in Poshley Heights. Basically, a fangirl of Luigi's wants to meet him, and in order to do that you need the L Emblem. When you show up, the real Luigi also shows up and she thinks YOU are the real one, practically crushing poor Luigi. That's right, if you want 100%, you have to be a dick to your own brother.
TEC-XX is this. Knowing nothing about love, helping Peach try escape, and trying to cheer her up when she misses the Mushroom Ball. But then he is shut down by Grodus, and uses the last of his power to tell Mario where Peach is and activates the teleporter back to Rogueport.He gets better at the end of the game, but still...