Reviews: Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door
One of the best RPG's, period.
I first got this game for Christmas shortly after it first came out, and ever since, it's been one of my favorites. It strikes a nearly perfect balance between gameplay, story, humor, and visual design, putting fresh spins on old standby RPG tropes. The battle system is largely borrowed from the original Paper Mario, which is fine, because it's unique enough that it doesn't feel like you've seen it in dozens of other games, and manages to be relatively intuitive and easy to use without losing much depth. There's still plenty of wiggle room to experiment with the badges to find a playstyle that suits you. And it adds few tweaks to the Paper Mario system to keep it interesting. The out of battle sections are a fun combo of platforming and puzzles rather than just wandering from room to room. But the writing is really where the game shines. Far from the Excuse Plot of the main series of games, there's not only an interesting overarching plotline, but each chapter has its own story that keeps it from feeling dragged out. You get half a dozen different narratives as you play through. Not to mention that the actual writing is great; despite not being actually voiced the characters are all distinct and developed, and the writers have a very good grasp of comedic timing. The entire game is self aware without ever being overbearing about it, playing the inherent goofiness of the setting for all it's worth. (What other Mario game features a mob hit going down in the background of the introduction?) The gloriously hilarious spoof sequences that take place between chapters are just the icing on the cake. Finally, the the game has a very unique, very vibrant art style that really stands up next to your standard fantasy/magitek type settings that are standard for the genre. The world that this game takes place in is full of characters and places that feel new interesting rather than borrowed from other games. The game isn't perfect, obviously. There's quite a bit of backtracking that can get a bit old after a while, but everything else is executed so well that it balances out. If you haven't given it a try, you should.
Showing other RPGs how it's done
This game has some concepts that greatly please me, if only on principle, because I've a few gripes with common flaws in the genre that are mostly made a non-issue by them. You'll rarely wonder where you need to go or where the Last Lousy Point is because there is someone in the game to tell you these things (for a small fee). Your equipment (Badges in this game) all have different effects, you won't just be using the one with the highest numbers and be discarding the rest - you'll look for what setup works for you. There's no grinding, period. Randomisation is well-placed, it exists in places where it will improve the game, managing to make each playthrough slightly different in an otherwise linear game, and doesn't exist where it isn't needed. For example, attack values are always the same for each attack of the same type, barring modifiers which the game does inform you of (for example, your hammer will always do 2 damage until upgraded, unless the target has defense). The game is quite balanced (barring the horribly broken Danger Mario build) and caters to what is arguably the genre's biggest strength - the ability to play how you want to play. The overall plot is rather predictable, but it involes several Plot Coupons. Collecting each of these is a chapter, and has its own self-contained plot. The game takes full advantage of this. There are many plot-relevant NPCs who undergo Character Development, everyone has their own personality, and there are quite a few emotional moments in these chapters. It's easy to forget that the characters are Toads, Goombas, Bob-ombs, etc. because the game does a nice job of humanising them. When it isn't being all plot-y, the game manages to have a very silly and humorous feel to it. However, the game seems to like trolling the player. One quest in particular requires you to go everywhere to find someone. Yes. Everywhere. I did earlier say that randomisation was well placed, but there is one exception. Battles take place on a stage, and stage-y things will sometimes randomly happen. Sometimes the audience will throw things at you. Sometimes accuracy-hindering mist will take over the stage. Sometimes things will randomly fall and deal damage. Overall, the game provides a very satisfying gameplay expereince, made me laugh more than any other game I know, and is easily one of my favorite RPGs.
An epic adventure of papery proportians
Ah yes, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. I get a strange feeling every time I play this particular game...one that few others have yet to reproduce. That feeling isn't like re-playing a great game...plenty of games do that. No, the feeling I get when playing this is like re-reading a fantastic book. Out of all the Mario games of all genres, this may very well have the best story. You play as Mario (already, you fill in the shoes of a legendary hero) as you travel to the seedy harbor town of Rogueport, whereupon you discover that Princess Peach has once more been kidnapped. But the twist! Bowser isn't the one behind it. In fact, Bowser really isn't a threat in this game at all (he's very much a part of the game, though, don't worry), instead being replaced by the evil Secret Society of the X-Nauts, led by the mysterious Sir Grodus, who is after the Crystal Stars to open the legendary Thousand-Year Door beneath Rogueport. And the adventure begins. An adventure that will have you explore abondoned castles, compete in a grand fighting tournament, explore a haunted house, raid a ghostly pirate's treasure, trek through a monochromatic wood, solve mysteries aboard a train, fight on TOP of said train, fly to the moon, explore sewers, pit you against, among classic Mario enemies, dragons, ghosts, giant mechas, villianous sisters, old foes, new enemies, a powerful organization led by a rutheless maniac, and Eldritch Abomination of the likes never seen in a Mario game before, all the while meeting strange yet charming characters in many new and fantastic locations. All while being paper thin. The story is magnificent, giving you a game that can only be barely described as truly a Mario game, fringing upon the Mushroom Kingdom we know and love, which is VERY much a compliment, all the while being accompanied by by excellent humor and true drama, it mixes into a delicious blend of fun. The gameplay holds as well. The new "stage" theme of the turn based battle system adds a slightly chaotic but still interesting element that can instantly turn the tide of battle for good or ill, as well as a very dynamic art style. With only a few characters left, I have to wrap this up. Paper Mario: TTYD is truly an experience that will leave story lovers more than happy, and turn-battle lovers satisfied. Very much an all-around great game.
In my opinion, the best Mario RPG
Just... where to begin? This is my favorite game about my favorite game hero, on one of my favorite game systems. In terms of format, it's very similar to the first game. But I feel like it takes what the first game had, and perfected it. The controls all feel right. The battle mechanics are fun and creative, and the action commands for your attacks and techniques feel very fitting. The story is largely predictable, but there are a few twists. It's one of Mario's darker outings (though not the darkest), but it's still fun and silly for the most part, and since this is Mario we're talking about, a completely happy ending is more or less guaranteed. Each chapter doesn't contribute much to the overall plot, giving the game a kind of episodic feel, but the chapters make up for it in a different way. Each chapter is like you're visiting a new world, Mario meets new people and hears a few things about how they live and stuff, gets to know the people, and eventually helps solve a problem. Mario comes to the dirty thieves' den of Rogueport relatively unknown (to them), but over time he becomes a a pirate, a wrestling champion, and an object of attraction for no less than four ladies. This site's format constrains my reviewing ability, so I can't really do the game justice. But my favorite part of the game, if you couldn't tell, is the experience of it. Being with Mario as he goes through this new land and helps everyone. And if that sounds appealing to you, then get this game. In fact, if you enjoyed Paper Mario to begin with, and want to play a more thoroughly polished version, then this is the game for you. It's not perfect, it has some backtracking (in fact, one chapter in the middle of the game thrives off it), and I mentioned that the plot isn't too brand new. Plus the format, controls, and partners barrow heavily from the first game. Though in the game's defense, I'd say that's less "Paper Mario revisited" and more "Paper Mario done right". Not that the original wasn't a good game by any means. But yes, this is my unprofessional review. I give the game a solid 9/10, maybe a 9.5.