Saturday, September 1, 2012
Weekend Flashback #4: Paper Mario (N64, 2001)
Title: Paper Mario
Original Release Date: February 5, 2001
Platform: Nintendo 64
ESRB Rating: E
Ever encounter a game that you picked up for no other reason than because the art was unusual? I think we've all done it at one time or another. (My most recent encounter with this was The World Ends With You, for example.) That's what I did with the original Paper Mario. I wasn't really into most of the titles in the Mario franchise as a kid; I'd play them if they were there, but they were far from my first choice. So everyone was a little shocked when I picked this title up as a kid.
I didn't finish this game the first time I played through it. I got stuck on the final fight with Bowser, got frustrated, and gave up entirely. I remember doing that, and my own save file on the N64 cartridge confirmed it. So, instead of picking it up from where I left off, I played through it again. Completely, all the way through. Then I bought it from the Virtual Console store on the Wii and played it through again to see how it stacked up against the original version. Two playthroughs in about a week and a half, and I still wanted more.
Needless to say, I'm pleased all the way around.
There's something about this title that makes it truly timeless. The graphics hold up, the music is just as fun and bubbly as I always remembered it being, the worlds Mario travels through are still beautiful, and the partners he picks up are still wonderfully characterized and different. This game is still so amazing and fun to play that I honestly believe it should be in everyone's Nintendo library, and that's not something I say often. The other entries in the Paper Mario franchise are all okay, but none of them seem to live up to the standard that this one set. In terms of accessibility, anyone can play it. My nieces had a blast playing through it, as did Dave. This is one of those rare titles that, no matter what your experience level is with gaming, you can pick up and play like a pro in just a few short scenes.
The story isn't fast-paced, per se, but it does flow very well and move fairly constantly. There's not really a lot of idle time for Mario and his friends, but it never feels like you're being rushed. There's always something to see, do, and find in every level that makes going back really rewarding (and trust me, I'm still not at 100% with my files.) Leveling up my partners is still a bit of a challenge - you don't level them up with experience, you do it by finding ultra blocks - and I spend quite a bit of time just wandering around looking for them. I know there's walkthroughs out there, I even have the original guidebook in my room, but finding them myself is half the fun.
As for the Virtual Console version, it's been left, for the most part, untouched. Most of the controls are the same, save for commands that use the "Z" button. (On the Gamecube controller, which is what I use to play Virtual Console games on, you use the "R" button.) The game is smooth and clear on the Wii, and doesn't leave remnants if you're using a standard-def Wii on an HDTV. Overall, an enjoyable experience.
Verdict: No one should miss the original Paper Mario. It's a game that none of its sequels have matched in story, gameplay, or charm.
Notes: As I mentioned above, this title is available on the Wii as a re-release for 1000 Wii Points. ($10)