Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door review
Better than the Original? There’s a Chance!
Rogueport & other worlds create a new experience
The return of partners
Clever dialogue and plot
A vast amount of side quests
Audio less fitting to the game than the original
Suffers from excessive dialogue at times
Direct sequels are for the most part, a rare sighting when it comes to Mario RPG's. Often seen as games that hold their own, change is a common occurrence in Mario games, until 2004 came along. Paper Mario 64 introduced a new perspective into the plumber's wide array of mishaps and adventures by combining a 2D world with 3D graphics, not to mention the return of turn based combat. This clever blend of game mechanics created one of the most charming games not just for the Mario series, but a must own for any Nintendo fan out there. The Thousand Year Door continues on its predecessor's past success and introduces new mechanics that make it arguably better than the original. New enemies, partners, and citizens are abundant in this game, all while preserving the same clever dialogue found within Paper Mario 64. This time around, “paper” becomes the new focal point, as Mario can transform himself into boats, planes, and bend his way onto platforms and rails. In a surprising twist, The Thousand Year Door introduces elements that make this sequel a true contender to its primary source.
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door picks off in a rather unusual setting; Mario on a boat destined for a troubled town that seems to be in need of some renovation (We will get to Rogueport in a later section). Mario boards off the hybrid 2D/3D boat and lands at port, where controversy is already underway. No, this isn’t Bowser’s doing, but a new awkward looking character and his group of X-Nauts, a secret organization that will become an imposing threat as the game progresses. Once these unidentified minions are defeated, we’re introduced to the main plot very quickly, or so we think. Mario must collect seven crystal stars scattered throughout various lands, ranging from a lavish fighting resort to a town that appears to be without hope or sunlight. These crystal stars will unlock The Thousand Year Door, an imposing chamber door that seems to rely on rumor and fear to get the point across. As Mario progresses through these lands, the plot will become clear and far more threatening very quickly. As one expected, Peach is a focal point throughout the game, but for what purpose? Why are the X-Nauts so concerned with keeping her in such a desolate location? All of these answers will have to be discovered on your own. This is just one of the many reasons why Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is such a quality RPG. The suspenseful plot manages to create a sense of surprise and urgency that even that original cannot match. Just when you think you’ve found out what’s behind the ancient door, you actually couldn’t be more incorrect. The plot is multi-layered, which means you’ll be fighting an abundance of enemies, each with their own personal vendetta against Mario. The story line resembles that of a puzzle piece, as every crystal star leads to more information, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. Thankfully, you won’t be alone when dealing with the plot’s unexpected twists and turns. The puzzling Professor Frankly and the other citizens of Rogueport will play a key role in uncovering the enigma that is the Thousand Year Door. This time, nearly every character has purpose, which adds even more depth to a game already packed with side quests and anecdotal characters. The plot is easily the highlight of this fantastic sequel, leaving any gamer in suspense on what events will unfold next.
The game’s exceptional plot involves multiple antagonists, such as the mysterious X-Nauts
The Town of Rogueport
Toad Town, even in its darkest moments, was always a charming town filled with shops and the strangest amount of optimism. What we experience in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is enough to give a citizen from the former town terrible nightmares. Mario begins his journey in Rogueport, a disaster of a town that resembles a more realistic view of urban cities. Filled with thugs, syndicates, and an awful aura of pessimism, this grim world provides us provides a refreshing experience to the still young Paper Mario series. Toad Town in Paper Mario was more of a hub for resting and gathering items, while Rogueport will play a more direct plot in order for Mario’s adventure to progress smoothly. Strings will be pulled and money will be either wasted or the best video game investment you ever made, and that’s all part of the intrigue. In Rogueport, you never really know what you’re getting yourself into. The town “trouble center” is a fantastic way of gaining new items, coins, and even the formation of an unlikely alliance. Despite all of these drastic difference, Rogueport still holds a few shops that will resonate clearly through those who played Paper Mario 64. Your generic badge and item shop make their return, as well as a brand new kitchen to integrate items, this time by a toad that always seems to be quite irritable. (Who could blame her?) The town is controlled by two syndicates, the closest thing you’ll ever get to the mafia in a Mario game. The west side is controlled by Don Pianta, while the east is run through Ishnail and the Robbos. Strangely enough, Mario will need the help of these two fierce rivals to get even remotely close to the crystal stars. Rogueport is filled with criminals as well, some only out to steal your hard earned coins. The atmosphere of this town is something we’ve hardly seen in any RPG, never mind a Paper Mario again. The result is an impressive one, as the solid plot is dependent upon an engaging land where everyone plays a role in your trials and tribulations.
Rogueport effectively displays the more pessimistic version of the Mushroom Kingdom
No one should be worried when it comes to the game play mechanics of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. There’s virtually no drastic change, aside for Mario’s ability to shift into multiple paper objects to cross several obstacles, including waterfalls, tall ledges, and other steep platforms. This is no gimmick, nor is it some cumbersome process to transform. Mario can shift to and back regular form by the press of a button, making it a very simple and effective transition. These abilities will be used often, but this is certainly not a negative aspect of the game. Players will find amusement seeing Mario slide through walls and slots in the ground to discover new items, locations, and key hints for progressing through the current chapter. The “cursed” black treasure chest provides a humorous, yet crucial piece of the game, as it is the only one who is capable of giving Mario these abilities.
The element of chance always plays a key role in game play, as the roulette system can drastically alter the flow of battle for or against our mustached hero. Throughout combat, each attack will bring about an icon in the upper left hand corner of the screen. When two of these pictures are identical, a slot will appear and cut right into the action. If you correctly match the third one with the others, the entire area becomes absolute chaos. Getting a shine sprite can bring you back from a near disastrous moment, while landing poison mushrooms cuts into every factor of battle by half. (That means HP, FP, Star points, and even your fellow audience) In this addition, strategy can only get you so far. Whether you appreciate this feature or not depends on your take of good luck vs. bad luck.
Aside from bending and twisting into various objects, every other game play factor is the same as its predecessor. Mario collects badges, items, and other gadgets to use in battle or unlock new information regarding his next location. For those unfamiliar with the badge process, Mario can equip multiple badges at a time to produce a variety of effects, in and out of combat. Badges are incredibly diverse and plentiful, some with the ability to change the color of Mario’s trademark overalls. The badge mechanism provides a new level of customization that makes the turn based combat feature flow incredibly smooth. Action commands also make a return, but still contain the same level of simplicity to avoid any frustration. New to the Thousand Year Door are the “stylish” commands, which will increase the number of star points Mario receives from the crowd. That’s correct, this time around, you have an audience watching your every move. Overall, the game play sticks to the formula we’ve all come to love from the Paper Mario series, with a little bit of surprise thrown in to keep interest level high.
Even those with evil intent help Mario out in this sequel
So wait…there’s an audience?
That’s correct. One of the rare new game play features of The Thousand Year Door is the introduction of an audience, an unspecified number of people sitting below that can either help or frustrate Mario during combat. These figures are not placed here for simple decoration either, their purpose alters in many ways, from tossing Mario a helpful item to throwing objects at him when you’re really messing up. Don’t worry, you’re not isolated from the harassment either, as enemies can be harmed at random by the over emotional crowd. The stage is a living battlefield with many functions and fragile props. After several turns, back round objects can collapse at will, dealing a pesky amount of damage to anyone not paying full attention to the game. The audience feature combines a multitude of random and controlled events, most depending on your battle performance. Miss a few actions commands and you’re likely to pay for it. The crowd isn’t all negatives however, as they are Mario’s direct source for star power, which opens up an arsenal of tide changing moves. The more people in the crowd, the more star points you’ll receive. All in all, it’s a simple feature that adds to the experience. Having an audience brings a whole new dynamic to the game’s well executed combat feature. Strategy is a must, as one cannot depend on the ground as a life saving device, though a bit of assistance is always appreciated in this game.
With new power and improved capabilities of the Nintendo GameCube, there is an obvious difference in visuals between the Thousand Year Door and its older brother. Mario is far less pixilated and the worlds, through made entirely of paper, are brought to life in the most extravagant of ways. Those worried about the fluorescent and child like graphics of the original need not be worried, as this game contains combines both light and dark landscapes to create a truly diverse Mushroom Kingdom. The town of Glitzville represents a virtual entertainment district, filled with vibrant colors and characters of all different shapes and sizes, while Creepy Steeple reaches a level of eeriness none of us expected in a Paper Mario game. Once again, we see a well executed hybrid product, effortlessly combining 2D and 3D visuals that can impress anyone with even the smallest appreciation of video game art. That being said, if you expected a more realistic looking Mario and company, you were dead wrong. The picture book graphics represent the more cartoon-esque side of Mario games, and it works perfectly with the zany plot and the characters of Rogueport and beyond. While the graphics are certainly not the highlight of this fantastic game, the successful blending of art styles and attention of detail cannot be frowned upon.
Flaws and Headaches
Despite being a high quality game with tremendous replay value, the game does experience some minor setbacks throughout the course of Mario’s adventure. While the dialogue is witty and humorous, there are times where there’s simple too much of it. (One in which you have to sit through excessive “I Love You” bubbles for 101 times exactly. Ouch…) Most of it is well thought out, and the personalities of various partners do come out well with the dialogue feature. Even those who do appreciate this feature can name several moments where it’s just over the top and forced. However, this is a scarce occurrence that does not take away a drastic moment. Another weak point in The Thousand Year Door is the surprisingly off balance audio and musical scores. A strong point in the original game, the music in this sequel contains a faulty mix of beats and quirks. It really is that unorthodox, a disappointing conclusion to the enjoyable music found in Paper Mario 64. Nevertheless, the audio does shine at times. But even at its brightest points, one can’t help but feel like the music could’ve been better.
Not only does Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door receives the torch from Paper Mario 64, it provides an even better product than before. With a new plot, and the exceptional abundance of life around Rogueport, this is a game that simply cannot be missed. The game combines many positive elements from the original and mixed in some style of its own, resulting in a refreshing experience to remind all of us that this series is far from extinct. The migraines also come along board, but this is a mere dent in this must have for any fan of the RPG genre.
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