Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door does a good job of blending action, role-playing and mini-games into a single experience worth checking out. The plot, like in many of Nintendo's best games, isn't exactly original. You've got an imperiled princess, a collection of shiny stars and one do-gooder Mario there to save the day.
Fortunately, the gameplay is considerably more innovative. The first thing you will notice is that everyone is 2D in a 3D sort of way. When Mario walks around he's as flat as his title character, but when he turns, instead of instantly reversing direction, Mario flips over like a piece of paper, temporarily showing his edge. It's a clever bit of detail that adds a nice touch to the look of the game.
The backdrop of the game is literally that, it's a stage, complete with homes that have front walls that fall over to let you see the action inside and battles literally take place on a stage. I'm not sure how the whole paper theme got snapped together with the stage theme, but the bizarre mix seems to work.
The game itself is an interesting blend of elements. For the most part, you should think of Paper Mario as a role-playing game. You adventure through areas finding sub-plots to complete, new abilities and items to help you on your quest and new characters to join your party ' only all of this done in a very Mario Brothers sort of way. You will still find platforms to leap from, hidden areas to breakaway or fly to and creatures to try and avoid or attack.
Combat is also an intriguing blend of gameplay systems. When you enter into combat you will go to a new screen that looks an awful lot like a stage complete with an audience. Fighting the bad guys is done by selecting your attack and target, but there is also a timing element that transforms what is typically the weakest part of any RPG into a sort of mini-game. You'll have to time button pushes or joystick moves to hit the enemy and sometimes improve the damage. You can also deflect or lessen attacks by button timing.
On top of the action up on stage, you'll have to keep your eye on the audience which will either shout encouragement or throw the occasional item at you. If you're not careful, a hostile audience can actually damage you. A happy one can power you up.
The graphics are pure Nintendo, filled with towns bustling with the characters you find in all Zelda and Mario games, only now they have 5-o'clock shadows and are going about their typically mundane lives. The music supplies a nice theme to play to without being too intrusive.
One of the only downsides of the game is the seemingly never-ending stream of text that assails you while working your way through the game. There are times when it's like hanging out with a hyperactive 7-year-old who just won't shut up. Hey, I like plot as much as the next guy, but if you aren't going to bother to do some voice acting try to keep the text to something shorter than War and Peace. My only other complaint about the game is that it doesn't feature any sort of multiplayer mode. While this doesn't make the game bad, it sure makes you wish they had thought of including it so you could play through this otherwise excellent game with a friend.
It's always amazing to sit back and watch Nintendo constantly reinvent already inventive gameplay. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is certainly one of the best new Mario games to come to market in recent years, blending the best of many of Nintendo's game types into something that is a blast to play and varied enough to capture and keep your attention from beginning to end.