Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Appreciation of the Past - Paper Mario series

Nintendo's huge library of games covers nearly every genre there is, but one genre has had a limited presence in the world of Nintendo, and that is the RPG. However, Nintendo does have an RPG series, one dedicated to their most famous mascot: Mario, and that series is the Paper Mario series. Sure, there was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the SNES, but that was co-developed by Squaresoft, and that became a different RPG series: the Mario & Luigi series of games. But this post is about the 3 classic Paper Mario games: Paper Mario, Paper Mario: the Thousand Year Door, and Super Paper Mario.

The Paper Mario games are classics because of how incredibly unique they were. Of course, the "paper" graphical style is immediately eye-catching, which felt like the spiritual successor to Yoshi's Island and Kirby Dreamland 3's "crayon" graphical style. The best thing about the graphical style was how it was able to express the personality of the characters so well. It was more expressive than both 2D sprites and 3D models, because in the transition from artwork to game graphics, nothing was lost. The result was not only something that looked unique, but worked well into the game's presentation of the story and classic humor of the Paper Mario games.

Speaking of which, the Paper Mario games have some of the most unique stories in the Nintendo library. This is due mainly to the fact that the PM games aren't afraid to have both humor and heart in their stories. The humor in the Paper Mario games is superbly written and delivered, whether it's Bowser being pissed that he isn't the one to kidnap Peach, or every female character in the name flirting with Mario; the humor was always unexpected and witty. However, outside of the humor, always lied a lot of heart, usually involving a character nobody thought they'd control: Princess Peach. The Paper Mario games are truly where the princess in pink shines as a character. She has a strong personality and never sits back when she is kidnapped. Her play sequences offer unique gameplay sequences and always add some heart to the story. Her story in The Thousand Year Door was especially excellent, in my opinion.

Music has always been a unique factor in the Papaer Mario games as well, usually breaking away from the norm and having a wide assortment of themes. The result is something that works very well into the story, as the pieces vary depending on the emotions playing at hand, thus music ranges from humurous themes to heartbreaking ones. Of course, the series has it's fair share of great battle themes as well.

Gameplay may not be where the Paper Mario series shines brightest, but it is not without it's charm. The gameplay always had the player involved and never simply pressing buttons for commands. Depth was always added teh further the player went into the game, keeping the game from getting repetitive in it's battles. Furthermore, TTYD added the presence of an audience that watched your battles and either aided or hurt you depending about your performance.

What truly makes the Paper Mario games stand out is not just their presentation, humor, characters, and story, but how all those factors came together to give the games their unique charm. There are really no other games like the Paper Mario games, not in terms of presentation, story, or humor. When Nintendo makes a videogame series, they always aim to make it something entirely unique, and with Paper Mario they truly succeeded.

The Paper Mario series' latest release was the recent Super Paper Mario, which was an excellent RPG/platformer hybrid with very unique gameplay mechanics, awesome characters, presentation, and, of course, a story full of humor and heart.

In the wake of many RPG series becoming dulled with over-used battle mechanics and cliched storylines, Nintendo dares to make us laugh and cry in an RPG series with a presentation and charm unlike any other. I hope the PM series continues on the Wii, because it is a series that provides a true breath of fresh air in a market saturated by over-used ideas.

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