Title :Paper Mario
Platforms :Nintendo 64
Publisher :Nintendo
ESRB Rating :Everyone
Game Rating :8.9
Review by :Ken Gagne

Princess Peach has been kidnapped! In fact, her entire castle has been uprooted from the ground by the wicked Bowser, who has stolen the stars' power to grant wishes. The plot may be old, but the style is fresh in Nintendo's Paper Mario, a role-playing game (RPG) for the Nintendo 64. 

Paper Mario is the sequel to the Super Nintendo game Super Mario RPG. Both games set Nintendo's action hero, Mario, in the realm of a role-playing game. In RPGs, battle is determined through menu-driven commands. Characters earn experience and gold from their battles, which they use to gain strength and better equipment. It's a departure from the usual Mario fare, but one that Nintendo handles well. 

In PM, Mario travels the land, finding allies in Koopas, Goombas, and other inhabitants of Mushroom Kingdom in his quest to rescue the Star Spirits and the Princess. Each major undertaking occurs in its own chapter, which ties into the overall goal of wresting the Star Rod from King Bowser. 

When battles occur, the stage is set with Mario on the left and his adversaries to the right. Turns are taken inflicting damage via head stomps, fire flowers, hammers, and other classic items. Equipping ability-enhancing badges and timing attacks and defenses well will help lead to swift victories. It's a standard system for RPGs, but constantly-changing partners and peripherals ensure players don't fall into a rut. 

The interface may not be innovative, but the presentation is creative and comical. The "Paper" in the title refers to the game's graphical gimmickry. All the characters are two-dimensional, a nature the game often flouts. Mario lays flat on the ground after being attacked; later, he'll slip into bed as easily as a letter slides into an envelope. As Mario explores different regions of Mushroom Kingdom, the landscape folds in and out like a storybook. The 2D aspect is not a limitation; the game designers chose this style to reinforce the storybook feel to the game. It's silly and whimsical, and fits perfectly in a game from Nintendo. 

Beyond the dimensionality, the graphics are gorgeous on their own. Many bright colors inhabit the land; even the vile Bowser appears with bright greens and oranges. Other characters, like Mario and the Princess, are drawn in caricatures of their usual, detailed selves. 

It's been awhile since Nintendo tried their hand at RPGs, a genre woefully underdeveloped on the Nintendo 64. Paper Mario is a welcome addition, not only because its content and gameplay are accessible to all ages, but because of the unique and colorful style that only Nintendo's games have. 

This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 19-Feb-01