Tuesday, October 16, 2012

3RM @ NYCC 2012: Paper Mario: Sticker Star


Being a huge fan of the Paper Mario franchise, I was more than ecstatic to learn that a new Paper Mario was coming to the Nintendo 3DS, Paper Mario: Sticker Star. At New York Comic Con, I managed to briefly explore Mario’s new world at Nintendo’s booth, and I also got a quick feel for the game’s new battle system.

As in other Paper Mario games, Mario and company are literally paper-thin and live within a diorama-like world filled with trees and rivers that look like they were made of paper. Sticker Star even went so far as to make the very coins Mario collects to look like cardboard! Within the short time I had with the game, Paper Mario Sticker Star’s interesting use of the paper theme already has me guessing what surprises await later in the game.

My experience began right after Bowser Jr. took away the bridge I was about to cross and threw its crumbled remains on an unreachable ledge.  From there, I explored the grasslands I assumed were the first areas of the game.  Even so early in the game, the environment was filled with a number of interactive elements, from flowers which could be folded up by a hammer to tape which hid secret caverns. While looking around, I stumbled upon a group of scrambling toads. After talking to their leader, they decided to help me get the bridge back from a high ledge. Rather than follow Mario in a large group, they piled together much like a deck of cards or a stack of papers, and when they reached the ledge, they transformed into stairs for Mario to climb. Again, the game continued to emphasize its paper elements more than ever.

Getting the bridge back was not enough to bring it back across the river.  In order to bring the bridge back into the real world, Mario and his sticker partner Kersti would have to use Paperization magic.  When using Paperization, the game world flattens, leaving Mario and Kersti to apply the necessary sticker back onto the world, in this case, the bridge. She mentioned that this could be used anytime if I wanted to place stickers onto the world, but sadly, my playtime ended shortly after this so I was never able to experiment with it.

Besides exploring the grasslands, I returned to the overworld to explore a few other areas. I first tried to explore an area near a desert, but the path was blocked by a large door. On the door there were several shapes resembling various stickers I had in my collection. I most likely needed to use Paperization here and place the correct sticker on their respected shape in order to open the door. However, there was one shape I could not match with my sticker collection.  It is possible that this sticker might only become available after I complete the first area, giving access to the new region. The third area I explored was Decalburg, the game’s central city. Here there were a number of Toads hanging out as well as a shop where I could buy more stickers in case I ran out. There was also a save block and heart block similar to other Paper Mario adventures. It appears as though Mario will be returning here frequently in order to restock before entering new areas or facing off against bosses. One interesting thing I noticed was that the game saved every time I exited to the map. This might be a feature to allow more on-the-go playtime.  This is the first handheld Paper Mario game, after all.

Exploring Paper Mario was fun, but the real meat of the game was its new battle system. Surprisingly, Mario no longer has partners to assist him in battle, including Kersti. Secondly, in order to perform any attack, Mario needs to use a sticker. This had me concerned since this meant Mario had limited attacks. However, these stickers are quite plentiful throughout the world and can be easily peeled off the environments. They also come in a variety of qualities from worn-out to shiny. The shiny stickers were rarer and dealt more damage than the worn out sticker, which did far less. This mechanic added a little bit of strategy on which stickers to use as well as which stickers to collect since they take up space in Mario’s sticker book, which is located on the bottom screen. Much like other Paper Mario RPGs, by pressing the attack button at the right time, Mario performs a stronger attack and sometimes even hurts nearby enemies, too.  At the end of each battle, Mario receives a bunch of coins and no experience points, much to my surprise. Supposedly, in order to increase stats, Mario must complete side quests rather than grind in battles and gain levels. My concern here is that this will make battles more obsolete although Nintendo claims the coins earned in battle are still important. I will have to play more in order to see if that is the case. Besides that, the battle system is engaging and as fun as in other Paper Mario games. I just hope battles do not become tiring as I play.

Paper Mario Sticker Star is looking to be a very charming experience with its various paper effects and sticker themes. I will have to play it more in order to truly understand the changes made to the battle system as well as the new level-up mechanic, though. I also hope that the lack of partners does not take away from the experience. Besides that, Sticker Star has currently met my expectations, and I cannot wait for it to stick to me this November.

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