REVIEW: Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam (NIntendo 3DS)
One of the most endearing series to feature our favorite plumbers from the Mushroom Kingdom is the Mario and Luigi series. This series feature the ability to play as both brothers in a shared adventure. It has had it’s high spots and low spots, and is responsible for the introduction of Fawful, one of the annoying and hilarious characters to ever inhabit a Mario game. one of the things the series has prided itself on is the introduction of new gameplay mechanics, building on the series foundation with every iteration. The latest iteration, which came out around Christmas, continues that tradition. But, it is worth your time, and more, importantly your money? Let’s find out!
FIGURES AND MORE REVIEWS……
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the latest entry in the Mario & Luigi series. As with the other entries, this series adds a new gameplay mechanic to the series. This time that mechanic comes in the form of a new character: PAPER MARIO! This idea had me incredibly excited, as the Paper Mario games are some of my favorite Nintendo games of all time. As you may imagine, Paper Mario adds a whole new dimension to the way you play the game. He has his own style of gameplay, with his own unique moveset and equipment, in addition to his own special abilities. This definitely helps to break up the monotony, but comes with it’s own set of issues to consider.
The story has Luigi and a Toad exploring a draft coming from a hole in the wall in the high tower of Princess Peach’s Castle. When a rat scares Luigi, he ends up knocking a book off the shelf in the tower. That book is the home of Paper Mario and his Paper Mushroom Kingdom. When the book falls off the shelf and opens, The Paper Mushroom Kingdom residents come flooding out of the book. landing all of the Mushroom Kingdom, including a whole bunch of Paper Toads, and, of course, a Paper Princess Peach and Paper Mario. Unfortunately, in addition to the benevolent denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, a ton of paper minions, loyal to their paper Koopa King, also escape the book. In fact, Paper Kamek and Paper Bowser Jr. and Paper Bowser land at Bowser’s Castle and meet up with their “real life” counterparts. Although the two Bowser’s don’t really get along, the decide to join forces and kidnap BOTH Princess Peaches. Thus Mario and Luigi join forces with Paper Mario and the adventure begins. The script for this game contains the same humor present in other entries in the series. In fact, some of the dialogue between the two Bowsers and the two Kamek’s is downright hilarious. Also, this game continues the long standing tradition of picking on Luigi. There are a ton of put downs and one liners at his expense.
Graphically, the game looks amazing. I had to remind myself that it was a 3DS game at times. Mario, Luigi and the Mushroom Kingdom is beautifully rendered in a lush palette. As with other Mario games, the different areas are all themed, and the areas are all colored and designed to reflect that theme. There is a desert area, for example, that has golden sand, and a snowy area called Mt. Brr, that has white snowy peaks and a grey-blue color scheme. All of the characters are rendered in great detail, and there is no question as to who’s who in the cast of characters. And, it is a fairly large cast. Almost every enemy you fondly remember from past Mario games makes an appearance. Again, Boswer’s right hand Magikoopa, Kamek, plays a major role in the proceedings, as does his son Bowser Jr., and some of my favorite Mario enemies, the Koopalings.
Combat in the game follows the “turn-based” mechanic that was introduced in Super Mario RPG and continued in Paper Mario. It has been the standard for this series since it’s inception. As with most Mario and Luigi games, there is a “jump” attack command and a “hammer” attack command. In addition, the popular “Bros. Attacks.” These moves allow the brothers to combine forces for an attack that causes a large amount of damage if executed correctly. All attacks have a “context sensitive” component to them. When you use the hammer, for example, pressing the button just as Mario has pulled the hammer back all the way will result in a more powerful swing. Paper Mario adds a new dimension to fights, as he has extra copies of himself that create a sort of “shield” for him, in that his HP doesn’t get diminished unless he does not have any copies remaining. The addition of Paper Mario also introduces “Trio Attacks.” These are ultra powerful attacks, requiring all three characters to work in concert, performing button presses when prompted. Most of these attacks feature the 3D aspect of the screen, using the depth of the 3D display to spectacular effect.
There is new element to combat in this game: Battle Cards. These cards are either obtained in battle or by finishing quests, or purchased at Battle Card shops in Toad Village. They all have various effects and wither deal damage, raise stats, or heal characters. The most important part about them is that you can use them IN ADDITION to your attack each turn. It’s in your best interest to try and build a balanced set of Battle Cards.
Controls are simplistic and familiar, yet nuanced. Movement is accomplished using the thumb stick, while all other actions are keyed to specific buttons. Each of the three characters has all of their supplemental actions mapped to a button. The A button is mapped to Mario. The B button is mapped to Luigi. And, the X button is mapped to Paper Mario. In addition, there are special trio moves that can be performed by pressing A,B and X in sequence. Most of these, such as the paper airplane and the trio drill, are used to access different parts of an area, and feature Paper Mario changing shape.
But, I have saved the best for last, because the biggest contribution from the addition of Paper Mario to the series are the PAPERCRAFT BATTLES! Early in the game, tons of Paper Toads are scattered all around the Mushroom Kingdom. Periodically, throughout the story, Toadette will tell you she needs a certain number for a building project. In each toad Village you visit, there is a Lakitu Information Center. Here, you will find various paper Toad Rescue quests. These quests take the form of mini-games in which you must save the Toads from whatever peril they have found themselves in. Once have the saved the requisite number of toads, you will usually be at a point in the story which features a very special battle. In this special boss battles you will battle Bowser’s minions while riding on top of a giant papercraft version of Mario or other various characters. In the papercraft battles, your attacks come in the form of dashes and ground pounds. These battles are real time and not turn based and break up the monotony of battle at just the right time.
It is a good game, but it’s not perfect. In fact, one of it’s greatest assets is one of it’s biggest detriments. For those who have played other games in the Mario & Luigi series, you know that they require you to forget the normal controls you would use in a Mario and think in terms of controlling BOTH brothers. This is especially true in terms of movement, as you have to make sure BOTH Mario AND Luigi jump onto a ledge successfully before you can proceed. So, you can imagine how difficult, and at times, VERY frustrating, it can be in this game when Mario and Luigi make the jump, but Paper Mario juuuust misses, forcing you to go back and do the whole jump over. Also, while some of the Bros. moves are easy, some of them are RIDICULOUSLY difficult, with the result being that I don’t even use some of them because of the frustration level. Also, if you are one of those people who like to 100% games, be prepared to do a LOT of backtracking. You will not get most of the moves you need to access all areas of the levels until very late in the game. Finally, the new Battle Card system is not for everybody. I think this is probably the most divisive element of the game. Some people will love the extra layer of strategy for when to use them, others will hate the distraction from the main battling system.
THE VERDICT: TRY IT – A solid story, full of the trademark humor we have come to expect from this series, plus solid controls and well thought-out additions due to the inclusion of Paper Mario make this one of the better installments of the series. Papercraft battles are so much fun, you will actually be glad for the ability to replay them. But, the new Battle Card system is not for everyone, and the necessity of controlling 3 characters, combines with the complexity of some of the tandem moves to create some frustration. Also, I know this a 3DS game, but it seemed awfully short for a Mario game. And, unless you really want to 100% the game, once you see the ending, you’ll be done with it. So, I’m not recommending you buy it, unless you’re one of those people who either must own every Mario game, or is really enamored with the Mario & Luigi series. See if you can borrow it from a friend or try a demo of it before you buy it. It’s a solid game, I just don’t think there’s a ton of replay value once you finish the story.