So, lately I have been playing Paper Mario – The Thousand-Year Door (Gamecube) as one of my friends has lent it to me. I am at the final point in the game and I have probably lost to the final boss 3 or 4 times now. I have enjoyed every minute of this game and I am glad I had the chance to play it. What follows will be my rough review of the game.
Game Play: The game play in 1000 Year Door is a simplified RPG. This might discourage some, but I find it to be a refreshing take on a genre which has seen many many clones. Even games that clone themselves *cough final fantasy cough*. The game has a standard system of health and magic, and respective numeric values to represent each. Magic in the game is known as ‘flower points’ and health is known as hearts. Already this is a point of simplicity because your health and flower points would probably never be higher than 100, and that is if you went out of your way to pump them. Also, Mario is granted special powers by the crystals you are trying to collect which gives him ‘star power’.
Star Power: Throughout the game you gradually gain more star power and moves that require star power. These are typically moves that are quite powerful and as such you cannot use them that often. The way the game limits this is actually quite unique. Every time you get another crystal you gain one additional star point. To fill up your ‘star gauge’ you must fight in a way that appeals to the audience which watches your battles.
Audience: You will notice fairly soon that whenever you enter a battle you are actually standing on a stage. Almost every move in the game includes a point at which you can press ‘A’ which triggers some flashy animation. This makes the move ‘stylish’. Stylish moves get the audience happy with you and fills your star power gauge faster.
Battle System: The battle system in 1000 Year Door is pretty straight forward. You select from a number of high level options: Hammer, Jump, Tactics, etc.. and then you get a list of options within those categories. Mario can only attack with his hammer or by jumping, but there are many variations and upgrades for each of those attacks. Mario’s partners have a fixed set of moves, but I did not feel it hindered the game to have it set up this way.
Action Commands: In addition 1000 Year Door livens up the battle system by allowing you to preform different actions which normally make a given attack or move more potent in some way. This adds new life to the traditional approach of select an attack, watch character attack, repeat. Sometimes the outcome of the battle can be determined either way by your use of the ‘Action Commands’.
Abilities: The abilities that Mario can use are determined by what badges he is wearing. You can find or buy badges throughout the game, and each badge requires a certain amount of ‘badge points’ out of your total. You can swap badges at any time, and the amount of badge points you have depends on how you have chosen to level Mario. Badges do more than just add abilities though. They can give Mario strong defence, or immunity against specific enemy types, or help power up Mario’s partners. The badges are also where Mario gets the abilities that require flower points to use.
Partners: As you play through the game you come across different characters which will team up with you and help on your quest. Partners were in the original Paper Mario, but now they are more full fledged party members. They have health and take damage just like Mario (though FP is shared with Mario). They have a static set of abilities that they gain when you upgrade them. So, they don’t level like Mario. Instead you have to collect shine sprites along the way and pay for them to be upgraded. Personally, I would rather they share battle experience, but the shine sprites are frequent and obvious enough that you don’t have to go hunting them down just to upgrade your favourite partner. Outside of battle your partners will also have an ability that can aid in your quest. Such as being able to blow up walls, or provide information about the surrounding area.
Boss Battles: I found most of the boss battles to be a bit on the easy side, but for me, that did not detract from the game at all. In fact I would say the final boss is quite challenging. Even more than I expected.
Leveling System: Leveling is simple. Mario needs 100 star points to level up, period. The more you level the less star points certain enemies give for defeating them. Every time Mario levels the game gives you a choice to upgrade his maximum health, flower, or badge points.
Storyline: The storyline is great, and moves along at a nice pace. It is often times funny, and makes references to many things outside the world of the game. There are also a small number of side quests for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing. Most of the time the rewards on the side quests are good enough that they are worth going on, and you can often start on one and complete it as you are tackling the main objective.
Music: The music is mostly upbeat and lively (as you would expect from a Mario game). I liked most of the soundtrack, but won’t be rushing out to the store to buy a copy any time soon. (For those of you who think I would never buy a video game sound track.. you are largely mistaken) The battle theme can get a little repetitive, but I think it is leaps and bounds better than the battle theme they had in Paper Mario on the N64.
Negative: On the negative side it drives me nuts that you can’t skip some cut scenes. In specific the ones associated with the final boss total over 10 minutes, and even after you have already seen them you must watch them again. Also at around 30 hours (for me anyway) the game is on the short side considering other games in the genre. Finally I think there could be more side quests, but this was not a huge downside.
Conclusion: All in all I would definetly reccomend this to the casual gamer, but I think it also has something to offer for the seasoned pro. The ability to change Mario’s stats as he levels adds an element of strategy for those who are interested while those who do not care would probably be ok just keeping everything evened out. Certainly if you enjoyed the original Paper Mario (N64), or if you enjoyed Super Mario RPG (SNES) then you will enjoy this title!