Let me preface this article by admitting that unlike most Nintendo loyalists, I skipped out on the N64 generation. Chalk it up to personal bias of cartridges at the time (sure blowing NES cartridges were fun and all, but I was becoming fond of gaming on compact discs). Perhaps I just despised the Kingdom that Mario built? Nah, just stupidity on my part since it meant I allowed myself to also miss out on one of the system's coolest games ever developed -- Paper Mario.
Well. . .nobody's perfect.
Thankfully, I am hoping to make atonement when Nintendo releases the highly anticipated sequel, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (previously titled Paper Mario 2) for GameCube this October. Mario, our favorite mustachioed hero returns as a new chapter unfolds in an unfamiliar land which reminds me of the first time I traveled to Downtown Los Angeles. Thankfully Mario, much like myself at the time, won't be alone, as he joins forces with his brother Luigi, Princess Peach and a wealth of new and established characters.
Once upon a time...
In his latest adventure, Mario returns to his heroic roots - saving damsels in distress. Here's the story in a nutshell: poor Peach can't seem to take a vacation without getting captured by mysterious villains. Following the clues of a treasure map, given to Mario earlier before the Princess' abduction leads him to the Star Crystals - strange artifacts that wield an unknown power. And to make things more complicated for our hero, are three veiled figures plotting the return of "the great shadow witch", a army of new, powerful enemies and a extremely P.O'ed Bowser who sets out on his own quest to find out who's creating an inroad on his villainous operations.
Like a conventional RPG, players will explore the towns and locales of a massive world as Mario diligently attempts to piece the clues together during his hunt for the Star Crystals. Along the way, he'll meet up with new and familiar characters. I know some of you are probably anti-social in the real world, but if you hope to find Peach and save the day, you better you learn how to open that virtual mouth of yours and converse with anyone you encounter.
Of course, not everyone is looking out for your best interests, so expect battles to arise every step of the way. The sequel expands upon the original battle system by introducing a new element to the formula -- an audience. Come again? Does that even make sense? Who cares, it's a video game, you're supposed to use your imagination, kids.
It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings...
So as I was saying, the sequel builds upon the original battle system with the introduction of a new innovative feature that requires Mario to perform in front of an audience -- literally. The unique crowd system offers an even greater level of depth to the game as you prowess with the Action Commands. To put it simply -- you need solid timing to succeed. Impress the crowd, and they'll reward you with items and badges which augment Mario's strength, giving him the ability to unleash devastating attacks. Play scrubby and you'll pay the consequences. How's that trash taste? In short -- play hard, live well.
Speaking of performance enhancers, Mario's got a few valuable gifts that will definitely come in handy during his quest. Among some of the abilities you'll use include turning into a paper airplane, allowing him to soar through the sky; rolling into a tube and turning sideways to fit through narrow passages. And when he's not busy showing off his new abilities, Mario can make use of various items which allow him to cast thunderbolts or toss hammers at his opponents. What an exciting twist of fate - I've always despised the Hammer Bros., now I can get my revenge!
There's really no need for me to offer a personal testimony for the game's visual appearance, it's dressed to impress. A quick tour of our image gallery offers all the proof you'll ever need. And say what you will about Link and cel-shaded graphics, but Mario was born for this sort of style.
Now the only thing left to satisfy my curiosity is to hear the game's soundtrack. If it's anything like the tunes that graced Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga or Super Mario 64, I'll be quite content. While we're at it, perhaps Intelligent Systems could make a tribute to the original NES classic, Super Mario Bros. and toss in a few bars for nostalgic sake. One can dream, right?
Play in their world
Without a doubt, this is one game you'll definitely want to have on your list. It's a title you'll treasure and be thankful that you weren't among the selfish that traded in their GameCube for those other game systems. You know who you are.