Preview: Paper Mario: Sticker Star takes RPG-lite path

October 18, 2012

At New York Comic Con, we took the newest Paper Mario game for a spin, and one thing’s clear: it’s veering away from the RPG roots in which it was conceived. It’s no Super Paper Mario; the game still takes a story and intersperses it with turn-based combat against enemies. But Mario’s all alone this time, and he doesn’t level up.

What it is: Paper Mario: Sticker Star, the third game in the series and the first since 2004, has you collecting stickers and exploring environments to gather what you need to stop Bowser once again. It takes off-center camera angles in the world and in battle to show off the system’s 3D capabilities, and it relies on collecting things for stat boosts and special attacks, rather than traditional RPG progression.

Why we’re excited: Once again, Intelligent Systems is taking a novel approach to the game’s material gimmick. In Thousand-Year Door, this meant folding and rolling into paper objects as world-exploring mechanics. This time, it means that people and objects are stickers applied to things, and it makes finding them and retrieving them quite a task. Also, the idea of equipping stickers in a way that fits on one sheet is a cool way to handle that mechanic (and one we saw in a lesser capacity in Super Smash Bros. Melee). Not to mention: the game’s aesthetics translate wonderfully to the display, and it’s always a joy to be treated to a Treehouse localization.

What we’re wondering: What made the first two games so special? We’d contend the charming partners, from Goombario and Kooper to Vivian and Bobbery, were the highlight of both the story and the battles. Mario’s flying solo; will stickers be enough? We’re also a bit worried that, without the normal progression, the game could delve into tedium with its overworld item-finding tasks. Will the challenges be interesting without crossing the line to frustration?

Paper Mario: Sticker Star releases November 11 for 3DS, both at retail and on the eShop.