[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/papermario2/cover.jpg[/floatleft][i]Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door[/i] is a sequel to the highly popular [i]Paper Mario[/i] on the N64. This time around, Princess Peach has gone missing…again. As the story begins, Princess Peach sends you a treasure map and asks you to meet her in the town of Rogueport. Of course, Peach never shows up, and the hunt is on. Rogueport is a little town filled with rough characters, and it is about as far away from the Mushroom Kingdom as you can get. As you begin your journey with the treasure map as your guide, Mario will begin to uncover the secrets hidden deep within the city.
[i]The Thousand Year Door[/i] sends Mario on a quest of hunting down seven Crystal Stars while looking for Peach at the same time. These Crystal Stars are powerful artifacts and may help Mario defeat Peach’s captor.
If you are familiar with the [i]Paper Mario[/i] games, then you know they are turn-based RPGs. This could spell trouble in the hands of Cone, or could it? With this being only my second turn-based RPG, I was kind of nervous that I would hate the combat system, but many props go out to Nintendo for making it seem less turn-based and a lot more like real time. Since the combat system is second only to the story, I want to touch on it first since it can really make or break a game.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/papermario2/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]To start a battle with an enemy, you have a few options. You can walk into the enemy to engage them, hit them with your hammer, or simply jump on them; be careful, however, because if you are too slow, they may attack you first. The difference between engaging and attacking them is that an attack affords you a first hit prior to the battle. This first hit can make a big difference against powerful enemies. Likewise, the enemy can get a first strike against you. Once you engage an enemy, the fight moves to a theatre-yes, a stage with curtains and an audience.
Of course, since this is a turn-based game, you have to select your action from a menu, but the Nintendo touch is always present. Assuming you select a hammer attack for your move, you have to use the left analog stick to control that attack to inflict maximum damage. Jump attacks require a timed press of A in order to get a second bonus hit. On the defensive end of things, you are able to block attacks and minimize damage, or block them and counterattack. Both require precision skills and will change with each new enemy as they all have different attack methods. All in all, I really enjoyed the combat. As you perform more skilled and flashy attacks and defensive moves, the audience will grow. This gives way to a few “bad seeds” in the crowd who will attempt to toss items at you. A simple press of a button will deal with them, so keep your eyes on the crowd.
The crowd also plays another integral role in your battle. As you please the crowd with spectacular moves, they will fill up your star meter. As this meter fills up, you will be able to perform special moves. These special moves can inflict massive damage upon your enemies. The rule of thumb is that if you attack with style, you will be rewarded heavily.
I never thought that I would be so long-winded when talking about turn-based combat. Moving along to the normal aspects of play, the main parts of the game play just like any 2D Mario game-and this time around you really are 2D. You see, Mario and most everything in the game are made of paper, so it is only fitting that the world and the characters take on paper-like characteristics. As you progress, you will earn new special moves such as the ability to slide between small openings or fold yourself up into a paper airplane, flying to otherwise impossible areas. More often than not, unlocking a new ability will open your eyes to secrets all over the game that you previously hadn’t noticed.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/papermario2/ss10_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Being that this is a first-party Nintendo game, you probably have a high expectation. Well, [i]Paper Mario[/i] won’t disappoint you. Many characters from the Nintendo family make appearances, and the personality and depth of character that a group of goombas can take on will blow you away and take you to a whole new level.
[i]Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door[/i] is a fairly long game by any standards, weighing in at about 30 to 40 hours. I expect that this will be a little daunting and put off many people, but likewise it will thrill big-time RPGers who are looking for a nostalgic trip back to their roots. Since I am only partially finished with the game, I can say that I am honestly looking forward to the length of the game because most games don’t truly capture and hold my attention. I hope [i]Paper Mario[/i] is one of those games that can keep me going.
While I am touting the game as the greatest thing since sliced bread, I do want to mention the focal point of complaints that I have seen with the game: backtracking. Many people have found it extremely cumbersome to revisit areas of the game that you have already beaten. While I have not personally become frustrated with this aspect of the game, I can see how many people with possibly short gaming attention spans would quickly lose patience over this point.
Winding things up, I have to say that [i]Paper Mario[/i] is one of the best titles in the GameCube’s library. In fact, RPG fans might even proclaim it as the top title for the Cube. One thing is for sure, Nintendo has yet another stellar first-party title on its hands. In summary, RPG fans will love [i]The Thousand Year Door[/i], and anyone that has grown up with Mario may find themselves strangely addicted to a genre of games they have previously avoided.