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 The Final Word game review

Paper Mario -- Intelligent Systems/Nintendo

Over the last year I had really begun to get worried. Worried that maybe I had just grown out of playing RPGs. I had tried playing over a dozen "RPG"s in the last two years, and I was so tired of them all being basically the same. The same tired "3-D" combat engine... the same tired story... the same tired "fight the dragon" sequence.

Or, more commonly, I was really tired of hearing my friends go "(insert the name of any modern RPG) is soooo cool... It's so innovative and creative, I mean there's this really clever plot twist twenty hours into the game that was so unexpected!" Ehem... you're saying that I should sit through twenty hours of the same game RPG I've sat through dozens of times since Final Fantasy II, just to get a "clever plot twist"? Uh... no... That's like telling me that the latest "Ernest Saves ..." movie is a brilliant creative work of cinema arts because right at the end of the film there is a... clever plot twist. Cough.

So, just what does this have to do with Paper Mario you might ask? Hmm... not much, other than the fact that this title restored my faith in the RPG as a game form I can enjoy playing. What's funny is that at the core, this game uses essentially the same story line and combat system as every other "RPG" out there. But, it adds a lot of flair and satire to the whole package, right from the moment you turn it on. I also found the 3-D/2-D mix of graphics in the game quite refreshing, both satisfying my desire to play an RPG, and my desire for a really good "classic"-style 2-D platform game (even though it isn't really a platform game at all!).

Look, I'll be straight with you. Not everyone is going to like this game. Unless you are either a child or a long-time fan of the Mario universe, you'll probably hate it without ever taking a look at it. Yes, Paper Mario is a "children's RPG", but so was EarthBound, a game recognized by many as being possibly one of the best RPGs released for the SNES. All in all, a thorough start-to-finish solve of this game for an experienced player can clock in at atleast 35-40 hours (I solved the game short 3 badges, only because I didn't feel like playing the quiz game 52 more times to earn the star points I needed to buy the badges), and you really do need to play this game thoroughly to appreciate the humor in it. It pokes fun at itself, RPGs, the whole Mario universe, and even unexpected things like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This game is without a doubt, a great purchase for the kid in the house. I never found myself mindlessly experience building, even once in the game... and as you get stronger (if you equip the right badge) most game areas start to take on the characteristics of a standard 2-D platformer because you can just jump on enemies, or smack them with your hammer and defeat them without going into battle. Eventually you can even get a badge that lets you defeat any minor enemy by touching them. ...and if you get stuck somewhere, ask Goombario to describe the room or enemy... many times his comments will provide a good hint on what to do next, or at least make you laugh.

The combat system was nice in this game as well. Rather than being "stat-dependent" like most RPGs, the player really interacts with each attack and defense to the point where a proficient player can increase their attack strength, or improve their defence via their own dexterity skills.

Pacing in this game is great as well... for instance, when you're about to get tired from all of the overland traveling... you get to open up a set of pipes that allows you to shortcut all over the world. Thus making possibly tedious missions a breeze to complete. This allows you to spend more time on actually solving the game as you get closer to the end, instead of being stuck in mindless battle-after-battle-after-battle. My only downside on the game is that once you've completely solved it, there isn't much re-play value for an adult player.

In my honest opinion, I'd have to say that this is definitely the best RPG of the year. In fact, discounting Majora's Mask from last year, I'd say this is one of the most fun and, oddly enough, original RPGs to come out in quite some time.

>>>>> 24.5/25 <<<<< R.I.P.
Graphics 5.0
Sound 5.0
Gameplay/Control 5.0
Longevity/Playability 4.5
Overall 5.0
Total 24.5