Tag Archive: Paper Mario

I know it’s passé to say this, but 2020 will be a year none of us will soon forget. I don’t need to explain why, but on the gaming front it saw countless remakes and remasters, triple-A delays, and the last generation of consoles sort of limp across the finish line before welcoming in the new—which had really no major exclusive titles at launch. It was a changing of the guard with little to no fanfare on that front, but through it all a handful of games rose to the top. Here are my top five games for an unforgettable year outside of gaming.

#5Paper Mario: The Origami King
Publisher: Nintendo ▪︎ Developer: Intelligent Systems ▪︎ Platforms: Switch

Simply put, The Origami King is the best Paper Mario game since Thousand Year Door. Although not a true RPG like those early games, it makes up for this by providing one of the most intriguing battle systems we’ve seen to date. Transitioning to a ring-based arena to battle, and moving your enemies around to line up attacks based on Mario’s iconic hammer swings and jumps, harks back to grid-based action-RPG hybrids like Mega Man Battle Network. Throw in origami-based powers that you acquire as you progress, and few battles ever play out the same. And I can’t forget it features the best and most humorous writing yet in a Paper Mario game. The Origami King was one of the more refreshing titles I played this year.

#4Watch Dogs: Legion
Publisher: Ubisoft ▪︎ Developer: Ubisoft Toronto ▪︎ Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, PC

Watch Dogs: Legion rolled the dice in a fascinating way: having an open-world game without a true central protagonist. And Ubisoft pulled it off. Able to recruit a roster of up to 45 NPCs from the thousands that populate Ubisoft’s digital London, I collected them like Pokémon, playing different ones in different scenarios to get the job done. Sure, favorites would arise, but being able to switch to a doctor to sneak into a hospital or a cop for a police station, and then a getaway driver to escape the scene in style, made for fun and inventive ways to tackle each scenario and objective. Plus, flying across London on the construction worker’s drone is the only way to travel in the future.

#3Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios ▪︎ Developer: Moon Studios ▪︎ Platforms: Xbox One, Switch, PC

This was one of my most anticipated titles for 2020, and it delivered in spades. After Ori and the Blind Forest took home my personal 2015 Game of the Year, I was ready to explore and bring life back to a world plagued by decay and corruption as our favorite guardian spirit. Will of the Wisps again delivers tight platforming in a sprawling map that will have you exploring for hours. Streamlined systems like an autosave and easier upgrading keeps the pace fast, and new enemies and massive bosses keep the action frantic. And the art, music, and story all come together with these other elements to make a top-notch sequel.

#2Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment ▪︎ Developer: Insomniac Games ▪︎ Platforms: PS5, PS4

I’m a sucker for a good superhero game, and Insomniac’s Spider-Man on PS4 was one of the best. So, being able to take on even a brief adventure back in that world this holiday season was a welcome way to warm up my PS5. Yes, the world is the same with just a winter wonderland skin, but Miles Morales brings a whole new set of abilities and villains to the story, and a special flair all his own,  while Peter Parker is galavanting around Europe. Sometimes you just want more of a good thing, and that’s exactly what Spider-Man: Miles Morales is—making everyone who played it feel like we made Santa’s nice list this year.

#1Ghost of Tsushima
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment ▪︎ Developer: Sucker Punch Productions ▪︎ Platforms: PS4

As I danced around the field, avoiding my opponent’s sword, and chrysanthemum petals twirled around us, I knew this was my game of the year. This, and other duels on sandy inlets as water splashed the shore, or as fog enveloped us near a monument to fallen warriors, left an unforgettable impression on me like no other game in 2020. Ghost of Tsushima is a Kurosawa film come to life in the best ways possible, and a terrific story all its own. Jin’s struggle as he willingly casts himself out from the only family he knows in order to stop an outside invader was amazingly told, and made you feel the weight of every decision. There was no world I loved exploring, and no adventure I enjoyed more, than Ghost of Tsushima. It strikes a perfect blend of gameplay, graphics, sound, and story, like a samurai delivering the final blow to a rival.

The “Best Replacement for Real Sports in a Pandemic” Award
MLB The Show 20

While most gamers got through the early days of the pandemic with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I dove deep into another game released around the same time: MLB The Show 20. I always loved the series, but hadn’t picked up an entry in the franchise in a couple years, and there was no better time as it served the dual purpose of being entertaining and the only sports I really had for four months. It prompted me to start my own Twitch channel and dust off my play-by-play skills, and it was easily my saving grace during a tough time for everyone.

The “Best Wind Through My Hair Simulation” Award
Iron Man VR

I look back at where VR was even just two or three years ago to where we are now, and its growth is promising. One of the better games to come out this year showing that growth is Iron Man VR. The PSVR really made it feel like I was playing as ol’ Shellhead when I put the headset on. Being able to use my two gauntlets independently of each other to fire rockets, repulsors, or control my flight, gave a sense of control I’ve felt in few other VR games. And it only got better when I turned my living room A/C towards me so it really felt like I was flying through the skies while fighting great reimaginings of supervillains Ghost and Living Laser.

The “What’s Old is New Again” Award
Resident Evil 3

I gave this award last year to Resident Evil 2, but in a year defined by remakes and remasters more than anything else (Tony Hawk Pro SkaterCrysisMafiaDemon’s SoulsFFVIIDestroy All Humans, etc.)it felt fitting to bring it back and give it to my favorite of the bunch. Resident Evil 3 takes a lot from the original, but the redesign of Nemesis and how he stalks you, some new sections that play terrifically, and a graphical and control overhaul made me thrilled to revisit Raccoon City once again. And, if you splurged for the $60 version, Resident Evil: Resistance was a fun multiplayer add-on, too.

I had a chance to check out a couple of demos of Paper Mario: Color Splash at the Nintendo Lounge at San Diego ComicCon 2016. While I did go hands-on for a time with the game, Nintendo refused to let this particular demo be played by anyone but one of their representatives. At the very least, it does mark the first time we are seeing this footage of Mario exploring the Dark Bloo Inn, where he has to exercise some Toad spirits and battle some Sledge Bros.

Paper Mario: Color Splash is coming to the Wii U on October 7.

Flimsy Paper

The Paper Mario franchise is that rare video game spin-off that succeeded and then stuck around. Part of this is because it presented a unique way for us to look at one of gaming’s most cherished protagonists. Playing on the physics of Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, and the rest of your expected Mario cast of characters being cardboard cut-outs of themselves added different and entertaining game play that has allowed this to flourish. But could this series’ first portable title stand strong and continue the franchise’s trend of great RPG games, or would it be lost in the wind?

Paper Mario: Sticker Star starts off like most every other Mario adventure. The Mushroom Kingdom is throwing a party, this time to celebrate the annual “Sticker Fest” where the magical “Sticker Comet” will come and grant the wishes of everyone who truly believes in its power. Bowser hears about this, crashes the party, and runs right into the Sticker Comet, shattering it into six separate pieces that enhance the abilities of all those who come into contact with them. It’s then up to Mario to once again set off and put the comet back together, all the while fighting Bowser’s army of classic baddies, from the Boomerang Bros. to Spikes.

The great thing about Sticker Star is right off the bat you can tell it maintains all the charm and personality of those that came before it. From the physical humor that plays off the 2D nature of the characters to the music and bright colors of the Mushroom Kingdom, Sticker Star doesn’t lag behind its console predecessors in any way. It really feels like a Paper Mario game. In fact, the 3D-effect only enhances the visuals further, as more depth-of-field tricks can be performed with hidden passageways or items.

These hidden passageways don’t just lead to coin filled treasure rooms, however. In reference to some classic Super Mario Bros. titles, the overworld map is broken into stages and worlds based on themes (desert, forest, water, etc.). Many of these stages, reminding me of Super Mario World, have multiple exits that will open up alternate paths to Mario’s end goal of one of the Sticker Comet fragments. This leads to Paper Mario: Sticker Star having the largest and most sprawling world the series has seen thus far.

There are some flaws with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, though, and the most glaring resides with the new combat system. Scrapping a more traditional, XP-driven system, Sticker Star relies on the item the game is named after: stickers. You must go around the world and collect as many stickers as possible in order to fill up your sticker book. Then when you enter combat, you must spend these stickers, which only have one use each, to perform vintage Mario maneuvers like jumping and swinging a hammer.

Instead of feeling innovative or entertaining, this mechanic instead made me feel like I was in my very own episode of A&E’s Hoarders, as I’d fill my sticker book to the brim and then refuse to ever use them. In fact, since there are no rewards for defeating enemies, I actually started to avoid combat altogether for fear of running out of stickers once the really difficult, scripted battles rolled around. Even the extremely powerful real-world sticker items made me fear combat, as they also took up more space in my sticker book. I ended up becoming so obsessed with organizing and maintaining my inventory of stickers that by the time I reached the first major boss, I had stopped having fun with Sticker Star.

Another irritating aspect of Sticker Star is the constant need to backtrack. Now, I understand this is a common mechanic in many RPGs, but I don’t understand how designers would think having to retreat to your central base (in this case a small town in the Mushroom Kingdom called Decalsburg) all the time or having to re-visit stages you’ve beaten several times over is fun. And Sticker Star is by far one of the worst culprits of this we’ve seen in some time, as you often have to retread the same ground literally dozens of times.

If you can overcome these two major hurdles, there’s a solid concept for a Paper Mario game buried at the core of Sticker Star. Unfortunately, the new sticker-driven combat forcibly removes a lot of the fun from what would otherwise be a stellar portable title, and since so much of the game is progressed through the combat, the experience suffers tremendously as a whole, making this a recommendation for only the most diehard of Paper Mario fans.

SUMMARY:  The plot and adventure are both more than worthy of the Paper Mario name, and the game is set in a massive, beautifully designed world for gamers to explore. Still, these aspects can’t hide the fact that the sticker fighting system is flawed and removes a lot of the fun from the RPG combat.

  • THE GOOD: Massive new world, branching paths, and references to many previous Mario games.
  • THE BAD: New combat system is nowhere near as effective as what we’ve become accustomed to from previous games in the series.
  • THE UGLY: I still miss Mallow and Geno from Super Mario RPG.

SCORE: 6.5

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive.