|Dev: Intelligent Systems|
|Release: TBA 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Adam Dodd
It's only been a few short months since the E3 trailer for the next installment in Nintendo's popular Paper Mario series was shown, but fans are already foaming at the mouth for a chance to play it. But this isn't just another sequel; this Paper Mario is exciting for several reasons. First, it's the first in the series on a handheld console (the Nintendo 3DS). It's also the first game in the series to take advantage of full 3D, which is particularly exciting since the game is all about 2D layers. The console's 3D tech will undoubtedly heighten the visual appeal of fighting and solving puzzles as the paperfied Mario while making the environments pop out more. This game also marks a return to the turn-based combat from the original two Paper Mario games rather than the more platforming-centric combat of the Wii's entry in the series.
For the unfamiliar, the Paper Mario games are side-scrolling platformers, not unlike the original Super Mario games, only here everything has a paper cutout aesthetic that makes it feel like the game is set inside a pop-up book. Paper Mario can switch between several planes, similar to Sackboy in LittleBigPlanet. You also have partners that can help you solve puzzles and defeat enemies throughout the game, and these have been confirmed to be returning in Paper Mario for the 3DS. However, only Chain Chomp and Green Toad have been revealed so far.
The story will be familiar to anyone who's played a Mario game: Peach is kidnapped by Bowser, Mario has to go save her, and crazy hijinks ensue. Like a majority of the games in the Mario franchise, Paper Mario takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom, so even though you'll be exploring locations original to the game, the environments will look familiar. Something else that makes Paper Mario unique is the role-playing elements that have been sprinkled throughout the game. This isn't simply another Mario platformer with a different art style, it's a Mario RPG with a scoring system that grants experience, which you can accumulate to level up and become stronger.
The last game in the series mixed things up, replacing the turn-based combat with something more similar to the Super Mario series. This time, however, the turn-based combat is making its triumphant return. Mario will have his Jump and Hammer commands, and the touchscreen will offer a very unique way to play the game.
Nintendo has said that stickers will play a major role in the gameplay, but all we currently know about these is that they will bestow special power-ups—like the Frog Suit—which can be used to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles.
Many classic enemies will be returning, including Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Dry Bones, and Bob-ombs, among others. Thankfully, Mario will have an arsenal of moves he can use to vanquish these foes, like the Jump, Power-Bounce, Multibounce, Hammer, and more. The fact that this game will utilize the 3DS' touchscreen means we'll have less on the main screen, so navigating the environments and fighting enemies will be easier as you experience this vibrant 3D world without anything obstructing your view.
If the trailer from E3 is anything to go by, this game's visuals are more than capable of standing up to what we've come to expect from the series. Its playful style and layered environments are bound to look striking on the 3DS, so I wouldn't worry about a drop in quality over its console-based predecessors. The fact that this is already a game about layered environments—where you can move between planes to solve puzzles and fight enemies—means the move to 3D will only make the effect even more striking. If this game is half as fun as the ones that came before it, this might not only be another great game in the series, it could very well be the ultimate Paper Mario game.
Paper Mario is sure to sell more than a few Nintendo 3DSes, and rightfully so, since every game in the series has been an incredibly neat take on a brand that's been around for such a long time. It's still a ways off, though, with a painfully wide release window of 2012. But that only means its developer, Intelligent Systems, has plenty of time to make this the Paper Mario game we all want it to be. The bar has been set high, but with 3D, turn-based combat, and the option of playing on the go, I'm sure Paper Mario won't disappoint.
CCC Contributing Writer