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Paper Mario: Sticker Star review

AT A GLANCE
  • One of the funniest games of the year
  • Streamlined sticker combat offers new challenge
  • Lovely graphics and soundtrack craft enjoyable world
  • Too open at times
  • Not enough of an RPG for genre buffs
  • Occasionally frustrating sticker management

Based on the many outstanding Mario RPGs released over the years, Nintendo’s mascot and role-playing games go together like green pipes and turtles. After years of success on consoles, the Paper Mario franchise has now moved to the portables with Paper Mario: Sticker Starfor the 3DS. The game sheds many of the trappings of the role-playing genre, streamlining the unique gameplay while maintaining the series pedigree of charming and exciting adventure.

The story moves fast in Sticker Star, with Bowser almost immediately disrupting Sticker Fest, a celebration of the arrival of the mythical Sticker Comet. He and his minions steal the wish-granting power of the comet, using their new strength to wreak havoc on the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario teams up with sassy sprite Kersti--think Ocarina of Time’s Navi, but funny instead of annoying--to reclaim the five Royal Stickers in the hopes of setting things right.

The premise of collecting a handful of magical items to defeat your arch enemy might be pretty predictable. However, Sticker Star casts away many RPG conceits like experience points, equipment, and party members, so the game feels like anything but a retread of the same.

Any attack in battle consumes a sticker, most major plot developments depend on sticker placement, and maintaining your supply of stickers is where much of the strategy comes from. Choosing when and where to use a certain sticker adds tension to every battle, because ending a mundane fight fast with a strong sticker means you won’t have it on hand for the inevitable boss battle. You can build your collection in shops across the world, but many rarer stickers are found few and far between, hidden in the corners of stages.

Underneath all the stickers, the turn-based, reactive combat of previous entries is still intact, where early hits and timing your blocks can mean life or death for Mario. Removing the frills of traditional RPGs lets that gameplay shine even brighter, and by the end of the game you’ll wonder why you ever felt like a Mario RPG needed all that extra fluff. Mario games are at their best when they focus on simple fun, and Sticker Stars proves that once more.

If players’ might have early, misguided doubts about the gameplay, they will likely feel the same about the seemingly linear construction of the map. However, while the map structure of segmenting worlds with “1-1, 1-2, 1-3” and so on may seem too straightforward, in practice Sticker Star is fairly open-ended. When the map opens up, major bosses can be beaten out of order and areas like 5-3 can be explored hours before 4-2, a flow that fits well within the limitations of portable gaming.

For as enjoyable as the gameplay may be, the exceptional script is Sticker Star’s strongest asset. The clever dialogue breathes life into every character, such as Kersti’s continually bossing around Mario and jumping to conclusions, or Bowser Jr.’s insufferably bratty taunts. The writing--supported by expert English localization--is incredibly funny, even by the franchise’s high standards. Also of note is the jazzy soundtrack, one of the best from the series in some time.

As cute as all that can be, a few of those sticker puzzles are also home to Sticker Star’s bigger frustrations. After collecting dozens of real world items (staplers, goats, ect), you end up with so many baubles that some puzzles that should have been amusing end up frustrating ordeals based on trial and error that often aren’t clarified by Kersti’s optional hints. The occasional off the wall solutions mix with the overly open map to cause confused players to aimless roam the map until they finally stumble upon the solution.

But those frustrations are momentary at best, hardly detracting from a can’t miss handheld game. One of the best 3DS games to date, Paper Mario: Sticker Star updates an already great series for handhelds by expertly cutting the fat to make for a digestible portable adventure. RPG lovers might balk at the changes, but after the first few hours they’ll realize that this is just the next evolution in a series that was always quietly innovating its genre.

More Info

Release date: Nov 11 2012 - 3DS (US)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Nintendo
Franchise: Mario
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Cartoon Violence

Topics

Mario

14 comments

  • Nocturne989 - November 7, 2012 8:40 a.m.

    Awesome! Been playing TTYD again to get ready for this
  • Nikku7 - November 6, 2012 8:31 p.m.

    I didn't realize this was already almost out! Very excited. Any given Mario RPG is one of the funniest games I've ever played. I don't think Intelligent Systems has ever made a bad game in fact!
  • pl4y4h - November 6, 2012 12:42 p.m.

    Has there ever been a bad Mario RPG game? That's a serious question. Has there been? This series, 7 stars, and the gba series are all top notch games
  • shawksta - November 6, 2012 9:39 a.m.

    Wow, higher than I expected, Great to see Intelligent systems knows what their doing. I find it ironic that you can find yourself lost in the open world when people's concerns is that it won't be open at all. Can't wait to.get it on Sunday.
  • GR_HenryGilbert - November 6, 2012 10:09 a.m.

    Yes, after the first 4 hours I expected a very linear game, then by the end I was getting stuck because there were so many places to go
  • shawksta - November 6, 2012 3:49 p.m.

    I see. Frankly, the idea of having this big open world, where you'll be stopped on your tracks in one world because the item needed is in an entirely different world, is both Bizarre and Interesting. This game is really making interesting new strides on the series, but thats what you should expect from Intelligent, they keep experimenting with the series. There are things that fall short in this game, however thats only where your intention is to compare it to the past games and wont let this game be its own, which sadly atleast 1 reviewer did. Either way this game is definitly enjoyable.
  • JarkayColt - November 6, 2012 9:33 a.m.

    I so can not wait for this game now. Call me crazy but I love the Mario RPGs way more than any of the platformers and hopefully this one will be no different. I just played through the original Paper Mario for the first time last week and it was superb, so now my anticipation for this has reached boiling point. I've been trying to find a copy of TTYD to play while I wait (never played that one before either) but I can't find that thing anywhere. I wanted to play them all in order, dammit! But yeah, it's great to see the high standard maintained!
  • taokaka - November 6, 2012 1:55 p.m.

    you're crazy ............. and so am I!
  • Hobogonigal - November 7, 2012 12:13 a.m.

    So Taokaka, are you saying that you like Bowser's Inside Story? The truth finally comes out :0
  • taokaka - November 7, 2012 3:23 a.m.

    I never denied liking it, I just hated the fact that no matter what I tried I couldn't get past a battle against a train about halfway through due to mario games passionately hating my DS's microphone.
  • rainn'sgaydar - November 6, 2012 9:17 a.m.

    This sounds like something I need to play, but I've never played any Mario RPG. Should I go ahead and start here or go for one of the older ones?
  • winner2 - November 6, 2012 9:41 a.m.

    You don't need to play them in order but I recommend playing the original and thousand year door for sure. The original if at all possible, it's definitely one of my all time favorite games.
  • shawksta - November 6, 2012 9:43 a.m.

    Each Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi game are unique and different, and gives a different theme and feel, you can play them in any order you want, it doesn't matter honestly
  • GR_HenryGilbert - November 6, 2012 10:05 a.m.

    Nintendo does a good job of making each Mario RPG friendly to new players

Showing 1-14 of 14 comments

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