How is it that the GameCube and Wii both launched without a Mario game? Somehow it happened, and here we are, months after Wii took the world by surprise and we're just now seeing the iconic mascot appear on the system. To make things even weirder, it's not a 3D platformer or sports game debut, either. Nope, it's a new entry in the RPG-lite Paper Mario series, the last of which landed in 2004. But in order to make the game more digestible to the non-RPG fan, Super Paper Mario plays more like a traditional side-scrolling Mario title than a straight-up RPG.
Sure, there's quite a bit of story, and you do gain levels as your score increases throughout the game, but instead of a big world ready to be explored, you're ushered from Chapter 1-1 to 1-2, 1-3 and then for a boss fight in 1-4. Repeat through 8-4, just like the good ol' NES days. The end of each world gives you a bit more of the story, introduces a new ability or two and maybe even throws in a new playable character - Peach, Bowser and eventually Luigi all become part of your heroic quartet.
Even the Wii Remote gets in on the old school action - it's held sideways, so everything handles like a true '80s Nintendo game. It's a great sensation to run through locales like Hell (aka the "Underwhere") with an uncomfortable rectangle mashed in your palms. Ah, the joys of pre-ergonomics ergonomics.