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[Rapid Review] Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Posted on June 10, 2024 by in Reviews, Switch

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review

System: Switch
Release date: May 23, 2024
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo

Switch has proven itself quite the bastion for turn-based RPGs, but the GameCube of over two decades ago didn’t get quite the same treatment. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was one of just a handful of games where the eager adventurer could whet their appetite for grinding battles to level up, collecting money, and adding to their item stash at every new town. Now with a fresh coat of paint and a host of new features, is the title worth returning to after two decades?

Though not quite a follow-up to Mario RPG, this tale of the Mushroom Kingdom’s charismatic cast is cut from the same cloth as it and the original Paper Mario’s predecessor. Mario and company will be traversing the world (now in very stunning HD) on yet another quest rife with perils and pitfalls. This time, Princess Peach has asked Mario for his help finding a mysterious treasure said to be sealed away by seven Crystal Stars, telling him to meet her in the town of Rogueport, a bit of a dodgy place with an even dodgier reputation. Arriving in Rogueport, Princess Peach is nowhere to be found. Armed with a map Peach sent along with her letter, Mario decides to embark on the quest to find the Crystal Stars, hoping it leads him to the whereabouts of the princess while traipsing about the seedy locale of Rogueport and its surrounding areas.

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review

Rogueport is rather small to explore, and soon you’ll be talking to the townspeople and trying to gain your bearings on where to begin. A chance meeting with the very knowledgeable Goombella results in not only a capable partner for battle, but an adventuring buddy that’s full of tips and information about the people and places you travel. Goombella is a wonderfully functional party member with well-written dialogue, and her ability to remind you about the current objectives and hints on where to go next were likely more useful to me than any of the other new features of the game. Of course, there are also many other memorable characters that you can tag in to battle alongside, but more useful still are their field skills that Mario can utilize to get hard to reach items and unlock new areas. Making the best use of your party members will help you solve various puzzles and look for treasure – items, objectives, and the very interesting badges you can collect that allow Mario to utilize new skills or even listen to the original sound track (there’s a new badge for that!)

Combat is a little different than one might expect from a turn-based battle system, but there will still be familiar features if you’ve played this style of game before. Enemies can be encountered on the screen by simply touching them. Mario can jump on or smash foes with a hammer to initiate combat, as well, giving the player the advantage and starting the fight with a pre-emptive attack. Mario and a partner can work together in battle utilizing skills that can weaken, stun, and obliterate enemies through careful usage. Timed button presses and paying attention to fast-moving gauges are often necessary to deal the most damage or get the most effects from a skill. Skills use up Flower Points, or FP, which the team has a finite amount of. The player can restore this alongside their HP (Hit Points for taking damage in battles) through the use of items, abilities, or through resting.

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review

Every time Mario wins a battle, he’ll earn Star Points. When Mario’s Star Points total 100, he’ll level up and the player can choose whether to upgrade his Heart Points, Flower Points, or Badge Points. Party members can also be upgraded through the use of an alternative system. By collecting the game’s numerous Shine Sprites, Mario can pay a visit to the cantankerous wizard, Merlon. Handing over three Shine Sprites can upgrade a party member’s level –  increasing their abilities and power. Maxing out Mario’s level to 99, while possible, is not really advised. The game can be completed before the player reaches level 30 with careful planning and strategy. It is good to note that any level grinding past level 30 will be incredibly slow, and I was able to finish the game without any grinding at all, just not running from any of the enemies I’d encounter over the course of my run.

So we have the feeling of our cute and witty RPG down – adventuring, fighting, and getting stronger. All good to go! So – what’s new this time around? One of the first differences I noticed was that the inventory slots for Mario had been increased by five. Struggling with item management (storage is available in item shops if you’re feeling your pockets are too full) isn’t exactly a thing of the past, but this change did make it a lot easier to have extra battle items on hand for tough fights. A POW block is, to me, always worth carrying. I never felt bad about having to relinquish something less useful in exchange for something I favored, whereas my first play through was more than a little frustrating from time to time. Noticing these subtle changes really drove home that a lot of time and care was put into this remaster, while still trying to preserve the original style and approach of the game’s dialogue and story – both of which are as absolutely fantastic as they were during the GameCube days.

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review

Remastering the soundtrack and graphics has made the title appear fresh and consistent, with the storybook animation aesthetic setting a shining example of what it can accomplish on updated hardware. Going back and playing both Yoshi Story and the original Paper Mario on the Nintendo Switch Online’s Expansion Pass will really drive home how far we’ve really come with this particular artistic approach – looking almost like playing through a studio produced animated film while still sticking to the original feel and presentation of before. Luckily there is also an included art and sound gallery, so you can pour through the game’s various sketches and sounds freely should you so wish. Notably, some of the character and location art is pretty impressive. One of the best improvements to the game’s controls comes in the form of the Partner Ring, allowing you to quickly swap out your partner on the field to access their skills more efficiently. New fast-travel pipes also can’t be understated – as someone who has never been a huge fan of backtracking, I cannot understate how nice it is to be able to progress more quickly without wasting time just for travel.

If this is something you had missed out on back in the days of the GameCube, I can’t really recommend it enough. Its a wonderfully-written story that while sometimes it can be cheekily hilarious, also manages to be incredibly friendly for all audience types. Considered to be one of the best Mario RPG experiences of all time, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door’s presence on the Switch feels meant to be. Don’t skip out on this one, even if you usually aren’t an RPG person. The story and writing of these games gives us such a huge look into the world of the Mushroom Kingdom that we don’t really see in many other Mario titles, and really gave a window into the personality of beloved characters that many gamers worldwide have grown up with. As an older gamer that may have played this one before, if you are at all interested this would be a great way to double dip. Consider checking out the original Paper Mario on the Switch Online Expansion Pass first if you’re not sure about the series holding up to the tests of time – you may find yourself surprised at how endearing it is to step into our favorite plumber’s boots and set off on a journey again.

The Verdict

Another thirty-hour romp with our favorite folks from the Mushroom Kingdom is once again enhanced with new content and features. Rehashing some of Mario’s biggest adventures has been like sitting down to a comforting family dinner – you know what to expect, its going to be good, and you’re definitely going to want another plate. What do you think Nintendo will be serving us next when it comes to Mario? Maybe a bit more… Luigi?

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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