VG Tribune

Review: Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam

January 20, 2016 / 5:33 PM

By: Matthew Gibson

Mario has become a true household name in today’s time. Ask anybody if they’ve played the game, if they can recite the theme of the original, or even if they know his scaredy-cat brother, the answer would be yes. And from this popularity, it’s only natural that many spin-offs have been derived from this iconic franchise. But the Mario and Luigi RPG series has had a special place in my heart for a good five/six years now, and so I’m always excited to go on a new adventure with the two brothers. The latest instalment was no different. Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam is the fifth in the installment, and shakes things up by bringing over the Paper Mario universe, another well-known RPG bearing the Mario name. The concept of playing as a trio formed of Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario, in addition to the superb combat the series is well known for, made playing this a joy, even if the plot was as thin as a sheet of paper.

STORY

The game starts off with Luigi trying to find something in the attic of Princess Peach’s castle, that is until he accidentally knocks down a book. But this is no ordinary book, as it contains the whole world that belongs to Paper Mario. And so, a whole bunch of paper duplicates of Mushroom Kingdom characters came bursting out, and every character that has been represented in both RPGs have been paired up. Princess Peach formed a friendship with her 2D self, whilst the two Bowsers tag up to take over the kingdom. Of course, it is up to Mario and his new friend Paper Mario, alongside Luigi, to take them down. And that is it. No unique characters, no unique plot, no new things concerning the story. It really is as simple as two Marios going up against two Bowsers. No Prince Peasley, no party characters from the Paper Mario games, nothing. Even the environments, whilst eye-pleasing, were just dull and uninspired.

And this is where the game does fall flat. There was a lot of potential here, like possibly a greater importance or use to the book, yet it seems that it was sent to the shredder. Unlike its predecessors, Paper Jam’s plot feels drowned out, and make it feel like that this wasn’t a true game fitted for the series. Well, that is apart from the charming dialogue. I still enjoyed what each character said and did, and managed to incorporate the charm that the Mario and Luigi series is famed for. With the humorous interactions with the characters and their paper counterparts, and the amount of references make Paper Jam a joy to read.

GAMEPLAY

Now that the bad stuff has been addressed, I can finally talk about the core and easily the best part of the game, or most RPGs for that matter: the fun combat. Paper Jam thankfully carries over the insanely fun fights from previous titles, and expands on it even further. Yeah, you still have the Jump and Hammer attacks, in addition to the brilliant Bros. Attacks (although some are sadly older ones), but thanks to Paper Mario’s inclusion, there’s a whole scrap of new variety here. Paper Mario has the unique ability to make up to six copies of himself. Doing so takes up a move, but in doing so you are far more powerful. You can jump up to six consecutive times on one enemy as opposed to the norm of two jumps, or spread the copies to hit multiple enemies at once with the hammer. This is also Paper Mario’s greatest defence, as each copy acts as a barrier in some way. One is lost when you’re attacked (most of the time at least), and once reduced to just one, you start taking damage. Thankfully, the new recruit never felt overpowered, as he is much weaker than either of the two brothers, and you have to think if you should spend a turn maxing out your copies. That’s not all however. Mario’s paper self also has access to Trio Attacks, special moves that use all three heroes. These can be a bit more tricky than the typical Bros. Attack, but the pay-off is immense, and is just as fun to do. Battle cards are another new, and welcome, addition to the formula. By using star points that you’ve accumulated during your fight (performing excellent moves results in the most), a range of effects can be put in place. You may have to spend two points on one that buffs your defence or weakens an enemy’s attack power, whilst things for more drastic impacts from making your party invulnerable for for two times or reviving a fallen member, will be a bit more costly. You can have a deck of 10 at any given time, and there is a good amount of depth in customising your ideal set for when it is time to d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-duel. And thankfully, tutorials are next to extinct, as you have the choice to either practice, or press on if you’re familiar. What’s more is the capability to demo or practice Bros. or Trio Attacks within battle, which enabled me to test out any new moves before I waste my BP.

Another big introduction is that of paper-craft battles, which are the new ‘giant’ battles present from recent Mario and Luigi titles. Here, you pilot a giant paper-craft version of one of the protagonists, and you try to topple down foes who are doing the same thing. You can dash into them to inflict damage, and if they’re stunned or if you see an opportunity, you can fling your cardboard warrior onto them for massive damage. Each time you do so, you control a slightly modified version. For example, in the second paper-craft brawl, you now control a Luigi with a hammer, and using the jump manoeuvre allows you to tackle spiky opponents. With every action you take, it depletes some of the morale of the Toads that are supporting the giant, and you have to play a little rhythm mini game to replinish this bar. All of these battles felt unique, despite being a tad exhausted a good way through each iteration.

Other than that, there is of course traversing the world. As mentioned before, the environments are not exciting at all to travel across, and trying to search for hidden spots isn’t as exciting as it should be. However, the way you do move still holds up superbly. Trio Moves enable you to do certain tasks in the open, like how using the Hammer move can smash big boulders, or how the kite is utilised for crossing big gaps. There wasn’t a time that I felt that they over-stayed their welcome, as some were being introduced in new ways, like the Drill move. But by far, the new dash ability is the most useful tool in the game, and it does so as you expect. Thanks to this, I found the game to go at a much faster, and smoother pace than previous adventures.

I lastly want to touch on the Lakitu Info Centre. Paper Jam offers various side-quests, or rather mini-games to be more precise, ranging from short quizzes and catching Nabbit in order to gain new special moves. This new area grants access to various missions that are needed to progress with the game. Most of them involve rescuing Paper Toads, either from enemies in the field, chasing them down with the dash ability, or even hide and seek. The latter I found to be the most enjoyable, given that it takes advantage of the fact that they are paper, so they could be hiding anywhere. But other than these types of missions, a lot felt a little bit dragged out, if that makes sense. However, it does add some replay value, since you can replay these on a harder difficulty. Asides from that, you can challenge conquered bosses, past paper-craft battles, and high score ‘arcade-esque’ games.

VISUALS

In spite of the game running on the same engine as Dream Team (the most recent entry before this), Paper Jam still looks quite pretty. The sprites are well animated and expressive, and the environments, though uninspiring, do look pretty neat. On top of this, the cardboard sections of the environment that pop up later on in the game give the place that tiny bit more of variety. So in short, it is quite the looker on the 3DS.

MUSIC

Once more, Paper Jam’s soundtrack is superb. Some give that ‘shady-guy’ vibe used for the appearance of grunts or the Koopalings, and the slightly worried tone in the music for some of the hide-and-seek missions do put some emphasis on the trouble at hand. The battle themes really do get you excited for the battle you are in, and the epicness of the final boss’s theme overlaps almost perfectly with the epicness of the final boss itself. But I am quite a fan of the frantic nature of the one featured below, so please have a listen:

FINAL THOUGHTS

Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam still has the insanely fun fighting system and charm that the series is well known for. It may have not been a crossover over between the two franchises per se, and this is something players of Paper Mario should really consider, but the addition of Paper Mario makes this latest instalment fresh and exciting, even for its fifth title in the series. This is certainly a game in the Mario and Luigi series, but the lack of a truly unique plot and characters doesn’t make this feel like a game that I would typically associate the series with. Yet, it still holds up thanks for its charming dialogue, great music, and outstandingly great combat, and it is for these reasons I am awarding Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam with an 8/10.

Wow, you actually made your way through that, huh? Well, seeing as your here, may as well tell you to go and play this game. It may not be up there with the others in the series, but is well worth your time if you like these spin-offs or RPGs with a big emphasis on having a good time! And if that’s not enough Mario role-playing goodness (not to be taken out of context), then check out my review for Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, the game that started it all! Happy gaming!

Review: Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga

Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam

8

Final Thoughts

8.0/10

About the author /


Like many other game writers, Matthew was brought into the gaming world from a young age. He aspires to be a games journalist in the future. Oh, and he's from the UK, so there's that. He also does Nintendo Podcast System, just in case there isn't enough Nintendo on this site.

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