Wow, I’m glad I got a 3DS. Animal Crossing, Pokemon X&Y, Luigi’s Mansion…there are just too many great games. Having played all the other Paper Mario games, I figured this one would be good too. And it’s…well…it is good, just not that good. After the amazing The Thousand-Year Door, Super Paper Mario let me down, and I have to say, Sticker Star let me down again.
It looks like Paper Mario, it sounds like Paper Mario, but…it just doesn’t feel like Paper Mario. It doesn’t have the charm and humor of its predecessors. What I loved about Thousand-Year Door was its relatively complex story (for a Mario game) and how different it was from any other Mario game. That, combined with colorful characters and epic battles, made it one of my favorite GameCube games. Sticker Star doesn’t really have any of that. The only other characters besides you, Princess Peach, and Bowser are Kersti (your talking sticker companion) and a bunch of Toads. That’s it.
As a result, I didn’t really get invested in the game. Sure, most Mario games don’t have a compelling story or characters, and you could make the argument that that’s not what they’re about—it’s gameplay that really matters. And in the Super Mario Bros. series, you’d be right. But Paper Mario is a platformer/RPG hybrid, and in an RPG, I expect a good story/characters. I’ve come to expect that from past Paper Mario games, and sadly I just didn’t get it here.
So when it came time to fight a boss or collect a Royal Sticker (this game’s important collectables) I found myself asking, Why? Why am I even doing this? I wanted epic boss battles, and instead, got bosses with little or no introduction. You just sort of start fighting. There’s no fanfare, nothing to excite you.
And again, normally that’d be okay, but not in Paper Mario. I will say, though, that the gameplay is solid. I disliked the direction Super Paper Mario took in getting rid of nearly every RPG aspect, and I’m glad they brought back turn-based battles. Battling in Sticker Star goes like this: you select one of your stickers, like a Jump or Hammer sticker, and use it against your enemy. I liked the variety of different moves I could use, and timing button presses perfectly and learning enemy attack patterns was a lot of fun. However, I don’t like having a finite amount of stickers that you have to use sparingly. I learned later on in my playthrough that it is actually better to avoid enemies when you can, because you often end up using more stickers than you get out of battling them. And because there’s no XP or level-up, there’s really no reason to battle enemies, except to get coins or a sticker. This is unfortunate, because I have always enjoyed Paper Mario’s battle system. If they’d let me have a default Jump or Hammer without having to use a sticker, that would’ve been nice.
Another thing worth mentioning: the boss battles. They all have an insanely high amount of health, and each one basically requires a certain sticker to defeat. You don’t learn what it is until the second time you fight it, so basically you have to fight it three times to beat it, which is terrible design. Not to mention, many of these “Thing” stickers (stickers of everyday objects that do something special in combat or the overworld) are difficult to find, and you really aren’t given any hints about where they are, so you will likely get stuck in a level and have to comb the levels you’ve already beaten to find it. (Use a guide. It’s not worth it.)
Another change made to the Paper Mario formula is the world layout. It now looks more like Super Mario World, where you can select your level via an overworld map, without having to actually travel there. I actually like this, as it better suits play on-the-go, and lets me just sit down and beat one level in a relatively short time, if I don’t have much time.
Despite all my complaints, I did enjoy playing the game. It’s a good game—I never wanted to just stop playing altogether—but it falls short of the other Paper Mario games, making it (I think) the worst in the series. It just lacks the personality and charm of the other games, and by getting rid of leveling up and making you have a finite amount of attacks, it sort of discourages battling, which is one of its stronger aspects. It’s really too bad; I was looking forward to this game. Here’s hoping what they do on Wii U is better.