Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: (JP: Dec. 6th, 2012) (NA: Nov. 11th, 2012) (EU: Dec. 7th, 2012)
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Ratings: (ESRB: E) (PEGI: 7) (ACB: G)
If you love Nintendo’s Italian plumber and have a soft spot for RPGs then you are more than aware of the Paper Mario series. Popping up for the Nintendo 64 back in 2000, Paper Mario was created to fill the void that was left when Square and Nintendo’s drifted apart after Mario RPG.
The odd series throws Mario into a strange world where everything is papercraft. From the smallest enemies to the largest castle, every single thing is made of paper and cardboard. It really creates a unique atmosphere and even more unique puzzles.
Fast forward to 2012 and we have the release of the fourth member of the series, Paper Mario: Sticker Star. This title is not only the first of the group to make it onto handheld systems but it is also the first to introduce the use of stickers in combat.
The plot of the game is extremely simple. A Sticker Comet lands in the Mushroom Kingdom once a year and grants the wishes of those who make a wish on that day. The residents of the Mushroom Kingdom hold a yearly festival to celebrate the comets arrival and party the night away. Unfortunately, Bowser decides to bash the festivities this year and does the one thing you are not allowed to do with the Sticker Comet, touch it. The comet explodes at his touch and launches six Royal Stickers across the kingdom.
Bowser, with all his luck, has one of the Royal Stickers land on his head. This throws him into a crazed power trip and he destroys the festival grounds then kidnaps Princess Peach (Bet’cha didn’t see that last part coming). It is now Mario’s job to track down the six Royal Stickers with the help of a talking sticker named Kersti and return peace to the Mushroom Kingdom. Be prepared to use a ton of stickers.
Official Game Summary:
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a flat-out epic new adventure, starring the Mushroom Kingdom’s most famous hero in an elaborate papercraft world. With the land positively packed full of stickers, Mario will collect and use them to fight off baddies, uncover secrets, and more. Fans of the Paper Mario series will discover all new gameplay elements new to the franchise, while newer players will enjoy a craftastic new twist on their favorite Nintendo hero — only for Nintendo 3DS!
While the story for Paper Mario: Sticker Star is very quaint and children’s storybook-like, it falls very flat on its face when compared to its predecessors. The story and dialogue have always been a major part of the Paper Mario series. Fans expect to see quirky dialogue from Mario’s teammates (The teammates will be discussed in another section), enemies, and even the random NPCs that have no significance to the story, but you see very little of this in Paper Mario: Sticker Star. There are of course a few memorable characters but they are very few and far between.
The idea behind the plot is actually pretty good and could have been made into a nice story with a lot of interesting situations. This never happened though. It seemed as if the writers attempted to write a children’s story and just left it at that. No thought seemed to be put into it at all and that is a massive slap to the face for Paper Mario fans! You cannot give fans a game this dry on story after releasing Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, which does an amazing job with an RPG story involving Mario.
You also see very little dialogue throughout the story and the majority of it comes from your sticker companion, Kersti, and she is not far off from being a good replacement for Navi from Ocarina of Time… Luckily you do run into the occasional funny line thrown in here and there. While this should be nowhere near acceptable, it does help fill the conversation humor void.
Shame on you Nintendo. Gameplay is the core focus of the original Mario genre but RPGs require a thought-out plot to really succeed (Unless it’s Final Fantasy XIII…).
Where Paper Mario: Sticker Star lacks in story, it makes up for in its graphic design. The game looks amazing whether the 3D is on or off. It only takes a short time for even new comers to really understand that the game’s entire world is literally just paper. Even the movements of every enemy are based around the fact that they are only 2 dimensional, which makes the massive boss enemies appear even more awesome.
Even if you have no soul and hate both Mario and RPGs, you need to play this game just to see the visuals. You are not going to regret a thing if you do!
I love my games having massive orchestral soundtracks. I was utterly blown away from just listening to Skyrim’s title screen. However, there are just some games that, by design, need very simple and childlike music to fit its theme. Paper Mario: Sticker Star is definitely one of those games, and it delivers perfectly.
I quickly realized my love for Sticker Star’s soundtrack when it became apparent that I was sitting at the title screen for 5 minutes just whistling along. It really leaves a great warm and fuzzy feeling in you after hearing it, and that is all the proof that I need for how great it is.
The sound effects are just as you might expect in either a Mario or Paper Mario game. They fit right in and really make you feel like you kicked a turtle shell at a group of sentient shrooms.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star has great gameplay, but I won’t say that it equals the original game or The Thousand-Year Door. The game is fun and definitely worth a playthrough since most of Mario’s attacks are performed the same as in the past titles (The actual attacks rather than how you use them), but it is lacking some serious elements that have always been in the series. We discussed the story issue above and how it was a slap in a face to its predecessors, but what really sucker punches the player is the lack of party members.
You play as Mario and only Mario throughout the entire game. You do have your annoying Kersti companion, but she does not join in combat and you have no control over her. This is actually a huge letdown for me. I loved having all those unique characters tagging along behind me on my quests in the past titles (Excluding Super Paper Mario) because it added more soul to the game. Each character had its own story and you really understood their thoughts and emotions better than even Mario’s. Paper Mario: Sticker Star refusing to toss me companions is just a white-gloved slap to the face.
Another difference this addition to the series holds is its lack of levels. There is no leveling system in Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Mario receives no experience at all for defeating his enemies, only coins and the occasional sticker. You increase your strength in the game by discovering more powerful stickers and increasing the number of stickers you can hold by defeating certain bosses. I personally have no issue with this change even though I do love leveling systems.
Now let’s discuss the major gameplay mechanic added this time around, stickers! While the addition of using stickers does not make up for the lack of companions in any way, it does make it easier to swallow by adding something entirely new to the Paper Mario world.
The stickers found come in a huge assortment of different skills and power levels. The bigger they are the better and the shinier they are the more uber they are! These stickers are your only form of attack and you cannot do anything if you run out, but they are so bountiful that you will not normally have this problem. They luckily respawn as soon as you re-enter a level as well. They also come into use for certain puzzles throughout the game, and these puzzles are often very amusing and odd.
Finally, let’s talk about Kersti, your talking sticker companion. While she has no use at all in combat, besides allowing you to use the Battle Spinner (a slot machine) for opportunities to use more stickers, her main uses are in solving puzzles. She helps by giving Mario the power to use Paperize. This ability allows you to change certain items into stickers and vice versa. This skill is required to pass through a large majority of the game.
You are also able to ask Kersti for advice when you are stuck, but do not expect anything too helpful from her. (Hey Listen! Try some stuff!)
Paper Mario: Sticker Star has no issues control-wise. The game runs just like a basic RPG where you use the directional pad for movement, one button for accepting commands and another for declining, a button for opening the inventory, and another for accessing Kersti’s chat and skills.
The game also utilizes the 3DS touchscreen as much as one would expect. It gets the job done and that suits me perfectly. Good job all around.
Enjoyment Level: A
After being a massive fan of the past Paper Mario games and then giving Paper Mario: Sticker Star a full go, I have to say I am rather impressed with the game. It did of course make some huge unneeded changes to the series’ norms, but the new content filling in these gaping holes is pretty fun. The sticker uses are a great and the Paperize ability adds for some great puzzle solving.
In addition to these, the game actually has a number of challenging puzzles and enemy encounters. It has been awhile since I have played an RPG that has no issues with throwing dirt in your eyes, and I definitely didn’t expect this from a recent Nintendo game. Sticker Star really manages to give you that exhilarating feeling from being challenged.
There is also a Sticker Museum that can be unlocked if you snoop around enough. Filling up this museum will have you running all throughout the world a second time as you try to get a copy of every sticker in the game. It’s all good fun, but could have been “great fun” if they didn’t throw out content that Paper Mario fans expect.
Give this game a playthrough regardless of how you feel about the lack of companions. I promise you that its well worth the money.
Overall Score: A-
Please share your favorite thing about the Paper Mario series or Mario RPG, whether it’s the skills, story, or the awesome characters, in the comment section below! Have fun and watch out for paper cuts!