Game Review - Paper Mario: Sticker Star on Nintendo 3DS

Written by MasterAvalon on February 22, 2016 @ 11:45 pm

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When it was released on the Nintendo 64 as a spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario became a hit for both Mario fans as well as general RPG fans. Its sequel, The Thousand-Year Door for Gamecube, was also greatly received. The Wii's Super Paper Mario, however, garnered mixed response from fans. Its platforming style was a decisive step away from the classic RPG gameplay, but still retained an original story that pleased fans. Since then, fans questioned the genre of the series’ future games. When it was announced the next game would return to turn-based combat AND the fact it would be the first handheld game in the series, it was quite exciting. When the final product was delivered, however, the experience wasn’t the same for a multitude of reasons and the game just couldn’t live up to its predecessors.

GAMEPLAY - 4

Sticker Star returns to turn-based combat like the first two games in the series. Despite being very much welcomed, you’ll quickly notice a great number of unwelcome changes. First off, it’s just Mario in battle; there are no Partners to accompany you as in all the previous games. Second, there is no FP; every single method of attack is created through the use of Stickers, even basic ones like Jump and Hammer. “Special” Stickers like a giant fan and a giant guitar, called Things, can be used both in battle and on the world map, and are actually even required to solve puzzles that progress you through the game. In addition, each world boss has a major weakness which can be exploited by using the correct Thing Sticker during their battle, greatly decreasing the difficulty of said battle.

One of THE biggest flaws of this entry is that combat is almost completely optional. You can only attack when you have Stickers, which you do get from winning battles, but there are also Stickers literally lying around everywhere in every single level. Honestly, it’s entirely possible to get through the whole game by only fighting the bosses, which are not anything special. Also, experience points? Nah, those don’t even exist anymore, and instead you find HP-Up Hearts in random levels that increase your HP (the only discernible stat at all) by five. This isn’t helped by the fact that some are hidden while others are in plain sight, so if you’re not specifically keeping an eye out for them, you may be underpowered at certain points. The element of reward after battle is just nonexistent here.

For the most part, battles are not very exciting. Basically all you can do is choose a Sticker to use, or run away. All forms of commands from the previous games such as Jump, Hammer, Items, and Special Moves, have been condensed to Stickers in one way or another. There are times where you’ll find rare Stickers like a Fire Hammer or Line Jump, which function similar to certain Badges from the previous games. These somewhat enhance the experience, but the novelty wears off pretty fast as you repeatedly use the same powerful Stickers over and over.

There’s a big disconnect between the feel of the previous RPG games in the series where you utilize what combination of Badges works for you individually as a player, whereas in Sticker Star you basically work with whatever you can find. Though Stickers sometimes come across as a gimmicky mechanic, it is still kind of fun to try to collect them all, a feeling reminiscent of the collection aspects in previous games that is happily retained. Luckily, a few constants of the series return in a different form such as the infamous quiz show sections, appearing as Snifit or Whiffit in world three. I can honestly say I did continue playing the game after beating the final boss to collect one of every Sticker to put in the museum.

STORY - 2

Paper Mario games usually present players with unique stories that vary between chapters/worlds, with an overarching plot that spans the whole experience, which puts them on par with the majority of other RPGs. Sticker Star, however, does away with that almost completely, making the story arguably its worst aspect. It starts off with the usual opening cutscene, where Bowser crashes a party that celebrates the return of the Sticker Comet, but it breaks apart into six Royal Stickers which scatter all over the world, one of which lands on Bowser’s head, making him super powerful, a la the Star Rod from the first game. Bowser attacks Mario and knocks him out, and he wakes up later with Bowser gone and the town messed up. This is when your only partner, Kersti, appears. She is a sticker fairy who is a caretaker of the Royal Stickers, and Mario agrees to help her retrieve them. This opening is just flat-out sub-par compared to those in the preceding games, and doesn’t leave any impact at all.

Embarrassingly, that cutscene is pretty much the extent of the plot in Sticker Star. As opposed to the first two, the entire game is broken up into Worlds rather than Chapters, and there are level spaces labelled 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, and so on (this is similar to the levels in Super Paper Mario, though still under Chapters). Despite what it may seem, each world doesn’t have any form of mini-story. You simply traverse each world while picking up Stickers with little to no interaction with NPCs in-between, and defeat the boss in the world’s last level. A few of the levels are briefly interesting, like Yoshi Sphinx and The Enigmansion, but these are sidelined by other levels’ confusing layouts as well as annoying backtracking, especially in the third world. All of Sticker Star’s worlds are basically watered-down versions of areas from the first Paper Mario; there’s the grassland, there’s the desert, the creepy forest, the ice world, the tropical jungle. This can be somewhat forgiven considering The Thousand-Year Door used a similar strategy, but at least it had bigger variety and differentiating plots for each area, as it should be. The only real story you get in any given world in Sticker Star is when Bowser Jr. or Kamek (who replaces Kammy Koopa, for some unexplained reason) show up and spout some generic dialogue. It’s saddening that characters who are finally making their Paper debut just fall flat.

There’s another problem right there; all of the quirky, comedic, and sometimes touching dialogue present in all the previous games has been confined to the form of vapid speech found in generic platformers. The only thing that breaks this shell is Kersti, who occasionally displays her cute but feisty personality, but since she has almost no other original script to bounce off of, it kinda leaves her as wasted potential. None of the bosses have any creative touch with their dialogue (if they even have any at all), which is incredibly disappointing considering nearly every boss from the previous three games had their own unique personality, speech, and influence on the story at hand, and were some of my top favorite characters in their respective games. Sticker Star’s bosses have none of these qualities (not like they could’ve with the non-existent stories their worlds were given), and ALL of them are literally just bigger versions of basic Mario enemies, with a shiny patterned overlay and their respective Royal Sticker on their head. Megasparkle Goomba is a ripoff of the Goomba King, Petey Piranha is overused, and Bowser is too expected. Speaking of Bowser, the absolute worst example of this character/boss sterility has to be during the final battle with him, where before and throughout the whole duration of the fight, he literally says nothing to Mario and Kersti. While the battle is kinda cool aesthetically, it really is no different than the other boss battles; it has no substance, no inviting pre-battle dialogue, and no lasting impression, when so many of the boss characters in the first three games still remain some of my favorites to this day.

GRAPHICS - 8

There’s not much to say about Sticker Star’s graphics; they’re pretty much the same as what’s been the series standard since the beginning, just with progressing visual touch-ups. That being said, it does look just as good as Super Paper Mario did, if not better. The frame rate is fluid, the literal-2D sprites are good quality, and the backgrounds actually look like they’re made of cardboard to reinforce what kind of world you’re in. However, other than what’s to be expected in a Paper Mario game by this point, Sticker Star doesn’t really add any new graphical triumphs or visual marvels; nothing comparable to the sheer scale of Hooktail Castle from The Thousand-Year Door nor the humorously poetic contrast of the Underwhere/Overwhere from Super Paper Mario.

SOUND - 3

Ever since the series’ first entry, the soundtracks for the Paper Mario games have seen a general decline in greatness. The first game’s OST was basically a masterpiece, The Thousand-Year Door’s was still pretty good, and Super Paper Mario’s was unique with a few gems, but Sticker Star’s lies at the bottom of the barrel, giving us the bare minimum. Sure the BGM fits the theme of the level you’re in, but there are no memorable melodies or epic progressions, making for nothing worth listening to outside of gameplay. The only good song that I can slightly give credit to is the boss of world three, which actually fits the fight’s theme very well. Other than that, the soundtrack is just disappointing.

OVERALL - 4

At first glance, Sticker Star didn’t seem like it would be as bad of a game as it turned out to be. It’s unfortunate that both the series’ return to the RPG genre and its first game on a handheld can pretty much be summed up in one word: sterile. It just reduces every aspect that made the Paper Mario series great in the first place down to the most bare bones experience, and ends up as a disgraceful entry in an otherwise extremely lovable line of games. Our only hope is that the next game in the main series can rightfully return Mario to the same RPG sense of wonder that he displayed in the past.

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Gameplay Rating: 4
Story Rating: 2
Graphics & Visuals Rating: 8
Sound Rating: 3
Overall Rating: 4

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Game Information

Alternative Titles
Paper Mario: Super Seal, ペーパーマリオスーパーシール
Platform
Nintendo 3DS
Developer(s)
Intelligent System
Publisher(s)
Nintendo
Genre(s)
RPG
NA Release Date
November 11, 2012
JP Release Date
December 6, 2012
EUR Release Date
December 7, 2012
AUS Release Date
December 8, 2012
ESRB Rating
E
PEGI Rating
3+
CERO Rating
A
ACB Rating
G
MVGL User Score
5.2
Composer
Masanobu Matsunaga, Shoh Murakami, Yasuhisa Baba
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