Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Fun fact: When the original N64 Paper Mario was in development, it had a completely different - and more fitting - name: Super Mario RPG 2. Which I suppose would make Thousand Year Door Super Mario RPG 3. So what was Super Paper Mario? Popular opinion seems to lean toward “A misstep,” a valiant effort at playing around with the established mechanics of the 2D platformer, but ultimately a much shallower experience than expected. It wasn’t RPG enough. A trend had been established, after all. Paper Mario: Sticker Star goes back over that divide between platformer and RPG, trying to smooth out the lumps and kinks like a... man, there’s a perfect analogy here somewhere, but heck if I can think of it right now. In another example of “We need to instigate events in a Mario game, make up a Mushroom Kingdom holiday,” there’s a massive festival planned for the arrival of the wish-granting Sticker Comet, which distributes adhesives all across the land and can grant wishes. (Stick with me, it gets better). Bowser, troublesome bastard that he is, crashes the party and pokes the comet, which is apparently something you just DON’T DO, gets a crown stuck to his head and goes all holo-foil like some sweet Pokemon card. (Though full-arts are still at least 58% spiffier.) Despite Mario’s intervention, the city of Decalburg is trashed, and as the sentient sticker Kirsti informs us the only way to restore peace and order is by retrieving the five Royal Stickers (which seems like two too few) that have been scattered to the ends of the local geographical area. Thus begins our adventure, powered by... stickers. Yes, as you’ve probably read, stickers are EVERYTHING in this game. Every attack costs a sticker, be it a jump, hammer swing, POW block, fire flower, what have you. Battles play out in the turn-based format familiar to fans of the series, though the increased emphasis on resource management means that skirmishes play out a little differently. Efficiency is tested, and the question of the day becomes “Can I get away with using a cheaper sticker and simply nail the timing, as opposed to using up a more valuable attack?” And that’s awesome. Adding to the formula (and the abject absurdity of it all) are a number of “Thing Stickers,” available by taking seemingly out-of-place 3D objects to a kiosk in town and chucking them against a wall. These can be deployed to manipulate reality, or used in battle for huge, high-damage attacks akin to Final Fantasy’s summon spells (though Ramuh and Alexander got nothing on GOAT). The design of the game takes a much more modular, level-based format, with discrete stages accessed via a Super Mario World-style map. And while there are only six areas, each level is a mission unto itself, be it an investigation of a giant Yoshi Sphinx (interrupted by a throwdown with a Shyguy mariachi band) or the exorcism of a haunted mansion. Frequently you’ll find weird rips in the fabr... in the paper of reality, requiring you to track down the dislocated object and replace it via Kirsti’s Paperization power. It’s more involved than it appears at first glance, and is sure to appeal to folks who may have felt Super Paper Mario was a bit too two-dimensional. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring something up that really blew me away like... something. (Man, I’m having a bad analogy day today.) The soundtrack to this game is one of the best I’ve heard in years, meriting the occasional stop down just to sit and listen for a minute. It’s like an attempt to compensate for the viral proliferation of steel drums that has been festering since Super Mario World by bringing in a small jazz combo and telling ‘em to just go nuts. There’s lots of trumpet and a healthy dose of sax wherever you go, whether you’re combing the desert or rooting through a trash heap in a jungle temple. (Wherein I found some of Birdo’s poetry, a piece of a recipe for something, and Goombella’s term paper.) Sticker Star is what Super Paper Mario wanted to be but wasn’t: A reality-manipulating good time that stays true to its RPG roots while diversifying into more platformy gameplay. It succeeds in this attempt, while also modularizing the content to better fit a portable system. This game deserves a gold star... but since “gold star” isn’t an actual attack, we’re going to settle for a giant cat statue of massive annihilation.