Published on November 22nd, 2012 | by octaneblue0
Review: Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Developer: Intelligent Systems
System(s): Nintendo 3DS, 3DS eShop
Release Date: November 11, 2012
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is first portable entry in the long-running Paper Mario series of games. The first two entries, Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, features turn-based RPG gameplay, while the third entry, Super Paper Mario is a platformer with RPG elements. Sticker Star not only returns to the turn-based battles, but adds a completely new element: sticker-based gameplay. Is Sticker Star another fun entry in the series, or does this iteration lack appeal?
At the beginning of Paper Mario: Sticker Star, the Mushroom Kingdom’s annual Sticker Fest is being held. Mario, Peach, and several Toads attend the festival. The Sticker Comet, which is on display during the festival, is said to grant wishes. But, as expected, the festivities are interrupted by Bowser and his troops. Bowser wants the Sticker Comet for himself and accidentally crashes into it, causing it to scatter into different pieces across the land. One of the pieces lands on Bowser’s head, giving him immense power; at that point, not even Mario can stop him. Bowser destroys the festival, grabs Peach, and escapes. Mario is awakened and joined by Kersti, a talking crown sticker, and the two head off into a new adventure.
The game features the same visual style as its predecessors. The characters are flat pieces of paper, and the environments are also made up of paper or cardboard. The graphics in the game are really brought to life with the use of 3D. Unlike other 3DS titles, the 3D is very welcome here, as it really enhances the visuals without being overpowering to your eyes. The game looks like a pop-up book, and it looks very cool. The game’s music is absolutely fantastic too. There’s a lot of jazzy-style tunes in the game, and they fit in perfectly with the game’s lighthearted style. Many of these tunes will get stuck in your head.
The game’s core sticker system works pretty well for the most part. In battle, all of your attacks are performed through stickers, which are found through numerous methods. Stickers are found in all the game’s levels, you just have to peel them off and collect them. Stickers can also be bought from shop or earned through fights, and some characters will give you some. A sticker album is displayed on the bottom screen. You only start out with a couple of pages, but as the game progresses, Mario earns more pages. The stickers vary in size, and since you can only carry so much of them, you’ll have to manage the album to make sure it doesn’t become too full. Throughout the game, real life objects, including a baseball bat, fan, and soda can, are encountered. You can take these objects to a certain place in the game and convert them into stickers too, and they have various uses (more on that later). These take up the most space in the album, so it’s impractical to carry too many of them.
During battles, you can use stickers such as Hammers, Jumps, Shells, etc. to perform the respective attack on enemies, Certain stickers attack multiple enemies. Sticker types vary in strength and too. For instance, the Hammer’s lowest rank is the Worn-Out Hammer, which is more common to find but has the weakest power. Then you move up to the standard Hammer, which does good damage, but then there are multiple other types of Hammers. One is the Hurlhammer, which is thrown in the air and drops down on multiple enemies. And most sticker types have stronger “shinier” versions that are more uncommon to encounter at first, but pop up more often as the game progresses. You’ll unlock giant stickers that do massive amounts of damage too, but at the cost of taking up a lot of space in your sticker album. It’s all part of the game’s sticker management element.
Just like the first two Paper Mario games, running into enemies starts battles. The combat system is turn-based, and attacks/blocks/dodges are based on timing. You can jump or hammer enemies to immediately knock off some of their HP at the beginning of the fight. During battles, you can summon spinning slots (for a specific coin fee) that allows you to use multiple stickers during Mario’s turn, based on the results of the spin; at least two of one of the same items lets Mario use two stickers and sometimes gives coins. Getting all the same item on the slot spin generates an effect. For instance, spinning three Mushrooms heals Mario’s health and spinning three POW Blocks allows Mario to use one on enemies. There are no experience points gained in battle, but you do get coins, and sometimes more stickers, for winning. Mario’s HP meter is extended by finding HP Hearts, which are scattered throughout the game’s levels. So obviously, the battle system is completely different here than it was in the first two Paper Mario games, which focused on timing-centric, turn-based fighting. The sticker system is certainly intriguing, but those who enjoyed the slightly more traditional RPG gameplay of the first two Paper Marios may or may not enjoy the sticker-based gameplay here.
The previous games in the series feature chapters, but this one features a map screen similar to some of the older Mario titles. Most levels end with grabbing a piece of the Sticker Comet. But getting there usually requires completing a specific objective or puzzle first. Sometimes you won’t be able to get the piece until you finish a task in another level. And some levels feature multiple exits, which unlock new levels too. Finding them sometimes is tricky, but that’s a big element of Sticker Star: exploration. Much of the game’s levels are vast, and exploring them is essential to find required objects, hidden exits, and so on. It will, on average, take about 20-25 hours your first time through to complete the game, but that’s not including any side-quests and the like. So the game’s length is pretty good.
But a problem with this is that the game is not very helpful with hints. Kersti can be summoned to provide a hint, but it’s rare that her hints are actually useful for situations where you get stuck, and at certain points in the game in your first time through, it’s pretty easy for that to happen. In specific spots in the game, you’ll need a real world object converted to a sticker, but if you don’t have it with you, you’ll either have to find it or backtrack to buy it again and convert it into a sticker again; backtracking to earlier levels happens a bit too often in the game as well. Annoyingly, certain bosses can ONLY be defeated with certain stickers, or at least are made much easier with the specific one in hand. Again, the game does not tell you this, or gives you a vague hint at what to use; there isn’t much freedom with what you can use here. But those hints don’t show up until you fail at the fights multiple times. That’s not intuitive at all, and is more frustrating than anything.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star certainly has the charm of its predecessors, adding in the new sticker-based gameplay, but the enjoyment of the gameplay is a bit of a toss-up. There are definitely some fun parts in the game, but there are also some annoying sections as well. Overall, it’s a pretty good title but it doesn’t measure up to Paper Mario on the N64 and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door on the GameCube.
+ Great graphics and use of 3D
+ Excellent music
+ Plenty of hours of gameplay
– Backtracking sections
– Unintuitive explanations
– Most bosses have to be defeated in very specific ways
Final score: 3.5 out of 5
EDIT: After another playthrough, my opinion of the game changed; the review has been altered from the original post to reflect my new thoughts on the game.