To this day, I still love my Nintendo 64. Numerous games from its amazing library stand out, but one that really captured my attention was Paper Mario. The cute and clever RPG brought me hours of fun, and I’m not ashamed to say I played through the game six times. Other games in the series followed, but I never had the chance to play another…until now. Recently, Nintendo released Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS. Could this game fill me with the same sense of enjoyment and childhood wonder as the original?
Sticker Starfollows Mario as he attempts to reclaim the mystical Royal Stickers which were scattered after Bowser attacked a mystical sticker comet. Mario must traverse everything from deserts to jungles to frozen peaks in his quest to stop Bowser’s sticker-enhanced henchmen. The plot isn’t deep at all; the game’s opening is quick and more or less says, “Bowser’s got the Royal Stickers, get them back or bad things will happen.” I didn’t pick up this game expecting stellar storytelling, so this didn’t degrade from my experience whatsoever, just don’t expect a moving drama if you play it.
The aesthetic in Sticker Star is great. We’ve got a cute paper-based world with lots of clever jokes thrown in. Characters often are crumpled up in waste baskets or stick in bookshelves, needing to be uncurled by Mario and his accomplice, the talkative Kersti. The paper theme even transfer over to combat, where enemies can become crumpled and thus are unable to move and take more damage. Some enemies also form together or fold into other shapes to make themselves more powerful.
I enjoyed Sticker Star’s battle system, especially since they did something entirely different from the original Paper Mario. Rather than have a set list of attacks like most RPGs, Mario must collect stickers he finds scattered around the world and keep them in an album as his arsenal. This leads to a cool tactical aspect: is it worth using a powerful sticker on some basic enemies, or should you save it for a boss? Should you sell multiple stickers to buy a single strong one? The system of having limited stickers also encourages the player to actually avoid unnecessary battles, which is something I liked. Similarly, getting in a first jump or hammer hit before entering the battle screen is also much more useful and important than the original Paper Mario. I will say, however, that the inability to choose the enemy you target is pretty annoying but I eventually got used to it.
Unlike most RPGs, this game doesn’t use a leveling up system. Instead, with enough searching around, you can find HP-Up Hearts. Other than HP, Mario doesn’t have any stats since all his attacks come from stickers. I like this choice because I notoriously hate grinding in RPGs.
Sticker Star also includes real-world items simply called “things.” These range from everything from scissors to an oven to even a pair of high heels! These items can be converted into stickers and then used in combat; while they often take up a lot of space in one’s album, they deal massive damage if used correctly and each boss has weaknesses to specific thing stickers. “Things” also can be used for another of the game’s new systems: paperization.
Paperization is a method by which Mario, thanks to Kersti’s help, can move “outside” the world as it turns into a page where he can place stickers. This can lead to events like using a radiator to melt snow or placing fire flowers to replant a Toad’s destroyed garden. Paperization usually is used to move the story ahead by replacing “scraps” that are missing from the world, but occasionally they are just optional ways to get improved versions of standard stickers. This is one area I really wish the game made better use of: it’s a cool idea, but there really should’ve been more optional instances to use it to either uncover secrets or gain new stickers.
Sticker Star’s greatest flaw is the time wasted in certain areas. Sometimes, I felt like the game made certain sections much longer than they need to be by including either needless running around or exploration. Rather than feel like these areas were challenging, it just seemed like a way to extend play time. One example involved needing to look behind a specific bush at a specific time in order to progress; there’s no indication whatsoever that you need to do so, meaning that lots of trial-and-error (or online guides) are the only way to get to the next section. I think it’d have been better if the creators had instead replaced these sections with actual puzzles.
And then…there’s the Sticker Museum. It’s a place where you can post sticker’s you’ve collected and read cute bios about all the Thing stickers. I’ll be honest: I’m a sucker for completing these things. I really did like completing it, and for anyone whose an achievement-hog its pretty much an enjoyable necessity, though of course it can be totally ignored by anyone who just wants to speed through the main story.
Overall, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a fun game. The aesthetic and humor is cute and entertaining, while the battle system is novel and totally different from any RPG I’ve ever heard of or played. I really think it’s worth a shot for anyone who likes the Paper Mario series, and it’s also a great gift for kids since it’s fun, family friendly, and not TOO challenging. Though I didn’t use the 3D much, I checked it at certain points and its really well done. The music is pretty good, too. Basically, if you like the Paper Mario series or are just looking for a creative and enjoyable game that doesn’t require too much thought or time investment, pick up Sticker Star.
-clever and cute paper aesthetic and associated humor
-battle system unlike any other RPG
-definitely enjoyable for anyone who played the original Paper Mario
-3D is well-done
-some sections are unnecessary long or require solutions that are quite random
-paperization is an underutilized aspect
-inability to choose enemy target in combat
Developer: Intelligent Systems, Nintendo
Available on: 3DS
Release date: November 11, 2012