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Retro Corner: 'Paper Mario'

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First released: Nintendo 64 (2001)
Now available on: Virtual Console

Paper Mario (Nintendo 64)
The Mario franchise has seen countless spinoffs into all sorts of different genres, but among the best are the Paper Mario games. Paper Mario: Sticker Star is now out in North America for the 3DS, but Mario's quirky RPG series began on the Nintendo 64.

One of the standout aspects of Paper Mario was its utterly charming visuals. Though the game took place on a three-dimensional plane, all of the characters and surroundings were flattened and appeared almost like cardboard cut-outs. Characters would even adorably flip over when they changed direction.

The combat itself was very smartly designed. Although the difficulty was fairly easygoing, the battle system managed to be engaging throughout with a heavy focus on timing to maximise your damage output. Timing button presses correctly would also help reduce damage taken.

Paper Mario (Nintendo 64)
But it wasn't all about choosing your most powerful attacks. Enemies were varied and encouraged a little bit of strategic thinking - for a basic example, flipping a spiked creature over with a shell was obviously a better option than jumping on top of it - while Mario could equip combinations of badges that granted stat bonuses and extra moves.

In addition, Mario had a slew of different allies to partner up with in his quest to save Princess Peach, each coming with their own unique traits. Mario fanboy Goombario - a blue-capped Goomba - revealed an enemy's HP while the pink Bombette blew up walls. Lady Bow, on the other hand, made Mario invisible.

Not only was this a fantastic way to mix things up over the course of the 20 hours, but all of the characters were also colourful and terrifically written, which in turn made the story consistently entertaining.

Paper Mario (Nintendo 64)
And it was funny, even hilarious at times. There was an abundance of nostalgic references that Mario fans would instantly get - at one point, the plumber is told that he should switch careers and become a doctor. Plus, there were small but laugh-out-loud segments where the player assumed control of a captive Peach. Bowser's cringeworthy attempts to make a pass at the princess never got old.

Nearly everything about Paper Mario was delightful. It maintained its charm from beginning to end, and the core game was a lot of fun to play. Its launch was made all the more sweet as it came during a time when Sony's PlayStation had most of the top RPGs.

Developer Intelligent Systems followed it up with the brilliant Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door on the GameCube and then the interestingly more platform-heavy Super Paper Mario on the Wii. Sticker Star is the series's first portable title.

Do you have any fond memories of Paper Mario? Post a comment below!

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