A couple years back I received Paper Mario: 1000 Year Door for the GameCube (to play on my Wii). At the time, I was playing many of the of Final Fantasy games via GBA and DS, but as soon as I played Paper Mario I knew I had found my new “RPG”. It was very well made, addictive, and good to play with my kids, but retained enough “RPG” ness to keep me coming back. Since I was very new to Nintendo platforms (having never owned one until the Wii), was sort of shocked to find such an engrossing game with the name “Mario” attached to it.
Last year, when Super Paper Mario was released for the Wii virtual console, I expected to be “blown away” by the next generation of the Paper Mario series, but instead I was underwhelmed. It was a fine game, but really, had more in common with Super Mario Brothers than Paper Mario. The turn-based battles were gone, and there were many more running and jumping puzzles then the previous title. I was sad to see that game had evolved in this direction.
However, when the original Nintendo 64 Paper Mario was released via the Virtual console last year, I was compelled to purchase it and I was very glad that I did. In some ways, it was even better than Paper Mario:1000 Year Door . It did not have the annoying “crowd” element or the too-long cinematics that forced you, the player, to wait 10-20 minutes while the game expoused itself. It struck me then that the series must have started as a much more “serious” RPG than what became of it.
Yesterday I downloaded what I believe it the pinnacle of the “Paper Mario” series, Super Mario RPG. Originally for the SNES and developed by Square, this game is the most refined and enjoyable of the entire series. The straightforward adventure combines turn-based RPG battles with Mario-style jumping adventures in a mixture that is nearly perfect. My kids and I spent 6 hours playing yesterday, and we only collected one of the seven stars required to finish. The game only gets harder from this point as well, so I predict about 42 hours of total game time, that comes to about $.20 an hour…a pretty good deal in my book.
The thing I find most interesting is that, this story should have a different ending. Should I not be enamored with the fancy visuals and complicated game play of the newer entries in the series, and not be enthralled by the very first, relatively primitive game? It’s not like I have any nostalgia for the SNES. I was playing my Atari ST when the SNES was in it’s heyday, and when Super Mario RPG was released, I was blissfully playing multiple rounds of Command And Conquer on the PC. I never owned and SNES and was, at the time seriously and devoutly anti-Nintendo.
My point with all this is that Super Mario RPG is simply a good game. The first entry in the series is the best, and there is nothing wrong with that. The series might have evolved into more complicated, more story-heavy, and more “accessible” games, but to me, the best game, the one with all the essential vitamins and minerals for healthy Mario RPG playing, was the first one ever made. Super Mario RPG may seem a bit devolved for modern players, but to me, it is absolutely perfect.