Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 1/22/16
The concept seems great: take the worlds of the Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario games, and combine them into one epic video game. But for as much as Mario & Luigi Paper Jam does right, it does quite a bit wrong.
The story starts off pretty much how you’d expect this type of game to start. The Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario worlds become merged thanks to the goofiness of Luigi. I won’t spoil what he does, but know that it’s all his fault! Poor Luigi.
That being said, the story isn’t all that compelling. With two different Marios, Peaches and Bowsers, you’d think the story would be worth becoming invested in. Alas, the 30-hour adventure is full of simple personalities that don’t do much to stand out, and is more enjoyable when you skim through the dialog whenever it comes up. The only saving grace to the dialog are the Bowser scenes where they are scheming against one another, and keeping their Bowser Juniors in line.
The game also struggles and falls on its face with the annoying Toad chases. They happen throughout the story, and pretty much halts the game just so you can waste your time running around gathering a bunch of frightened Paper Toads. It was fine the first couple times, one of which being a tutorial section, but it just became a nuisance after that.
When it comes to the gameplay, I went in thinking that controlling Mario, Luigi and Paper Mario would become overwhelming. I’m happy to say that that wasn’t the case at all. It felt natural moving around the map, and using assigned buttons for each of the three characters. Even switch weapons and gear was a pretty easy task.
Visually, the game is as stunning as you’d expect a 3DS game to look. There is a certain charm in everything Paper Jam has to offer players. From the look of the world to the mix of paper and 3D characters, it really is one of the best looking Mario games on the handheld console.
Where the game really shines is in the combat system. Each battle came with so many different options in terms of a plan of attack. There were cool Bros. Attacks like kicking a red shell back and forth as well as Trio Combos like playing racquetball with the enemies. Boss battles were challenging enough without ever crossing into the “too hard” realm while the regular encounters never really felt repetitive.
What makes it even better is that all of the abilities are learned throughout the game rather than all early on. Doing it this way was a smart route, and kept things from becoming a bit too much to handle. In addition, the introduction of battle cards are a nice new mechanic that adds even more to an already deep battle system.
Still, it all comes back to the fact that many aspects of what should be a long, immersive experience become tedious. Constantly running into areas that you can’t get around in the form of rivers and walls really makes you feel like your grinding rather than playing a typical Mario RPG.
Speaking of typical, can we finally get something other than the damsel-in-distress princess story? After 31 years, I think it’s time for something new from Nintendo.
Verdict: Mario & Luigi Paper Jam should have been the next great installment in the Mario-themed RPG series. Unfortunately, tedious mini-games and a dull story keep this game from reaching its full potential. Still, it’s not a bad game, and is a nice base should Nintendo decide to make a sequel to this crossover title.
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