Tera has done a great job with her evaluation of Paper Mario, and I find myself in agreement with nearly everything she said. Paper Mario really is a great game, and the only area that I think I would like to reiterate is that I felt Intelligent Systems overdid it a bit on the backtracking.

Tera's example about being stuck on a desert island while searching for that one specific thing was a good one, but it was also just one of many. I finished the entire game in about 35 hours, and if the unnecessary backtracking had been removed, I bet I would have been done at least five or maybe even ten earlier. I don't mean to rag on it since it's practically impossible to find any RPG that doesn't pad its playtime with a lot of extraneous work designed to bloat the clock, but for a game that strips away a lot of nonessential things, it was a little disappointing to find myself actually conscious and aware of time being wasted as I was playing the game.

The most intense example of this is near the end of the game. Mario finds himself in search of one specific townsperson who happens to not be home. The game can't progress without finding this person, and I had to ask a ton of random townspeople until I got vague clues and actually revisited every single town in a giant time-wasting circle. Naturally, the person in question ends up meeting Mario at the very place where I started. I found myself getting very frustrated at this point, since it was obviously thrown in to eat up more hours before letting me continue on to the endgame. It's the most tedious, trying bit of searching I've done since the insanely distasteful last leg of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and I didn't enjoy it one bit.

Besides the running around (and three or four completely unintuitive I'm-a-stuck points) the game is pretty golden. The combat engine is just as fun and engaging as it was in the original Paper Mario, and I'm definitely a fan of the bright, colorful world drawn here. Tera was right in saying that being a piece of paper is more fully exploited this time around, and it was neat to see. Mario folding himself into a paper airplane, or rolling himself into a small tube were nice touches.

The game also has an interesting mix of RPG elements and some platform action carried over from the days before Mario took up golf, tennis, karting, painting, and getting lost in time.kartkart . There weren't very many areas where this was really explored, but they occurred with greater frequency towards the end and I enjoyed them very much. It just goes to show that some things never get old, and watching an Italian plumber leap from the top of a green pipe onto a floating platform is one of them. I also have to give major respect for the thing that Tera chose not to mention: the small parody sequences of the original Super Mario Brothers with Bowser crashing through platforms on his way to the green goal flag at the end of each level. There weren't nearly enough of these and they were far too short, but I enjoyed every second of them.

Despite my complaints about padding its length, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a top-tier game that won't disappoint anyone in search of lighthearted RPG adventure. Intelligent Systems proves once again that they have complete mastery of their subject…although I still wonder why Luigi is kept pigeonholed as comic relief, instead of actively joining Mario the way he did in the GBA's Superstar Saga. Oh well, maybe next time… Rating: 8 out of 10

Brad Gallaway
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