Let’s Deconstruct Super Paper Mario – Part 2
So after receiving our quest and hearing from our villains, we set off through the dimensional door to go find the second Pure Heart. Every chapter of this game is divided into specific sections, with title cards like “1-1”, another reference to the original Mario games. In fact, everything about this first area should remind you of the original Mario games, because it’s a direct homage to them. Even the music is a jaunty (if disjointed) remix of the classic Mario theme.
Upon entering this chapter, Tippi tell you that you can point the Wiimote at the screen to have her examine and describe objects and people, and even reveal hidden objects and doors. So far, this is the only use of the motion controls, but it’s not a bad mechanic. It’s a little forced in this first chapter, maybe, because while there are several hidden doors, I’m willing to bet that there’s a lot less invisible things in later chapters. I don’t remember, but I’ll try to keep track.
Anyways, our first real enemies are goombas, which is a classic move. The only other enemies in this immediate area are Squigs, which are new enemies that require new art, so of course they are rectangular. There’s no real danger, but you can fall in holes for 1 damage, if you want to. The combat in this game breaks from the tradition of every other Mario RPG to date by not being turn-based. All fighting in this game is just part of the platforming action, and there’s not really many special moves. It probably won’t come as a surprise that I think this change is stupid. Honestly, the very first thing I missed was the fun and strategic turn-based combat. Mario RPGs have always managed to make it interesting, allowing you to do and take specific amounts of damage, and to avoid attacks and time hits on enemies for special bonuses. TTYD even took it further by including the audience. It wasn’t a dull slog like turn-based action in most JRPGs, and it was a staple of the series. However, I will say that the platforming fighting is fluid and simple, like in the original Mario games (which is what they were going for). It’s not that I don’t like the platforming stuff, it’s just that when I play any Mario RPG, I want my turn-based stuff. That’s all.
You can find mushrooms that will heal you on contact, and mushroom shakes that are permanent inventory items, to be used to heal you whenever. This seemed a bit strange to me, and also I’m fairly certain a milkshake made from mushrooms would be disgusting. Either way, you shouldn’t need much healing in this first area, because it’s extremely easy, and also because you’ll level up soon anyways. Exp is gained in the form of a points total at the top of the screen, again a callback to the original Mario games (do you get the theme guys?), and levels occur every several thousand points. The levels allow you no input and just give you either 1 point of attack or 5 more max hp. It’s incredibly boring and allows for no customization, which is funny, because the first two Paper Mario games gave you a ton of customization. Every level, you would choose to gain 5 hp, fp, or 3 Badge Points.Badge Points were a flexible pool that allowed you to give yourself any combination of damage badges, or defense badges, or special moves, or what have you. Here we just get increments of hp or power. Yippee.
Anyways, Mario finds a hidden door and behind it is Bestovius, a guy floating on a cloud. He is weird in the off-putting way that every NPC in this game is, in that he says stupid things that don’t make much sense. Upon seeing you he makes fun of your mustache and immediately declares you to be a hero imposter. Then he changes his mind, but charges you all your cash to learn his special ability, even though he knows you’re here to save the world from a black hole. How stupid is this guy? Does he want all of reality to be destroyed? I only had 5 coins on me, but it still chafes me. He teaches you to “flip”, and you’ll be doing it for the rest of the game, because it is the most important ability.
“Flipping” turns the world 90 degrees, and suddenly you’ll find yourself in a 3d corridor. This is a neat mechanic in theory, but it has includes several irritants. One, you have to be Mario to do this. Once you have (spoilers, I guess) any of the other playable characters, they all have special abilities that make them better than Mario. Bowser does double damage, Peach can be invincible behind her parasol, and Luigi is better at jumping. You’ll never want to be Mario, but you’ll constantly be switching to and from him to search rooms while flipped. That is the second point – items, keys, switches, and people might be turned sideways normally, thus making them invisible when the world is not flipped. This means you must search every single room while flipped, which wouldn’t even be THAT bad, if not for my third point. There is a meter that ticks down while you’re flipped, and you get hurt when it reaches zero. There’s no reason for this meter to exist, it’s very frustrating, and the worst part is, the very hardest boss in the game gives you the ability to lose this meter if you beat him. Your reward is the core mechanic becoming less awful.
So once you have flipping, you can leave and continue the quest. There’s a part where Mario gets a star, except that it makes him huge and he can just run down the hall crushing everything. It’s not really that notable except for the lame star music remix. It’s boring, and I just insert the original star music in my head when I play these parts. Eventually 1-1 ends, and we’re treated to a bit of narration before 1-2. These little notes between parts are uninteresting and never necessary, it’s always like “Tippi tells Mario: “Look ahead! that mountain in the distance is where we’re going!”” and then you’re platforming on a mountain. We didn’t need the break, just put us on the screen, we’ll figure out that we got to a mountain! Worse yet, it usually includes a recap of things that just happened.
So we come to Impasse Passe (actual name), and the bridge is out. So we take a pipe into the distance, which actually is something that happens in Paper Mario games. And Wario games too, interestingly enough. We meet the bridge controller, who somehow has been flipped (never explained), and is trapped in a 3d world where no one can see or hear him (the hearing part confuses me). You rescue him and then he asks you if Red or Green is better. His brother is another gatekeeper later, and he will ask the same question. This first one is red, second is green, and they are pretty clearly a version of the Mario Bros, I guess. I don’t get the point of it. Anyways, this guy asks surprisingly few questions for someone who just had an entirely new dimension of travel revealed to him and then taken away. I guess his tiny 2d mind wouldn’t be able to handle it. He flips a switch and the gate is drawn in like an Etch-A-Sketch, even though this would be a great point to do something papery with it, like bridges always did in the last two games. No, I’m not going to give up on this! The Paper is in the title!
Across the bridge is the town of Yold, where everyone tells you to flip all the time to look for stuff, in case you hadn’t…which would mean you couldn’t have gotten here. There’s a house with nothing in it but a fence and a pipe, which is pretty strange for a town with only 4 buildings, one of which is a wretched shop with Howzit in it. In the pipe is a puzzle room and a new Pixl, Thoreau! He says that he was locked in a chest for 1,500 years, waiting for you to come, but he seems pretty ok with it. He comments that Tippi must be a “new model” of Pixl. Who is making these? Are they robots or fairies? This point is not pursued, though, so whatever. I’m sure it won’t come up later. Anyways, he flat out tells you to press A to use him, because screw the 4th wall. At least in TTYD we got fun little bits where Toadette would show up and give you a short tutorial on new items.
You head up to the elder of this town, and he is a bizarre guy. His name is Watchitt, and he yells “WATCH IT!” at you constantly and talks about a man in his pocket. He wants to see Thoreau, and won’t let you through until you have him. Once you show him the Pixl, he whips out a cell phone and calls ahead to open the next bridge for you. This is a desert town with no other technology and laundry lines hanging out all over the place, but he has a cell phone for no reason. Anyways, you head out into the desert. There’s some new enemies and some old here. Clefts are around, but they are far weaker than in previous Paper Mario titles. There are also enemies that resemble floating butts and attack by farting at you. I’m starting to hate the “humor” in this game.
O’Chunks shows up to fight you, he says that Count Bleck is trying to bring order to the world, and he’s going to help. This guy is pretty mislead, but he’s also not too bright, as he can’t even say the word “damage” right (he says “hammage”, no joke) and he does a little dance every time he manages to do 1 damage to you. You are forced to watch the dance before you can get up. It really accentuates the weirdness of his character model, with his arms made of disconnected rectangles. Once beaten, he retreats by rocketing into the sky by farting. Whaaaaaaaaaat.
After finally reaching some ruins, you beat up some weak enemies (buzzy beetles, mostly), dodge a few slow moving rocks and spikes, and solve some simple puzzles. The boss is a robot dragon named Fracktail, who actually does recognize you as the hero immediately. Dimentio shows up and scrambles his brain before he can help you, and the boss fight is mostly you jumping on the dragon’s back and attacking its head. The thing is, for the first time in this game, I really liked Fracktail’s lines when he was malfunctioning. He got some funny computer-based puns in there, and even managed to throw in “I AM ERROR”. I actually felt like the writers were having fun with it instead of just writing things that are stupid.
So after the boss fight, we meet Merlumina, a member of the Merlon clan,and she is a ghost. She gives you a Pure Heart and says that it is part of a larger item, called the Purity Heart, which is just as unexplained and nebulous as it sounds. She’s been waiting for Mario for 1,500 years, ever since the Light Prognosticus was written, but doesn’t bother telling us who wrote it or how. She does, however, tell you a long story about her own history that is irrelevant, and Mario falls asleep during it. This is a recurring joke with members of this family, they have an inflated view of their own importance and backstory, but we can laugh at them for it. Anyways, Mario lifts the Heart above his head in victory, and the Pixls do a little dance. End Chapter 1.
This chapter didn’t give us much in the way of explanation, but we made progress, Mario actually met a villain and a new ally, and for a minute there at the boss encounter, I was actually happy with the writing, which is new to me for this game. It may not be anything like a Paper Mario game, but still, things may be looking up. Thanks for reading, see you Monday.