Let’s Deconstruct Super Paper Mario – Part 3
So last time, we finally got to fight the villains a bit, adventure, and get our first Pure Heart (that required effort). Mario headed back to Flipside, and we are treated to another villain interlude! Maybe this time we’ll actually learn more about their plans.
So O’Chunks is back from his pathetic failure against Mario, and is begging for forgiveness. Count Bleck, ever the forward thinker, decides that Mario is a real threat, and decides to set a trap for him at the next Pure Heart. Evidently, the prophecy that named Mario as the hero also completely lines out his entire adventure and the order in which he will gain the hearts, so if the villains manage to LOSE, they have no one to blame but themselves. Mimi is sent, apparently she has magic powers from Bleck. Again, they don’t all go gang up on Mario, but at least this time we see that Bleck and Nastasha have some business. Bleck declares that he has to go somewhere and do something (and that’s all we get), and Nastasha goes to subdue some of Bowser’s minions, who are still hanging around since the wedding. Why doesn’t she take a minute to go mind control Mario?
We cut to Peach waking up to meet two Koopa troops, and she immediately asks if they are OK. As if she cares. As if anyone cares about the well-being of two no-name mooks of a race that Mario mows down by the thousands, and in fact uses their shells to kill other minions. Peach is not very smart in this game. These two guys are sort of stereotypical army men, in a way that causes them to be extremely melodramatic and cheesy about everything they do, but not in an amusing way. Also they don’t know who Luigi is.
They appear to be in the same dimension as the villains, and before long, Nastasha shows up to brainwash everyone. There’s a lot of terrible back-and-forth between Nastasha’s speaking style (valley girl-ish) and the Koopas’ faux-military stuff, and it’s really offputting as a whole, not to mention very out of place for a Mario game. Nastasha then effortlessly brainwashes the Koopas, then hesitates on Peach for no reason, even though she’s done it before. Peach is teleported away by an unseen force, and saved by deus ex machina. Nastasha declares that it doesn’t matter, and that she will have no effect on the prophecy fulfillment plan. Those words will never come back to bite her at any point, right?
Here’s where things start to get vague. We’re given words on a black screen, and the speakers are not identified, but there are two of them. Evidently, one of them is a member of something called the Tribe of Darkness, and they took a nasty fall off a cliff. They were found and tended to by the other speaker, a human who isn’t afraid of this ominously-named Tribe. This little narration declares that this meeting was the beginning of a tragedy. It’s a short scene altogether, and very forgettable, since it appears to have nothing to do with any characters we’ve met and has no accompanying images whatsoever.
We’re back to Mario now, and we meet up with Merlon so he can summarize everything we’ve already learned (even though it’s been at most 2 hours of gameplay). Peach falls out of the sky into Flipside, and Merlon declares her to be freezing to death…somehow. I’d be more worried about her injuries from falling, but I don’t know how science works in this world. We are sent to the town cook, and we make a spicy soup out of a fire flower, which seems safe. The cook mechanic is present in every Paper Mario game, and it basically lets you combine various items to make other, more interesting and unique, items. In the previous two titles, these would often raise attack for a while, or grant electric skin, etc. However, since SPM is severely lacking in imagination, almost every item that can be crafted simply restores some amount of HP and cures poison, so it’s boring. That’s what this soup we made for Peach does as well, although apparently it’s hot enough to instantly heal her. Also, the floor with the cook has some very excitable townspeople, I mean, everyone I talked to would say things like “YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF CARDS? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!” without the slightest provocation. There ARE cards to collect in this game, but they are mostly useless. If you have one of an enemy, you’ll do double damage to it, but there are never cards to be found for bosses, when it would actually matter.
So Peach is given exposition, and decides to join the team. She can float with her parasol and hide under it to become invincible. She jumps as high as Mario and does the same damage, so you’ll probably want to just play as her. Have fun switching to Mario all the time to flip to 3d. Anyways, Merlon doesn’t know where the next Heart Pillar is, but he gives you an old key and says it should get you there. Never mind that he’s lived here all his life and his family built the town, he can’t be bothered to go outside. He also apparently can’t be bothered to read the prophetic book until just now, because he says he’ll get to studying it to find out what to do next. Thanks man, but why don’t you have that thing memorized by this point in your life? Anyways, Peach wants to help us because first of all, she’s worried about Bowser (who is constantly kidnapping her and trying to force her to marry him) and also because she blames herself and Bowser for the void forming, because she is, again, an idiot.
On the way to the pillar, there are signs telling me to flip to 3d to find things, and signs telling me to use Peach to float over gaps. This kind of hand-holding isn’t necessary, it’s condescending, and it wasn’t in the first two Paper Mario games. Unfortunately, it’s at this point that I start to come to a horrible realization. The reason that the game is so easy, the humor is lowbrow, the puzzles are nonexistent, and the writing is weak…could it be that this game is for little children? I mean, Mario games are generally for all ages, and while I wouldn’t say it was a masterpiece, Paper Mario TTYD definitely managed to be smart about a lot of plot points and characters. But this game…it’s not for adults. It’s for kids, and only for kids. There’s no challenge here, and the writing is going to continue to be both sloppy and melodramatic. It’s never going to improve. I’m starting to lose hope. However, I started this playthrough/deconstruction, and I have to hold out hope that at least one good thing will happen. If it does, I’ll definitely tell you. While I was having this realization, I found the Heart Pillar and headed into chapter 2 proper.
We’re supposed to be heading to Merlee’s mansion, but when we get there, it’s full of traps, monsters (that take you outside, a mechanic that has never been fun, think Legend of Zelda), and a maid who is openly hostile and antagonistic. It’s Mimi, she even says her name, but of course Mario doesn’t know better and we have to just keep blundering into her traps. In one room, the door closes and spikes descend towards you, but if you get past it, you’ll find a key to go deeper into the mansion. Why did Mimi even put that there? Also, if you unchain the monsters, they chase her, causing Tippi to wonder why they went for Mimi, and causing Mario to do nothing to help the seemingly innocent bystander about to be eaten. That’s our hero!
Part of this chapter (2-3) is infamous for being a weird sort of meta-commentary on video games as a whole, but mostly I just think the developers thought it was neat and threw it in. You have to jump up on a block to continue, but you will knock over a vase and break it, causing Mimi to appear and demand that you work off the debt to repay it, which is 1 million “rubees”. You can earn these by working to produce electricity for the mansion, by hitting blocks or running in a giant hamster wheel. Now, you can run in the wheel for like half an hour (or just tape the controller down), or you can explore the level and eventually rob Mimi’s safe for the million, and pay her off. When you DO pay her, she yells that you broke her curse and explodes. Her body parts scatter around the room and disappear. Mario, Peach, and Tippi pay this absolutely no mind and leave. You just had a person enslave you, and then watched them explode, you aren’t even going to…I dunno…talk about it?
Merlee manages to contact you in ghostly message and tells you not to trust your eyes from here forward, which would cause me to retroactively be suspicious of this ghost, but whatever. You go through a weird basement maze in this mansion, and eventually run into a “real” Merlee. She wants to charge you 10 million Rubees for the Pure Heart, so obviously she’s a fake, if anyone didn’t see that coming. She turns into Mimi, who then declares that she will use her True Form, and goes through a semi-nightmarish transformation scene that I certainly would have found disturbing as a child. She turns her head until her neck snaps, then her head crumples and expands, and spider legs come out of it. This spider-thing towers over you and Mimi’s “body” hangs limp. This is stuff right out of The Thing, or the last boss of Resident Evil 4, not a Mario game! Certainly not a Mario game that is as childish as this one! Why is this in the game?!
She’s invincible (and in fact I think it’s a robot, because if you flip, you can see gears in her “body”), and so you have to run away through more basement mazes. Eventually, deep in the bowels of this enormous mansion, you find…some bathrooms? Merlee (the real one) is hiding…sigh…in a toilet in the women’s bathroom. Mimi shows up and disguises herself as Merlee, and so they both argue over which one is real, and ask Mario to beat up the other one. This is idiotic for two reasons. First of all, Merlee could prove herself 800 different ways, including just giving you the Pure Heart. Secondly, Mimi can turn into AN INVINCIBLE SPIDER ROBOT AND KILL YOU. Instead, a game show setting comes out of nowhere, and you have to ask the Merlees questions to decide which one is real.
The real Merlee has a fly buzzing around her (BECAUSE SHE HID IN A TOILET, GET IT?), Mimi is revealed, and she does her spider transformation again for no reason. Merlee chants a song that makes Mimi vulnerable to damage, because I guess she took some levels in Bard. Mimi dies and explodes again, and Merlee tells you that the prophecy from the Light Prognosticus says that there are actually 4 heroes, and Peach must be one of them. This prophecy seems to keep changing all the time, but at least you don’t have to do any of the thinking. Then you get the Pure Heart, end of chapter. I don’t know if the game thinks that it’s a secret, but the other two heroes are obviously Luigi and Bowser. We’ll find out more about that on Friday, though. Thanks for reading this increasingly angry series, I’m gonna work on the rage issues.