The Paper Mario series is usually an RPG series with a powerful plot and character development, but Sticker Star dives away from that and into another direction. It is disappointingly different and flawed compared to its predecessors that many fans were hoping Sticker Star would try to replicate. The game gives the simplistic story of Mario going on a quest to obtain the fragments of the Sticker Comet (which Bowser stole) and save Princess Peach (who Bowser stole). The Sticker Comet is a magical, wish-granting Comet that goes over the Mushroom Kingdom once a year. Hmm… seems familiar? That’s because it’s the same basic story of the original Paper Mario.
The Gameplay has stripped nearly all of the role-playing elements that we’ve come to know and love from the Paper Mario series. The puzzles are pretty unique. You have the ability to “Paperize” which turns everything into a flat piece of paper and allows Mario to stick and pull stickers on the field of play, manipulation things like air ducts and doorways, often opening up the path to the next area. The combat is still turn-based, like in the first two installments of the series, but vastly different because Mario doesn’t have access to basic moves unless he has the sticker that represents that move. For example, I have two jump stickers and a hammer sticker. I can only jump two times and use my hammer once until I leave and buy more from the shop in town or peel them off of the floors and walls in the area. It’s more like a strategy game with resource management, but the strategy is so basic it’s almost non-existent.
Most likely, you’ll never be in a situation where you only had two jumps and a hammer; I often found my sticker album, which contains the stickers, was completely full despite battling quite often. The most disappointing thing about the game is that there is almost no reward for actually doing the battles. You acquire coins at the end which can be used to buy stickers for your sticker album which is always full anyway. Yeah that’s cool. Luckily the combat still holds up and is pretty fun, especially the boss fights. The basic battles are a cinch, but the boss fights often have a drastic increase in strategy required. At that point the game loses the RPG completely and just becomes a turn-based, strategic, resource management game.
Overall, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is not a bad game. It’s just not what the fans were expecting or wanted. The direction they have taken the series makes sense for a portable entry, but would be terrible as a console game. If they decide on making a sequel to this game, then they could make it seriously good by just fine-tuning the flaws the game holds. For example, they could make combat worth initiating, make stickers scarcer, or emphasize on the strategy a bit more. Looking past the gameplay’s flaws and lack of story, it’s a cleverly written game with witty dialog that will often leave you with a smile on your face. Sticker Star is flawed, but I believe the formula holds potential. I foresee an improved and more respectable portable entry to our favorite plumber’s future RPG endeavors. Intelligent Systems has, until now, seamlessly created magnificent Mario RPGs. Let’s hope this bumpy road is short lived.
*They Slipped Up
I give Paper Mario: Sticker Star a 2/5.
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