It was the year 2000… Cars were being produced with the capabilities of levitation, making our primitive pavement roads obsolete, televisions could predict the future by calculating the trajectory of ultraviolet rays bouncing from off of the sun onto super high-tech satellite antennae, Moon Shoes were a thing! It truly was a time for excellence, and incredible scientific engineering! … Or at least, I’d like to say that. As far as I can recall, the only really interesting and impressive things to come out of 2000 (well for me at least) was probably the slew of Nintendo 64 games that were released. You had awesome classics like Kirby and the Crystal Shards, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, heck, even Pokemon Puzzle league! However, the greatest game of all time came out this year. A game so charming, fun, and endearing that it even left the little beardling I was back then with a sense of warm and happiness. This game was Paper Mario.
I’m sure all of you are familiar with Paper Mario, or at least have heard the name thrown about here and there. If not, allow me to enlighten you! Paper Mario was an RPG developed by Intelligent Systems for the Nintendo 64. The game, while not being blatantly obvious about it, was technically a spiritual successor to the SNES title Super Mario RPG. In the game you play as none other than everyone’s favorite Italian guy with a mustache, Mario. The game takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom, only this time the land is in a much more charming, cartoonish style. In the game, Bowser steals the mystical Star Rod, and captures all of the Elder stars so that he can get his scaly mits on the Princess, and take over the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s up to Mario of course, to stop him! The game’s universe is made entirely of paper. While buildings seem to be solid, they’re literally cardboard cutouts folded together! For it’s time, this was actually a really clever design element. The game has spanned plenty of other titles in the series, such as the Gamecube sequel Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door, or the Wii title Super Paper Mario. Even the 3DS got a Paper Mario title, though it wasn’t a very good one. However, despite the hits and misses in the franchise, it never fails to be charming. But I’m not here to talk about the newer games, I’m talking about the original game, or OG as you youngsters call them now.
The game overall was just an incredibly charming and fun experience for me. I found my five year old self entranced, and literally in love with everything about this game. The dialogue between characters was always really cheeky to me, and it felt like the characters were often real. Maybe that’s nostalgia talking, but whenever you’ve seen a koopa flip out because he’s lost his shell, you almost feel a new form of pity for the creatures. Plus it’s kinda funny seeing them run around in only their underwear. Though this brings me to the next thing that makes this game such a fun experience; it’s partner system. The partners were more or less your other party members. However, unlike in most RPG’s, you can only have one partner with you in combat. This was actually a nice little addition, because it made you work on a strategy a little bit more. While the combat wasn’t hard, there were a few spots where certain enemies could be beaten easier than others, especially with the right partners. Not only were they each skilled in their own way, they each have their own personalities to match. They really did help make the game something special.
The best part about the entire game however, is the fact that it’s been able to stand the test of time. Most games tend to show their age, to the point where they become nearly unbearable to look at, due to being spoiled with ultra-high definition graphics going at about sixty frames per-second. Because the team working on Paper Mario took a more stylized direction with the game, it’s managed to still look relatively great, even after fifteen years of progress in the gaming industry. Their use of two dimensional characters on a three dimensional plane was honestly an ingenious move. Hell, it was such a good move it stuck with the franchise through the rest of the games to come!
This game was probably one of my favorite experiences as a child, and while I would love to complain about the franchise as a whole, I can’t bring myself to get angry at the topic of this game. The first one has just brought me so much joy as a child, that even sitting down and playing through it once more really put me in a good mood. The game is just such a cheerful ride, full of goofy humor and adventure, It really brings out the inner child, and honestly makes you feel young again. Heck, playing through this again just for this little article was enough to remind me of my time spent as a younger child. ... We shall not speak of those days.