Paper Mario Sticker Star for the 3DS review

Buying a game is basically a 50-50 gamble. What do I mean by this? Well, you, as a gamer, are going to spend certain amount of money, either a small amount or large amount, and well, the game you end up spending money on can either be bad or good. The result of spending money on a good game is that you are playing a game of a certain length and having fun with it. You only lose out when you pay a large sum of cash for a terrible game. It has always puzzled me when people are willing to pay high dollar amounts on a game that is infamous for being terrible. Of course, we all hope that in return for the amount we pay for a game, it is going to be solid, good, or in the best case, amazing. For example, games like Red Dead Redemption, Journey and Flower might cost a bit much, but in return, are simply some of the best games of all time. Anyway, we all make a gamble when we buy a game on either liking it or hating it, and either saying it was money well spent or just resenting how much you wasted on the game that in return was awful. Why am I talking about this risk and reward in purchasing a game? Well, today’s review is of Paper Mario Sticker Star for the 3DS. People have either loved this game or have hated it. I know everyone’s opinion is different, but I simply enjoyed this game.

Let us get started then, shall we? It is the famous Sticker Star Festival in the Mushroom Kingdom, with everyone awaiting the arrival of the famous Sticker Star Comet. Of course, as the Sticker Star Comet lands, Bowser decides to bust up the festival and take the Sticker Star for himself, and use its powers. Mario attempts to stop him, but doesn’t stop Bowser in time from gaining the powers of the Sticker Star Comet and dispersing the Comet pieces all over the Kingdom. In the aftermath, Mario teams up with a little crown sprite to take on Bowser and get the Sticker Star Comet back to its original form! Usually, an important part of a RPG is in its story, but this time, it really isn’t. Sure, the humor and writing is there and it is still pretty funny, but the story isn’t the main part of the game. It’s a shame since that was part of the best things about the last couple of games, but I guess they decided to focus on the gameplay this time.

The gameplay has returned to its turn-based style of gameplay, but with a few twists. Instead of fighting on some stage with a partner, the main focus of this game is, of course, the stickers. Instead of having a normal jump attack or a normal hammer attack, you pick out your attacks by using a variety of different stickers for attacking enemies, defending yourself, or enhancing your character’s stats. The timed button press is also back in this game, where if you press the button at the right time for each attack, you can do more damage. Enemies stay in a straight line this time and this adds a bit of strategy to each battle. I say this because you can only attack once. This is where the coin slot mechanic comes into play. You can bid on coins on a slot machine to gain the ability to have up to three attacks for one turn. The thing about this mechanic is that you are going to drain your coins quickly so this adds another layer of strategy. You gain coins and sometimes stickers from battles or in the levels themselves, but you might need to buy specific stickers for specific situations so a knowledge on money management is something that would really come in handy. Another gameplay mechanic is finding certain real life items that help solve puzzles or beat enemies and bosses more easily. You can find stickers all over the place and can add them to a sticker book that you get at the beginning of the game. At first, you have a very limited amount of space to manage. This is basically like any survival horror game you have played where you have a limited amount of space, so make sure you take the right amount of stickers for yourself to attack and heal, and at least enough space for a special item sticker that is made by taking a real life item and turning it into a sticker. This game is all about risk and reward, and it’s fun because of that. Do you spend a lot of coins and use multiple stickers to gain coins and stickers back? Do you save the more powerful stickers for boss fights that do require a certain kind of item sticker to make them easier to beat? Do you sell off or get rid of weaker stickers to make space for better stickers? Or, do you just run from battles to save on coins and stickers? This game is filled with multiple things that you will need to think about each time you go into battle. However, you cannot level up in this game. You gain health upgrades by completing tasks in the levels. This game might be short, but you can get a good amount done if you want to find secret doors and alternate exits to other levels.
The graphics look great. They finally took the whole paper and cardboard theme to another degree, and with the 3DS’s 3D capabilities, it looks nice, especially in the Super Mario World-esque overworld. This series of Mario RPG’s has always had a great and charming look to it, and here, it has been taken to the next level. The music is also charming, with a few familiar tracks, as well as some new ones too. Overall, a solid package. Like I said before, the humor is still very funny and I’m happy to see this RPG take a light-hearted tone.
So then, did the gamble of focusing more on gameplay pay off? What are the side effects? Well, this game does have some issues that I do not like. Due to the risk of focusing more on the risk-and-reward gameplay, they sacrificed having allied characters that have fun and unique personalities, and the game’s world is mostly occupied by Toads. This is kind of a bummer because the allied characters were some of the best things of the past games. The game also has some unpolished adventure game elements that don’t fully work. You need to solve puzzles, and while some of them are really clever, some don’t give you enough hints about what you need to do, and you are left clueless on how to tackle the next puzzle. This same issue comes up with the boss fights where there is a sort of puzzle element to them, but you won’t know which stickers to have unless you look at the boss location or think ahead about the specific stickers you might need.
All and all, this new gamble on more streamlined turn-based gameplay, while sacrificing a more complex story and allied characters, does pay off. It might not fully work for everyone, and I can easily understand why some people don’t like the changes made to the Paper Mario formula. For what it is, it’s a super solid RPG for a handheld that needs some strong games. If you can get this game on the cheap, like 10-20 dollars less than what it is right now, I would get it. I mean, come on, it is a Mario RPG. Why wouldn’t you buy it?
This game gets a solid 8 out of 10