Soooooo I actually got to try this out for myself (thanks to external resources), and I decided to go in with an open mind after more and more footage was revealed that I sort of, I don’t know, groaned over.
But let’s see what we have in store for now.
- Regarding the story: if you’re looking for anything close to past games, I hate to say it, but it’s lackluster this time around. It’s actually my biggest gripe, since the Mario & Luigi games have had an amazing track record for delivering the most wonderful story-lines to its spin-off RPG series, and this one seems to be the odd one out after 14 years. During the day at Peach’s Castle, Luigi and Toad find an old paper-like book, and after Luigi knocks it to the floor on accident, all sorts of paper characters and enemies pour out of it. A few minutes later, it’s up to Mario and Luigi to collect all of the Paper Toads and rescue both versions of Peach who were kidnapped by the newly teamed-up Bowsers. There isn’t much more to it, because that’s mostly what you’re dealing with. As much as there are a small few moments where there are good written characters, the plotline is bland, and many things just seem out of place, and happen for no reason. (Cardboard is not a threatening force. Please stop pretending as if it is.) Many of the events contain no tension or build up leading to said event (Paper Craft Battles, etc), and willingly speed past the segment, sometimes pretending it didn’t exist afterwards. Not a single story moment was addressed near the end of the game, and it just sort of… closes, with no conclusion or build up to the events before it. And for the end of the game to also be a complete rehash of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team with no rhyme or reason, Dream Team wore it better.
- While the option to speed past cutscenes and text with the R Button is useful for replaying the game, or skipping long (or short in this case) moments after a loss, it still feels redundant to include it. Who even asked for this to be on by default?
- Menus do actually contain tutorials inside them, but you are still forced to do many or few in the main game. They aren’t all optional as stated in the past.
- With an absurd two frames per second on every paper character texture, why does Bowser Jr. (maybe two more) receive a full 60? It’s not much of a nitpick like I thought before, but more of a glaring inconsistency. If everyone is going to use the “paper look”, then there should be nobody else who suddenly doesn’t use it.
- The dash is a great inclusion, but it’s only purpose is for Toad Hunting, and the game explicitly tells you as much.
- The background music is the best part of the game, however, with the generic locations presented, some of it fell flat for me, leaving me honestly crushed even though the music did sound amazing
- While the combat does retain its previous state, Paper Mario’s inclusion along with amiibo cards managed to drag down the experience for me. Paper Mario’s copy ability makes him almost impossible to defeat unless dealt with a one-hit-KO move, and amiibo cards come with no bonus other than the ability to cheaply destroy an entire field of enemies with little to no effort at all. In an RPG. Battles drag on and on, especially during toad hunts, making me wish that battles would end or let me have a complete success rate of running from them. Enemy health seems to be padded on both difficulties, and enemy attack damage seems to be increased majorly from the beginning of the game for no reason whatsoever. To make it worse for newcomers, some boss battles have some type of instant-kill attack or sequence, that are either impossible to detect or avoid easily. Aside from that, the “tell” system that was built up from the beginning of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and used all the way to Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, becomes essentially useless in this game. Marker reticles were provided to make tracking the trio easily as stated by the developer. But even with the inclusion to easily track the player, the system, the very thing that made the combat worth paying attention to by watching your enemies moves, becomes utterly pointless in this game as it marks the cursor around your feet with a giant red outline. The lack of 3D moves is also a disappointment for me. But at the end of the day, you don’t even pick which stats you increase yourself anymore.
- The world’s graphics pop out on the screen and the visuals return in the same style as Dream Team. The world is fairly big in some spots, but those spots and only those spots are primarily used for the Toad Hunting minigame (which lasts longer than it needs to), leaving most of the game world a bit empty minus a few spots. As for the world itself, many of the locations are dragged right from New Super Mario Bros., and the world itself is plain and bland, and some worlds even lasted less than an half hour for me. Past games offered unique locations, and even Bowser’s Inside Story offered a new unique Mushroom Kingdom! But in this title, you’re grounded to the same environments offered in the New series, with little to no change in scenery in those places. As far as characters go, there are no unique or charming new characters to meet, as most of the cast returns from Paper Mario Sticker Star. Although there are a few older characters outside of the Mario & Luigi series that appear, it only drives the point home that the entire game has been genericized.
- Toad Hunting is my least favorite segment (or segments) of the game. The minigame tends to drag on for many minutes until I grow bored of it, especially since you’re tasked to do it in every world you visit, and there is no option to save it for post-game. It seems their only inclusion is to pad out what would have been a short game experience if made completely optional.
- While Paper Craft battles did interest me at first, upon playing more than a few, I grew to dislike them. Outside of the flow breaking of rhythm minigame to be able to continue the fight and attack at all, the controls were completely difficult to get used to, and the camera would often destroy itself at times when attacking the enemy on the field, leaving me disoriented. The first one felt simple and nice to play, but having to replay it a second time and making my way to the following battles afterwards, left me bored.
In the end, I wasn’t that satisfied, but here’s my say:
This is described as a crossover between worlds in multiple descriptions of the game, and it is even one of its selling points. There is little to no crossing over done at all besides Paper Mario’s appearance, the cardboard scenery, three boss appearances from Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and many other paper toads and generic enemies from the former and New Super Mario Bros. With the reveal of the game at E3 2015, I expected much more than this after playing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, which was amazing on its own as the series first 3DS title, which also offered much more content, and some unique and climactic situations to boot.
If you came expecting something such as a cameo from Mr. L, Dimentio, some older partners (including possible sidequests), or any other Paper Mario character, since the game was described as a book with its events written inside, you’re not getting any of that. You’re just really playing “New Super Mario Bros. The RPG, Including: Paper Mario”, because that’s essentially what it is. There was a neat idea that appeared about three hours in, but it disppeared in the blink of an eye and the rest of the game, felt utterly disappointing.
This is a "differently formatted mini-review" of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam by Reinamoon.