Review by Rasb_Burrise
Mario Battle Network? Mario Battle Network.
So, it's Paper Mario. No real introduction is needed. We all know what to expect. Paper jokes, things are thin and blow in the wind, goofy humor, etc. Stickers are just a nice variation on paper. It's a Nintendo RPG. So, Sticker Star is the latest of the Nintendo RPG's and stays true to many Paper Mario themes. But there are some changes and a lot of those will be discussed.
Plot: It's Paper-freaking-Mario. Has there ever been some amazing world-spanning awesome-sauce plot? No, not really. Something happens and Mario goes on a fetch quest. It's always just a fetch quest. Previously we had Stars and Star Pieces and Bean Stars, and now we have Sticker Stars. So in essence, Mario and Navi...or rather Kersti...go on a fetch quest to gather all of the stickers stars after Bowser messes up the festival at the beginning of the game. Yeah, Kersti's this floating crown Navi (who's only a partial anagram on "sticker") who helps out. Luckily she has some spunk and personality since she's the only partner you have the whole game. True to Mario fashion, he either says nothing or simple phrases like "lasagna". This game, he says nothing. But it's not Mario is without personality. He's a funny guy with what can only be described as emoticon features, probably displaying more personality than any other character in this game. Overall, the writing is still solid. It's still funny with tons of quirky humor, true to Mario fashion. Sandals? Whiffit? An adventurous Toad getting bullied? Funniest cellphone description ever? Rube Goldberg? All check and all awesome.
Graphics: Paper Mario has always been pretty and this game is no exception. 2D sprites on a 3D world? And now in actual 3D? Brilliant. This game makes some of coolest use of 3D on the 3DS and is visually very pleasing. Not much else needs to be said.
Sound: Sound quality is great, music is good. Again, what did one expect? The soundtrack is excellent, always appropriate, and well implemented with gameplay. Boss themes are notoriously awesome in this game. That said, the inbuilt Sound Test is horrible. Shame on you, Nintendo, for not including boss themes.
Gameplay: Obviously the most important part for any videogame. You obtain stickers and you can use them in battles or the overworld. There are two types of stickers: Battle stickers (for battles obviously) and Thing stickers. Things are just that, 3D things you find and can turn into stickers, which then have uses in battle or the overworld. There is also a third type of sticker, Scraps, which are overworld stickers pulled from one area and placed in another with the help of Kersti.
The overworld is the bulk of the gameplay and it is excellent. You pick a stage and then explore until you find the Goal, clear the stage, and get coins based on performance. Some stages have multiple Goals which can lead to different stages. Stages are typically exploration quests. You run around, pull stickers off of walls, hammer trees, jump into blocks. Most stages have some sort of gimmick, whether they be huge mazes, boat rides, ghost hunts, or even a game show. However, ALL stages have puzzles. The game is basically a huge puzzle fest, requiring the player to find the proper Battle sticker, Thing sticker, or Scrap to place and solve puzzles, or to just figure out the trick to the stage. There is some mandatory backtracking and definitely some obscure puzzles, but nothing should stump the player too much, especially considering Kersti is right there giving hints with the L button. This game will tickle your brain and it is amazing.
Battles are the lesser half of the gameplay. In battles, each sticker has a type, like jump or hammer or fireflower, and each of those have further upgrades. These are highly reminiscent of Battle Chips from Megaman Battle Network, hence the tagline. The main difference is that once a sticker is used, it is gone. Players don't need to worry about running out of stickers, though. Battles end quickly and stickers are absolutely everywhere. Battles stay true to Mario RPGs and have timed attacks or other little gimmicks to reduce damage or stack on more damage. Considering only Mario partakes in battle, Nintendo decided to give us reels with the ability to attack multiple times per turn, but at the cost of coins. Most interestingly, Mario only gains money and stickers from combat. This is the primary reason why I compare this to Megaman Battle Network, another RPG where battles only yield money and chips. That is not to say that Mario does not become stronger. As the game progresses, stickers get stronger, Mario gains more health from exploration, you get more sticker inventory space, and his first strike strength increases as more stages are completed. Does it sound similar to Megaman Battle Network, where you get stronger chips and buy upgrades? It should.
That said, the RPG's elements are worse than in previous Mario RPGs. Mario's stats are fewer, with basically only HP. Badges? Nope. Partners? One. Combat? 1 vs Many, with some variations. Are battles worth it? As rare stickers are actually found instead of won, no. In fact, the RPG elements are so much weaker in this game and overworld aspects so strong and well implemented that I don't even consider this an RPG with adventure aspects like most of the previous Mario RPG's. Rather, this is an adventure game with RPG elements. Not to say it's bad, but it could have been a lot better. You know, like as good as Megaman Battle Network.
Replay: Sidequests include finding random Luigi's, all health upgrades, finishing a sticker museum, and completing achievements. The bulk of the backtracking is involved with these quests. Honestly, that's probably enough to keep any gamer playing for a while, but is noted as fewer than the previous Mario RPGs. The prizes are also not THAT worth it. As stated before, the unlockable Sound Test is laughable. There's also no super secret extra boss, but whatever, this isn't Shin Mario Tensei: Sticker Star Saga. You don't need to fight the main character from the previous game, who thinks you are so weak that random battle music plays in the background.
As for actual replayability, the game is relatively short, my first run being 20 hours for completion. I think it's fun enough and short enough (as most handhelds are) and segmented enough for convenient long toilet or long car trip replays. Basically, as a handheld game, this is more than perfect.
Assessment: An overall good game from Intelligent Systems. Excellent presentation in graphics, music, sound quality, and writing. The gameplay (especially combat) is essentially dumbed down from previous games which seriously hurts the score. And as gameplay is the most important aspect of any game, it's more than just hurting; it stings. Exploration is top notch, though. A few little hiccups in some rewards, but sidequests and replayability are good.
7/10, as defined by GameFAQs: a few problems, but worth the time to play. If the flaws were less minor, it would be 8/10.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Paper Mario: Sticker Star (US, 11/11/12)
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