Title: Mario & Luigi Paper Jam
Developer: Alpha Dream, Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: Digital | Retail
EU Availability: Digital | Retail
Block Usage: 4,100
The Mario franchise and the RPG genre are no strangers to one another. Super Mario RPG back on the Super Nintendo is one of the highest praised games in the franchise. That’s not what I think of when I think of Mario RPGs, though. There are two more recent franchises that I think when I put Mario in with my favorite genre. One is Paper Mario, which began on the Nintendo 64. The other is the Mario + Luigi franchise.
Mario + Luigi started on the GBA with what I would argue to be the greatest game to ever hit the handheld. The initial game was Superstar Saga and incorporated not only RPG elements but made base elements of the Mario franchise, from jumping to hammers work, and very well within the RPG formula. It went on to inspire two sequels on the Nintendo DS and two sequels on the Nintendo 3DS, one of which I’m about to talk about.
Paper Mario and Mario + Luigi have crossed over for the first time, and that’s today’s review. Thanks to the ever-supportive crew at Nintendo of America for providing me with a review code, here is my official review of Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam!
Paper Jam starts out like any Mario game could. Luigi is trying to do some cleaning and gets scared because he’s in the dark. In a stumbling chase with a mouse, he knocks over a secret book within Peach’s castle, which holds the world of the Paper Mario universe within it. As the book opens, people, enemies, and more start shooting out and filling the 3D Mushroom Kingdom with 2D, paper copies from the other dimension. Among these are Paper Mario himself and, of course, his equally-flat nemesis, Paper Bowser.
Before long, Mario and Luigi are sent off to collect all of the paper people and return them to their world. However, as much as you’d expect, Bowser meets his Paper double and they team up to take down Mario once and for all.
The story of the game is quite comical and will definitely keep you entertained. There are some overused Mario cliché, like Luigi’s fear of, well, everything. However you’ll be laughing from seeing Paper Peach easily escape a 3D cage to Bowser and Paper Bowser exchanging insults.
Just like Dream Team before it, Paper Jam is a 3D turn-based RPG with platforming and adventure elements thrown into the mix. The graphics system is comparable to Dream Team, and the world progression and all around looks of everything look very similar, aside from the Paper elements.
Basic progression has you roaming from area to area, looking for story events to spawn and Paper Toads to rescue. It’s got a similar amount of progression as previous games, though with one change. You will occasionally get to a roadblock, requiring some new item or equipment to get past. In games like Superstar Saga, you would go on a side-quest across the world, dungeons, and bosses to acquire items, much like how you got stones to make Hammers in SSS.
This game, however, has you doing Toad Missions every time this happens. Basically, the idea is that you rescue enough Paper Toads that they can be used to create whatever equipment or item you need. This is a nice idea of blending the Paper Mario elements in, but it does get a bit excessive over time. By the time you do your second or third dozenth mission, it’s really tiring to go and do the same kind of thing again and again. In other words, the Toad Missions easily get repetitive.
Whenever you encounter an enemy, you take part in turn-based battles. How these progress anyone who’s played a Mario + Luigi game will recognize. You take turns and can do actions that require button input and timing. When enemies move, they will move and you can dodge and counter attacks with good timing. The exception with this game is that Paper Mario is with Mario and Luigi, and he adds some new elements to the gameplay system.
First is Paper Mario, himself. All of his abilities relies on him either making a dozen copies of himself and going into an extensive combo or getting special abilities where all three characters go into mini-games in order to fight off bosses. These mini-games could range from playing tennis with the enemy plastered on the wall or a boss doing a chase sequence where Mario and Luigi use Paper Mario’s airplane form to avoid attacks.
The next big element he adds are Papercraft Battles. In these battles you are riding on a giant Papercraft Mario in a 3D arena fighting other giant Papercraft enemies. This has a much more fighter feel to it. You run up to enemies and attack them until they fall over. Then, you can do a finisher move where you throw your papercraft onto them to do HP damage. You then retrieve your Papercraft and continue until all enemies and bosses are defeated.
The final addition and thing that you may not enjoy are Cards. You can use Cards to enhance battle and it really helps you easily become quite powerful in combat. The problem is that a lot of cards are only obtainable by using Mario-themed Amiibo figures on your 3DS. There are two bad things about this. First of all, not all 3DS models use Amiibo, and not all people have Mario-themed Amiibo. This is somewhat of an exclusive feature that requires you to buy Amiibos for.
The first time you do this, it’s a lot of fun. However, this is another thing to note. Papercraft battles get very long very quickly. When you get deeper in the game, the battles can be so long that it turns into a chore just to get through them. If you enjoy them, then it’s not a problem, but if you don’t absolutely love this type of combat, you’ll be dreading them by the end of the game.
Speaking of the end of the game, Paper Jam will last you around 30 hours, which is a very nice length for an RPG. It’s not too short, but not too long, either. Granted that you might be sick of the Toad Missions by this point that you just want it to end, it’s a good RPG length.
The game isn’t very hard to control. First, let’s go into the New 3DS buttons. ZL and ZR are both used, and both do the same thing. These extra triggers can be pressed for a prompt to use items you have to restore your party’s HP. Then, we have the C Stick. This is for camera control, sort of. The map on the bottom screen can be moved around with the C Stick. It doesn’t affect the top screen where you’re exploring, but just that mini-map.
The D-Pad is not used for movement outside of menus. The Circle Pad is used for moving around both during mini-games and in the field. Then you’ve got the L and R triggers that are used to toggle the lead character between jump and hammer mode when you need to use your hammer to solve puzzles. Then, the face buttons. A, B, and Y are used for actions for Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario, respectively. X is used for using all three of them in a jump or a dash. Finally, the Start and Select buttons open the customization menu.
I’ll admit that using Y for Paper Mario did take some getting used to, but overall, the control scheme worked nicely.
Visually, I would say there’s virtually no difference between this game and Dream Team. Not that it’s bad. The visuals look really nice, especially with how they differentiated and made the paper characters and environments look so out of place in the 3D world. Music is about on par with what you’d expect as well, from either franchise that this cross-over shows. Lots of remixes of older Mario music along with new.
Performance, I have no issues with. The game doesn’t struggle, nor does it have long load times. This is pretty much expected out of a Mario game, but worth it to mention, all the same.