Mario has had numerous adventures both within the Mushroom Kingdom and in kingdoms both near and far away. In many of these adventures, he is accompanied by his brother Luigi. He’s even had an adventure with his younger self within Partners in Time. This time, he is adventuring with another version of himself in the form of Paper Mario. Paper Jam is a combination of the Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi series. Both Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series are games where the focus is on the story and character development as opposed to his platforming games.
The Mario & Luigi series is known more for its humorous and engaging story. The story begins with Toad wanting to stop a draft from entering Peach’s castle. Luigi is on the scene to assist, however, he clumsily hit the bookshelf knocking it over. One of the books just happened to be the entire world of Paper Mario. The entire book gets emptied and the paper world is merged with the Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser meets his paper self, and after some comical fighting, they agree to kidnap the princesses. They storm the castle and capture Peach and her paper self. This may sound like the typical Mario storyline for a game, but there are new parts where Peach and Bowser show some character development. For example, I really enjoyed seeing that Peach is fed up getting captured time and time again. I also loved seeing Bowser fight with his paper self as it provided some corny dialogue including asking if he would like a Hertz donut. I loved that Paper Jam stayed true to the Mario & Luigi series with comical humor and a fun storyline.
To those familiar with the Mario & Luigi series, the gameplay really has not had major changes. Mario and Luigi adventure through various worlds full of question blocks, enemies, and interactive elements. They collect various items and gear so that they are prepared for every battle against Bowser’s minions. The battles are standard turn-based combat with the familiar jump, hammer, items and bros attack options. Some of the new battle elements to Paper Jam include battle cards, amiibo cards and Trio attacks.
The battle cards are an interesting addition to combat. The player earns star points for performing attacks against their foes. These points can then be spent on these battle cards. Throughout the battle, three cards will be shown to the player on the touch screen and any of these three cards can be selected for use. Each card contains different uses for the battle. For example, there are cards that will restore health or bros points or you may find cards that increase attack power or defense for a limited time. There are even cards that can lower the enemies’ defense or attack power or even directly damage the enemies. The player also has the option to fold over a card if they do not wish to use it. I really enjoyed this addition as it adds a new layer of strategy to the battle as I could use a card to restore health as opposed to passing up a turn to use items. While the cards will disappear after use, there are various shops that sell additional cards along with finding them.
The amiibo cards are similar to the battle cards with the various uses each card has. However, these are not bound to star points, so I could use up all my amiibo cards without wasting my star points. The amiibo cards can be found throughout the game or also can be purchased from particular shops. However in order to use the card, I had to have an amiibo handy to create the card and then to store the card as data on the amiibo. Since the card is written to the amiibo, the player cannot have other data associated this amiibo. I found this to be limiting in this regard as data from either Mario Party 10 or Super Smash Bros would have to be erased prior to use within Paper Jam. The amiibo cards work very similarly to the battle cards by providing bonuses to the heroes or negative affects to your foes.
The trio attacks are simply an extension of the bros attacks but they include Paper Mario in the attack. While the basic bros attacks are still present for Mario and Luigi to select, Paper Mario gets the command block to initiate the trio attacks that use all three characters. If Mario or Luigi is knocked out, the trio attack cannot be used. Players will be happy to know that all trio and bros attacks can still be demoed and practiced within any battle. I rather enjoyed seeing this option return as the boss battles required me to perform the moves flawlessly to deal mega damage. I also enjoyed the new trio moves as it required additional coordination to perform the attack flawlessly.
In addition to the trio attack option for Paper Mario, he also has another unique ability which is the copy option. He can create five additional copies of himself. How this works is when using the jump or hammer attack, he gets to attack up to six times depending how many copies are left. I use the term ‘left’ as when Paper Mario is damaged by enemies, his copies are defeated first before lowering his HP. I enjoyed this new ability as it allowed Paper Mario to be stronger when attacking, and I would need to be better at dodging or countering the enemy attacks. I found this to be a great way to balance his character with Mario and Luigi.
The main non-battle addition to the game was the addition of various mini-games. I found this to be a tedious addition as they are required to progress the story. For instance, within each world of the game, you will come across a toad village. Within the village, there will be a Lakitu house which allows these toad mini-games to be initiated. These mini-games are where I have to locate a particular number of paper toads or normal toads. Each area has two or three scenarios where the toads have to be caught, corralled or found and sometimes within a specified time limit. I found these scenarios to be on the annoying side as it felt like a time waster from the adventure. These toad quests are essential as the rescued toads help out the bros by building massive papercraft creations. The papercrafts are used as the giant characters in which the bros battle Bowser’s minions own giant papercraft.
Those that have played a Mario & Luigi series game know that Mario’s actions are tied to the A button with Luigi’s actions being tied to the B button. Paper Mario is controlled with the Y button, both within the over-world and in battle. As with prior entries in the series, the controls suit the game perfectly. Since Paper Mario is along on the adventure, there is now a button to make all three bros jump together. I found this makes many of the platforming elements easier to do than having to hit each button in succession. While this ‘all jump’ button has its uses, there are some jumps that do require each button to be pressed in succession as this makes each character jump higher. I also found if the new 3DS XL is used with the game; there are quick buttons to restore HP or bros points automatically.
As Paper Jam is the second entry in the Mario & Luigi series to appear on the Nintendo 3DS, I cannot say I saw an improvement with the graphics. However, that does not indicate that the visuals are unacceptable. As with Dream Team, the sprites are fully detailed along with each portion of the map. I have always enjoyed the art style of this series. The areas where elements from the paper series are present, look incorporated well and mixed in perfectly. I have also enjoyed the cartoon like graphics as in one of the opening scenes, Bowser and Paper Bowser fight within a cloud of dust and occasionally an arm or head would pop out of the dust.
Many of the classic tunes return in this entry to series. Tracks like the theme for inside Peach’s Castle, the typical battle theme and a remixed version of the underground theme. There are plenty of new tracks as well as each of the areas is brand new. The Mario & Luigi series is known for a quality soundtrack, and I enjoyed the returning tracks alongside the new ones. Also returning within Paper Jam is the jibberish that Mario and Luigi speak. I have always enjoyed this aspect as it adds to the silliness and humor this series has enjoyed since the Gameboy Advance.
Paper Jam is a delightful mixture of the Mario & Luigi series and the Paper Mario series. I felt that the game maintains the enjoyable aspects of the series such as the turn-based battles, giant battles, silly story and a quality soundtrack. I found the new elements such as the battle cards, amiibo cards, and trio attacks make the battles more enjoyable. While I did not care for the toad mini-games, it did not detract from the overall enjoyment I got from the game. I would recommend this game to fans of the Mario & Luigi series along with the Paper Mario series. This is a solid Mario RPG game that can be enjoyed by all.
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10