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August 10, 2015

Super Paper Mario (Part 8)

Super Paper Mario review
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4
Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8

Something weird happened last Friday… Let’s not talk about it ever again. However, it seems I'm a lot happier than before. I guess I mostly had to get my anger out on something. This doesn't make right every moment of anger I had in the past; but if anything, I hope this means I won't have as many moments of anger in the future.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Just ask Bowser. Every time
he went giant he'd still get his ass kicked.
So, Super Dimentio’s invincibility has been removed. It’s time to defeat evil! Mario, Peach and Bowser use everything they got (their personal abilities and the Pixls), and finally defeat Super Dimentio. I mean, it’s not like he’s all that hard. 200 Hit Points, in an action RPG, it’s really not that much. Sure, Dimentio is powerful, but all things considered he pretty much plays like the second Brobot. Pretty quickly, Dimentio is defeated, and the fusion dissolves back into Luigi and the Chaos Heart.

It seems love isn't two hearts together, it's eight
hearts getting together to stop an evil one from
destroying the Multiverse.
However, Dimentio decides that if he can’t have the Multiverse, he better destroy it! The Chaos Heart is still at work! We need something to stop it! Bleck, having regained some strength, hatches a plan. He teleports the whole group – his ex-enemies and his underlings, minus Dimentio of course – to the altar at the beginning of the game, where he “married” Princess Peach and Bowser! They make a quick ceremony where Bleck – oh, pardon me, Blumiere – finally gets to marry Tippi – oh, I mean Timpani. Silly me, I still have to get used to their actual names… Their love is so pure that it ultimately undoes the Chaos Heart’s power, destroys the Void and restores every world. Now, one week ago, I would have allowed myself to make a joke about this “power of love” thing, but in all honesty, I think I can accept it in the context of this game.

Nastasia... you should smile more often.
You're a cute Pixelly character when you smile.
And I honestly don't mean that as a joke.
As a result, the group is back in Flipside… well, everyone minus Dimentio (obviously), Blumiere and Timpani. Nastasia wakes up, too! And there was much rejoicing from O’Chunks and Mimi. Nastasia confirms that Blumiere and Timpani aren’t dead, either; they are alive, somewhere, finally together. And then Nastasia breaks down crying. Aw, poor her. But in the end, evil was defeated, so Merlon invites everyone over at Saffron’s for a victory banquet. The group leaves… roll credits. After the end credits, we see two silhouettes in the distance… with one of them wearing a top hat.

*sob* I promised to myself that I wouldn’t cry!

So, this is the end of the game. After this point, you can still go back to every level, talk to every character (again, minus Dimentio, Blumiere or Timpani). Officially, the game is over. Boy, I hope the next Paper Mario is as awesome as this one!


That was a goof, Miyamoto!

So, if you want to explore everything that is yet to be found in this game, you’ll spend numerous hours completing side-quests and bonus dungeons. Here’s a list.
-With the Sammer’s Kingdom back, you can finally go and try to defeat all 100 Sammer Guys. It’s a tough fight, bring plenty of Ultra Shroom Shakes.
-You can also access both Pits of 100 Trials. In the first one, you encounter almost every regular enemy seen in the game. There’s a resting area every 10th floor so you can maybe buy stuff or go back to Flipside. On Floor 100, you fight a stronger version of Fracktail, the robot dragon at the end of Chapter 1. This one’s named Wracktail and would be more difficult, if Luigi’s super jump didn't make it so easy to punch its lights out. The Flopside Pit is a special case; all the enemies are pitch-black, featureless versions of regular enemies. They are also much stronger, having more HP and higher attack power. Once again, there are 100 floors with a resting area every 10th floor, and trust me you’ll need it. When you get to Floor #100, you are told you must reach the Flopside Pit’s Floor 100 a second time to see the boss. So do that (beat the Flopside Pit in its entirety a second time), and you face Shadoo, a shapeshifter pitch-black creature who goes through shapes of all four heroes, also gaining their abilities. This boss has 400 HP, 100 for each form, and is definitely harder then Super Dimentio. It’s quite an achievement to beat it. Good luck! As a fun fact, if you do go and beat both Pits (including the Flopside Pit twice) before heading off to the final Chapter, you WILL find Bleck and Super Dimentio ridiculously easy, even easier than I felt they were.
Don't try, Shadoo, you're not scaring us.
We've had to deal with much more annoying shapeshifters.
-Some guy in Flopside sells about 20 different maps leading to places in the game. Visit these places, then use Fleep on the region marked with an X to discover brand-new Catch Cards. It’s not the longest side-quest, but it’s necessary to complete the Catch Card collection. It’s also a good reason to revisit the levels in the game, which are more lacking in enemies and content now that the Story Mode is over. Of course, getting all Catch Cards is a challenge all to itself, which forces the player to find every secret passageway in the entire game.
-Getting all of Safron and Dyllis’ recipes. For this, you need money, and you need to revisit every shop in the game. It’s an extremely difficult mission, and you’ll most likely need a guide to get everything. It’s hard as Hell, and there’s a lot of exploration required. A lot of coins, too (THOUSANDS, in fact), so you might have to harvest cash by going in the more enemy-populated levels.
All 13 Pixls. Enjoy!
-Last but not least, getting the remaining Pixls. There’s the one in Chapter 3-1 hiding in the bushes. There’s the musical one that can be unlocked by completing a relatively long chain of small quests that gives you a key to a locked door in Flopside. That Pixl changes the music, but it can also cure status effects. Then there's Dashell, which you unlock by completing the Flipside Pit of 100 Trials. It... allows you to run. That's all. Bummer. Finally, there’s Tiptron, Francis’ robotic version of Tippi (Thank GOD he didn’t call it Francine!). It serves the same purpose as Tippi: Revealing info on characters, objects and enemies. That’s especially useful in the Flopside Pit, where the pitch-black enemies are often unidentifiable. Oh, you need to buy it for 999 coins. The maximum in the game.

If you want, you can also go chat with O’Chunks, Mimi or Nastasia. Not that they’ll talk about much, but it’s still pretty neat. Most NPCs in the game are still where you find them, so have a blast. Hell, for some reason, even Luvbi is alive! Don’t ask. Even the game acknowledges this makes no sense. I still don’t like Luvbi, but hey, everyone deserves a happy ending…

A final thing, the four mini-games available are:
-Forget-Me-Not, a “find the pairs” game with some power-ups to make it easier.
-Mansion Patrol, where you, as Toad, have to shoot plenty of Boos in a haunted mansion. My least favorite mini-game.
-Tilt Island, you tilt the island so that Mario can pick up food and avoid the baddies falling. You get bonuses if you only collected one type of food. There are also power-ups here. It’s my favorite mini-game here.
-Hammer Whacker, where Koopa Strikers are tossing giant shells at Mario and he has to knock them back with a hammer. The closer it is to Mario when he hammers it, the more points you get.
I'll smash it with a HAMMAH!
Those four mini-games are fun, but the fact that you have to pay to play them, and the small selection, makes them really a minor part of the game, one that will probably not be used much. Well, unless you want the InterNed’s prizes.

Alright, I think this covered everything. Final thoughts?

This game is marvelous, beautiful, awesome, amazing, grand and great. Let me throw my dictionary of synonyms aside and continue. Yes, this is a good game, no questions asked. I’ll be the first to acknowledge I’ve been openly negative about it. But it’s a good game. It really is. Going down the list of tropes and clichés that I deeply despise, this game makes me cross more of those than other games do. I chalk it up to the “Chosen One” and “Jesus symbolism” stuff, as those are the main tropes that bring all the others into play. Also, there are numerous moments that also greatly annoy me, such as all the moments where the plot forces the characters to act stupid. I mean, when we know it’s Mimi, we still have to play her little game? Ah, come on. TVTropes has a term for that: Idiot Ball. That’s when characters are written to act stupider for certain plots to be forced upon them, plots that wouldn’t happen if the characters used their brains. Then there are plenty of small details that irk me through the plot. The brothers from Chapter 1-2 come to my mind… Oh, don’t get me wrong, I can accept jokes. I can also choose not to find certain things funny. Same goes for Francis, who I still don’t like all that much, but the post-game scenes kinda try to show him in a slightly better light… Same goes for Luvbi, who seems less annoying after her revival.

I still don’t like much of the story in this game and the slew of Messianic tropes it carries (it's been done so often it's become an annoyance to me), but I must say it brings up a good point about love. After all, many of the villains represent a twisted, impure form of love. There’s Mimi’s vanity, Francis’s treating of women as trophies, King Croacus who got polluted and became narcissistic as a result, and I’m sure the list could get longer. But in the end, not only does friendship and loyalty save the day (by removing the final boss’s invincibility), true love saves the multiverse. Call it sappy if you want. But in a strange way, the whole game had been building up to that conclusion.

This guy should leave his place and look for a lizard girl.

This green rectangle is the screen you'll see the most.
My only other major problem with this game is that you always have to pause. Like, all the time. You have to switch from Mario to Peach to float across a large gap, then back to Mario for a 3D section, then to Bowser to use the fire breath, then switch to Cudge to hammer an enemy that can’t be killed otherwise, then pause to select Carrie to move across a spiked floor… see what I mean? Through Story Mode, especially near the end, you’re always switching between the 4 playable characters, and you’re always switching between the many Pixls who joined your team. Add to this that Mario’s flip to 3D is the most important ability in the game, so much that you can’t spend long without using it, and by extension, without using Mario himself. Which means he still has a greater role than the others.

I do have quite a number of nitpicks as well: You must pay to play the mini-games. The shops are located all over Flipside/Flopside and sometimes in the game’s levels (and you need to remember what each shop sells if you want to complete the cooking side-quest). Said side-quest is, by the way, nearly impossible without a guide. There is too much backtracking in certain levels during Story Mode. The Cursyas are annoying as Hell. The password in Chapter 5-2 is insanely long, you’ll have to have a piece of paper on standby, not a good thing. Traveling around Flipside and Flopside can take some time, even after a special pipe has been installed. Some levels become boring post-Story Mode, as the plot-related events are done and many rooms end up either empty or with a lot less enemies. Chapter 7-3 is way too freaking long, the very definition of a marathon level. It’s difficult to jump on 2D characters while in 3D Mode, the perspective makes it complicated. You can’t fight against any bosses again after they’ve been defeated. And most bosses are a little too easy to defeat... But that’s all minor stuff.

Everything else is great. The gameplay: Awesome. As much as I hate having to switch all the time, Mario and Co. having all these abilities makes them very fun to play. Not to mention that having the right character and Pixl at the same time can lead to game-breaking combos. Bowser is slow? Not on Carrie, he isn’t! And he can breathe fire even in the middle of a jump when he’s standing on that Pixl! Luigi’s super jump becomes a great weapon against flying enemies, including Bleck, or those whose weak points are located higher, like Bonechill. Hell, just having Princess Peach, Bowser AND Luigi as playable characters makes this game better in my opinion. But, more than anything else, the gameplay is FUN. That’s all I ask for, really.

Flamm demands that you complete
his side-quest.
Oh hey, he has a South Park Canadian
face too!

The choice of side-quests is great, playing through all of them will add many hours to your play total. If you’re persistent, you can do everything and find all the recipes, all the catch cards and all the hidden treasure chests. I know I did that the first time I beat that game. The Pits of 100 Trials are great bonus dungeons, and the Sammer Guys Challenge is a fun post-Story Mode fight.

The graphics are beautiful. 2D and 3D don’t fight for power here, they complete each other near-perfectly. And it’s a treat to look at a zone in 2D, then flip and look at it in 3D. Not to mention that’s practically required if you want to find every secret. Now, the puzzles based around flipping could become rather complicated, but it’s otherwise a very neat feature and the level designers used as much of their creativity as possible. They did every possible puzzle one could do with this ability. Same goes for the music; it’s so great you could make playlists out of the best tunes in this game. And then there's all the incredibly creative character designs, the bosses, the creatures who mix 2D and 3D, and the environments... Just so much creativity, that's awesome. The soundtrack in Super Paper Mario is generally regarded as excellent, an opinion I agree with.

The large selection of items, the controls (all with only the Wii remote!), the NPCs (well, most of them; some are better than others. Looking at you, the Bridge Brothers!), the even larger selection of enemies (over a hundred!)… Point to just about any aspect of this game, minus the story, and I’ll tell you it’s good. It’s just a good action RPG. And those who complain because it’s not a straight RPG like the other Paper Mario games, well… seriously, how about you play it before complaining. Look, I’m ready to admit Super Paper Mario is not perfect, but the flaws I see have nothing to do with this being an action RPG. On the contrary, I think it greatly mixes Mario’s platforming roots with the complexity of RPG adventures. And if you don’t want to accept it this way, if you don’t want to give it a chance, then you are a sad, strange little person, and you have my pity.

So, outside of its problematic storytelling, Super Paper Mario has basically everything that makes a great game. I sincerely suggest you play through it someday. You might not like every aspect of it, and that’s perfectly fine. As long as, in the end, blind hatred doesn’t cloud your judgment and you are able to see the good and the bad, and not only one of them. I learned that hating for the sake of hating is pointless. Sure, it’s funny to watch and read, but it’s pointless. And no matter how much bad you see, there will always be the good to balance it. And sometimes, you just have to search for it. But rest assured that for every awful story, there are many great ones. For every piece of crap, there’s an acclaimed masterpiece. For every bad video game film, there’s a handful of good ones waiting to be seen. And for any media out there, especially animated media like films or games, even if a story isn't top-notch doesn't mean everything else in that oeuvre is also terrible; on the contrary, the rest could salvage it. Never fall into negativism as I so often did, and most of all, never forget to smile.

And this closes the second anniversary review for Planned All Along. I hope you enjoyed. We’re gonna start the third year with a game called Fishing Master: World Tour, and then we’ll go into more games and series I still haven’t discussed. This year, I hope to review more visual novel video games, more M-rated games, and possibly one or two Pokémon games.

See you soon!