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Paper Mario (Wii Virtual Console)

Also available on Wii U and of course the Nintendo 64, but I generally list the platform I played the game on the last time.

Since Nintendo and Squaresoft broke up during the end of the SNES era, someone else had to step up to create the second Mario RPG. If only the N64 library was considered, Paper Mario is easily the best RPG on the system. But this would be selling the game short, because it stacks up well against pretty much everything else out there at the time.

Mario engages in turn-based battles with one of eight possible partners (goomba, koopa, lakitu etc.) for what amounts to single-digit damage throughout most of the game. While this may sound like child's play, the exact and predictable calculation of damage points provides more strategical depth than the usual damage range in other RPGs. You can plan ahead without leaving anything to coincidence and from there it's only a matter of execution. Press the right buttons at the right time to increase your damage output and reduce the damage you receive. Simple, but brilliant. What adds a significant layer to the combat is the badge system which is similar to the ability system in Final Fantasy IX. You can freely allocate points to additional moves and perks to suit your playstyle. The only downside to the battle system is that during the first hour of play you are limited to the basics.

Other negative points? Item management and cooking. Mario can only carry up to ten items and the item storage that is available in the stores across the world forces you to move back and forth only one item at a time instead of allowing you to move them in batches. Cooking features a total of 50 recipes which for the most part are trial and error, so the only sensible course of action for completionists is to turn to a guide.

Aside from those points, Paper Mario is a high quality RPG. Every area you travel to offers plenty of secrets, the dungeons feature interesting puzzles and the bosses are challenging. The more you explore, the more badges you get access to, the more versatile your battle options are. All the gameplay elements feed off each other and form a coherent whole.

Controls 10 A wide variety of action commands to increase the efficiency
of attacks, and all of them work.
Gameplay   An RPG with only two party members at any given time, but
the badge system allows customisation for many playstyles.
Story   Many goofy characters and witty writing create a likeable world.
Mario doesn't talk, because actions speak louder than words.
Single-player   Everything an RPG needs is in this game. Most noteworthy
downside: The battle options start off a bit slow.
Multiplayer   Not
Graphics   No technical marvel and still occasional framerate drops.
Art style was very fresh at its time.
Sound   Remixes of typical Mario melodies and plenty of new
music. Can't really ask for much more than that.
Value   With a good 20 hours this is one of the shorter RPGs, but
there's no grinding that stretches the content.
Replay Value   EXP scale based on Mario's level, so many battles can be skipped.
The character customisation allows different successful strategies.
Score 9 Intelligent Systems' take on the Mario RPG handily beats
Squaresoft's spiritual predecessor for the SNES.

Legend11 correctly predicted that GTA IV (360+PS3) would outsell SSBB. I was wrong.

A Biased Review Reloaded / Open Your Eyes / Switch Gamers Club