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GN Podcast #470

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GoNintendo Review - Paper Mario: Sticker Star



I wanted to make sure I got the review up in a timely manner. I'll pretty it up with some screens later in the day. For now, enjoy the giant wall of text!

The Paper Mario series has always been one that brings innovation and a unique style. I have come to truly love the series over the years, even though I'm not much of an RPG fan. The games in this franchise always bring such a fantastic sense of humor with them. It's easy to see just how much care goes into making stories/dialog that really feel warm and engaging. A charm you just don't get anywhere else.

Within the confines of the Paper Mario series, Nintendo has taken things in some different directions. Super Paper Mario really did away with almost all of the RPG elements that had been a series' staple up to that point. That didn't sit well with a lot of people. That also puts the pressure on Paper Mario Sticker Star to twist things back in the previous direction.

I can definitely say that Paper Mario Sticker Star has more RPG to it than Super Paper Mario. I can also say that the RPG elements here aren't in line with what you've played in previous entries. Sticker Star puts its own wrinkle on the battle system of previous Paper Mario games. What you end up with is something you won't experience anywhere else. It's also something that you'll most likely love or hate.

Actually, that could be said for Paper Mario Sticker Star in general. It carves its own path moreso than any other Paper Mario game before it. While the paper aesthetic is there, the game itself broadens its horizons by piecing together a title that offers up multiple fresh mechanics while trying to stay familiar. For me, it ends up being one of Nintendo's most ambitious and entertaining outings yet. With that said, I can fully understand how some people might not like the direction this title takes things.


Those of you reading this review most likely know the big change in Paper Mario Sticker Star. Gone are the battle mechanics of previous Paper Mario games. What you instead have is a sticker system that doesn't match up to anything else I've ever played, RPG or otherwise. There are some recognizable gameplay elements like timed button presses for extra oomph, but how you actually battle is something you'll constantly learn as you play.

Sticker management is going to be key to your experience in Paper Mario Sticker Star. If you don't have a sticker in your collection, you're not going to be able to battle. You simply can't fight without stickers. Lucky for you, there are stickers all over the place. You'll find them stuck to tress, hidden behind bushes, locked away in blocks and even falling to the ground after enemy battles. Stickers will always seem plentiful, and a new batch of freshly-stuck stickers will be available in levels when you revisit them.

That doesn't mean you can't get yourself into a situation where you'll run out of stickers. That gets harder and harder to do when you get deeper into the game, since you'll earn more notebook pages to hold stickers. Even with those pages, you could stumble upon a collection of enemies or boss battles that have you depleting your collection through a string of bad choices.

Sticker Star offers a truly deep experience with its battles. While you can find stickers all over the place, finding the right stickers for a battle is paramount. Some enemies have spikes, which means a regular boot sticker will result in you hurting yourself. A hammer sticker won't do a single bit of damage when a Koopa Troopa is in his shell, but it could smack him into other enemies. Try a hammer attack on a flying enemy and you'll find yourself with a wasted opportunity. These situations crop up as you play, and sometimes you'll have to learn through trial and error.

Every single sticker counts, and collecting the right stickers is going to be something you'll have to keep a close watch one. Why keep a regular boot sticker when you find a shiny sticker? Yes, there are shiny and rainbow versions of stickers, which mean you'll pack more of a wallop. Run out of space in your sticker book and you'll have to do some management. Pick/choose what stickers to toss out and replace them with better versions. Even the size of the sticker itself factors into your collection. Some stickers are bigger than other, requiring more space in your book. Just make sure you use those bigger attacks in situations where they'll get you the most bang for your buck!

Speaking of bucks (perfect segue!), another element to the battle system involves the battle spinner. You'll have the option to grab yourself not one, not two, but three chances to attack in a row. You can make three bashes to the enemies before they even get a second to bust you. All it takes is a little cash. Well actually, it takes a lot of cash. You have to spend coins to win the chance for a second hit. This is all done with a slot machine-like game. Match two icons and you get two slots. Match three and you'll have three chances to attack. You can even spend more coins to slow down the battle spinner, which gives you a better chance of matching all three slots.

I've got news for you. You better spend some time collecting cold, hard coins. You'll want a nice bit of bank for when you take on boss battles. Sometimes battling bosses one turn at a time will never, ever get you to victory. There are fights where you absolutely have to have two attack slots or more to even win. In some instances, shelled enemies can flip over after just one attack, never giving you the chance to actually hurt them. You need two turns in a row. One to flip, then one to smash the fleshy underbelly. It's battle elements like this that show you just how deep the experience can go.

Furthermore, the game will even belittle you a bit if you use too many stickers during a boss battle. Even if you win, you'll learn that you might have been able to take out that boss in a smarter way, meaning the job could have been completed without reducing your sticker collection to scraps. Messages like this may seem a bit harsh, but they teach you to fight smart and not hard. It also pays to fight smart, because that means you won't have to replenish double the stickers by either collecting or buying them.

As you most likely know, you're not going to get experience points from battle. You don't level up for beating a certain number of enemies. All you can hope to get are stickers and coins. That may seem like a waste of time, convincing you to blow past enemies and finish levels. Go ahead and try that...see how well it works out. When you get into major battles without access to the battle spinner, or battles where you have only a few coins to use, you'll realize that you've made a huge mistake.

I love...LOVE the battle system in Sticker Star. It can be harsh and unforgiving, but that's because it wants you to learn how to use it. There's a method to the madness here. Whether you decide to use all that's offered to your advantage is up to you. It'll make for a fantastically enjoyable experience, especially when you learn what stickers to use and when. Wasting sticker after sticker after each use is no fun, especially when each sticker is only good for one turn. Take the time to learn what works and why it does. Trust me, you'll be much better for it.

Those extra large stickers you find can be the perfect way to finish off a boss. They might also be the only way for you to progress in the game. While there are certainly some stickers in Sticker Star that are optional, there are others that you'll absolutely need to collect in order to keep the story moving along. Most of these stickers come from real-world items that need to be paperized.

For reasons that I'll not get into, there are real-world items dropping into the Paper Mario universe. A baseball bat here, a vacuum there. If's up to you to collect these items and turn them into stickers. This can be done in the game's hub world. You simply visit a specific person that helps you get that job done. Then you paperize the game world (with the single press of a button), drop your real-world item onto the screen and it gets turned into a sticker. Now you can harness the power of that real-world item in sticker form.

As I said, sometimes you'll have to do this in order to progress through the game. This is where I really, REALLY enjoy Sticker Star. The game does a great job of making you think of how to solve issues with stickers. It doesn't hit you over the head with the answers. You actually have to stop and figure these things out on your own. You can always get some help from an in-game partner with the press of the L button, but even then you might not get all the clues you need. Sticker Star hearkens back to a time where gamers had to use a bit more brain power and a little less hand-holding.

Again, this is another element of the game that some people might not enjoy at all. To be completely honest, I had more than a few members of the press reach out to me with questions about how to progress in the game. They couldn't figure out how to access a new level or find what they needed to do in order to move things forward. This elements of the game can range from opening the next level to finding secret exits in worlds prior.

What's the key to not getting stuck and frustrated? All you have to do is take your time. That's something I think a lot of gamers have trouble doing nowadays. We're all used to rushing through with little resistance, with games telling us exactly where things are and what we need to do with them. Hidden elements are relegated to collect-a-thons that only serve to get us an imaginary achievement. Sticker Star forces you to use your mind, take your time and think things out.

Here's a good example of how Sticker Star makes you work for your progress. At one point in the game, you'll have to collect three 'things' to create a door. This door allows you access to the boss battle in a world. You can't progress much in the game without opening up that boss battle. It's up to you to find out where these things are hidden. This means actually talking to in-game people, exploring hidden areas and looking for access to levels off the beaten path. You even have to hunt down treasure chests that may seem like they offer optional prizes, but you'll see that they serve a purpose in the main story as you continue.

I love this kind of exploration. I love this kind of gaming. This is the stuff we don't see anymore. I want to scratch my head from time to time. I don't need to be told how to do things and have flashing indicators on screen as to what I should do next. Let me take in the game world. Let me immerse myself in a battle, a puzzle or an obstacle. Sticker Star never asks you to take on impossibly complex puzzles that you'll never figure out on your own. It does ask you to be inquisitive, explore what it offers and seek out answers along the way.

Even the game's soundtrack asks you to keep an open mind. From the moment I heard the first couple songs in Sticker Star, I knew I would love it. I mean absolutely LOVE it. It's my kind of music...but I can't even tell you what genre it is! I actually had other friends/family listen to the tunes to try and label them. There's some jazz, there's some funk, there's a bunch of different things meshed together. What I can tell you is, it's not going to be a soundtrack for everyone. I actually think quite a few people will dislike it...and I get that. This soundtrack takes some familiar tunes and twists them in ways you've never heard, genres you've never seen Nintendo approach. There are also brand-new tunes that take on this approach. Personally, I really hope to see a Club Nintendo release of a soundtrack. I'm absolutely dying to know what you'll think of it.

What's the one thing that most people will agree on with Sticker Star? Once again, the story is top-notch and the writing sits among the best that Nintendo has ever pumped out. The localization team truly deserves a pat on the back, as do the original writers. They've absolutely nailed the charm and style that you'll only get from the Paper Mario series. They've even taken the paper theme further this time, both story and gameplay wise. It all makes for a wonderful world that is more realized than ever before. As with the Paper Mario games before it, you're bound to at least chuckle and smirk at what you'll be hit with.

I have no problem discussing the gameplay mechanics, design and music as I did above. What I have a problem with is talking about the story. Paper Mario games have stories and writing that needs to be experienced for yourself. I always make it a point not to spoil major plot points or elements in game stories, but I feel that's even more important in Paper Mario games. Sticker Star is such a joy in this department that it would be downright wrong for me to divulge any details. If you're the kind that absolutely, positively wants to know some of the story elements, please feel free to email me with your questions. With that said, I highly suggest you hold out and experience it for yourself.

That's the question, though. Will you actually experience the game for yourself? Paper Mario Sticker Star takes the Paper Mario series in a new direction. There are a few familiar faces and gameplay elements, but by-and-large, this is a truly fresh take on the franchise. Will you like this title if you didn't like Super Paper Mario? I honestly don't know. You may find yourself longing for Super Paper Mario! You may also feel that this entry is the best yet. The one thing that's for sure is that this game will be a polarizing one. Previous entries in the series have been easy-to-follow slam dunks with most of the gaming press. This time around, don't be surprised to see some ranging opinions.

I like games that change things up. I like games that think outside of the box. To be frank, I didn't think Sticker Star would challenge franchise ideas as much as this title does. Just because things are changed up doesn't mean a game deserves praise. In this case, I happen to feel that the changes made are both interesting and entertaining. I doubt we'll see this system crop up in another Paper Mario game, which truly makes me sad. You may think the opposite once you play. If you don't mind a franchise testing the water with new ideas and different executions, PLEASE dive right into Sticker Star. I find it to be one of the year's best. I won't be alone in that statement, but I bet other reviewers will strongly oppose that statement.

I indeed recommend this title with every inch of my beard. In the same breath, I also have to recommend that players keep an open mind. Don't go into this title with expectations of things going a certain way. You're bound to have your ideas challenged, and for some, that'll result in a poor experience. Be ready for a Paper Mario title that really experiments in ways you haven't seen before.

Discussion Preview
26 total comments (View all)
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:04

I loved all 3 Paper Mario games so far. Definitely looking forward to picking up my Sticker Star pre-order on Sunday. :D RMC, how long did the game last you?
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:15

brilliant review as always RMC, your reviews are some of the best on the internet, truly a joy to read ^.^

PS: i second Eliskor's question :)
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:22

so the score is based off RawmeatCowboy's beard? freaking awesome scoring system.
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:28

....... I'm not sure I would trust the guy that would give the same perfect score as famitsu to kid Icarus uprising.
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:30

Nice review. Interesting to see the differences in opinion between your review and IGN's review. I already pre-ordered this game from Newegg for $29.99 and these two reviews are pretty positive, so I'm excited for next Sunday. :D
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:33

@TheLastBlade
why? butthurt much? he likes the game so what!
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:34

Though I'm wary of the series trying new ideas after Super Paper Mario, it seems Sticker Star has its heart in the right place.

Consider me very excited for Sunday!
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:41

Nice review RMC =D. I'm glad that theres exploring and non-linear stuff. To me it would have been boring without it. I love to explore every corner in rpgs =).
No Avatar
06 Nov 2012 14:44

Really enticing review! I feel like I know exactly what to expect and yet I still cannot wait to play it (with every inch of my beard, naturally)
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 15:20

LegendofSantiago wrote:"I indeed recommend this title with every inch of my beard"
Well you really can't say no to that.
I love the franchise, and although i wouldn't mind more of the same it is nice to see them trying new things.

This. All of it.
I was thinking about not getting the game, but your review makes me want to keep an open mind. I'm gonna go check out some more info about this game.
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 18:40

Nice review, to be sure, but the battle system and seemingly-haphazard puzzles sound absolutely dreadful to me. That combined with other reviews saying that this game really lacks in the story department (read: the main reason I play the Paper Mario games) and I think I'll give this a pass, at least for the time being.
No Avatar
06 Nov 2012 19:43

Eliskor wrote:I loved all 3 Paper Mario games so far. Definitely looking forward to picking up my Sticker Star pre-order on Sunday. :D RMC, how long did the game last you?


Seconded, How long did the game last you RMC or did you just play it for a few/certain amount of hours? etc.

The_King_Up_North wrote:Nice review. Interesting to see the differences in opinion between your review and IGN's review. I already pre-ordered this game from Newegg for $29.99 and these two reviews are pretty positive, so I'm excited for next Sunday. :D


Same here, I pre-ordered from newegg as well and I wish we could get the game this upcoming Sunday because there are no mail delivered on Sundays. I think I will get my copy before the end of next week 11/17 since it's free shipping, so I assume newegg will use the cheapest shipping method
User avatar
06 Nov 2012 22:28

There's a goat and mariachi shy guys.

This will be bought.
No Avatar
06 Nov 2012 23:15

RoboMetalCowboy wrote:this is another element of the game that some people might not enjoy at all. To be completely honest, I had more than a few members of the press reach out to me with questions about how to progress in the game. They couldn't figure out how to access a new level or find what they needed to do in order to move things forward. This elements of the game can range from opening the next level to finding secret exits in worlds prior....

Here's a good example of how Sticker Star makes you work for your progress. At one point in the game, you'll have to collect three 'things' to create a door. This door allows you access to the boss battle in a world. You can't progress much in the game without opening up that boss battle. It's up to you to find out where these things are hidden. This means actually talking to in-game people, exploring hidden areas and looking for access to levels off the beaten path. You even have to hunt down treasure chests that may seem like they offer optional prizes, but you'll see that they serve a purpose in the main story as you continue.

Ugh, this sounds like it could be a deal-killer for me. I've been a bit concerned at the severe lack of new characters and use of very standard-type environments in this game, but am interested in trying it out anyway. At least I was. If this game is truly based around lots of fetch quests and arbitrary, trial-and-error riddles, it will be the first game in the Paper Mario Series I don't even care to play. I like logic puzzles, spatial puzzles, etc., but don't get anything at all from riddles based solely on the ambiguity of affordances and constraints (or in other words, the designers making it unclear exactly what you can do, and what will work). This is the kind of stuff that old point-and-click adventures focused on, and is the reason I largely ignore the genre. Also, I don't appreciate being on an adventure, and then having to stop and go on a prolonged scavenger hunt for various trinkets. I think it totally destroys the momentum and makes the game boring.

RoboMetalCowboy wrote:This is the stuff we don't see anymore.

You know, maybe there's a good reason for that. Maybe most people don't care that much for it.
No Avatar
07 Nov 2012 00:51

I'm still curious, do world bosses still have unique themes like in the other Paper Mario games?
User avatar
07 Nov 2012 05:05

Once I get a 3DS, I'm getting this. I loved the 1st 2 (specifically The Thousand Year Door), and I really liked the 3rd one.

Reading this makes me wish that there was a "hard mode" on The Thousand Year Door. If it had a more challenging mode... I'd probably replay it more. It gets boring playing the game over and over when everything is so easy, like most RPGs (IMO).
User avatar
07 Nov 2012 06:55

@Jerome

Speak for yourself. There are plenty of us out there who think that games have gotten too easy and hand-holdy these days with everything from overly blatant hints, to instant save states, to infinite ammo, lives and continues. It'll be nice to play a game again that harkens back to a time when you actually had to use your head and makes you work for your progress in the game.

I imagine a lot of the reviewers who are complaining about this are younger gamers who grew up on easier games and don't like it when things get too tough.
No Avatar
07 Nov 2012 16:23

FrenchFryGuy wrote:Speak for yourself. There are plenty of us out there who think that games have gotten too easy and hand-holdy these days with everything from overly blatant hints, to instant save states, to infinite ammo, lives and continues. It'll be nice to play a game again that harkens back to a time when you actually had to use your head and makes you work for your progress in the game.

I wasn't referring to general difficulty. The quote I was referring to was in the context of RMC discussing the arbitrary, trial-and-error style puzzles in the game. That kind of puzzle structure was a big component of old point-and-click adventures, which declined a lot in popularity from their heyday.

FrenchFryGuy wrote:I imagine a lot of the reviewers who are complaining about this are younger gamers who grew up on easier games and don't like it when things get too tough.

Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe they're like me. I grew up with the NES and SNES, and can handle some difficulty, but I don't give a flip for puzzles whose difficulty relies only on scrounging for unknown but necessary items, and deciphering the arbitrary whims of a developer.
User avatar
09 Nov 2012 16:37

It's really neat-o being different and all, I will enjoy the puzzle-elements this game has to offer! But, I got to wait until Christmas :( because of the Wii U Launch LOL
User avatar
09 Nov 2012 16:37

You can edit comments, but can't delete THEM?
No Avatar
09 Nov 2012 22:17

Rmc, I love this review. Your view on this title is so open minded and you give another view on the games questionable mechanics. You have to learn, explore and immerse yourself -- and that's not bad at all.

The review complaints have been about back-tracking, no clues and being stranded without stickers.. maybe they're not taking the time to smell the carboard flowers.

I have been so skeptical of losing my partners, my customizable Mario and connected world.. I still think it won't be a thousand year door for me but I am alot more enthusiastic about it now.
No Avatar
10 Nov 2012 08:33

TheLastBlade wrote:....... I'm not sure I would trust the guy that would give the same perfect score as famitsu to kid Icarus uprising.


aaaarrrrgh raw meat cowboy please stop liking things i don't
User avatar
10 Nov 2012 11:13

I have never played a paper Mario game but this will be my first hope its good. One thing that I don't like is the world selection every single Mario game on the 3ds has that so far I was hoping they would make it so you would travel to each level or town like in other Mario RPGs particularly super star saga.
User avatar
11 Nov 2012 10:36

Blargh55 wrote:I have never played a paper Mario game but this will be my first hope its good. One thing that I don't like is the world selection every single Mario game on the 3ds has that so far I was hoping they would make it so you would travel to each level or town like in other Mario RPGs particularly super star saga.

Actually I take all that I said back I downloaded at midnight and I actually like the level select on the world map pretty cool :wink:
User avatar
11 Nov 2012 22:05

Already on the first battle, and I already see the flaws the game has.

1. It only has 2 options: Use stickers or run.
2. The problem reviewers seems to have with the puzzles is that they're not doing worlds in order. Ex. There's a door on a desert and you need some stickers. I don't have the poison mushroom, nor do I have the fire flower. Guess what, it's located on a world 1 area. This is NOT a good level design and would've, ironically, work better as a linear path.

It's a shame that, though a good game, it has problems in the world map and the battle system (which actually works without partners) to only be slightly better than Super Paper Mario.

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