The Paper Mario franchise is a perfect example of a known property being taken and changed into something completely new and original. The series is so fresh and full of life that one can’t help but love it. Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the first of the series on the 3DS and it continues the tradition of fun; but it also brings a whole new problem within its game design.
First, I would like to discuss how awesome the presentation is. Everything is vibrant and really stands out with the 3D features on the 3DS. Even though everything is 2D and made of paper, the visuals do pop off the screen simply because they are so colourful and fun. Also, throughout the game, there are little visual tweaks that make things even cooler. For instance, on one level you’ll be walking across a castle bridge while bombs are being hurled at you; with the 3D enabled, the level looks intense – things are falling in the foreground and the background. You have to navigate this crazy warzone and get to the other side, and it really helps to have the 3D on to assist you with your judgement. It’s nice to see that the 3D is not used as a total gimmick.
In addition to the brilliant graphics, the music is exceptional in Sticker Star, as well. The game score is composed of variants of classic Mario, which makes them feel fresh and new. Unfortunately, not everything that is fresh and new is as brilliant as the modified soundtrack.
I don’t know about asking this shady character for directions…
Stickers are everything in Sticker Star; even though that sounds interesting, it can become a hassle once you realize that Stickers are literally everything. They are your attacks; they are your puzzle solutions; and they can become your land markers. When I previewed the game I mentioned how I hoped that I never ran out of stickers during battle. The thing is, you’re not likely to run out of stickers during a battle – but you are likely to not have the specific stickers that you may need in that particular battle. Often times I found myself fighting a group of enemies and wished I had a certain sticker to defeat all of them at once; but I didn’t have it because it was not in that area.
Battles in an RPG shouldn’t be about luck, they should be about strategy and preparation. I guess an argument can be made that part of the preparation in Sticker Star is making sure you have all of the stickers that you need for a battle; but specific stickers can be hard to find, and if you need to use them for certain puzzles that makes things even more difficult. Additionally, in RPGs, if you can’t perform a certain attack (say, because you’re low on magic or something) you can usually use an item to remedy that. Sticker Star has no such system. If you want to use a certain attack but don’t have the sticker – too bad, so sad. I think that this sticker system may have been a fine idea at the beginning of development, but it lacks the consistency needed for a truly great RPG.
Maybe one day I’ll have my own page like this…
Sticker Star also does away with a leveling system, which quiet literally makes the game pointless. Battles become just busy-time and a waste of stickers, and the game feels stagnant throughout the duration of play. Since I don’t level up, I don’t feel like I am progressing through the game; instead, I feel like I’m wandering through worlds just to find a star. Aside from collecting coins and possibly a sticker, battles are entirely useless. That being said, I will admit that this eliminates some of the tedious level grinding that most RPG’s feature. However, I maintain that without a leveling system, there isn’t a sense of progression and growth. The only growth you experience is through your health, which grows when you find hearts scattered around the world; but honestly, that doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment at all.
When all is said and done, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a well-made game with a weird system thrown into it. The stickers are a clever idea that fit well with the Paper Mario franchise, but the lack of a leveling system and the use of stickers for practically everything make me reluctant to recommend this game to die-hard RPG fans. It’s a solid game if you go into it with an open mind, but the odd systems may turn you off if you’re more of a traditionalist. Sticker Star feels like an entry-level RPG, and won’t require to much thought to play – perfect for folks who are new to the genre and want to cut their teeth on something not too difficult.