Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the latest Cube game to exploit the flagship plumber as he embarks on another adventure to save the princess. The Thousand-Year Door is not just another adventure, it's a RPG that captures the excitement and fun of the Super Mario Bros series and combines it with depth found only in top-shelf RPGs. It all adds up to what is sure to be consider another Mario classic.

This is a smart Mario game. It's designed for players that enjoy a good story, a good laugh and lots of interaction. Regardless of age, Paper Mario is virtually guaranteed to appeal to everyone. It features new characters and many, if not all, of the characters that you came to know and love throughout the series. It's presented in a kind of "behind-the-scenes" look as they go about their daily routines while you go about yours. It makes the characters seem more real. With great translation, the humor is preserved as well as the nuances of the double entendres and personality quirks.

There are no voiceovers, all of the dialog is text-based, but it's paced well and is interesting enough to make you want to read it. We are given a new perspective on Mario's world. It's as though we are actually in the game and not just playing one. The characters have much more personality and dimension to them, which makes it all the more compelling since we have known many of them for years.

It seems that Princess Peach is missing again. She wandered into the bad part of town, Roguesport, but left Mario a treasure map to locate the seven powerful crystals which would give him unparalleled powers. Mario will gain new moves and abilities in a variety of ways. Like all RPGs, he will earn points that can be used to level him up. In this case you will acquire badge points from performing various quests and winning battles which can be distributed to various badges that represent more than a dozen different abilities.

The game is presented in 2D, hence the name, Paper Mario. It's often juxtaposed with 3D environments and characters which prove the developers weren't just taking the easy way out by throwing together a side-scroller. Battles are turn-based but they aren't random. You will see the enemy and be given a chance to earn an extra strike by jumping on their heads. Along with Mario, you can bring one other character along with you in battle.

Battles take place on a stage with an audience. It's a little surreal but you'll get used to this kind of strangeness. You will launch your best attacks and be able to block and counter some of your opponent's attacks with timing-based button commands. If you press the A button immediately after an attack by the enemy will reduce the amount of damage you sustain. Pressing the B button at the exact time an attack is launched against you will eliminate any damage and allow you to counter. Turn-based attacks are usually dull but there is a level of interactivity here that makes it way more interesting than standard turn-based games.

Along with fighting, the game includes what I like to call the "three P's," platforming, pitfalls and puzzles. Mario's adventure is very reminiscent of his classic Super Nintendo days with plenty of imaginative and surreal locations and enemies. He will have various running and jumping moves in addition to his hammer which he will bring down on the heads of enemies. But since he's a 2D, paper Mario, he also can take on the characteristics of paper which allows him to slip through tight spaces, fly as folds himself into a paper airplane, and even roll up into a tube. Continually confronted by new obstacles and challenges, you will find uses for all of the moves and abilities.

Character interaction is essential to unravel the story and clues to the locations of the seven crystals. One of Mario's companions is Goombella. She's got the skinny on just about everybody. She can tell you their strengths and weaknesses which will give you the upper hand in battle.

If you perform all of the side quests, explore all of the locations and try to locate the secret areas, this game could take you weeks and even months to complete. Visually it looks as good as any Saturday morning cartoon. It's easily one of the best-looking Cube games currently available. The sound effects are great and the music is bubbly and cheery where need be, but it also gets dark and downright scary when you encounter some of the more intense areas.

Don't even consider renting this one. You need this one in your collection. There is no way you're going to complete this game in a weekend and see all of it. Simply put, if you own a Cube, you should have this game. It's the reason the Cube was invented in the first place.

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System: GameCube
Dev: Intelligent Systems
Pub: Nintendo
Release: Oct 2004
Players: 1
Review by Shelby