Mario’s character and world shows just how flexible a series can be when reaching out into a number of different genres. When Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam was announced I very quickly became excited by the idea of both Mario and Paper Mario joining together in an RPG setting all in one game. The only fear I had before I got hands on with the game was just how would Mario work as an RPG having never played any of the Mario & Luigi RPG games before.
Thankfully though I was pleasantly surprised with what I found within Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and after many hours with the game I think I can finally answer the question as if Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam really does hold up and, if it stands tall.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the latest and fifth title in the Mario & Luigi series and makes good use of the crossover with Paper Mario. Though it becomes clear from the very start that Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is not a complex nor deep RPG that you may think it could be. It does still however have a lot going in it’s favour as you find yourself embraced in a charming adventure with a well known cast of characters.
Before continuing on with the review however I think it is important to point out that though Amiibo support is in the game it is not something this review will cover. This is on the grounds that I don’t own, nor was I going to rush out and buy, a number of Mario Amiibo’s to use one feature within the game. Nonetheless take note that the game is completely playable and enjoyable without using Amiibo.
The story in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the main driving point within the game but it never really feels as detailed as it maybe should have been. The game starts with a few small events that result in the many paper elements of Paper Mario flooding into the 3D world including Mario, Princess Peach and even Browser. This double up leads to not only a serious amount of trouble and action but also some serious confusion and paper related puns along the way. You’ll find that after the main set up the story can be easily forgotten and almost gets in the way as you find yourself stopping in almost every other area to have some more dialog delivered to you.
It’s fun and charming but it becomes annoying and repetitive very quickly. If the story wasn’t present in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam you wouldn’t mind too much but for what it is I can at least respect it for being there. After all a deep and complex RPG story might not sit well with everyone who would be looking to play Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam delivers it’s gameplay in three main ways. The first being the overworld gameplay of moving around and using team moves to explore further, more on this later. You then also have the battle gameplay which is turn based with some rhythm elements to it and finally the mini games throughout the game which are a mix of two. Overworld movement is straight forward with a number of button presses available to you throughout the game to perform party moves that help you explore the world and complete small little tasks.
Given that Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has you in control of three characters most of the time you will need to use three buttons to control each member of the team. Mario is bound to the A button, B for Luigi and then Y for Paper Mario. On the new 3DS console you can see that the colour of each character also links to the colour of the button which is rather handy. These rules apply to all scenario so if you’re in a battle or in a mini game you need to use each of the three buttons accordingly to ensure success.
If you’re in a battle you might need to use a few of these at the same time to perform a powerful Bro Attack or to improve your damage through normal attacks. For example when using the ‘Jump’ attack you can press the character’s button just as they land on the enemy to perform a second jump and deal more damage. This is a theme that continues throughout almost every battle command and further.
Really the gameplay sounds odd in concept and to me it sounded confusing and complex but really it is straightforward and easy to learn what you get the hang of it. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam also makes sure that you have continuous and easy access to the tutorials and even lets you practice the more complex rhythm moves before using them to ensure you understand what to do. It takes into account that as a Mario game it is very different and as an RPG it is unlike anything else. It’s that accessibility that really makes Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam’s gameplay stand tall and bring the game to life.
The visuals for Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam come in two fold as you find two Mario worlds mixed together in a style that is simply beautiful. From the 3D characters and models that fill the world to the 2D paper and cardboard elements placed around. Each works together in a way that is charming and eye catching. They also look incredible in 3D so I recommend having a play of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam with the 3D turned on if even for a minute.
Elsewhere the presentation of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam continues in a high standard as the world of the game. From menus and other graphics everything fits together and supports the theme of the game and story throughout. Not only that but Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam runs perfectly on the Nintendo 3DS and not once did I ever see any performance issues what so ever. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam gets full stars in the presentation and performance catalogues.
Audio in the Mario games has always been catchy and charming to the point where it gets stuck in your head for days and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is no different. Each area of the world has it’s own flavour and style of music along with the regular and boss battles tunes. The 3DS system has always been a good example of games that have some brilliant music and audio and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam could be a key example of just that. From every classic Mario sound to the new ones thrown in there it all sounds great.
The main problem that Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam suffers from is its every growing repetitive nature. The gameplay very quickly becomes an endless crawl rather than a meaningful extension of the story. There is an addition of a battle cards function after a few hours with the game that mixes up the combat a bit but in the end even these become a repetitive element unless you have Amiibo to create powerful cards. Even with a beautiful world, brilliant giant paper craft battles and charm all round it is impossible to get away from the repetitive design that is at the core of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.
In the end, I think calling Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam an essential title for your 3DS would be going a bit fair but it isn’t far off. Fans of RPG’s might not be able to click with the rhythm based gameplay that fills each encounter in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. However you may very well come to appreciate it at some point during your playthrough as it is simply an acquired taste.
The rest of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam however is a taste that could sit very well with most people even if there are a few problems here and there. If you can accept or overlook the repetitive gameplay and embrace the charm and personality that Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has then your find a fun experience within. I wouldn’t say it is a must have but I would recommend Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam too many if you’re looking for a RPG without the depth and complexity.