Paper Mario and wondering how I ever remember anything at all

Ahhhh…it’s good to be back.  As much as I love vacationing, I also love returning home…to our house, our cat, our car, our regular meals, everything that’s wonderful and familiar.  There are, of course, some things to which I would rather not return, like work and paying bills, but such is life — you have to take the good with the bad.  (Am I preparing for a bad segue?  You bet!)  In recent weeks, I’ve applied similar feelings to Paper Mario (2001).  Some of you might recall a post I did several weeks ago in which I mentioned buying stuff from the Wii Shop, which I happily did.  I bought Super Mario 64 and, after a trip to the store for a Wii card, proceeded then to purchase Paper Mario and Mega Man X (X2, actually).  And though I had originally intended to play SM64, I started up Paper Mario instead.

Paper Mario cover art © Nintendo (source)

As much as I love SM64, I think I have even more happy memories associated with Paper Mario.  It’s definitely among my top Mario games, and I especially enjoy the graphics.  Sure, he’s not dimensional or particularly emotive (not that he ever was), but Mario in “paper” form is so damn cute.  I love the comic/coloring book look to everything, with characters rendered in super saturated colors that are bound by thick, black outlines.  I love the odd juxtaposition between flatness and dimensionality.  For whatever demented reason, I find it hilarious when bad guys (and Mario) fall flat upon being defeated.  I adore the colorful “3D” environments and their brief interactive moments.  The writing/story probably isn’t the best of any Mario game, but the text is generally amusing, particularly when Mario’s sidekicks manage to get in a sarcastic remark or two.

It’s all so adorable I could just lick the screen! (source)

As of this post, I’m almost halfway through the game, and memory…it’s a funny thing.  Before getting into the details of that, it worth mentioning a little about Paper Mario’s story (yes…basic story spoilers starting now).  Mario and Luigi (poor Luigi, even in paper form), denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, get invited to a party at Princess Peach’s castle.  The party is bangin’ yo until it’s crashed by Bowser, who defeats Mario (while Luigi does…nothing?)  and carries the castle and Peach high into the night sky with the help of his evil ship.  Bowser is in possession of the fantastical and powerfully magical Star Rod, through which he controls the Star Spirits.  It’s up to Mario to save the Star Spirits and rescue the princess.  Or, as I’m wont to say, something like that.  I’m not about the question the strange story in any Mario game as the goal is generally the same no matter what.

Oh that Bowser. Always in a fit of rage he is. (source)

So Mario has the same goal, yes, but it’s attained through different means.  Paper Mario has a turn-based system of play, rather than platformer or adventure game mechanics.  When Mario and a sidekick enter into battle with an opponent, you choose an action (jump, use hammer, use item, etc.) that is then played out.  After Mario’s turn, the enemies have their turn.  And so it goes back and forth until the bad guy (or you) die (and they fall flat, hahahaha! So freakin‘ adorable!).  There’s also a “badge” system through which Mario can gain special moves, extra XP, etc.

Even the start screen is all, like, rainbows and pixie sticks. (source)

Bad summation aside, let’s get back to the thing about memory, namely mine, and it’s state of terribleness.  I first played Paper Mario some 10+ years ago, and I’ve continued to reference it as one of my most favorite Mario games ever since.  That might lead one to believe that it’s completely and permanently filed away in my memory banks.  But since 2001, my brain has gathered up mountains of trivial crap, so, over time, bits of information have dissipated, and among that lost knowledge was most of Paper Mario.  Except for the first couple levels.  Those came back to me clear as a bell.  And I was happy and joyful and happy again.  But then I got to the Dry, Dry Ruins.  And there the memories stopped.  I had no memory of the level — the Pokey Mummies, the Buzzy Beetles, all the stupid frickin’ keys, nothing was familiar. Instead of crawling under the warm, fuzzy Paper Mario blanket for the duration of the game, it was suddenly like I was out in the creepy cold playing a brand new game.

I’m farther into the game now, and it’s plenty of fun; but honestly, I wish I could remember my way around better.  Though I think I’m finding new things, I can’t always be sure, and I feel like I’m missing things that I found before.  I’m also finding the game a little slow and I’m not liking the turn-based system as much as I remember.  It tends to slow down the action, and I’ve found myself running away from more battles than I would like.  And there aren’t many Save Points, which means that it’s not a great game for quick rounds of play.  But Mario games have always been, to some degree or another, about the challenge, so I haven’t given up on the replay yet. It is interesting, returning to this game after so many years.  I guess my younger self took the good and the bad in games with a grain of salt.  And, to me, Paper Mario was so blindingly brilliant in 2001 that it could possess no wrong.  It is by no means anything less than a great game still; it’s just that my aging sense of tolerance just isn’t what it used to be.

You sure as hell better save NOW because it’s gonna be another level before you see another one of those blocks. (source)


  1. I had the same thing happen to me. I played again more recently, and I did not remember stuff. I was actually happy about it, because I like when old games feel new again, but it was odd. Maybe it’s because the game is longer than many of my other games. Or Paper Mario casts some kind of memory loss spell on players! I used to run away from fights all the time, but then my characters were too weak and I had no money. So I only run away when I have to fight something really bad, like those ugly rock guys. I still love Paper Mario. Except, I just read that comment above about the cake, which I completely forgot about. (See, that game really eats my memory.) I hate that. I have no working watches with a second hand in the whole house. All I had was the time on the thermostat with a thing that blinked every second, so I pulled the controller across the room, stretching to be able to hold it and see the time, and I did it that way. I can’t, for the life of me, just count accurate seconds. I just can’t do it. I love the game, but that filled me with unhappiness. And I usually love things related to cake. Stupid Gourmet Guy.


    • Picturing a duck holding a game controller and blinking at a thermostat makes me laugh (heehee). No offense, as it is an ingenious solution to a problem!

      At this point, I’m up to finding the 5th Star Spirit on Lavalava Island, and it is like playing a new game. I have no memory of these later levels whatsoever. And I certainly hope there’s not another cake-making session down the road, otherwise I might cry a little.


  2. Man, I feel ignorant; I didn’t even realize this game was originally on N64 (I’ve only played the Wii version). Great run down of the game! I’ll have to give it a shot now to get in touch with my roots 😉


    • Oh wow, I had no idea there was a Wii version of the game! Shows you how much I know, haha. I might have to seek it out sometime to see how the two compare.


  3. Speaking of a grain of salt, the only indelible memory I’ll ever have from this game was that part where Peach had to bake a cake for the Gourmet Guy, and if you didn’t do it perfect you had to do it over again. The directions were so unspecific that I eventually lost it and made that son of a bitch a cake where the ingredients were salt, salt, salt, salt, and salt, and then I put it in the oven for 1 second. How it came out looking like a cake is beyond me.

    Sad thing is, I actually really liked Paper Mario. But that part can go die in a fire.


    • You hit the nail on the salt…er…head! That is one of the oddest parts of the game and I had forgotten all about it…until I got to that part and was like Oh. Damn. This. For me however, the main problem was stirring for 30 seconds. OMFG. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get it right, and I was about to seek out a stop watch until I somehow hit the magic mark. Where’s Gordon Ramsay when you need him?


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