I’ll be honest with you guys. I didn’t like Paper Mario: Sticker Star a whole lot. Then again, that wasn’t exactly a sentiment possessed by me alone. Sticker Star could have been a good game, but it possessed a lack of an interesting story and writing. Combine that with no real reason to engage in combat while traipsing through levels aimlessly, lead to the game being a large disappointment. This entry seeks to correct those faults, but it’s only mostly successful. Nintendo is still playing it safe, and it’s a bit to the game’s detriment once again.
The plot of this game involves Mario and Peach going to a new region called Prisma, where they investigate a mystery after Peach receives a strange letter. They arrive at the continent only to find that the port has seen better days. Some of the colors seems to be drained all over the place, and to top it all off, Mario and Peach bear witness to a toad being drained of paint/ink. By a shy guy no less. A vampire Shy Guy using a straw. Of course the game is afoot, and Mario is on the case. You’ll enlist the help of Huey, a sentient paint can to track down the Paint Stars needed to restore the land’s color. Mario’s hammer will also get kitted out with paint splashing abilities to restore paint to the region bit by bit. You’ll have a meter which shows you how much paint in Red/Blue/Yellow left. Hitting most objects with standard hammer strikes will squeeze out globs of paint to restore your supply.
This paint management mechanic also carries over to battle as well. Much like Sticker Star, you’ll use battle cards once again, but this time, you’ll have to fill the colorless cards with paint in order to power up their attack power. Of course you don’t have to fill it all the way if you are trying to be conservative with your paint in the midst of battle though, so that’s nice. Although much like money, there’s plenty of ways to restore paint, so it’s almost never an issue, along with card conservation. Mastering the timed based action commands also makes it easier to not burn through cards as well. One improvement that this game sees over Sticker Star is that now there are benefits to fighting enemies. While the game is still very much a shift from the RPG based predecessors, you will get hammer picks ups that act like experience. Once the hammer meter fills up, you’ll gain a level, and you max paint capacity increases, which no doubt will help you out in the long run. The Things also return too, and now the game better clues you in to when to use them. The level design and writing has also improved as well.
Almost every criticism about Sticker is addressed here. Aside from the previous improved I mentioned, the Wii U makes the game look gorgeous with its art and sound direction in ways the 3DS just wasn’t capable of. The game refreshingly lacks Amiibo support. That might seem like a bad thing, but now you have a game that won’t feel like it was designed around the concept of Amiibos like some of Nintendo’s other titles. However, despite these improvements and features, Intelligent Systems and Nintendo have made a few missteps and also have held back a bit too much for its own good. While the game allows you to skip previously viewed cut scenes, the game arbitrarily decides which scenes can be skipped or which can’t. To add to that, there’s no fast-forward button either. Another thing that’s annoying is that the game only has a single save slot. It’s 2016 and Intelligent Systems can’t figure this out despite doing this several times before? The initial load time for the game is also a bit too long, at least on the disc version I played. Another concerning thing is the lack of diversity of original characters or character designs. Much like Paper Jam, this game suffers from a serious homogeneous Toad design problem. Previous entries had different kinds of toads, while this one thinks a simple palette swap will suffice. It’s pretty disappointing if you ask me.
But, regardless of the downsides to this game, it does far more good than it does wrong. It has improved combat, a good script with great writing and a high humor level. It also rewards people who engage in the combat system this time. And while it may not be the Paper Mario game that many players want, and could even be better than what it is, it’s still a solid experience for Mario and RPG fans. As the last Wii U game to grace the ailing console until Breath of the Wild, it’s a colorful recommendation.