Paper-thin, or a worthy entry in the Paper Mario mythos?
What Sticker Star Got Right
- + Sticker use in and out of combat is fun
- + Characters are comical and self-referential
- + Paper art style is creative & charming
- + Animations & soundtrack is top notch
What Sticker Star Got Wrong
- - Removal of deeper RPG elements
- - A little too easy at times
- - No experimentation with stickers
- - No party members
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the latest entry into the long-running Paper Mario series, a creative spin on the traditional Mario mythos that sees our favourite plumber and the Mushroom Kingdom transformed into paper-thin form.
As a Nintendo published game, it is the first handheld Paper Mario game of the series, and the first entry since 2007's Super Paper Mario on the Wii. Being a major title for Nintendo’s 3DS system, Sticker Star offers the most accessible Paper Mario experience available so far. Unfortunately, for the most part, its ideas ultimately don’t stick as well as they should.
Watch the official Nintendo launch trailer.
The premise of Sticker Star is the classic Mario tale mixed with the quirky Paper Mario world. The Mushroom Kingdom celebrates the Sticker Star comet flying over their sticker festival held in the town of Decalburg, presided by Princess Peach. Naturally, Bowser interrupts the festival by touching the passing Sticker Star, which grants him great power, and he proceeds to kidnap Princess Peach.
With chaos everywhere and the Royal Stickers separated from the Sticker Star, it’s up to Mario and new companion Kirsti to collect the six Royal Stickers scattered across the world with his new sticker album. Players will begin in the hub world of Decalburg, where the main Shop, Save Point and HP recovery centres are located, and from there, can access the overworld and progress from World to World like traditional Mario titles.
Every aspect of Sticker Star -- the characters, the environments and world map -- are converted into ‘paperised’ renditions of their classic Mario forms, and are all presented in a charming storybook format. This time around, the characters even react to and acknowledge their paper-thin existence, and humorously speak in awe of any abnormal 3D objects they come across.
The gameplay of Sticker Star is a hybrid of classic Mario gameplay mixed with light role-playing elements. Fighting enemies is no longer as simple as hopping up and down on their heads: when you engage enemies, you are warped into the battlefield where a turn-based fight awaits. Players take turns against the A.I. and dish out attacks on enemies until one group exhausts the other group’s health points. Players can also gain a combat advantage by jumping or thumping an enemy with Mario's hammer before engaging them, dealing early damage before the true battle starts, though the same can also happen to the player.
All of the staple Mario characters are present in cool paper-form, though there are no new additions to the cast.
Anyone who has played the first two Paper Mario games will be familiar with its setup. However, while new players won’t know the difference, long-term fans may be disappointed in the noticeable shift away from traditional RPG elements; party members, experience points and meaningful customisation are no longer present. I found the lack of XP and party members particularly disappointing, but that may not be a problem for everyone.
Interestingly enough, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto was behind much of the team’s decision to lessen the RPG elements, as Miyamoto thought it was boring. I usually like Miyamoto's input decisions, but as an older Paper Mario fan and RPG enthusiast, this decision was not the greatest one, and it reflects in the gameplay.
...while new players won’t know the difference, long-term fans may be disappointed in the noticeable shift away from traditional RPG elements; party members, experience points and meaningful customisation are no longer present."
How Sticker Star compensates for the missing elements are stickers. Stickers are the core component of the game. They are everywhere and used for everything; pry them off walls, acquire them from blocks, buy from and sell them at Shops and use them for fights or for solving a puzzle. Stickers are essentially the bread and butter of the Paper Mario world. Finding and collecting them all to figure out what they provide is surprisingly fun and highly addictive, with a Sticker Museum available to catalogue all of your findings, which is a neat addition.
Each sticker represents an action for players to use in turn-based battle, such as the familiar Mushroom for healing, Koopa Shell for kicking, or Fire Flower for hurling fireballs. By default, you can only use one sticker per turn, but for a few coins players can spin a roulette wheel to gain a chance to line-up another one or two stickers.
Stickers are a single-use resource, so managing your sticker collection and knowing when to use them and which Sticker to use is important and tactically engaging, though those who long for the deeper RPG elements from past titles may feel disengaged from the relatively straightforward combat experience.
Line up stickers, mix and match and know when and what to use.
In addition to combat-related stickers, there are also ‘Thing Stickers’, 3D objects which essentially act as puzzle-solvers. With the touch of a button, Mario can ‘paperise’ the world into a flat surface, which reveals areas to place stickers, such as paperising a pair of scissors to cut some rope, or laying flat a sticker bridge to cross the river gap. Thing Stickers can be used in combat as well, and are often more powerful and unique in animation than the standard stickers, though you must first go to the main town to 'paperise' them for combat use.
The puzzles of Sticker Star are creative and humorous, but limited in experimentation; there is only one right ‘Thing Sticker’ for every puzzle or major boss fight. Being extremely expensive to buy and costly to use, as well as taking up way too much inventory space, Thing Stickers feel like a wasted opportunity.
On the presentation side, Sticker Star excels. The lightly 3D world is visually gorgeous and expertly crafted, with plenty of diverse and enjoyable paper environments to explore, clever secrets and opportunities for perspective-based puzzles, and comical, charming characters to interact with. The Toads and Goombas of the world in particular are extremely hilarious in their self-referential, satirical dialogue, and often make light of the traditional Mario world and its stereotypical scenarios and inhabitants.
The Final Verdict
With an endearing art style, characters we all know and love and a solid enough combat system and hook, Sticker Star is a fun and accessible handheld entry into the Paper Mario franchise. However, while welcoming and enjoyable enough for newcomers, its removal of the deeper RPG elements of past Paper Mario titles may, for veterans, class Sticker Star as a 3DS Mario title that you can live without.
By Nathan Misa