Tag Archives: Nintendo 3DS

Bit Dungeon Plus Review

*This review first appeared at Miketendo64.com*

Bit Dungeon Plus looks to bring some old school challenge to the Nintendo 3DS, and while the concept does deliver on that to a degree, it ultimately suffers from a lack of polish and (in my case anyway) some notable technical issues.

Bit Dungeon Plus has an obvious inspiration in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It uses the same top-down perspective, and even utilizes 16-bit graphics. Players take control of a knight, who can obtain new weapons, armor and magic spells along their journey. After a set number of enemies are defeated, they can even gain levels like in an RPG. Upon gaining a level, players can choose to upgrade their maximum health, their attack power, or the strength of their critical strikes. Players can find health and magic restoring formulas by defeating certain enemies and breaking objects. Additionally, you can buy special upgrades and items by finding secret shops hidden inside of dungeons.

All of the action in the game takes place in these dungeons, which are randomly generated. What enemies and items you find in the dungeons will be different in every playthrough, and once you defeat a dungeon’s boss, you can move on to a more difficult dungeon.

Here’s the part of Bit Dungeon Plus that I found refreshing and original: when you die, you have to start all over, losing any levels you gained and increased stats you’ve acquired. However, any of the weapons and armor you’ve found can be equipped on your starting character in the next run through. So in each playthrough, you’re likely to find better weapons and armor to help you the next time around.

The core concept behind Bit Dungeon Plus is fun and may have you intrigued to keep playing for a while. Unfortunately, the game has some glaring rough edges.

For starters, close-range enemies are essentially a non-threat, as they move incredibly slowly (if they move at all), and never seem to attack. If a ranged enemy attacks with a fireball or arrow, you can easily defend from the damage by holding up your shield. But with the melee enemies, you basically don’t have to worry about taking damage. Just walk close enough and swing away.

There also could have been a bit more balance with the character progression. After increasing my attack power just a few times, I was able to take down bosses with three or four presses of the A button. As fun as the general idea behind the game is, the difficulty curve seems almost untested, as you can become close to unstoppable all-too soon.

In fact, when I did become this powerful, my play session only ended because the game crashed. In fact, Bit Dungeon Plus crashed on me on two different occasions! And I should add that I have never had a 3DS game crash on me in the past. I also experienced some graphical errors and freeze-ups during the game.

The core gameplay of Bit Dungeon Plus is fun, but the lack of polish and technical issues really detract from the experience. Bit Dungeon Plus is a well-intentioned, retro experience, but it definitely could have used some extra development time to work out the kinks.

 

5.0

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RPG Maker Fes Review

*This review originally appeared at Miketendo64.com*

The RPG Maker series has had an interesting history. Though it began in the mid-1990s as something of a game-creation game, the series later became a more overt tool for game creation. Though RPG Maker isn’t the most complex program for game-creation, it has lead to a few critically-acclaimed commercial releases, such as To the Moon. Though RPG Maker Fes’ status as a 3DS title brings the franchise back to its more humble roots and limitations, it still brings a decently robust set of tools for hopeful game designers to practice their skills.

As stated, being a Nintendo 3DS title, RPG Maker Fes is a lot simpler than its PC/Mac supported contemporaries, but that also means it’s relatively more accessible.

RPG Maker Fes, as the franchise-name implies, allows you to create your own RPG titles. The game is grounded in a 16-bit aesthetic, but that’s fine by me, seeing as that generation was the genre’s heyday. Visuals aside, you might even be surprised by how much you’re able to do and make on a tiny 3DS cartridge.

You can create characters, character classes, items, weapons, spells and enemy monsters. You can set their graphics, sprites, statistics. You can build the world map and dungeons via the touchscreen, and create story events and write dialogue. You have pretty much the essentials at your disposal. Perhaps not enough to make the RPG of your dreams, but certainly enough to make a fun, short RPG that can give you a better understanding of how to get started on the RPG of your dreams. As someone who hopes to one day make video games, RPG Maker Fes serves as a nice introductory tool.

Of course, there is a notable caveat in that there are no tutorials or instructions to really tell you how to get started. Now, most game making programs don’t have such things, but seeing as this is a pick-up-and-play, 3DS entry, you kind of wish there could be a few adjustments made to ease players in.

The biggest downside to RPG Maker Fes, however, are the unfortunate limitations that come with the hardware. As mentioned, RPG Maker has always been more simple than programs like GameMaker or Unity – with set visual and audio aesthetics for starters – but if you were clever enough with it, you could make something that was more your own than the program initially suggests. People have often made their own sprites, imported their own music, and even tampered with the RPG gameplay.

Don’t expect that same level of freedom here. Your stuck with whatever graphics, sprites and music the game displays for you, and though you may find some clever ways to change up the designated gameplay, I don’t think Fes is capable of the same kind of liberation of other RPG Maker programs.

This is all the more of a downside when you realize just how limited things like the graphics, music and sprites are. The game is limited to a rather generic anime art style, and the packaged game only comes with the typical fantasy settings and materials to work with. Other themes are planned for DLC releases, but it feels kind of cheap to not have more variety from the get-go (strangely, some graphics for guns and don’t-call-them-lightsabers exist, despite the fantasy-themed limitation. That could add some creative fuel to the fire, but it would also be nice to place swords and sorcery in a futuristic sci-fi setting and the like).

Further problems will arise with the limited number of graphics you have to work with for characters, monsters, weapons and items. Each category only has a handful of sprites and objects to work with, which you might find yourself exhausting pretty quickly when creating your game’s assets. Each sprite and graphic features four different colors, but such simple palette-swapping is a pretty iffy means to add variety.

With all of these complaints and limitations said, RPG Maker Fes is still surprisingly deep with what it allows you to do with its tools. After all, a good story and fun dialogue can make even the most basic sprite liven up, and good world design and gameplay can make up for a predictable setting. If the player is inventive enough, and has the patience for it, they can make an engaging (albeit short) RPG, and hopefully develop a wider understanding of game design.

Better still, you can share your creations with others, and download the creations of others in return. Meaning that – good or bad – you can experience what other players have dedicated their time to making, and they can experience the same from you.

It certainly has enough limitations to hold it back, but if you hope to one day make video games, RPG Maker Fes is a decent place to start. I’m still a long way off from releasing my first dream game, but after playing RPG Maker Fes, I do feel a step closer. If you give it a whirl, you could be too.

 

7.0

Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop Review

*This Review originally appeared at Miketendo64.com*

The Cooking Mama series has been around for a while now, and has largely endured thanks to its simple (and often addictive) gameplay, and it’s cute, often irresistible charm. The series’ newest entry, Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop on the Nintendo 3DS, puts an emphasis on players opening their own bakery, and trying to make the best sugary sweets to attract customers.

Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop continues the series’ mini-game-based gameplay and, following in the series’ long history on consoles such as the Wii and Nintendo DS, makes good use of the 3DS’ hardware. Unfortunately, those who are familiar with the series may not find a whole lot of newness in Sweet Shop, and while some of the mini-games are fun and accessible, others are a bit harder to figure out.

As stated, the goal of Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is to make the best sweets around, and gradually build-up your bakery to gain more and more customers. Along the way, the player is aided by Cooking Mama, the adorable, cartoonish namesake of the series.

In order to create the baked goods, players need to complete a short series of mini-games, which each use the touchscreen and mic of the 3DS in unique ways.

Some mini-games may have you swiping the touchscreen to spread chocolate on a cannoli, while others will have you pouring flour in a dish by tapping its side, while taking a break every time the wind blows in from an open window (if this happens, you’ll have to blow into the 3DS mic to clear the screen of flour). Other games may have you dropping ingredients into a bowl and stirring them, followed up by placing them in an oven and getting the temperature right to make cookies.

For the most part, the mini-games are simple and fun, and it’s great that you have to go through a series of them in order to make a single dessert (earning medals for your performance in each mini-game). The more desserts you make, the more new desserts you unlock, some of which may share a few mini-games with others, making the game something of a test of memory as well reflexes.

On the downside of things, there were a few mini-games that I simply couldn’t figure out. You only get brief descriptions of each mini-game beforehand, and due to the general simplicity of the games, that’s usually enough. But there were a number of mini-games that are slightly more complex (having to act fast and perform specific actions for different ingredients in succession). And in these cases, the short descriptions just weren’t very helpful, making the games themselves cryptic and confusing.

On the bright side, such games are in the minority, but it does make it jarring when you go through a number of simple, easy mini-games, and then end up doing one you can’t get right because you can’t figure out what to do.

Still, once you start making a series of sweets and your shop starts stocking up, it’s fun to see more and more customers coming in. And the more customers you gain, the more you can customize the shop itself.

It’s really simple stuff, but Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is fun, and it’s one of the more charming mini-game compilations to come around in the post-Wii generations.

Aesthetically, the graphics are simple but colorful, and the sounds are cute (I especially like Cooking Mama’s thick Japanese accent, which somehow makes the game even cuter). Though they also don’t really look much different than any of the Cooking Mama games that came before.

Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is good, simple fun, if maybe not anything you haven’t seen before from the series, and when the mini-games don’t work, it feels entirely conflicting from the game’s otherwise accessible nature. But if you’re new to the series or just can’t get enough Cooking Mama, then Sweet Shop at the very least provides some entertaining mini-games and some addicting customization elements.

6.0

Pokemon Moon Review

Pokemon Moon

When Pokemon Sun and Moon versions were released on the 3DS towards the end of 2016, they became the fastest-selling titles in Nintendo’s long history. New entries in the mainline Pokemon series are always a big deal, but it seemed more of a big deal than ever with Sun and Moon. Perhaps due in part to the (long overdue) changes the games made to the formula, and maybe partly due to the wild success of Pokemon Go earlier in the year, and maybe a little bit due to them being some of the last major 3DS titles before the Switch takes over Nintendo’s priorities. Whatever the case, Pokemon Sun and Moon were big. But did they live up to the hype?

In a lot of ways, Pokemon Sun and Moon were the breath of fresh air the series sorely needed for a long time. Despite Pokemon being a series that’s all about fantastic creatures and their evolutions, it has been – ironically enough – Nintendo’s most un-evolving series. Mario and Zelda have continuously changed up their formulas, but Pokemon was always content with going through the motions, and simply adding a new roster of creatures and some minor tweaks to the gameplay.

Pokemon MoonOf course, Pokemon Sun and Moon introduced a host of new Pokemon of their own, but here, even old school Pokemon were made new again. The games take place on the Alolan Islands, which are not-so-subtly based on Hawaii. Because of this, some familiar Pokemon have adapted and evolved differently in this region, which means not only do they have new character designs, but new types and movesets as well. Ratatas now boast villainous mustaches to go with their new Dark type, while Sandshrew’s shell looks like an igloo to match its new Ice type. Meanwhile, Exeggutor has become a palm tree, which somehow makes him Dragon type.

Pokemon MoonThis may not seem like a big deal, but it does add a good dose of freshness to the mix. Not only do you have a whole new array of Pokemon to catch, but now you have to learn about old favorites in a whole new light, which makes the entire lineup of Pokemon feel newer than they have in a number of generations for the series.

Additionally, the games now feature creatures known as “Ultra Beasts,” which are more or less alien Pokemon. Mega Evolutions also return from X and Y, allowing for certain Pokemon to reach temporary “mega” levels during battle. And now Pokemon can learn powerful Z-moves, which can only be used once per battle, but can greatly change the outcome of a fight.

Another useful change that helps streamline the experience are that HM abilities have been removed entirely. Some of the existing HMs have simply become TMs, while now instead of teaching specific Pokemon the “ride” ability, the player now has the option of “Poke Ride” which summons specific Pokemon to carry you across different terrains.

Other new features include Pokemon Refresh, which are simple uses of the 3DS’ touchscreen to pamper your Pokemon (by coming their fur, using a blowdryer to remove dirt, etc.) and help win them over to you. You also have more customizable options for your character, and now players have their own plazas to connect with other players to trade Pokemon and items, or do battle. You can even customize what kinds of special shops appear in your plaza.

Pokemon MoonPerhaps the change I most appreciate is that the actual structure of the series has been altered. No longer do you have to go through the usual eight gym leaders before moving on to the final section of the game. Now, you travel across the four Alolan Islands, and go through trials and build yourself up to take on each island’s Kahuna, a supreme Pokemon trainer who serves as the final obstacle of each island.

This is a greatly refreshing change of pace. Though I enjoy the Pokemon series, it was re-using the same format for so long that it became insanely predictable. While this change in structure doesn’t radically change things up, the fact that it’s changed at all makes it more enjoyable than the series has been in a long time. And the changes made to the Pokemon themselves help liven up the core elements of the game.

With that said, I do have reiterate that the changes aren’t anything radically new or different. Pokemon Sun and Moon add enough newness to make things feel fresh, but perhaps not quite enough if you’re among those who want a little something more from the series. This is still a deep gaming experience, but if you’ve been waiting for a reinvention of the series in the same vein as what Mario and Link have accomplished in the past, you may be a tad disappointed.

Aside from new moves, Pokemon battles really haven’t changed. Pokemon can still only learn four moves at a time, and the battles still use the same turn-based setup. Perhaps a little more interactive battles akin to the Mario RPGs of yesteryear might help make Pokemon battles more fun. As they are, they aren’t necessarily boring, but they are starting to feel dated.

Pokemon MoonAnother downside comes in the games excessive story and dialogue. I appreciate that Sun and Moon look to add more narrative to the series, and I like the story they have going on (especially the new villains, Team Skull, who act and talk like would-be hip hop artists), but things get so wordy and the cinematics can get so long, that you may find yourself skipping through as much of it as you can just so you can get back to the gameplay. Again, I enjoy the story, but maybe they could have told it with a few less dialogue boxes and some shorter cinematic moments.

Pokemon Sun and Moon are imperfect, then. But they’re still a whole lot of fun when they want to be. The fact that they’ve changed the formula up at all feels incredibly refreshing, and I greatly like the new Pokemon and the new spins on old ones. The graphics are an improvement over X and Y, and give the series a whole new visual life, and the music is enjoyable.

Pokemon Sun and Moon certainly serve as a fitting “final act” of the 3DS before the Switch takes away its spotlight, and they’ll satisfy Pokemon fans new and old. But hopefully by the time the next Pokemon generation rolls around, the series can double-up on that “newness” factor, and bring the series to a whole new level.

 

8.0

Metroid Prime: Federation Force Review

Federation Force

Few games in Nintendo’s history have caused as much of a stir as Metroid Prime: Federation Force. With the Metroid series laying dormant for six years – with it’s most recent release being the atrocious Metroid: Other M – fans had been begging for a new iteration in the franchise like never before. So when Federation Force was revealed, with a cartoony look and simplified action-based gameplay that was a stark contrast to the atmosphere and exploration the series is known for, the game was all but dead on arrival. Now that Federation Force is out on 3DS, does it prove it’s naysayers wrong in the same vein as The Wind Waker? Or were the cries of Nintendo fans actually justified for once?

It’s obvious from the get-go that Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not like other Metroid games. The most obvious differences being the aforementioned art style (possibly implemented to gloss over the 3DS’ aging hardware), and the fact that players do not take on the role of series’ protagonist Samus Aran. Samus still shows up from time to time, but here, players control members of the titular Federation Force, who embark on various missions aboard mech suits.

Gameplay-wise, Federation Force is more than capable. The game takes on a first-person perspective, with the usual controls of the genre being well translated onto the 3DS. The only issue I ran into with the core gameplay was switching between secondary weapons. Though the mechs have a blaster canon as their primary weapon, secondary weapons and items include health packs, fireballs, lightning bursts, and ice attacks to freeze enemies. The secondary items are switched by pressing the X button, and are fired by pressing the Y button. Because you can only cycle through the secondary weapons by going forward, it often gets confusing, since you instinctively think the two buttons would cycle through the item in different directions. I often ended up shooting the items and wasting precious ammo when I was just trying to switch abilities.

A very welcome addition to the game are the customization options. Players can add mods to their mechs, which grant special bonuses like extra damage, double health, and other such things. You can also paint different designs on your mech, and even alter your character’s voice. Best of all, you can swap with mods you’re using in between missions, meaning you can play the game in whatever way you want until you find the method you like best. These mods also give the game a tiny taste of the series’ explorative elements, as players have to search high and low to find the mods hidden within the missions.

Unfortunately, searching for the mods doesn’t add a whole lot of depth to what are otherwise pretty uninspired levels. While the missions at least have some variety with their objectives, the level design itself leaves a lot to be desired. There’s just not much to them. There are a few puzzles, enemy encounters and boss fights to be had, but the puzzles feel bland, the enemy encounters can get monotonous, and the boss fights are just too tedious.

Things can pick up a little if you’re playing with a few friends. Federation Force allows up to four players to take part in the game’s campaign. When all four players are active, Federation Force begins to feel like the game it was meant to be. The largely empty levels begin to come to life with four players working in tandem. Unfortunately, even having all four players on board doesn’t help the puzzles or boss fights stand out more.

Blast BallMetroid Prime: Federation Force also includes a competitive multplayer mode known as Blast Ball, which is more or less Rocket League but with mechs shooting the ball into the other team’s goal instead of using cars to do the job. Though Blast Ball can provide some bursts of fun, the concept doesn’t always mesh with the game’s mechanics, and you quickly feel like you’d rather be playing the actual Rocket League instead.

As a whole, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not the disaster that Nintendo’s fans made it out to be, and it’s an insurmountably better game than Other M. But it’s also incredibly unspectacular. The gameplay works, and though the art direction may not be what one would expect from a Metroid title, it does help make the visuals pop, especially with the 3DS’ 3D effects turned on. Unfortunately, the bland level design and emptiness within them prevent  Federation Force from putting up much of an argument against its naysayers.

Still though, it’s not Other M. Be thankful for that.

5.5

Kirby: Planet Robobot Review

Kirby Planet Robobot

Kirby: Planet Robobot is the second Kirby title to hit the 3DS, after Kirby Triple Deluxe. While Robobot uses many of Triple Deluxe’s assets, it improves on its predecessor in nearly every way, creating one of Kirby’s best adventures in years.

The main story mode of Kirby Planet Robobot sees Kirby’s home world of Pop Star invaded by the Haltmann Works Company and its army of robots, who wish to convert the planet and its citizens into more machines. Naturally, it’s up to Kirby to save the day.

While that may not be much of a plot, the game benefits from it in terms of aesthetics. Though it runs on the same engine as Triple Deluxe, Planet Robobot’s robot motif gives the Kirby universe a fresh twist. Environments are either partially or completely converted into metal worlds, and even classic Kirby enemies get a robotic makeover.

Kirby can still eat enemies and gain their powers, with most of the usual checklist of powers being accounted for, along with three new ones. The EarthBound-inspired PSI Kirby, the devastating Poison Kirby, and the relatively underwhelming Doctor Kirby. While Kirby’s usual gameplay remains as fun as ever, the biggest twist to the gameplay also stems from the game’s robot-centric theme.

Kirby Planet RobobotIn various points of the game, Kirby can pilot his own Robobot, a powerful mech suit reminiscent of those found in Mega Man X. While the Robobot Armor gives Kirby strong physical attacks, it’s best feature is that it, like Kirby himself, can copy enemy abilities, effectively doubling the number of powers in the game, and putting new spins on old classics.

Though the Robobot Armor doesn’t appear on every stage, it proves to be a meaningful game changer. It’s up there with Kirby 64’s combined copy abilities as one of the best gameplay additions in the series history. Hopefully it will make a return in some form in future installments (come to think of it, the same goes for the combined powers concept as well).

Also like Triple Deluxe, Planet Robobot takes full advantage of the 3DS’ 3D visuals. Many of the game’s stages emphasize the differences between the foreground and backgrounds, with its best levels and puzzles keeping the player involved with both perspectives at once. It joins its predecessor, Pushmo and Super Mario 3D Land as one of the few 3DS games whose gameplay benefits from having the 3D turned on.

One downside to the game is that, while Triple Deluxe made full use of the 3DS in ways other than visuals – with a number of puzzles requiring the use of motion controls – those elements have all but disappeared from Planet Robobot, save for a few very brief instances near the end. It isn’t a big complaint, but considering how Planet Robobot builds so strongly on almost everything Triple Deluxe started, it’s a shame that such a prevalent element from Triple Deluxe seems nearly forgotten and tossed in at the last minute.

Kirby Planet RobobotThe main adventure alone is incredible, with great level design that takes full advantage of the classic Kirby gameplay and Robobot’s new additions, sharp visuals, an infectious soundtrack, awesome boss encounters (including a thrilling finale), and some good replay value with collectible stickers (which can decorate the Robobot Armor) and Code Cubes (a few of which are required to reach each world’s boss, with the rest unlocking secret levels and one-hundred percent completion). But, as has been Kirby’s trend for a few years now, the game boasts a number of additional game modes for even more content.

From the get-go, players can select two other play modes: Team Kirby Clash and Kirby 3D Rumble. Team Kirby Clash is a fun combination of RPGs and fighting games, where up to four players can team up to take on large bosses (found exclusively in this mode) as one of four different classes, based on the Sword, Hammer, Doctor and Beam powers from the main game. Meanwhile, Kirby 3D Rumble places Kirby in a series of micro-levels played from a top-down perspective, where Kirby relies solely on his ability to inhale enemies and objects to rack up points and combos.

While these modes are both fun and add to the game’s content, they sadly don’t have too much replay value. The list of bosses found in Team Kirby Clash is rather short, and Kirby 3D Rumble can be completed in a few short minutes, and only those who want to beat their record times will have much incentive to go back. On the plus side, there are a few other modes that can be unlocked after completing the main game, so the variety keeps coming.

Kirby Planet RobobotKirby: Planet Robobot is one of the best Kirby titles in years. It takes most of what Triple Deluxe accomplished, improves on it, and adds some fun tricks of its own. The additional modes may leave you wanting a bit more out of them, but Kirby’s rarely been as fun as he is here, paired up with his delightful Robobot Armor.

 

8.5

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Review

Paper Jam

After the inaugural Super Mario RPG, the Mario roleplaying games branched into two different series: the Paper Mario series, and the Mario & Luigi series. After going back and forth between the two spinoffs for a decade and a half, it seems only appropriate that they’d eventually end up coming together. Enter Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.

As the title of the game suggests, Paper Jam is more Mario & Luigi than it is Paper Mario, but perhaps that’s for the best, seeing as the last Paper Mario (that would be Sticker Star) was the first dud of a Mario RPG, while the Mario & Luigi games have been a bit more consistent. Though Paper Jam retains much of that consistency in a number of areas, it’s a bit paper thin in others.

In Paper Jam, Mario and Luigi are joined by Paper Mario, after Luigi accidentally opens a magic book that unleashes the denizens of Paper Mario’s world into the Mushroom Kingdom.

Paper Mario makes for a fun new addition to the gameplay, being able to squeeze through tight spaces, roll into a scroll to grab out of reach objects, and even turn into a paper airplane when necessary. But Paper Mario’s biggest contribution comes in the game’s battle system.

Paper JamLike all of the Mario RPGs, the battle system is fun and engaging, with each of the character’s actions being mapped to a different button on the 3DS (A for Mario, B for Luigi, Y for Paper Mario). As is series tradition, each enemy provides a different strategy in their attacks, leaving every battle feeling fresh. Mario and Luigi still use their usual jump, hammer and Bros. attacks, while Paper Mario puts a new spin on the equation.

Paper Mario can create copies of himself, which give him more jumps in his attacks, and allows his hammers to attack multiple foes at once. Paper Mario also gets special “Trio” attacks which, as their name implies, are special moves that utilize all three characters.

Boss battles are another highlight of the game, with many of the boss encounters bringing out all the stops in the battle system. Additionally, Papercraft battles – which serve as exclamation points to a number of the chapters in the game’s story – further change up the gameplay. Papercraft battles more or less replace the giant battles from the last two Mario & Luigi installments, and place the three heroes on top of mech-like papercraft constructs.

Between the player interaction, enemy varieties, Bros. and Trio attacks, fun bosses and papercraft battles, Paper Jam certainly has a lot going for it on the RPG battle system front. On the downside, there are two elements to the gameplay that prevent Paper Jam from reclaiming the glory of Superstar Saga or Bowser’s Inside Story.

The first, unfortunately, is part of the battle system itself, in the form of character cards. Not long into the adventure, the Mario trio gains the ability to use special cards in battle (mostly as a means to integrate Amiibo functionality into the game), but they’re a practically broken mechanic that make battles far too easy. I found myself  never using them as to keep the fun of the battle system intact.

The other problem occurs outside of battles, in the form of Paper Toad rescue missions. Within each chapter of the game, the heroes will have to take part in multiple mini-games in which they need to rescue a series of Paper Toads. On their own, these mini-games aren’t bad, but they become so insistently frequent they end up breaking the flow of the game. As an optional sidequest they may have added to the experience. But seeing as they’re often forced on the player in order to progress, they start to feel like unnecessary padding.

Perhaps the biggest misstep of Paper Jam doesn’t involve the gameplay, but the writing. Since their inception with Super Mario RPG, Mario roleplaying games – the Mario & Luigi series in particular – have been some of the funniest games out there. They often play up the bizarre and surreal nature of Mario’s world to give them a unique sense of humor that simply wouldn’t work in a game outside of the Mario series. That’s why it’s a shame to admit that Paper Jam, though not without its moments, isn’t really funny.

The storyline is incredibly simple, with Bowser and his paper counterpart working together to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom, while the heroes try to get both worlds back in their place. It’s a plot that simply doesn’t play up the charm and weirdness of the Mario series in the way the Mario & Luigi games used to excel at.

It should also be noted that every character who appears in the game is a returning face from the Mario platformers. While Superstar Saga, Bowser’s Inside Story and, heck, even Partners in Time and Dream Team introduced us to some fun new characters as well as old favorites, Paper Jam seems to be playing things incredibly safe with its character selection. Fawful will forever be missed.

If you’re looking for a solid RPG on the 3DS, then Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is a whole lot of fun. The battle system is terrific if you ignore the cards and Amiibo, it looks great, with the paper characters in particular really standing out with the 3DS’ 3D effects, and the musical score by Yoko Shinomura is once again a standout. But there was a time when Mario RPGs were more than simply “solid,” and provided some of the best RPGs of their respective generations.

Paper JamSuper Mario RPG is still remembered as one of the classics of the genre, Paper Mario is one of the more timeless N64 titles, the Thousand-Year Door was one of the GameCube’s finest offerings, and Superstar Saga and Bowser’s Inside Story are underrated gems. The fact that the last few Mario RPGs haven’t been nearly as memorable is somewhat worrisome.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is a fun game in its own right. But perhaps it’s time the Mario RPGs created a whole new identity outside of Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario and start fresh. It would be a true shame if the Mario RPGs continued merely being “solid” and not something more.

 

6.0