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"Thinner Mario, Bigger Adventure!"
Paper Mario is a Role Playing Game Spin-Off series of Super Mario Bros. developed by Intelligent Systems (who also develop the Wars series and Fire Emblem series) following the general idea of Super Mario RPG (its working title was Super Mario RPG 2), but in a sort of Alternate Dimension where everyone is as thin and two-dimensional as paper (hence the name). The original game debuted on the Nintendo 64, and it was one of only ten games released for the system in 2001, a year that saw twice as many Gamecube games released despite that system not debuting until November.
First of all, they break up the static turn-based encounters of many Eastern RPGs with Action Commands and the ability to hit enemies (which exist on the screen before the battle starts and are attacked in a manner similar to Earthbound) on the field for a "First Strike". The sequel took it even further by putting battles onto a theater stage, complete with audience and backgrounds that occasionally fall down on the combatants.
Second of all, the battle system is significantly simpler than the norm for RPGs. For example, only two characters are present in battle at once: Mario and one of his various partners, whose abilities and options are more limited than Mario's, especially in the first game where they didn't even have health (they were simply stunned by the few attacks that could target them). The functions in the code used to calculate damage are also much simpler, using addition and subtraction as the main operations for this purpose; for example, if you have an attack stat of seven, and the enemy has a defense stat of five, the enemy will two point of damage, because seven minus two equals five.
Lastly, rather easy on the equipment screen. Mario's weapons, his boots (for the jump attack) and hammer, are automatically upgraded at certain points in the game (also adding new abilities for the overworld) and his partners are upgraded at certain places (increasing their attack power and health and giving them an additional combat ability). That only leaves Badges, items that are equipped using Badge Points and have various effects on Mario (or his partners in the sequel, which had Partner Badges). Some of them give him new abilities, increase his offense or defense, give him an edge against certain enemies, change visuals or sound effects or even put him at a disadvantage (to make the game more challenging).
While all three games in the series follow different plots, there are certain shared habits. The game is broken down into a prologue and eight chapters. In the first seven chapters, Mario and his gang of "partners" rescue seven mystical stars (much like those in Super Mario RPG), which have the power to stop the bad guys. In the first two games, these stars also give Mario unique powers that require star energy that slowly regenerates in battle (both games feature ways to speed up the process; the sequel ties it to the audience). Other long-term standbys include the ability to cook items, entertaining recurring bosses and giving Peach a role of more than just a Distressed Damsel: While she is taken captive by the bad guys in the first two games, she spies on them to help Mario.
The series consists of:
- Paper Mario (original)
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
- Super Paper Mario
- Paper Mario Sticker Star
This game series has a Character Sheet.
The Paper Mario series provides examples of:
- Action Commands: Integral to dealing as much damage as possible to enemies or getting the most benefits from status-buffing special moves.
- Anti-Grinding: The first game prevented you from getting star points (experience) from enemies that are too weak. The second game did the same, but allowed for some grinding by guaranteeing one star point if the enemies don't give you one.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: Much of the humor derives from poking fun at Mario series and other video game conventions.
- Call a Hit Point a Smeerp: Heart Points instead of Hit Points, Flower Points instead of Magic Points, and Star Points instead of Experience Points.
- Cast of Snowflakes
- Character Development
- Darker and Edgier: The second and third games have both been darker than their respective predecessors. It remains to be seen if the 3DS game will go the same path.
- Drop the Hammer: One of Mario's two main attacks in the series, the other being jumping.
- Goomba Stomp: One of Mario's two main attacks in the series, the other being a hammer.
- Ground Pound: An unlockable in ability in each game, though in the first and second games, it's erroneously called a Spin Jump.
- Hub World: All games have one that connects to each world in each game.
- Limit Break: The first and second games give Mario these kinds of moves called "special moves" which are powered by Star Power and are unlocked over the course of the game.
- Magnetic Hero: Mario, who attracts many parters over the course of each game.
- No Hero Discount: In this game and all the sequels. You're a worldwide hero needed to save the world/multiverse and you still need to pay for inns, items, and fortunetelling. At least you don't pay for inns in the first game, but considering Mario's more famous in the Mushroom Kingdom than in Rogueport or Flipside, it's not quite enough slack.
- Powers as Programs: The badge system, which allows equippable jump and hammer moves as well as status buffs.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Mario puts one together in all games.
- Rule of Seven: The number of Plot Coupons in the first and second games. Averted in Super Paper Mario, where there are eight of them.
- Scenery Porn: Each game has it, getting better as the series progresses.
- Sequel Escalation: The first game involved saving the Mushroom Kingdom. The second game had Mario saving the entire world from a group of moon-dwelling aliens. The third game involved saving The Multiverse from a Five-Bad Band and their Artifact of Doom.
- Storybook Opening: All three games so far have opened this way, each of them telling the Backstory of important places or objects in the game.
- We Cannot Go on Without You: If Mario falls in battle, the game ends. If any of the partners fall, it doesn't, and they can be revived afterwards or during battle.