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blazemanx

Review: Paper Mario The Thousand - Year Door

By: blazemanx Jun 20, 2011 | 440 Views | 5 Comments

Who knew something as thin as paper could be so epic!

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the long awaited sequel to the original Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 back in 2001. The original Paper Mario was released at the very end of the Nintendo 64's lifespan so not everyone had the chance to experience it. Paper Mario was an amazing game that sure lived up to the high expectations of Super Mario RPG fanatics. In 2003 Mario RPG fans were greeted with the superb Gameboy Advance RPG, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga. Then in late 2004 Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was finally released. I can tell you that if you enjoyed any of the previous Mario RPG games in the slightest bit then Paper Mario 2 will be a joy ride for you from start to finish. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door achieves greatness on almost every level and is just a fun and engaging RPG.

Story:


Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door has one of the best Mario game story lines I have seen to date. Generally as you know Mario games typically follow the path of Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach and it's up to Mario (and sometimes Luigi) to rescue her. However in 2003 Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga separated itself from this typical storyline proving that Mario games can indeed have a complex storyline. Paper Mario 2 took no trouble in following in Superstar Saga's footsteps. Creating it's own engaging storyline. It all starts out with Princess Peach who finds a magical treasure map, that leads to an extraordinary treasure. Sending the map to Mario he soon decides to gear up and head out in search of this treasure. Of course in typical Mario game fashion Peach is kidnapped but this time it wasn't Bowser. Following this event comes some pleasing humor involving Bowser being angry that someone other then him had the audacity to kidnap the Princess. Bower then sets off to stop Mario from getting the treasure and he decides he will also kidnap the Princess in the process. You eventually learn that a character named Grodus of the X-nauts is responsible for kidnapping the Princess. The story unfolds at a pleasing pace, and you will just be pleased throughout the entire experience. There is no doubt that Paper Mario is one of the best games I have ever played and arguably the best game on the Gamecube. Paper Mario 2 has so many memorable moments and humor and challenging puzzles that you will have a smile on your face the entire game. 

Gameplay:


Paper Mario 2 is overall just a really fun game. In many RPG's you can become overwhelmed with random encounters and become frustrated when trying to solve a puzzle or get somewhere. For anyone who is unfamiliar with a Mario related RPG, they do not have Random encounters, they do not exist. Instead the enemies are displayed on the level. A battle will occur depending on if you do one of the following: come into contact with the enemy, jump on enemy/hit them with your hammer, or your enemy uses an attack on you. If none of you attack each other a battle will commence regularly, with you attacking first. If you strike your opponent to initiate a battle you can get a first attack in before your real turn. If your opponent attacks you to initiate the battle your opponent will get an attack on you at the start before you can issue your commands.

During the game you will have partners who you will acquire and they will join your party. However you can only use 1 party member at a time therefore in battle you will have Mario and a party member. You can switched these party members during their turn or your turn, however this will sacrifice either Mario's turn or your partners turn when you switch. This can be countered with a quick switch badge that lets you change partners without using it as your turn. Mario and his partner will have HP, but they will change the same FP (flower points) FP is used to cast magic spells or use certain abilities. Mario's attacks consist of various jumping and hammer attacks, these attacks can be further improved by equipping various badges to gain new jumping and hammer techniques. Mario will also have the ability to use "Special Moves" which can be done using Star Power. Every time you recover a Crystal Star (the motivation for the games story) You will gain 1 extra point for Star Power. These special moves can turn even the most hopeless battle into your favor. Mario's partners will all have different special abilities, and each partner can be "upgraded" twice, gaining more HP and abilities each time. Each partner also has a specific move that can be used during the world to uncover secrets or help you progress through your adventure. For example the first ally you receive is named Goombella, and she will give you hints on how to get past the current area you are in. Your next partner, named Koops will help you by shooting out in his shell, which can be used to obtain items out o reach or hit switches at a certain time while you jump across the newly revealed area that only stays for a certain amount of time.

There is also a certain thing called "Action Commands" these are based on time. When you select the jump attack on an enemy you must press A right before landing on the enemy. This will do the following: Deal full damage to the enemy and give you star power from the audience. Yes, your battles take place in front of an audience. When you do a successful action command the audience will become pleased with you and even sometimes throw you power ups or coins. If you fail to properly execute an action command the following will happen: You will lose members of your audience, you will not gain star power and you will not deal full damage to your opponents.

Correctly executing action commands can severely aid you during your battles as you will have symbols that appear in the upper right corner of the screen. Say you accurately land 2 jump attacks and get 2 Mushroom cards. The next time you successfully land an action command you will start a roulette. If you score a Mushroom (3 mushroom cards) you will get a Bonus, which will completely restore you and your ally's HP in battle. There are many other different outcomes of the roulette. There is even one that will poison you and hurt you, but I only got this one time throughout the entire game and came close one other time, but it is nothing to worry about, and happens very rarely. (It depends on you, if you land the third poison mushroom on the roulette, then it is technically your fault that it happened.

During the game you will also collect badges, badges improve your abilities. Every time you level up you have the option to increase your HP by 5, your FP by 5 or your BP by 3. BP is Badge Points and each Badge will cost a certain amount of Badge points in order to be equipped, ranging from 1-6 (sometimes certain badges are 0). You can wear as many badges as you have Badge points for them. But you can easily un-equip badges to equip new ones.

You will also encounter black boxes throughout your journey that will "curse you" with a new ability, such as turning into a paper airplane, and you need to fly to wherever your trying to go. You will gain many other abilities, but I will let you figure out what they are on your own.

One of my favorite things about Paper Mario 2, is that similar to the first game you will control Peach in between each chapter learning more about the story. You will also control Bowser in between each chapter as he pursues Mario and tries to figure out just what the heck is going on. But don't worry, you will get many chances to do battle with Bowser, but remember that the main focus is not on him. 

Graphics:


The graphics in Paper Mario are a joy to look at. Everything looks nice and is detailed. Since Mario and all the characters in the game are 2D or you could even say "paper" since you use a lot of "papery qualities" to solve puzzles. The characters are 2D characters trapped in what appears to be a 3D world. However the game makes good use of the 3D-2D interaction. Mario interacts with the 3D environment using his clever 2D abilities in an extraordinary way. There is also many areas that are cleverly hidden in the trippy game world. Certain areas are hidden because for example some walls might look like a wall but they actually have an opening in them that you don't even realize they are there until half way through the game, and your just like "Wow, I didn't know that was there." Paper Mario 2 has some of the best 2D graphics around and the way they interact with the 3D environment is just really cool to see. The graphics also have a cartoony appearance to them, but it just adds to the pleasant feeling of the game. But don't be fooled, Paper Mario isn't all just about pretty things, it does have it's eerie looking places and cool looking places to. Paper Mario has a lot to offer that you wouldn't know about from first glance.

Sound:


The music Paper Mario is really good. Every tune fits the game perfectly, and I was never annoyed by a single sound in the game. Even the noises that Mario, Luigi, Peach and many other characters make you will not be annoyed by them at all. Everything from the battle music to the various tracks from each area everything is excellent and I never got sick of any of the tunes in the game. Everything here is top notch quality.

Length:


This is one long RPG. I completed my game in +40 hours (I think around 43) and that was not even everything in the game. I still have many side quests to complete and badges and recipes to discover. The first play through is worth the full price alone and the sides quests and privilege of playing the game again a second time through in the future is limitless. I can guarantee that Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door will definitely be one of those games I will visit again. The single player game will keep you engrossed for hours and you will most likely be sad when the game is over. But thankfully after the credits you are given the option to save your game, then you can return to the town that acts as your hub to do everything you never did. The thing I like about it is after the conclusion and the games story comes to an end you take the boat back to Rogueport and the captain says something along the lines of "I don't know why your coming back here but whatever" And then you meet back up with your old party members and they warmly greet you. 

Final Verdict: BUY IT!

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door is an outstanding game and ranks right up with other classic RPG's in terms of quality, presentation and outstanding gameplay. Paper Mario 2 is a game that you should not miss for any reason other then if you detest Mario or RPG's. If you own a Gamecube don't wait any longer, go get this game now before it becomes one of those legendary games that becomes impossible to find, just like all the old favorites from the N64 and SNES days. It will happen eventually, so go get your copy now. Paper Mario is an astounding accomplishment, and just a joy to play for every minute of the experience .

So are you down with the paper plumber? Let us know and don't be a jimmy. 

Community Review

blazemanx

Review: Baten Kaitos

By: blazemanx Jun 13, 2011 | 367 Views | 4 Comments

A truly unique and beautiful game.......one of those rare gems.

Back when baten kaitos was first released many years ago it was one of those games that literally made my eyes pop. Just from the box art alone it felt as though this RPG would be grand and epic did it live up to my expectations? 

Story:

Baten Kaitos's story starts off very slowly. In the game, you are a Guardian Spirit, a spirit from another world, bonded to Kalas, the main character. Your role is to protect him and help him, although you don't know anything of his past, yet. The story takes place in a world where its winged inhabitants live on floating islands and where the ocean is said to have been sucked up by a god long ago. Strangely enough, Kalas only has one wing, the other one being mechanical. When you first meet with him, he is about to leave on a journey to avenge his grandfather and brother's deaths. As he starts his journey, he meets with a girl by the name of Xhela. Although Kalas really doesn't want her to get in his way, she insists of coming with him, as their respective goals seem to lead the same way: the emperor, who seems to be plotting something related to reviving the wicked gods that caused the lost of the ocean long ago. May seem like a typical story (it is), but as you go on, some plot twists may cause you a heart-attack at some point in the game. Unfortunately, the main disappointment could be the shallow party members, but Kalas makes up for them, as I thought he was an excellent character. 

Graphics:

Graphically, Baten Kaitos is a very impressive game. The pre-rendered backgrounds used in the game are beautifully detailed and give towns charm and a very unique atmosphere. The sceneries are simply beautiful and there are so many details that you could spend hours scrutinizing the backgrounds. The world maps for each island are what's the most impressive. Just a quick look a them makes you feel like exploring every inch of them. My only grip with the pre-rendered backgrounds was that there were times where I felt more as if I was moving a character in a pretty painting rather than exploring the environments, due to the fixed camera angle. I also have to take off some points for the blocky 3D character models that contrast with the superb pre-renders, and while the animations during the battles are top-notch, the 3D environments shown during them are not on pair with the pre-rendered ones used in the rest of the game. 

Gameplay:

As you probably already know, Baten Kaitos is an RPG featuring an epic quest and a card-based battle system, but I'll cover this later. In the game, you play as a guardian spirit watching over Kalas and must help him make the correct choices throughout the adventure, which are supposed to affect the ending of the game. As your typical RPG, the quest starts off in a small peaceful village, but soon enough, you and Kalas must venture outside and traverse dangerous lands inhabited by ferocious beasts, in order to reach the next town, usually bigger and more lively. In Baten Kaitos, gone are the endless bland fields you must traverse on the world map in order to reach the next location. You can see the location you must head for on the world map, and must simply walk to it with no encounters with enemies. While it makes traveling through the different locations on the world map less annoying and quicker, it does take out a bit of the exploration feel you usually have in other RPGs.

One thing I was a bit disappointed of was the way the islands were so beautiful and seemed so large, yet I couldn't explore them fully. A large portion of some islands were left unexplored. For instance, I could see a mountain drawn on one of the islands, but the party just never stops at it. It left me with the feeling that I wasn't seeing as much of the islands as I would have liked. Hopefully, there is still a large number of beautiful areas and towns to explore in the game. The areas you will journey through during the adventure are each quite distinctive depending on which island you are on, each island having its own respective theme. The areas you'll be visiting are quite simple, they are not overfilled with puzzles and the scenery is beautiful thanks to the pre-rendered graphics. Monsters roam freely as you explore the areas looking for hidden treasure chests, but you can see them, and therefore avoid them if you're not feeling like fighting.

What will mostly catch your eyes are probably the towns. They're beautiful, unique and atmospheric. Sadly, once you start exploring them, you'll find out that they're pretty small although they look quite large. There are a lot of side quests though, and like always, you can freely enter any house and search in the villagers' things to find rare items and make them yours to keep. This brings me to talk about the Magnus, which are the heart of the game. Magnus are the essences of objects in this world that you can trap in blank cards and keep on you while you travel. For example, you can trap the essence of the fire from a fireplace in a card and use that card on a tree trunk to burn it down. You can trap a lot of different essences in your cards, including water, snow, flowers, lava and various other things you'll come across during the adventure, each having its own unique use. Another interesting aspect of the Magnus are that they age over time. If you wait several hours, the snow will eventually turn into water, for instance.

You'll probably also notice that there are no inns or weapons/armors shops in Baten Kaitos. You can't equip weapons and armors to your characters, as the weapons and armors' essences are contained within the cards you use for fighting. Each town has one shop, a shop where you can rest and buy/sell Magnus cards. The cards you buy in shops or find in treasure chests are usually the ones you'll use for the battles. The cards vary from weapons, armors, healing items and various other magnus. Each of your characters has its own deck, a deck you will need to fill up with the right cards in order to come up with a balanced deck. Obviously, if you get stronger cards later on, you will need to replace the weaker cards by these stronger cards in your deck, but always keeping a balanced number of attack, defense and healing cards.

The battles are quite easy to handle and understand. At the start of a fight, cards chosen randomly from your deck will be shown on the screen. While the fights play like turn-based battles, there is a bit of real-time involved, resulting in a very unique and strategic battle system. When your character's turn to attack comes, you have a set number of time to choose what cards to use against the enemy and try to pick them up in a special order to make combos for extra damage, depending on the spirit numbers shown in the corners of your cards. After the attack turn where you can choose to attack the enemy or heal yourself up, you will have a turn to defend yourself against the enemy's attacks. Three of your party members can participate in the battles and each have their own special cards and finishing moves. For example, Kalas attacks with swords and defends himself with shields, while Xhela uses spells and defends with capes and hoods. This new type of card battle system feels really refreshing after all those RPGs using the traditional turn-based system. 

Music:

The music is enchanting and atmospheric, suiting perfectly whatever area or town you are in, and fits every situation with perfection. While the towns and areas' music is rather calm and restful, the battle music is more lively and really keeps you on your toes. However, the music does tend to repeat in some areas and towns. The voice-acting also lowers the score a bit, as the characters seem to talk through a pipe and some voices don't go along too well with some characters. Luckily, you can turn them off if you're not willing to hear them. 

Final Verdict: BUY IT

Baten Kaitos is a fairly long game, lasting 50-60 hours for the average gamer, plus a 20 hours if you plan on completing every single side quest and even more if you try to collect all 1000 Magnus cards. As for a second or perhaps even a third play through, the game is enjoyable enough, but probably not for a fourth one.

In conclusion, Baten Kaitos is a great RPG experience that any RPG fan most definitively needs to try out. Even if you're not inclined towards card RPGs, give this one a chance and you'll most certainly be surprised by the fun and addictive battle system. 

So what do you think of this hidden gem on the nintendo gamecube? Let us know and don't be a jimmy.

 

 

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