I finished Paper Mario: Sticker Star around Christmas-time, but I had to really mull on it after I finished to sort out my feelings on the game. I hadn’t really touched a Mario game of any sort since the NES days of Super Mario Bros. 3, so in many ways, I felt completely out of my element with this game. The Mario-verse has obviously evolved greatly since my last foray, and if it wasn’t for the strategy guide, I would have been absolutely lost and most likely would have rage quit halfway through World 2. After sifting through the pros and cons, my feelings when I first played and my feelings when I finished, and how much the strategy guide the held my hand, I have to say that while PMSS is extremely cute–at times downright adorable–and initially enjoyable, the experience does not hold-up enough for me to recommend it to anyone other than die-hard Mario fans (and they would have bought it anyway).
When I first started PMSS, I was elated. The game was so cute and clever with its presentation, gameplay, and interactions between characters. I had a great time planning out how to use my stickers, coming up with effective combos, collecting new stickers, and successfully executing those “Excellent!” attacks. I even found it charming how creative the developers were with how players can obtain the Things. For example, it was extremely clever to pick up a bowling ball Thing in one world and then remember that in a previous world there was an empty area that looked like a bowling lane. If you take the bowling ball Thing there and use it in that area, Mario hurls the bowling ball down the lane, striking pins that suddenly appeared. As a result, you can find a bowling trophy Thing in another level. Would I have ever figured that out 100% on my own? Oh hell no, I wouldn’t, but I appreciate how creative that idea was.
I also greatly enjoyed some of the cinematics and set-pieces of the game. The little poems that Kersti read after you defeated the main boss of each world were, for the lack of a better word, adorable. The Snifit or Whiffit Game Show was by far my favorite level of the entire game, so I really didn’t mind playing the gauntlet a second time with the Wiggler segment just for that Wiggler diary entry that really means nothing in the end. If that was a real game show, I’d most likely watch it (or at the very least, DVR it).
While the gameplay was fun at first, by World 4, I found my enjoyment greatly lagging. Instead of playing several levels a night, I played one and then stopped because I was bored. Sometimes I would dedicate whole play sessions just to finding collectibles, just so I wouldn’t have to make my way through more repetitive gameplay. Halfway through World 5, I started to play the game maybe once a week instead of daily. By the time I started World 6, I had a hard time caring about playing at all.
This is honestly one reason why I’ve never finished a Mario game before. It’s partially because of the platforming, but it’s also partially because I get too bored with playing before I get near the end. The Legend of Zelda games have also suffered from a similar problem with me. It didn’t help that by the time you reached World 6, you needed to go back through some of the levels and “grind” a bit to restock your Sticker Album with the stickers that you will need to survive the regular fights you will encounter, much less the ungodly long fight with Bowser at the end. Maybe you’ll have enough coin to just buy the stickers you need, but most of the flashy stickers that you will need you cannot buy in shops, and they’re only found in specific levels.
Does it sound like your typical JRPG? Dear God, yes. So why can I hack something like Final Fantasy XIII but not PMSS? The only answer I have for that is that at least with other JRPGs, there’s a real story going on. With PMSS, the story is as bare bones as any other Mario game: Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach. AGAIN. Granted, PMSS had a little more to it with the missing Royal Stickers fiasco, but that’s not enough of a story to keep me excited about mundane and repetitive gameplay.
I’m glad I ventured back into the world of Mario, no matter how brief my stint was, but I’m officially done with trying out new Mario games. I don’t like platforming, and even the RPGs don’t have enough story to keep the intrigue going. Mario and I are just not meant to be, and that’s fine. The Mario fanboys and fangirls out there are gleeful enough about Mario to make up for my indifference.