A meeting of two worlds.
Both fans of the Mario & Luigi and the Paper Mario games will have a lot to be excited about with the release of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros on 3DS. The Mario themed RPGs come together into something which, although not breaking ground for the two series, manages to provide a lengthy and easily accessible adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom.
When it comes to plot, it would be no surprise to find that in Paper Jam Bros the story once again revolves around Princess kidnapping. The stories in most Mario games tend not to stray too far from this simple premise. However, in Paper Jam Bros, there is a little more going on. Once more the butt of all jokes, Luigi manages to disturb a book in some dark cellar of the castle and happens to unleash the Paper Mario world into the regular world. This means allowing Paper Bowser and all of his wafer thin minions into the world, where they team up with regular Bowser and such to plot the overthrow of the Mushroom Kingdom and the kidnapping of multiple Princesses. In true Nintendo fashion, this leads to all manner of comical moments which are just a joy to watch, especially the interactions between Bowser and Paper Bowser.
Still, the day needs to be saved, and once again this responsibility falls onto Mario and Luigi. But they are not alone, as Paper Mario also came through into the world and will team up with his 3D world counterpart and brother (Paper Luigi didn’t make it through, I think we should assume the worst). Paper Mario brings with him an incredible array of different abilities that will help the trio to move forward in their quest, not least of which is the ability to squeeze through small spaces and transform into a paper aeroplane to cross large gaps. Let the fun commence…
As the player explores the familiar landscapes of Mushroom Kingdom, they will often find themselves heading into battle. As with the previous Mario JRPGs, this is where the game really shines. The combat is turn based, but is much more interactive than it sounds, with each character having a specific button that they can press at the right time to either do more damage for their own attack, or avoid damage from an enemy attack. This comes down to timing and being able to predict, from the happenings onscreen, what the enemy is going to do. There is a complexity to this, but being able to practice along with following tutorials means that the player can quickly learn the depths of this system. As new forms of combat are introduced through the game, and the inclusion of some really enjoyable boss battles, these battles never get old and remain enjoyable for the length of the game.
Paper Mario brings his own abilities to the battles. He is able to replicate himself to create a form of armour for defence or for additional damage when attacking. Of course, any paper adversaries that the team come up against also bring their own abilities of a similar nature, which leads to some really cool moments in battle.
Paper Jam Bros also introduces some additional tactics with the Battle Cards. Players can build decks of cards offering all manner of bonuses which can then be activated in battle using star points which come from causing damage. It is a nice system that adds more to think about, although it is quite possible to play through without worrying about the cards.
The same could be said for the cards that can be created by using Amiibo. Considering how convoluted the process is for creating these Amiibo cards, which involves multiple tapping of Amiibo on the 3DS and a large amount of faffing around, I would say that the Amiibo cards are largely best forgotten about.
Aside from the excellent battle system and the slightly over familiar exploring of the Mushroom Kingdom, players will find themselves confronted with multiple mini games. The most common of these games will involve rescuing loads of Paper Toads. While this can get tiresome, it leads to the creation of massive papercraft models which can then be used in arena-type battles. Controlling these giant papercraft sculptures is one of the highlights of the game.
Paper Jam Bros is quite an easy game to play, but the player will still have to invest more than 25 hours to see it through. This is great for newcomers, who are served well by the easiness and the wealth of tutorials, while more veteran players will be grateful for the chance to avoid tutorials all together, and even fast forward through the dialogue sections. It may not have the depth that many veterans would be looking for, but there is plenty going on here to strike a happy medium.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros is another great Mario themed JRPG, packed with humour, variety and an excellent battle system. While it may not evolve the series in any meaningful way, it is still a great RPG and an excellent entry point for those who have never role-played in the Mushroom Kingdom before.