The bar has been set high for 2016: The wonderful meshing of twitch and RPG based combat, constantly growing list of abilities, ever changing enemy types, and all around charm sets Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam apart from other RPGs. Almost every aspect of Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam coalesces into a near perfect game. That's quite the feat considering how many different things are jammed into this little package. There's almost always something new to do after every notable encounter, which is important in a genre that is flooded with games that become exercises in rote repetition long before they end. Paper Jam is roughly 30 hours of portable gaming joy, and a great start to a year that should be loaded with JRPG styled goodness.
- Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam's combat is top notch. It's an improved take on the Mario and Luigi style, with the addition of Paper Mario, Trio Attacks, and optional battle cards. Combat remains interesting and challenging throughout, never once becoming boring or stale.
- Enemy variety is awesome. Each enemy has completely unique attacks that players need to be able to recognize and react to quickly. Their paper counterparts also add a few creases to the formula in ways that just feel good. For example, Ninji and Paper Ninji share similar attacks, but the tell for Ninji's false clone attack is that the fakes have blue buttons instead of red. Meanwhile, Paper Ninji's false copies all have red buttons, but they flap a little in the wind.
- The game play blends skill based play with RPG leveling in a manner that makes both styles of play viable. If you're good with reading enemy attacks and timing counters, you can skate through the entire game untouched, with no grinding whatsoever. On the flip side, the less dexterous can level up, buy the best equipment, and stockpile healing items and battlle card to claw their way through in a more traditional RPG manner.
- Papercraft battles are a real highlight. Aside from being adorable, they're a breath of fresh air when they appear. Each Papercraft, and its corresponding battle arena, offers unique mechanics to master. Plus, the weird sumo-like battles never overstay their welcome.
- The Toad mini games are actually fun. They range from spotting hidden toads, to stealthing your way through enemy territory. They aren't just for show though, many of them are good ways of teaching players exploration mechanics.
- The story is well done. Paper Jam is no The Last of Us, but It's not trying to be. It's a simple, quirky story about plumber brothers and a paper doppelganger chasing down fire-breathing turtle dragons that kidnapped the princesses of fungus people. There was never a serious story here, and the game knows it. One can't help but chuckle at Peach's conversations on her routine kidnappings, or how everyone makes fun of poor Luigi.
- While the Toad mini games are fun for the most part, being forced into toad hunting when all you want to do is continue the story or get to the next Papercraft battle, can be annoying. The closed off quests are a little jarring and Toad hunting could have been more smoothly integrated with the rest of the game. It's as if someone is occasionally slapping the 3DS from your hands and making you play a decent Mario Party mini game before you can continue.
The Mario and Luigi series of games is entirely foreign to me. Additionally, the only Paper Mario games I've put significant play time into are the original and Super Paper Mario. This may color my review a bit as I'm not as familiar with or burnt out on the series. With that said… Mario Luigi: Paper Jam is what happens when the two Mario RPG franchises collide.
The story begins with the ever bumbling Luigi accidentally setting the content's of Paper Mario's world loose on the unsuspecting Mushroom Kingdom. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, save for the mass confusion, and Paper Bowser's army literally falling onto the Mushroom Kingdom like leaves in autumn.
After being sent to round up the disoriented Paper Toads by two Peaches, Mario and Luigi encounter Paper Mario. Meanwhile, Bowser and Paper Bowser team up, and surprising exactly no one, they kidnap the Peachy princess pair. This means our intrepid trio must work together to battle two tautologically tyrannical tyrants. Will this be an awesome adventure or a bogus journey? Let's break it down.