From the first second of Paper Mario: The Door of a Thousand Years, I was hooked. The game begins with soft, flickering music and a book that opens to tell the story of an ancient and ruined city lost in time, and the legendary treasure buried there; Once you’ve heard the whole story (and seen Peach herself buying a mysterious treasure from a dodgy-looking vendor), the iconic fanfare rings out and the curtains open to reveal the title screen. This is your adventure, now.
It’s not the kind of story you’d expect from a Mario game – most Mario games start with someone catching Princess Peach or Bowser doing something funky, but TTYD sets its stage in the seedy, ramshackle town of Rogueport, built on top. from the ruins of that city, whose legend has long been forgotten.
But all those deep things don’t make Paper Mario’s second outing a serious game. Thousand-Year Door is filled with incredible settings, bizarre and wacky themes (train murder mystery, bottle episode in a wrestling ring, shipwrecks, and pirate gold) and character moments that embody some of Mario’s friends. , old and new.
Luigi, for example, is having his own adventure in which he tries to save Princess Eclair, the ruler of the Waffle Kingdom who keeps being kidnapped by the evil Chestnut King; The whole story is a parody of Mario’s own adventures, leaning heavily on the tropes everyone expects from a Mario RPG.
Mario’s companions throughout the game have fascinating backstories, which is surprisingly rare for RPGs at the time – you’re lucky if your partner gets a lot more than a name and a dead father. Vivian suffers from imposter syndrome, not thanks to her bullying brothers; Admiral Bobbery basically has PTSD after the death of his wife; the fantastic (secret) companion, Mrs. Mowz, is a semi-antagonistic Robin-Hood-meets-your-grandmother figure who is a great flirt.
RPGs are often full of fighting, storytelling, and adventure, but what sets Thousand-Year Door apart was its lively and interesting cast and clever settings. It’s a pleasure to know where you’ll go each time, and while TTYD suffers from many of the same issues as most RPGs (flashback, tedious escort missions, railroads), there’s always something to be delighted with while doing the stuff. boring. TTYD elevates and reinvigorates many of the series’ standards, from Toads to Goombas and even Mario himself, giving each of them personality and uniqueness beyond their usual roles as enemies and helpers.
But the combat isn’t bad either. The addition of timed attacks and parries turns the passivity (in my opinion) of standard turn-based battles into something much more active, making the wait time between attacks that much more vital for survival and success. Using Flower Points (FP) for special moves and Star Power (SP) for spectacular moves turned every fight into a matter of strategic balance; Outside of battle, you could even change the way Mario and his friends fought with the use of Badges that changed and added attacks.
Different enemies required different plans of attack, after all: pointed projectiles meant there were no jumps; certain enemies were scared and fled or exploded if he delayed too long; And right before the boss battles, you’ll want to improve your HP and FP as much as possible. Add to that the strange but attractive Appeal system, in which the crowd rewards you with SP and even HP restoration items, and the slot machine that would pop up if you performed enough Action Commands flawlessly, and it seemed like there was always something going.
It’s strange that all the Paper Mario games that came after each tried to reinvent the wheel: Super Paper Mario went with real-time combat, Sticker Star and Color Splash used one-time battle tricks, and Origami King invented the confusing and a dividing ring system that turned each battle into a spatial puzzle. Thousand-Year Door’s combat wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot more fun than all the other attempts in later games.
Personally, I think that Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is not only the best Paper Mario game, but one of the best games of all time. I’m not alone in this – the boxed set rarely sells for less than $ 100 secondhand, and there are a petition with more than 50 thousand signatures to remaster it, but I think it still stands today on a rerun, because of how timeless it is.
TTYD is the Wind Waker of Mario games – an entry in a beloved series that tried something really new and exciting, perhaps never to be repeated. Seventeen years after its debut, I still treasure it as a game that I could come back to at any point in my life and be as entertaining as it was back then. If only we could get another one like it.