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Developer: Alpha Dream Publisher: Nintendo Platform: 3DS Release Date: January 20, 2015 ESRB: E for Everyone Despite the Mario & Luigi series being well over 13 years old at this point, it's surprising how its core formula hasn't changed much, and it's not at all tired just yet. This is likely because each entry generally makes use of a new gameplay gimmick or situation that helps each game feel a bit more unique. Case in point - Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam sees the titular brothers teaming up with Paper Mario this time around after Luigi accidentally knocks over a special book that unleashes the latter character's world into their own. Initially, the story addresses the issue of the main characters suddenly having doubles of themselves, often to comedic effect. And where there's two of everything, that means there are also two Bowsers and two Peaches for them to kidnap. Overall, the writing is fairly well-written and consistently funny; it's evident that among the two current ongoing Mario RPG series, Mario & Luigi is the one that hasn't quite lost its edge in that department yet. The big shakeup to the gameplay this time around comes with the addition of Paper Mario as the third wheel of the group. While Mario and Luigi's collaborative Bro Attacks make their usual return, Paper Mario adds a bit more of a different flavor to the battle as you can make multiple copies of himself (up to 6) to increase the amount of attacks and damage he can make. If he gets hit, he'll lose copies, though you can restore them throughout the course of the battle. And due to having three characters in the party, you'll also be able to choose between Mario and Luigi's traditional Bro Attacks and new Trio Attacks that utilize all three characters at once, offering a slew of options to choose from and making battles that much more interesting. Paper Jam has the best battle system out of all the Mario and Luigi games yet, and possibly even the Mario RPG series at large. Boss battles in particular feel deep, satisfying, and challenging, thanks in part to a system that focuses on learning and avoiding enemies' attack patterns and using their own attacks against them. In fact, some of them are so challenging that this is probably the first Mario & Luigi game where I've lost different boss battles multiple times before finally beating them. Also new is a card system that activates different support bonuses during battles, potentially giving you an extra hand when circumstances are looking particularly dire. One of the more divisive parts of the game are the areas in which you must find a number of Paper Toads before progressing - effectively, Paper Toad hunts. I didn't mind these segments as they do diversify the ways you go about acquiring the toads -- sometimes you have to search them out and other times you might play a minigame, do a stealth segment, or have to fight enemies. More often than not, I found these sections fairly entertaining. However, finding those Paper Toads leads to an important plot point - Papercraft battles. These battles are fairly interesting and play very differently from the rest of the game. You're pitted in an arena where you'll have to defeat all other Papercraft enemies, which you do by ramming into them from behind and then tossing your Mario Papercraft at them to inflict damage. There really isn't too much strategy to them beyond that and learning to time when you throw your Papercraft, they do add subtle changes to make them a bit more complicated in each subsequent round throughout the game. Paper Jam also looks visually impressive, with great-looking environments and locations that meld elements of Paper Mario's world with that of Mario and Luigi's. It's easily the best-looking of the entire M&L series. And once again, Yoko Shimomura returns to compose the pleasant and whimsical tunes the series is known for. At five entries strong, the Mario & Luigi series shows almost no signs of slowing down. Paper Jam is the best entry since Bowser's Inside Story, and possibly the best overall (time will tell). Bringing the Mario & Luigi world together with Paper Mario was a clever concept that served to introduce some interesting mechanics and make the battle system even deeper. However, despite the inclusion of Paper Mario, this is still very much a Mario & Luigi game; don't expect tons of neat paper mechanics worked into the gameplay outside of battles. Otherwise, Paper Jam holds up magnificently as one of the best in the series. Pros + Best, deepest battle system yet + Paper Mario is a great and an important reason why the battle system is so + good + Visually pretty + Good, humorous writing Cons - Story doesn't venture outside usual Bowser kidnapping (even w/ the paper twist) - Collecting Toads might get old for some people Overall Score: 9 out of 10 Fantastic Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is a fantastic new addition to the series, and easily one of the best Mario RPGs overall. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
Like the cream filling sandwiched between two Oreo cookies, some things just go together naturally. Many people expected Intelligent Systems to be working on a brand new Paper Mario game, but I doubt people expected the worlds of Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi to collide. Here“s the thing, though: While the last Mario & Luigi game was a great experience, the last Paper Mario title was very polarizing (our own review was one of the more positive ones). So, the moment this game was revealed, one has to wonder: Does it feel more like a Mario & Luigi game, or is it a Paper Mario game? I am happy to report that, in terms of combat and most important gameplay elements, it is a Mario & Luigi game at its core. I suppose that“s evident given the game“s title, but in case you were worried — fear not. Everything familiar to longtime fans of Mario & Luigi has returned. There“s jumping, hammering, Bros. Attacks, experience points — everything you“d expect from a Mario RPG. Paper Mario, the character, is just an additive to an already successful formula. Having him around only enhances combat. And hey, outside of combat he can squeeze through tight places, which will probably mean plenty of environment-based puzzles in Paper Jam similar to Luigi“s dreaming mechanics of the previous game. The demo was divided into three separate experiences. One was a â€œquestâ€ that set the two plus one brothers out to retrieve seven toads who needed to be rescued. This portion had the Bros. put in plenty of smaller combat situations where returning players would feel right at home, while new players got used to combat nuances like Bros. Attacks that hit shells back and forth. You control Paper Mario with the Y button; he needs to dodge and can attack as well. Trio Attacks are a new addition to the game that work like the powerful Luigi Dream World attacks from the last one. The combat is familiar, while doing new things, but nothing feels particularly groundbreaking or something that blew me away. The second experience pit you against a boss... which was definitely unique. Luigi was using Paper Mario as a paper airplane to dodge attacks, for example. I feel like this game“s bosses are going to be where its combat innovates the most, which has been a series staple since Superstar Saga, really. Look forward to having a smile on your face while you see what certain bosses are capable of and assess how to defeat them. Speaking of series staples: Papercraft Battles work a lot like the Giant battles of Dream Team & Bowser“s Inside Story. There are unique nuances specific to this game, but I“ll leave you to see what those are for yourself. I feel like experiencing these battles fresh is part of the fun! The short version of my experience with Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is that it“s more of what made Dream Team great, but using a different approach (a paper one versus a dream-based one) to expand upon old formulas. If you“ve liked the Mario & Luigi series thus far, I guarantee this will be another solid entry. For more information, you can check out the game“s official site here.