Content at a glance:
Mild Violence: Mild, cartoon-style violence against non-human enemies, including explosions.
Spiritual Content: Game world is set in fantasy, some enemies use fantasy magic, plot deals with beings referred to as spirits, player can visit fortune tellers for information and visit a spell caster.
The name Mario is a familiar one to the video game world. The famous plumber from the Mushroom Kingdom started his role-playing adventures way back when in 1996. It must have caught on because five years later, Mario was back racking up EXP points in another RPG. This time around, Mario has got a brand new look.
In 2001, Mario, Princess Peach, and arch-enemy Bowser flattened out a bit and took on the looks of cutouts in the Nintendo 64 title, Paper Mario. The Paper series spawned two sequels later on for the GameCube and recently the Nintendo Wii. And in 2007, 2-D Mario’s first 3-D adventure was released for the Virtual Console so players could experience again or for the first time the title that turned Mario into a cutout.
Paper Mario begins very much how you would expect a Mario game to begin. It begins with an invitation, an invitation from one Princess Peach. She’s throwing a party at her castle and wants a certain plumber who’s saved her time and time again to make an appearance, which our hero does. It doesn’t take long for trouble to start. Shortly after arriving at Peach’s castle, the castle is literally lifted. It doesn’t take much to figure out who’s behind it. Bowser, the Koopa King, has struck yet again. Bowser has taken Peach’s castle and set it on top of his own floating fortress, where he intends to hold the princess hostage…again.
Mario’s not one to take this lying down, so he leaps into action…only to soon end up beaten down. Bowser unleashes his latest power, the power of the legendary Star Rod which happens to grant the wishes of its owner, and he wishes for the power to defeat Mario. Overcome by Bowser’s newfound might, Mario is unceremoniously thrown out of Peach’s castle all the way back down to the cold, hard ground. Oh, what a sad day for the Mushroom Kingdom.
It’s not entirely hopeless however. While recovering from Bowser’s beating, Mario is visited by a star with a big gray mustache. The star identifies himself as a Star Spirit, the most highly esteemed stars in the sky. The Star Spirit reveals that he and the other six Star Spirits can help Mario overcome Bowser’s Star Rod, if he can save them first. And this is where the adventure truly begins.
Paper Mario is very much like your typical RPG. Mario roams the Mushroom Kingdom in an overworld of sorts. If he runs into an enemy, a battle begins. Both Mario and the enemy can strike before the battle begins, and this first strike can give you an early edge. In battle, Mario, his partner and the enemy take turns attacking until one side falls. If Mario wins, he gets a number of Star Points, the Paper Mario equivalent of Experience Points. 100 Star Points gets you to the next level.
In some places, Mario enters a “dungeon” where you have to solve a few puzzles and unlock doors to make progress. Usually, you’ll find the boss of the current chapter in the dungeons.
Mario engages non-human enemies like the series staple enemies, Goombas, Koopas, and Shy Guys. Mario jumps on enemies and pounds them with his trusty hammer. There’s not much too this. A couple of his partners have attacks involving fire and explosions, but the enemies only turn black in a very cartoon-like fashion. Defeated enemies only fall over and disappear in a puff of smoke. When Mario takes a hit, he does recoil a bit. If he loses all his health, he simply falls over. The Mario series was never known for its violence.
Some of the worst violence, and even that is really tame, is seen in some of the plot. One major enemy character, Tubba Blubba, is known for eating Boos, the ghosts of the Mario world. We even see him pick one up and drop it in his mouth. We also see him with a bandage of sorts over his chest. Later on in the plot, a character is believed to have been murdered.
[spoiler]In both cases, however, everyone turns out to be just fine in the end. Still, this may be slightly upsetting.[/spoiler]
It’s the Mario world, so you probably have an idea of what kind of spirituality is present. There’s no mention of God or gods. Stars are instead elevated, as in wishing on stars. The greatest of these stars are called Star Spirits. Wishes are pretty important in the Mario world. The whole plot involves the Star Rod, a magic wand that grants wishes. Speaking of the wishes and the Star Spirits, whenever Mario saves one, he is granted a new ability to use in battle. When Mario uses this ability, he is seen closing his eyes and folding his hands, almost in prayer.
As mentioned above, the ghostly staples of the Mario world, the Boos return. A few enemies, the aptly named Magikoopas, use magic to attack and aid their allies. None of the magic present in Paper Mario appears to be of the occult however. A few items you can use have some “magical” effects too, like making Mario invisible or striking enemies with lightning.
The worst bit spiritually is Mario can get help from a couple of fortune tellers who tell you where you have to go next or the locations of special items. Mario can also visit someone to have a spell cast on him that can have some strange effects in battle.
In the hub-world of Toad Town, you can enter a casino of sorts and bet coins in games.
The Paper Mario games are quite well-known today. The series has already spawned two sequels for the GameCube and the Wii respectfully. Players interested in how the series began will no doubt enjoy this title. For those who fear the same content found in the second game of the series, The Thousand-Year Door, you’ve no need to worry. No demon haunts this tale. Still, the inclusion of fortune tellers and spell casters may be just cause for concern as do the elevation of stars and wishes. But all in all for the discerning Christian gamer, this is a fine game for those who want to relive this Nintendo 64 title and for those who want to experience Mario’s paper-thin beginning for the first time.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.
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