Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Mario's First Paper Adventure On The 3DS
SeriousGamer - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Mild Cartoon Violence:

Cartoon violence against paper-like enemies. Enemies are seen crumpled and set on fire, turning to ash afterwards.

Fantasy Magic:

Character is understood to be a fairy and uses power to change reality, enemy character rides a broom and has a magic wand.

Spiritual Content:

Stars and wishes treated with reverence, antagonist possibly possessed by magic object, Japanese idol is seen, enemy characters include ghosts and skeletons.

Gross Humor:

Boss spits while Mario jumps on his stomach.

Did you ever play with cutouts when you were a kid? Did you ever enjoy drawing out a character of your own or even one from your favorite show or game to take them on their own adventure? I know I did, and I enjoyed every minute of it. As it happens, I'm not the only one who enjoyed putting my favorite characters on paper either. Nintendo has been doing it for quite a few years now with their most well-known character.

Mario ended up drawn up and cut out way back when the Nintendo 64 introduced the aptly named Paper Mario. It was a real first for the part-time plumber and full-time hero of the Mushroom Kingdom. It made Mario into a two-dimensional character in a three-dimensional world, and that was quite a feat. Players thought so too because the series went on. We saw our flattened hero solve the mystery of the Thousand-Year Door on the GameCube, and when the Nintendo Wii came around, we watched him take on a certain sinister count in Super Paper Mario. Now, for the 3DS, we have Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Good thing Mario's hat is drawn on him, because things really changed with this one. Whether it's for the better or not is up to the discerning Christian gamer…and the fans in general.

Note: This Review Contains Spoilers

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Plot

Sticker Star begins very much like you would imagine in any Mario game…someone gets in trouble. All right, so that's boiling it down a bit too much. Every year, a comet passes over the Mushroom Kingdom. Now, shooting stars of any kind are a big deal in this kingdom, and this one, the Sticker Comet is bigger than most. It's so big, in fact, that Princess Peach holds a little party on the night of its arrival so that everyone can make a wish on it. Turns out Mario is there too. Maybe he's planning on wishing for another dimension. I can't imagine it's easy being flat. But like I said, someone always gets in trouble in a Mario game, and it's usually the same one causing the trouble.

A certain reptile with a spiky shell, that would be Bowser, decides he wants his wishes granted instead. So, naturally, instead of standing in the crowd like everyone else, he gets up on stage to touch the comet. Needless to say, this causes more trouble than anyone could imagine. The comet explodes, and a strange sticker that looks just like a crown, an aptly named Royal Sticker, lands right on Bowser's head. It must have been a potent sticker, because he is able to leave Mario crumpled and tossed on the ground just like, you guessed it, a wad of paper. But he doesn't stay down for long. He smoothes himself out, and finds some help in the form of a sharp-tongued Sticker Fairy named Kersti. With this new friend, Mario sets out to undo what Bower has done by recovering the pieces of the Sticker Comet and the other lost Royal Stickers.

Gameplay

I know what you're thinking when you see the words paper and Mario used together: you're thinking RPG. Well, you'd be about half right. Sticker Star does feature some RPG elements. If you run into an enemy on the field, you enter battle, and you keep battling until either you or the enemy runs out of hit points. But you can forget the rest of the traditional RPG staples. For instance, there is no EXP to be gained, no inns to sleep in, and no partners either. Instead, everything depends on stickers, which you can find or buy. These stickers allow you to attack or restore your health, so you need to keep up your supply.

In addition, the game also borrows from Super Mario Bros Wii, in that you have a world map with stages to explore. In each stage, it's up to you to find the piece of the shattered Sticker Comet. In the last stage of a world, you will face a boss that holds one of the Royal Stickers

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Offensive Content

Mild Cartoon Violence

You can't really be too violent with paper, unless you happen to get cut by it. Sticker Star really takes to the paper theme as well. Characters are seen crumpled into balls, but are rarely harmed. In battle, we see Mario stomp, hammer, and throw balls of fire at enemies to name a few things. In the last case, we do see enemies turn to ash, but it's played more for laughs at the fact that everything is made of paper. We also see the use of a sticker that is a pair of scissors, and we see the enemy and the landscape are cut into little pieces, but again the fact that everything is made of paper minimizes the violence.

Fantasy Magic

Kersti is, as I said, a fairy. As such, she has some power that she lends you at times to stop time and turn the environment into paper so you can manipulate it.

We also meek Kamek, the mean old Magikoopa who's been after Mario since he was little. As a Magikoopa, we see him ride a broom, and he does wield a magic wand, which we see him use on a few occasions. Both of these seem to be fairly within the realm of fantasy.

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Spiritual Content

Mario has always been about wishing on stars, and that really hasn't changed. The stars are usually treated with a reverence of sorts, so that could be saying something. Wishes also play a large part in Mario's world, and it would seem that wishing is almost done along the same lines as praying. While stars were treated this way in past games, stickers are given all the glory this time around. This is seen later on in a book that mentions Divine Sticker Beings and a comet which sounds very much like the Sticker Comet.

The Royal Stickers that land on Bowser's head and the heads of the other bosses also have a great deal of power. In the case of Bowser, it seems to give him power, but it also seems to, in a way, posses him. Then again, Bowser has always been a bad seed, so it could be that he's just abusing the power he's been given. The same could be also said of the other bosses in either case. It's difficult to tell whether or not they are simply misusing their newfound power or if the Royal Stickers have them under some kind of spell. In other cases, the Royal Stickers have the power to grant all kinds of wishes, no matter what they are. Even bringing things back to life or turning back time is not out of the question.

You also will find a variety of things in your quest, and one of them is called the Cat 'O Luck. This item is considered something of a good luck charm in Japan, very much like the rabbit's foot over here. Whether or not you assign any spiritual significance to it is largely up to you. The game itself does not give any.

And it just wouldn't be a Mario game without one of the staple enemies of the series, the ghostly Boo. We also meet the walking skeleton known as Dry Bones. But if you've played any of the Mario games, this will come as no surprise to you.

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Gross Humor

Mario faces his one-time Isle Delfino adversary, Petty Piranha, at one point in his quest. At one point during the battle, Mario can hop on his stomach, prompting the walking and biting flower to spit up slime, among other things like enemies and stickers.

Positive Content

Mario is, of course, a hero through-and-through. He is willing to put his papery self in peril to save not only Princess Peach and the world, but also anyone. For instance, he is willing to save a bullied Toad from his tormentors, and he's even willing to fight for that Toad. That event could also be a lesson as knowing when to fight and when not to fight as Mario has the option to either pay the enemies or take them on. Let me tell you, sometimes it would have been wiser to pay up instead of duke it out. Getting back to the original point, Mario also goes the extra mile for a poor caterpillar named Wiggler. It's not just fighting for others that Mario does well. It seems he'll help with just about anything.

Power is also shown to be something to use wisely. In the case of one boss, he's shown to be a pretty decent sort, but he ends up abusing the power of the Royal Sticker that comes to him. It could easily be said that power is not a negative thing, but the abuse of power certainly is. Sounds quite a bit like the words recorded in Luke 12:48.

It's not just Mario that's willing to go the extra mile either.

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Even Kersti gives her all for a greater cause, and I do mean her all. During the final showdown with Bowser, she realizes that the Koopa King is just about invincible. So, she gives her power to Mario by becoming a sticker herself, even though it means she has to give up her life to do so.

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While Mario is certainly willing to get physical with his archenemy, I'd say he also shows a bit of concern for Bowser. After defeating him, Peach reassures Mario that the Koopa will be fine. You really do have to respect that, especially in light of the command to love even your enemies.

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Conclusion

I'll be perfectly blunt and say I didn't care for Sticker Star all that much. I didn't care for it from the get-go either, even when I first heard about it. Why? It was because of the whole sticker system, that's why. I hated the idea of having my attacks limited by what stickers I had, and that I needed to keep collecting in order to keep up the attack. Having played other Paper Mario games, I found this new setup disappointing.

Content-wise, there are some bits that might be disappointing too. The treatment of stars and wishes might seem a bit like worship to some. It's also hard to figure whether Bowser goes off the deep end simply because he's just plain rotten or whether or not the Royal Sticker has something to do with it. I mean, Bowser's a bad guy and all, but it's tough to call it in this case.

That being said, there's also some very good points about Sticker Star. Mario is still every bit the hero we know him to be. And there's definitely no nasty surprise behind a sealed door (you'll know what I mean). It may not have the charm of the old Paper Mario titles, but this one is still not a bad choice for the discerning player.

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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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