Paper Mario: Sticker Star on 3DS: A real charmer with a few wrinkles

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Paper Mario Sticker Star reviewNintendo's debut of the Paper Mario series on the 3DS is like a disobedient puppy. It might mess the floor, or chew into your favorite pair of shoes, but once you get a look at that face, you're never angry with it for long. Sticker Star might be the most endearing RPG starring Mario since Nintendo's collaboration with Square back in the '90s for Super Mario RPG. But it also might be the most frustrating yet.

Sticker Star follows none other than Mario on a mission to reclaim Royal Stickers scattered across six regions (conveniently enough) of the Mushroom Kingdom after Bowser crashes the annual Sticker Fest in Decalburg. (Adorable, right?) Kertsi, a sticker fairy, joins Mario on his mission as its in her best interest to return these stickers to their rightful home.
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Shortly after getting a good look at the cutesy paper craft world and characters during the opening sequence, players are thrown into a combat sequence. Likely the most glaring differential between this and its predecessors, the combat system in Sticker Star is governed entirely by stickers. Each move you make in battle requires a sticker, which you'll find littered across each level and in shops you stumble upon throughout the course of the story.

While it never becomes a game-breaking problem, if you're out of one type of sticker at the beginning of a fight, you're simply not using that ability. This becomes rather problematic when you're up against enemies that are resistant to certain attacks. For instance, if you're all out of Jump stickers, and a group of Hammer Bros. ambushes you (spoiler: it happens), you better hope you have something other than Hammers.

Paper Mario Sticker Star screensThen again, there's an upside to this limitation: It forces players to pay more attention to the correct timing of each ability and react with the A button, making the best of each sticker. It's a fine if terribly harsh way of showing players the ropes, especially considering no ability comes with a discernible visual or aural cue to follow. But boy, is perfectly landing the rhythm of a Shiny Line Jump attack just entrancing.

Paper Mario Sticker Star screen shotsWhat isn't exactly enchanting is one of the core progression mechanics in Sticker Star: Paperizing. With the help of Kertsi, Mario can effectively remove himself from the level and apply any stickers or paper scraps (or 3D objects turned into stickers) he finds along the way. On paper, it sounds like a fresh, brilliant idea. But when it becomes the go-to response for almost every puzzle and hidden object, the game quickly devolves into you ripping Mario out of the action every few seconds to see whether a new part of the world will respond to a sticker or a scrap.

But it's what's at the other side of said sticker or scrap that will keep you going. Sticker Star, like the Paper Mario games that have come before it, is filled with characters, or rather, "personalities". The dialog in Sticker Star ranges from adorable to hilarious, a true triumph of localization that speaks to pop culture-riddled Western folk on such a subtle level that those who don't read the text will miss out on a ton of laughs. (But seriously, if you're not reading, why are you playing an RPG?)

For every annoying "Game Over" sequence triggered by the lack of a certain sticker or action-breaking moment in hopes of something to "Paperize", Sticker Star makes up for it with a goofy character, a line of witty dialog or a satisfying battle. Because of this, Sticker Star is full of highs and lows--lows that sometimes are enough to make you slap the 3DS shut and take a break. But just look at that face (to your right). You'll be back.

Are you interested in picking up Paper Mario: Sticker Star? What do you think of this new take on the series? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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