If you haven’t noticed, Nintendo has had two successful role play games starring Mario. Sadly none of them are in conjunction with Square, but they are excellent in their own right. The Paper Mario series has been going strong since the Nintendo 64, and the Mario & Luigi series has been successful since the days of the Game Boy Advance. Both have adventures taking place in the Mushroom Kingdom, but until very recently they have stayed away from one another. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam brings both games together and, somehow, managed to capture the essence of both series’ in one complete adventure. However, there’s something that stands out more than the interesting premise and adorable mashup of visual styles… the boss battles in this game are insane!
Currently I am a little over 10 hours into the game, and I think I’m approaching the end of the 4th world, which is high up in an icy mountain top. So far the game has been very routine: battle some small groups of baddies, solve some simple puzzles, begrudgingly find some Paper Toads, and fight a boss. Instead of the boss being something simple like a beefed up Gooma or an elite squad of Paratroopas, they’re all iconic villains in Super Mario history. The first boss, for example, is the giant Petey Piranha.
Up until then I was able to get by simply jumping on foes or bashing them with a well placed hammer. And for the first half of the fight with Petey this strategy worked… Until the jerk started chasing Luigi and the two Marios! Suddenly the perspective switched. I was now watching Mario and Luigi run toward the screen, with the perilous Piranha Plant en route close behind. He’ll then spit out some sticky goo that will cause the Mario brothers to get stuck and ultimately attacked by Petey. That is unless I can guide Paper Mario, now folded into the shape of a paper airplane, overhead one of the bros and lift them to safety.
It was completely unexpected! I haven’t been that engaged in a “turn-based” RPG for some time. From a Mario RPG no less! It wasn’t just a few simple attacks he’d unleash either. Compared to the other enemies up until this point, Petey Piranha gave quite a challenge. One that was easily surmountable, but one I appreciated immensely.
Petey was a nice fight. One I thought I’d remember well after I complete the game. Well, at least until I tackled the game’s next boss, a pair of Mega Pokeys.
By this time in the game I knew more of the mechanics: I can’t jump on them because they’re spiky, so I can only attack with hammers or Bro Attacks (essentially Magic attacks in other RPGs). But after knocking out some of their balls, I found they kept endlessly respawning. It wasn’t until I was given a hint from the game’s narrator (perhaps from my excessive failures?) that I should consider keeping the two Pokeys the same height. After this point I easily overcame the foe.
Nearly 4 hours into the game, I was still learning new tactics to win. Props to the developers for giving a bigger challenge than well placed button presses in order to win. I like it with games add gameplay elements that are more than just surface level differences. Instead of just being a fight against some adorable cacti, now I have learned something about enemies that will come in handy later on.
Speaking of which, the next boss, a pissed off and hungry Wiggler, was the fight I realized how intense Paper Jam’s boss battles were.
With the aid of Paper Kamek, Wiggler proved a mighty foe. Not only did he have some hard to predict attacks, but he would deal insane damage if he landed a hit. On top of that, just like how Petey Piranha chased you and changed up how the battle flowed, so too did Wiggler chase the Mario bros. Instead of turning into an airplane however, Paper Mario changed into a boomerang, which the Mario brothers then used to wack back Wiggler as he chased them. It was awesome!
Just when I thought the fight was going smoothly, that bastard Kamek flew in and not only revived Wiggler with damn near 500 more HP, but also gave him faster, more damaging attacks! Occasionally enemy Shy Guys would drop by to cause a ruckus, and before I knew it this mid-game boss fight was taking near 30 minutes to complete!
And I loved every minute of it!
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam doesn’t have the best story, but damn if it doesn’t have some memorable moments. At another point in time I was fighting two of the Koopalings, Wendy and Roy, and if I deflected one of their attacks it could hit the other. Being brother and sister, then only natural thing for them to do after that is fighting one another. Cue a scene with the two going at it, complete with cartoon puffball of dust, arms flailing in and out, and even both enemies taking in-game damage! Haha!
It’s worth nothing Paper Jam is more of a Mario & Luigi game than a Paper Mario game. That being said, this is one of the most enjoyable Mario RPG experiences I’ve had in a long time. Paper Mario: Sticker Star was a straightforward and oftentimes too easy experience, while Mario & Luigi: Dream Team’s gimmick wore out quick. but with Paper Jam there’s been enough variety in the boss battles to keep me playing more and more!
After most of those fight I actually had to recollect everything I just did in the fight: I used regular attacks, used special attacks, had party members hit zero HP, used multiple items, dodged attacks, counter attacked, hung from a paper airplane, whacked a swinging vine of Shy Guys, had the boss regain tons of HP, think I was actually going to fail, and then finally come up victorious. It was rewarding and exhilarating And it’s a Mario game!
Here’s hoping the rest of the game holds up as well as the first half.