The Mario & Luigi RPG franchise has been gaining ground steadily on handheld consoles since the early 2000’s. Each title holds a unique draw card which makes it stand out from its predecessor, yet as a whole still manages to keep the same tone. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. is no different in this regard, throwing an unexpected spanner in the works by merging with the Paper Mario realm. It’s a concept that doesn’t immediately sink in, but after the first few lines of dialogue, you know you’re in for something special.
As things kick off the first thing that stands out is the familiar humour which both franchises are known for; self wounding comments and the breaking of the fourth wall are, once again, back in abundance. A traditional character along with their paper cut-out counterpart often abuse and rival each other in an attempt to prove who has the upper-hand. When it comes to storytelling in the Mushroom Kingdom few have the grasp and inimitable outlook like that of developer AlphaDream. Similarly, much of this comes across in the gameplay itself.
The first immediate change from the traditional mechanics is the use of the Y button to control the actions of your new partner in time crime – Paper Mario. All of these actions are slightly different to that of Mario & Luigi and are often needed to progress into areas which are unreachable by the traditional duo, and are also utilized throughout the combat sections. These sections are riddled with distinctive mini battles, attacks and executions. As the game progresses new elements are unlocked, sometimes entire new mechanics are presented changing the way you approach the variety of enemies. The introduction of Battle Cards is one of these mechanics which present a fresh , yet somewhat familiar, dynamic to the franchise. For those who’ve played Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, think of the star meter as a general comparison. As you attack enemies your star meter increases allowing you to acquire a range of cards that present you with special abilities; cards that heal you, deal extra damage, or can be used to manipulate other character statistics. The 3DS touch screen displays three of these cards that can be activated during the combat sections, based on the star points you have accumulated during the battle. Your deck of cards can be altered depending on the different enemies throughout different environments, bringing an additional RPG element to the franchise. This battle element can be further enhanced by using a compatible amiibo; however the constant activations and maintenance gets tedious very quickly.
[pullquote_right]The composition of accessibility, a lengthy gameplay time, humorously written storyline and dialogue make this a perfect addition to any RPG fans handheld collection.[/pullquote_right]As expected, the boss battles are a highlight of the series and with the combination of two versions of characters Paper Jam meets the requirements expected by fans of the series. Whether you are up against a Big Pokey and Paper Tower Power Pokey, Bowser Jr. and Paper Bowser Jr. or a combination of the various koopalings; no two boss encounters are the same. In addition to the many boss battles there are also Papercraft Bosses which act as giant origami ‘mechs’ powered by an abundance of Toads and ShyGuys, and controlled by the three protagonists and the current enemy. Before accessing these battles you are required to gather up allotted minions by visiting the Lakitu Info Center hubs, where you are presented with various Paper Toad rescue missions. Once you’ve rescued the vulnerable Toads you unlock the papercraft battle.
As with most RPG’s things can get laborious if you get stuck along the way and some of the novelties do get exhausted, but not enough to have an overly negative effect on the overall gameplay; and should you find a particular challenge too much, the game very generously allows for an “Easy” option which will allow you to get through the section and move on with your story with fairly little effort.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. is a title to start off with if you’ve never played one of the previous RPG titles. Its pacing is broken down perfectly by providing a solid assortment of main battles, challenges, papercraft battles and a whole lot more. The composition of accessibility, a lengthy gameplay time, humorously written storyline and dialogue make this a perfect addition to any RPG fans handheld collection.