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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Rondina

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Review

In this timeless RPG classic, nostalgia meets innovation with Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door arriving on Nintendo Switch, my full review.

When it comes to the world of Mario, few titles have resonated with fans quite like the Paper Mario series. The franchise evolved from Super Mario RPG, which Square developed for the SNES back in 1996, and it recently enjoyed its own excellent remake. It’s been quite the journey from the original Paper Mario on the N64, which introduced us to Mario's RPG adventures' flat yet surprisingly deep universe.

"It’s been quite the journey from the original Paper Mario on the N64, which introduced us to Mario's RPG adventures' flat yet surprisingly deep universe."

It was “1-Upped” when cult classic Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door arrived on the GameCube in 2004. Fast forward 20 years, and the beloved sequel has returned on the Nintendo Switch better than ever. This isn’t just a trip down memory lane; it’s a reimagining of a classic, making it feel familiar and fresh for veterans and newcomers alike. Let’s unfold everything that makes Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door a must-play.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Details

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Role-Playing Game (RPG)

Modes: Single-player

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Unfold a classic adventure

The Thousand-Year Door is a narrative gem, carving its own path with a compelling story that’s as engaging as it is whimsical. Mario’s quest to rescue Princess Peach (again) takes him to Rogueport, a town with secrets as deep as its history. Although it sounds like a standard “Rescue the Princess” story, Thousand Year Door goes much deeper.

"Although it sounds like a standard “Rescue the Princess” story, Thousand Year Door goes much deeper."

The backdrop of the narrative is to collect the seven Crystal Stars to save Peach from an evil clan called the X-Nauts. On your journey, you experience most of the story as Mario, but there are also fun side quests with lesser-known characters, with even Peach and Bowser getting some time in the spotlight. The game weaves a unique tale that’s epic in scale and full of character, with a cast that is as richly developed as the world they inhabit.

Paper Mario’s gameplay improvements

The gameplay in The Thousand Year Door is a smart blend of traditional RPG elements with unique, paper-themed mechanics that set it apart from other titles. The turn-based combat is intuitive yet deep, with the addition of “Action Commands” that really kept me on my toes as I played. These Action Commands are timed button presses when hit correctly and offer in-combat bonuses.

"The turn-based combat is intuitive yet deep, with the addition of “Action Commands” that really kept me on my toes as I played."

Overall, this made combat far more engaging for me; it felt less passive, like other turn-based RPGs, which is a great part of the formula. Outside of battles, the game’s puzzle-solving and exploration are enhanced by Mario’s ability to transform into different paper forms, adding a layer of strategy to the adventure. For example, early in the game, you can turn into a paper airplane and float across to previously unreachable areas of the level.

In terms of navigating the world, it would have been great to see this modernized more with the rest of the overall package. Objectives to progress the story often have you backtrack in levels a lot. Thankfully, you gain partners like Yoshi, who help you get around faster, and a few small shortcuts have been added, but it would have been great to see Developer Intelligent Systems cut some of this out to help with the pacing.

Paper Mario’s dream team

In The Thousand-Year Door, Mario teams up with seven partners: Goombella offers insights and head bonks, Koops uses his shell for ranged attacks, Madame Flurrie blows away obstacles, a customizable Yoshi speeds across areas and stomps foes, Vivian hides Mario in shadows, Admiral Bobbery unleashes explosive moves, and Ms. Mowz can detect hidden items for you. Along with each character also comes different backstories to help build the story. I enjoyed learning more about and fighting alongside each character as the story progressed.


New partner ring mechanic

With such a large and ever-evolving team, you might wonder how it is to manage them all. I’m happy to share that Intelligent Systems introduced the partner ring feature, allowing you to switch between these partners on the fly, making it easier to utilize their unique skills as needed. It adds a strategic layer to exploration and combat, as you can adapt to different challenges with the right partner.

Dazzling graphics and art direction

Visually, The Thousand-Year Door is a feast for the eyes on the Switch hardware. The game’s paper aesthetic is more vibrant than ever, with environments that pop off the screen and fluid character animations that are full of personality. Performance-wise, the game maintains a steady 30 fps with the occasional dip when dozens of enemies are on screen. Overall, the performance was great with my playthrough, the action remained smooth as it is stylish.


Classic Paper Mario arrangements and sound design

The audio experience in The Thousand-Year Door is also incredibly well-scored and remixed. The soundtrack combines new compositions and reimagined classics that perfectly capture the game’s tone. Most of the newer compositions are found in battle scenes but fit right in with the new soundtrack overall. Sound effects are crisp and clear, with each action in battle feeling impactful thanks to the superb sound design. Some of the classic allure of the game is the mostly voiceless characters, especially Mario, who is very expressive. I still found myself wanting more of the characters to have their own voice over work, which I found a bit of a missed opportunity. Purists of the original will be entirely satisfied with what is here, as it not only captures the first game’s sound design, but enriches it.

Final Thoughts on Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

If you own a Nintendo Switch and enjoy RPGs this is the perfect entry into the Paper Mario series. Its engaging narrative, vibrant graphics, and strategic gameplay offer a fresh take on the classic RPG formula. The Thousand Year Door’s ability to blend nostalgia with modern mechanics ensures that both long-time fans and newcomers will enjoy a rich and hilarious adventure. Despite some minor drawbacks like backtracking and uneven story pacing, the overall experience is both delightful and memorable. As Mario once again embarks on his quest to rescue Princess Peach, what we are left with is a timeless adventure. I highly recommend Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, it’s a beautiful adventure that is a must-play.

 

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Pros

+Beautiful graphics and art direction

+Engaging, well-written story

+Great remixed soundtrack

+Innovative gameplay mechanics and battle system

 

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Cons

-Too much backtracking

-Story pacing can be uneven

-Would be great to have more characters with fully voiced rolls


Overall Assessment of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Gameplay: 9/10

Graphics: 9/10

Sound: 9/10

Replayability: 8/10


Overall Rating: 35/40 (90%)

A copy of the game was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.

 

About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina


Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. In addition to being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on multiple social platforms with the handle @dapper_tux via "X", Instagram, Threads, TikTok and join in on the fun!

 

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