Leisure Replay
Paper Mario (N64)

July 23, 2014

This journal will only make partial sense unless you've played through Paper Mario yourself.
If you haven't played it and still plan to read this, beware of spoilers!

I played Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door before I exposed myself to its predecessor, so when I went back and played Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64, I couldn't help but have unfairly high expectations for it. I didn't think it was bad, but it felt dull and antiquated compared to what I was used to. Recently, in light of my Leisure Replay of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, I felt a sudden urge to give Paper Mario another chance, playing it at a more relaxed pace, doing everything there is to do, and getting to know the game better than before. By doing this, I figured I might find a new appreciation for the game, and it turns out I was right. This journal is my testimony of a Paper Mario playthrough lasting 37 hours and 13 minutes, give or take several minutes of failed fights.

(In the screenshot above, the JonBro file was my first playthrough, the Jon file was the playthrough recorded in this journal, and the DeliMEAT file belongs to someone else who never finished the game.)

Session 1: Prologue - A Plea from the Stars ~ 1 hr 14 min / May 6, 2014
The game begins quietly, daintily, with a party at Princess Peach's castle, and characters from all over the in-game world are visiting. I find this to be a pretty graceful way to foreshadow the settings of several upcoming chapters in the story. With some persistence, I talked my way through a guard and enter Peach's room, which the guard apparently has never seen despite sitting in front of the door day after day.

In my opinion, Paper Mario is Bowser's crowning moment as a villain. In past Mario games and most games since, Bowser is a very easily conquered opponent. All it usually takes to put an end to his plans is an axe at the end of a bridge (SMB), an easily breakable brick floor (SMB3), a "shot put" toss by the tail (SM64), or a weakly constructed chandelier (SMRPG). This time is different. Bowser had this crime of the century planned out, lifting the princess's castle high into the sky beyond anyone's reach, trapping the Star Spirits, gathering an army of strong creatures and turning himself invincible. And then he actually succeeds in defeating Mario, who only barely survives, and not without the help of others. There is really no reason for Bowser to believe he hasn't finally won; he is now a force to be reckoned with, a foe worthy of being called Mario's arch nemesis. It's hard for me to imagine how incredible this must have been for Mario fans when the game first came out.

Mario's comatose body is placed in a bed in the Goomba Village Toad House, or the inn. He awakens after days and days, and the whole time he was unconscious, he did not have a blanket. However, if you leave the inn and come back, there is a blanket on the bed. How inconsiderate of the villagers not to let Mario use that blanket!

Luigi is jealous that he can't join his brother Mario on a quest, while little kid Goombario can. Luigi says he has to stay put because someone needs to look after their house. That's a pretty weird excuse, though. Can't someone else look after the house? In later Paper Mario games, Luigi goes on his own adventures, so who is watching the house in those games? I like to think Luigi just enjoys having the house to himself sometimes.

The game's initial progression is cleverly designed around the earthquake caused by Bowser's castle rising out of the ground. The block on the gate in Goomba Village, the veranda that ends up crashing to the ground, the scattered wood blocking the south side of Toad Town, all of these roadblocks exist as a result of that one event, and it's directly related to the plot.

I'd somewhat taken this game for granted in the past because it's noticeably kiddier than later installments in the Paper Mario series (which I played first), but in a silly and family-friendly way, it has some edgier and more mature dialogue that honestly caught me off guard.

Session 2: Chapter 1 - Storming Koopa Bros. Fortress ~ 1 hr 45 min / May 7, 2014
Infiltrating the Koopa Bros. Fortress, I tried something I'd learned online: playing "jump-rope" with the rotating fire bars in the fortress causes them to disappear, which is a really cool Easter egg. It's a bit pitiful that none of the Bob-ombs in the fort's prison ever thought to use their single most noteworthy ability, exploding, to break free from their confinement. Back in Koopa Village, there's another fun Easter egg, the radio in the relaxing Koopa's house. It has a few stations with oldschool Mario music.

One thing that made me enjoy this game less after having played The Thousand-Year Door was that there is much less variety and interaction in the battle system at first, and the fights don't get particularly interesting until Chapter 2 or 3. Paper Mario just has a slow start.

I'm challenging myself with this run of the game in a couple of ways. First, with every Level Up, I'm going to upgrade Badge Points until I no longer can. Second, I will attempt to Tattle every enemy in the game, even if that means essentially wasting a turn during a battle with tough enemies.

Session 3: Strolling Around the Neighborhood ~ 1 hr / May 8, 2014
This session consisted mostly of exploring Toad Town. I found Luigi sitting on a rock outside the Mario Bros. residence and proceeded to blast it out from under him with a loud, fiery explosion. Luigi was unphased by this occurrence. I fought Chan and Lee at the dojo (I wonder who they're named after) along with Blooper down in the sewers. I've never bothered exploring the Li'l Oink pen in Toad Town, but it is confusing and I'm not sure yet what the point of it is. I also started doing the many quests of the old kook named Koopa Koot, and because I know what to expect, I'm having a good time with them.

Session 4: Chapter 2 - The Mystery of Dry Dry Ruins ~ 4 hrs 55 min / May 8, 2014
Today, the real world was not kind to me, so Paper Mario was my solace through the late hours of the night. I began Chapter 2, marched back and forth through Mt. Rugged, and elected to comb the entire Dry Dry Desert. I searched all 49 screens of it and recorded my findings by drawing a grid map with streams of notes. It was oddly therapeutic.

Dry Dry Ruins is somewhat of a difficulty spike to me. I thought maybe I was having a hard time with it because I was only upgrading my Badge Points, but that's not what I did my first time playing, and the ruins were notably unforgiving to me then, too. I walked out of the ruins to refill my HP quite a few times. Then the boss, Tutankoopa, was an easy fight and I didn't bother using any of my partners except Goombario.

I earned a Silver Card from Koopa Koot to play a game of chance in an underground casino of sorts. I lost constantly, which is why I don't have plans to ever gamble in real life. The Master of the Dojo in Toad Town is indeed a master, and it turns out when I battled him, "that wasn't even his final form." I got into the swing of delivering the letters Parakerry dropped and stumbled upon a humorously long letter-trading sequence that I'm guessing goes on for basically the rest of the game.

After some aimless wandering, I started Chapter 3. The Forever Forest is a neat concept, like the Lost Woods in Zelda but with its own spin. The Boo Mansion has entertaining design to me, like a point-and-click adventure with little puzzles and mini-games, a nice break from the areas of the game with enemies trying to attack you at every turn. I saved and turned off my N64 after being joined by Lady Bow.

Session 5: Chapter 3 - The "Invincible" Tubba Blubba ~ 58 min / May 30, 2014
Stopping and talking to functionally meaningless NPCs has its payoffs. One of the ghosts in the ghost town near the big windmill just says, "Boo, I guess. Poor Effort. Sorry." And in the same breath, he starts talking about a weird dream he had. The lack of enthusiasm and abrupt change of topic tickled me.

When you're not upgrading your HP or FP, a castle full of strong enemies that fight in groups is pretty scary. I actually felt some real tension trying not to be noticed by the Clubbas lining the halls because I knew I wasn't ready to take most of them on. I did not feel the same tension when I reached The Invincible Tubba Blubba's room, though, because he was asleep and no amount of racket I made woke him up until I started to leave the room. The escape sequence that follows is a stand-out moment in the Paper Mario franchise to me.

Lady Bow gives you the option to take her with you or leave her behind. But if you decline her request to join you, apparently saying "no" equates to "just being polite", and she joins you no matter what, of course.

Session 6: Chapter 4 - Trials in the Toy Box ~ 3 hrs 38 min / June 12, 2014
I revisited Tubba Blubba's abode after finishing Chapter 3 to collect some little things I had missed, and there was a lone, clueless Clubba left in the fortress, sound asleep. Yakkey is now an ordinary key, minus the fact that he is self-aware and can move and talk on his own. Because of my new ability to Spin Jump, I stomped through a trap door in the Mario Bros. home and read pages of Luigi's diary, which I plan to return to after every chapter, because it is humorous.

Before Chapter 4, in response to Bowser's questions to Peach about Mario's greatest fears, I answered honestly so that I could gain Star Points from some powerful enemies, and it made me chuckle when Kammy materialized a Clubba in the toy box and its confused reaction was noticeably delayed. I'm also amused by spamming the Spin Attack badge while going down steps, because it looks like Mario is flailing his arms like a lunatic.

This was the point in the game at which I maxed out Mario's BP, so I moved on to updating FP with every level-up, saving HP for last. I've never seen what Chet Rippo does before, so I accepted his deal and found that my FP went up and my HP went down, both by five points. This may loosely resemble a challenge run but this was a bit much for my leisurely playthrough, so I reloaded a recent save and averted the deal. The retrieved HP barely delayed my rapid demise when I attempted to battle Anti-Guy. I didn't beat him, but in the process of trying, I learned that Mario has a different pose every time the Game Over screen pops up. This session technically lasted longer than 3 hours and 38 minutes due to my deaths not counting toward my file, but oh well.

Since I didn't want to stop my session yet, I did a lot of Koopa Koot quests and searched for Star Pieces. When I turned off the system, my file's gameplay time was at 13 and a half hours, which is how long it took me to beat the game on my first save file with Mario at Level 23. I'm taking it slow this time and liking the game better as a result.

Session 7: Interlude Interactions ~ 2 hrs 48 min / June 12, 2014
I was really eager to finish the rest of Chapter 4. The first thing I did was fail miserably fighting a Koopatrol because I was unprepared. I then proceeded to trounce him and intentionally drew out the battle as long as possible to gain extra Star Points because the Koopatrols kept calling for reinforcements. It turns out Group Focus is a really helpful badge in situations like this. General Guy is a pretty fun boss battle.

In the Peach interlude that follows this chapter, Bowser is called a "major bonehead". I wanted to see what would happen if I gifted Gourmet Guy, who is interested in a cake, with a travesty of a cake that doesn't follow the recipe at all. I got a hearty laugh at his reaction: "Where'd you learn to cook, Truck Driving School?" I baked the cake normally and thought about seeing what would happen if I left it in the oven for way too long, but it was too late for me to experiment with that part of the recipe. The cake-baking mission has very reasonable checkpoints. I have to wonder how Gourmet Guy managed to fly into the sky, land in Peach's Castle, obtain a key and learn information about Lavalava Island.

Twink's meeting with a Star Spirit is like a really flattering celebrity encounter. It's kinda great. Twink is so nice.

Then came more Toad Town exploration, during which I discovered the wonders that are Chuck Quizmo's quiz questions. Rowf, who runs the badge shop, informs Mario in a letter that he will be waiting with all his stock "0% off!" What a deal! Upon talking to a random villager, I was intrigued to learn about Rowf's old life with his wife, selling rare foods, which made me wonder about Rowf's character. Paper Mario likes giving random NPCs depth, such as the Toad who is candidly in love with Minh T., and that's something I appreciate about it.

Luigi's diary is full of silly fourth-wall-breakers. The dialogue of the two romantic Toads near the Toad Town entrance right after Chapter 4 is actually very sweet, when it is usually just hilarious.

With the help of some helpful badges, I finally stomped Anti-Guy and continued my journey to the whale in the harbor. The Fuzzipede in his stomach squandered my plans to Tattle every enemy in the game because it is impossible to Tattle him. This session ended in Yoshi Village.

Session 8: Chapter 5 - Hot Hot Times on Lavalava Island ~ 28 min / June 13, 2014
On Lavalava Island, Kolorado's dialogue apparently changes depending on whether you rescue him when he's attacked. I passed him on by the first time and saved him the second time, and he complimented me by saying I pulled through "this time". I had intended for this session to last quite a bit longer than 28 minutes but cut it short abruptly because something came up. I wasn't too ecstatic about finding all the Yoshi children anyway; that's probably my least favorite part of the game, even though it doesn't last too long.

Session 9: Chapter 5 - Optional Boss Balderdash ~ 4 hrs 17 min / June 18, 2014
In the Peach interlude following the crazy eruption sequence, a quiz show is initiated by two of Bowser's minions, and there's one bit of dialogue from it I found particularly comical.

Hammer Bro: "Who does Bowser really love? ... Yes, Princess Peach?"
Princess Peach: "Princess Peach."
Hammer Bro: "Correct!"

In my first playthrough, I thought that the minions were just being careless inviting Peach to their game show and giving her an extremely helpful item as a consolation prize, but now I wonder if they were actually slyly double-crossing Bowser. After all, before Peach arrives, they're waiting around for a third contestant, then they say she is "ideal" for the part, and when Bowser directs them to take her back to her room, they whisper that they're sorry. That sounds pretty suspicious to me.

I didn't know what to expect with the big bully Koopa Kent C., so it took me a few attempts to beat him. I had expected to find him in Koopa Village afterwards, since he apparently used to live there, but he just disappears back into non-existence instead. I had my first and second successes in quick succession with the dojo master but was not ready for his last form.

The rest of this session was spent wandering back and forth across the different towns looking for Chuck Quizmo, because I wanted to save Chapter 6 for my next session but didn't want to turn the game off yet. I answered all the available questions and smiled at how "Diz Onnest" was one of the answer choices for a question regarding Chet Rippo. I also like how one of the Tayce T. recipes is a Bland Meal, and it can be made with a Goomnut and a Koopa Leaf (among many other combinations).

Session 10: Chapter 6 - Dark Days in Flower Fields ~ 1 hr 57 min / June 19, 2014
Chapter 6 is a really creative chapter with fresh, calming atmosphere. The scene with the Water Stone is really cool and I love how the scenery changes throughout the chapter with the water and the sunlight.

This chapter has the rare and exciting Amazy Dayzee, which I found a way to obliterate fairly easily and got 42 experience points from it, three times. However, the wonders of the Amazy Dayzee do not compare with the greatness that is the GRN Magikoopa, because its name space cannot fit the word "green".

The whole chapter has interesting music, but the music that surprised me the most was the two themes that play at different times around the Sun Tower. They sound excellent, and the game draws no attention to them. The trippy, bizarre music that plays with the Puff-Puff Machine perplexed me as well.

I've never liked the Huff N. Puff battle music, or the battle itself, and I forgot that the boss has a cheap finishing move, which must be awful for anyone doing a low HP run unless they have Life Shrooms handy. I lost the battle because of that low blow but was ready the second time. Huff N. Puff is sort of a shoddy end to a great chapter, in my opinion.

Playing as Peach again, it was now time to try her new Sneaky Parasol. After confronting a Hammer Bro. in the library while disguised as a guard, he nervously explains he's not getting the book you think he's getting, whatever that means. It's awesome when you copy the appearance of the Clubba at the castle entrance and wake him up to talk to him. In a stupor, he says, "Hey, it's you! Oh no, it's just me. Hello, me!" and goes right back to sleep. As an extra note, it turns out that there is additional dialogue if you look in the mirror in Peach's room while disguised as another creature, which is a great attention to detail.

Session 11: Chapter 7 - A Star Spirit on Ice ~ 3 hrs 41 min / June 19, 2014
Amazingly, it would seem that Kolorado found the inspiration for his adventuring from Koopa Koot, the old geezer in his village. Jr. Troopa strikes for the umpteenth time just outside of Shiver City, and this time, after you bash his head in and come back to the pathway where you fought him, he's frozen in an iceberg. Icy justice. Following this battle, at last, I maxed out both my BP and my FP and started upgrading my HP.

When I played this, Mario received presents in the Shiver City Toad House after helping the two snowmen, but I'm not sure if helping the snowmen was what prompted that event. If it was, did the snowmen give Mario those presents? Also, the Toad House only has one bed with enough room for one person on it. Mario slept in that bed, but apparently the innkeeper was asleep during that time as well. Does that mean the innkeeper slept on the floor? I find that kinda sad, considering his job is specifically to selflessly stand next to a cozy bed and offer it to other people, and in return, he must sleep someplace less comfortable.

Session 12: Patrolling the Crystal Palace ~ 4 hrs 2 min / June 20, 2014
The Crystal Palace is more or less the coolest part of the game and one of the many reasons Chapter 7 is far and away my favorite chapter. It's a great concept done really well. There's a part in which a number of Duplighosts pose as Bombette, and you have to determine which Bombette is the real one. I was on the other end of the palace hallway where this took place when this incident started, and all of the Bombettes collectively ran over to Mario and brought him back to their end of the hall so he could make his assessment. I found it funny how all of the enemy Duplighosts as well as the real Bombette simultaneously had the idea to carry Mario and did it together. Speaking of enemies, like the GRN Magikoopas of the past, this chapter has a GRY Magikoopa. They couldn't fit in that one extra letter to spell "Gray" (or "Grey").

The already spectacular chapter ends with a spectacular boss fight with the Crystal King, but I forgot he replenishes 20 HP sometimes. His battle arena after the fight is over is laid-back and lovely to look at.

Quote from a penguin: "You're THE Mario!? Oh... But... You look totally normal. You're just some ordinary person on real life?!" Luigi points out the lack of logic with Chapter 7's snowman puzzle in his diary. "Someone said to me that a way will open when you use a scarf and a bucket... What? A scarf for a snowman? Wouldn't it melt him?" You raise a good point, Luigi.

A Bob-omb named Bruce sends a letter to Bombette, which consists almost entirely of "I love you!" Watt's mother sends Watt a letter--but wait, who is Watt's mother? And how does an orb of concentrated electricity have a mother?

At this point in the story, that Toad by the garden still hasn't gathered the courage to tell Minh T. his feelings for her, which makes me sad. Then if you Tattle him, Goombario says the Toad is always in love with someone, and "right now" it's Minh T., implying his feeling for her may be temporary, and that also makes me sad. But as long as he's content with seeing Minh T. happy, I guess that's all right.

Of course Chuck Quizmo's quiz show ends on 64 questions, and now he is retiring. If this game archives the 64th annual quiz show, what did Chuck (or other hosts) do the other 63 years? In Star Haven, it is revealed by one of the NPCs that a sick star was healed because of Mario's efforts, and he is called "a lightsaver", which is a terrible pun. My final match with the dojo master was a close one. I was expecting a helpful reward like Jinx's Belt in Super Mario RPG, but I guess defeating the master is its own reward. I used Merluvlee's fortune-telling abilities to locate the last hidden items I couldn't find, because it turns out to be a very helpful system with a pretty cutscene.

Session 13: Tayce T.'s Recipes, Part 1 ~ 2 hrs 8 min / July 20, 2014
Exactly one month later, I find my way back to this game. I wasn't going to consider this a 100% playthrough unless I got Tayce T. to cook all of her possible recipes, so I looked up a walkthrough and started making them all happen, in the meantime learning of the existence of Apples and Melons in the Paper Mario universe. I like how Tayce T. says the recipe to make a Jelly Ultra is "not too bad", despite it being the best HP- and FP-replenishing in the whole game and probably the whole series.

Session 14: Tayce T.'s Recipes, Part 2 ~ 1 hr 47 min / July 20, 2014
In this part, I finished up the recipes and could have continued on to the final chapter, but since I was so close to maximizing my HP, I fought the Amazy Dayzee in Flower Fields a few more times and levelled up to Level 27, the highest obtainable level, after which you ostensibly stop receiving Star Points. The world within this game has felt so endless for so long, but when I suddenly no longer had any reason to fight enemies, it hit me that there isn't much left that I can do.

Session 15: Chapter 8 - A Star-Powered Showdown! ~ 1 hr 41 min / July 22, 2014
Starting off Chapter 8, I was as well-prepared as I could possibly ever be. It's a bit jarring going through Bowser's Castle with the Bump Attack badge, plowing through nearly all of the enemies without fighting them. I took off the badge from time to time so that I could keep to my self-imposed task of Tattling every possible enemy. Since I wasn't focusing on battles much, I stopped and talked to Goombario in most of the rooms, and there's one room in which he says of all the treasures they've collected on their quest, the most valuable treasure he could ask for would be Mario's autograph.

I deliberately failed the second Bowser Door's questionaire in order to battle the optional Anti-Guys Unit to see what it was like, and it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been because I came into this chapter grossly over-prepared, but it still had some challenge.

This chapter has some slow puzzles, but its layout has a lot of personality (especially the makeshift Toad Houses in the jail cells) and it's the perfect climax for the adventure.

Session 16: Final Battle, Ending ~ 54 min / July 23, 2014
The buildup to the battle with Bowser is magically tense. Everything has led up to this. The first time I beat Bowser, I remember only barely winning the fight and considering it the definitive Bowser fight of the whole Mario franchise. Since I was maxed out on every possible resource this time around, it wasn't a big problem, but I still think this classic, epic confrontation is one of Bowser's finest moments. I let Goombario deliver the final blow, because I feel like he's an underdog and a lot of people make fun of him for being useless. That, and I thought the idea of a simple Goomba rising from humble beginnings to take down a seemingly invincible evil king made for a good success story.

The aftermath of the fight is so excellent, and Twink's goodbye is kinda heartbreaking. I grew more attached to the little guy than I thought I would through the course of the game.

I was glad to find that there was one more small section of gameplay left, in which you make your way to Peach's Castle to participate in the party you and all of your friends were invited to. I spent quite a while talking to everybody in Toad Town on my way there. I'd never really noticed Chuck Quizmo's assistant before, but she's a Toad with heart-shaped spots who has never been possible to speak to at any other point in the game. If you talk to her now, she just waves at you, smiling a big smile, and her dialogue is just a heart. I love that, it's super adorable.

The parade begins, and all of Mario's partners are riding the Star Ship. Kolorado and his wife have a less-than-bitter reunion on the whale. Tubba Blubba's body being carried off by Boos is slightly disturbing. I want the Yoshi Lavalava float to exist in real life. It's kind of a shame that the Crystal King had to be taken away from the parade while his dopplegangers stuck around, because I'd say he was the most honorable chapter boss. The floats are dazzling at night, as are the Toads with the flashing spots at the end. I've never seen them with light-up spots in any other game, but since they are essentially mushrooms, and bioluminescent fungi is a thing that exists, I'm almost surprised more Mario games don't have Toads with glowing spots. Twink makes a momentary appearance, and it is a happy time.

Normally I don't like screens in video games that say "The End" forever until you turn the power off, but Paper Mario is an exception. The music is beautiful and the fireworks create an incredible mood to finish off the adventure, like nothing bad will ever happen again now that Mario and Peach are back together. I listened to the sweet lullaby of a tune for a few more minutes until it looped, and I was satisfied with putting the Nintendo 64 to sleep once more.

Paper Mario is a much more fun, complex, and engaging game than I gave it credit for at first. Now that I've played it again, while I still consider its sequel superior, this title has earned a place among my all-time favorites.

Back to Miscellaneous