I hope you like direct sequels.
Judging from the E3 demo, Intelligent Systems’ Paper Mario 2 is a direct sequel to the N64 original, adding extra little touches to keep things interesting.
Mario is once again accompanied by good baddies in and out of battle, and the interface and battle system are nearly identical. The overworld includes pipes, ? blocks, and othe Mario-esque items. The attack and defense timing system found in the original is still central on the GameCube, and you must usually touch the enemy to initiate a battle. The demo also included power-up and defense badges to collect, as well as common attack items such as the POW Blocks and Shooting Stars.
There are a few new aspects, though. Most significantly, Mario’s partner now has his (or her) own health meter, and now takes damage instead of getting stunned when attacked. The attack & defense timing system has been extended to encompass first strikes and non-violent moves: you must time Tattle . Also, battles are now on a stage in front of an audience, and the game reflects this. A new “Tactics" move is to appeal to the crowd, which seems to increase one of the character’s statistics. More powerful attacks can shake the stage and cause off-stage props or the scenery to fall on Mario and his buddy.
There were three playable areas in the E3 demo. In Star Crystal Field, you are partnered with little Goombella, Goombario’s sister from Paper Mario. Since it is near the beginning of the game, I rivaled only Goombas and Paragoombas.
Star Crystal Field wasn’t very interesting, so I explored Boggly Woods next. In this jungle setting I was teamed up with an overweight female creature named Flurrie. Her special battle move is Gale Force, in which you rhythmically push A to blow enemies out of the battle. Baddies included Pirhana plants and spiders, though the level was clearly puzzle-oriented. The main draw of this level are the baby slugs-like punies accompanying Mario as he delves deeper into the woods. By placing Mario’s Star Crystal in empty slots, the slugs can activate switches and unlock pathways. If you lose one, you can ask the Punie elder to call the babies back. This level also included some humor: I made Mario say, “I love you," which prompted a “two hour" story of her life (which Mario sleeps through). Also of note was the ability to turn sideways with the R button, though I didn’t play long enough to discover any practical use.
I also watched someone else play the third level featuring Kooper-clone Koops in a castle., who can be kicked out of battle by pushing X The castle’s enemies included Koopa Troopas and Koopa Paratroopas. Once again, level design was similar to areas in the N64 game. The most interesting parts I saw of this level were the sections where Mario folded into a paper airplane. As an airplane, you control Mario’s speed and pitch by pulling back on the control stick (think Super Mario World), and a careful touch can guide Mario to the desired platform.
There was a time limit on the Paper Mario 2 demo, so I was not able to get too far in any of the levels, but it is clear Paper Mario 2 is more of the same, and should appeal to fans of its N64 inspiration who don’t mind a fun, but unchallenging romp, through Mario’s zany world.