Growing up as a kid my world revolved around three things; food, Saturday Morning Cartoons, and video games. All three of which I indulged in heavily during my childhood. I can count the hours I spent playing Super Mario Bros. on my NES and the trilogy remakes on my SNES, and even what my favorite show was at the time (which happened to be DBZ and Yu-Gi-Oh, and yes I did hunt for the cards). Out of all of my favorite gaming console eras the most exciting one for me personally, was the GameCube era.
I didn’t get my hands on the cube until one year after its launch. For most Nintendo gamers it was the epitome of their childhood growing up, but for me it felt like a whole new world I was stepping into. Sure I had some awesome times with the N64, but the Gamecube era took it to another level. I played all of the hit games back then; Luigi’s Mansion, Smash Bros. Melee, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, Sonic DX, Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Party 4-7, and the list goes on and on. Out of all of those games during that time, the one I had the most fun playing was Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.
What was it about this game that kept me coming back for its replay value? Was it because it took everything I loved about the original and enhanced it to an anime-level plot? Was it because I got the chance to fight a new ‘big bad’ other than Bowser? Was it the fact that the story didn’t take place in the Mushroom Kingdom like it normally does, but puts Mario in an unfamiliar town full of robbers, questionable areas, and G-rated ‘showgirls’? YES!! Yes to ALL!
It even took the battle system from the first game and enhanced it; partners now have HP, Mario’s HP and FP have a 200-point cap which is way better than PM64’s 60, and you were introduced to a new type of villain – the X-Nauts (doing their best DMX ‘X’ed’ off impression). Also, you had an audience that watched you fight your opponents. (Although there was that one time where everybody had rocks and were prepared to chuck them at me, and I had to find that one a**hole who thought it was funny and whack him on the head with my hammer. Who’s laughing now, Ted?!)
This game was also kinda dark too; the Hooktail battle where that idiot ate members of the audience, and don’t even get me started of the Shadow Queen (Shadow Peach) fight, she killed everybody in the audience and used their souls to fill up her HP. It’s probably one of the reason why I and thousands of other Paper Mario fans liked this installment so much; it took a more PG approach to the story as opposed to ‘playing it safe’ for the kiddies, although I wouldn’t count 14 as a kid’s age. I’m not sure what happened after Super Paper Mario, but fans feel like they never should’ve abandoned the RPG formula. I probably should’ve mentioned it before, but the partners in this game ACTUALLY HAVE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! Koops was a shy guy (pun intended) who wanted to be more confident even though his girlfriend loved him just the way he is. Vivian was in a abusive relationship with her sisters until she ventured out on her own and helped Mario get her body back from Doopliss. Admiral Bobbery lost the love of his life while out sailing the seas due to illness and felt guilty for not being by her side during her final hours, and vowed never to sail the seas again.
I can see why this installment in the Paper Mario series is one of the most critically acclaimed; the story, the character development in the partners, enhanced battle mechanics, a new main bad guy, and the game ‘forgetting’ that Bowser’s trying so hard to become the center of the plot. It’s one of the reasons why out of all of the games of the GameCube era, this one was my favorite to play; followed by Sonic DX. Who knows if Nintendo will return to what worked for the Paper Mario series, even though they tried it with Sticker Star and Origami King (but still abandoned the RPG formula all together). At the end of the day, Thousand Year Door will always be my favorite installment of the series.