I wanted to write this before the year was up but let’s talk about Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Specifically, happy birthday to it! It was released ten years ago on the Nintendo Gamecube and is by far one of the best games on the purple lunchbox. After playing it again this year, I have to say that it has aged like Tasty Tonic indeed.
For the unenlightened, Thousand Year Door is a sequel to the RPG game, Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64. Debuted in 2004, many of the original features of the game, such as partners, star special attacks, star pieces, and more have been retained if not enhanced. Many new features were added as well including audience interaction and the ability to turn into a variety of paper-themed objects such as airplane, boat, and paper tube.
One of the main things people will talk about in this game is the humor. TYD proves you can be funny without being crass. Fourth-wall-breaking, slapstick, visual gags, and more makes TYD funnier than its prequel. The game’s heavy use of humor does not distract the player from the overall story and can even enhance it such as the boss Doopliss.
It’s safe to say that with the improved humor comes improved characters. Mario may be as flat (PUN) as ever but his partners have more depth in them compared to his N64 partners. It’s almost tempting to reset certain scenes just so you could hear how your partners react to certain weird scenarios. Intelligent Systems also made sure the partners didn’t become useless after their introductory chapters. Because of the more complex puzzles, I was using them up until the end of the game. I especially like Goombella who is far more useful to you than Goombario and more hilarious (especially when she’s telling male Goomba creeps to go stuff themselves). It is truly sad when you say goodbye to them at the end of the game because they help make the game so memorable.
Because of the cartoony (dare I say…papery?) design, the graphics have aged as well as the humor. The animation runs fluidly even when a lot of enemies are on the screen. This is especially nice when you are performing to an audience of a 100+ individuals. The background models may betray the game’s age but the character animations themselves are pretty slick.
The story itself may at first seem just like the N64 version (i.e., collecting 7 powerful stars) but the few crucial differences make it stand out. For one thing, Mario is not defeating Bowser and relinquishing his control on the Mushroom Kingdom. In this game, Mario is fighting the X-Nauts for possession of the Crystal Stars in the land of Rogueport. The Crystal Stars can be held by bosses who have no relationship with the X-Nauts and sometimes they are held by kind (albeit strange) characters! This means that the story is not constrained to a formulaic plot and instead is more open to what it can do. This is why we can get such memorable chapters like of Glitz and Glory, 3 Days of Excess, and especially For Pigs the Bells Toll.
I think of Glitz and Glory is my favorite chapter due to its setup as a gladiator setting but with a mysterious undertone. It’s kind of cool how one chapter built up a lot of story just from talking to all the side and background characters. The baby-Yoshi partner is also a nice especially how you can name him and get a variety of colors (I named mine “Tyson” cause I just watched Cosmos that week…). The game’s intermissions can also be very entertaining as you control both Peach AND Bowser (as seen below)!
The game for the most part is relatively easy with a few challenging moments (especially the end boss) so you can get through it without having to stress out too much. Grinding is actively discouraged as the amount of star points you get from an enemy goes down as you level up. If you were looking to challenge yourself though you should try out the The Pit of 100 Trials. This is by far the hardest part of the game as you have to go through 100 levels of enemies with no hopes up resting. The last time I went through it I got up to about level 85 or something before I finally fainted. I’m going to attempt it again but this time with more life shrooms. I also recommend to equip the Happy Heart and Flower badges along with the Heart and Flower Finder badges as they can definitely aid you in the long run.
Thousand Year Door is one of the best sequels you can have for a game. Not only does it retain the original premise and game mechanics from the prequel, but it enhances them and adds additional features as well. If Paper Mario on the N64 was a 9 then the Gamecube version is a definite 10. This game was fun to play 10 years ago and its just as fun now.