Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS) Review


Let’s be honest, Super Paper Mario on the Wii wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some liked it, and many others were irritated that it didn’t follow on in the footsteps of The Thousand-Year Door. In other words, Intelligent Systems decided to throw the majority of the traditional turn-based battle mechanics that the series was well-known for out of the window. Thankfully, Sticker Star remedies this somewhat, by taking a few steps back, to take a couple forward – if that makes any sense. This not only sees the return of many beloved Paper Mario elements, but the game also makes some big calls of its own regarding its design (more on that later though).

Sticker Star starts out as most other Mario games do. Life is peaceful until Bowser appears out of nowhere ready to cause some trouble. In this case, it’s the night of the annual Sticker Fest in the town of Decalburg. Everybody (everybody being the Toads) has gathered to watch the Sticker Comet, which can apparently make wishes come true. Of course, Bowser can’t help himself, and so he crashes into the comet when it appears, causing it to explode, and scatter the six Royal stickers across the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s now up to Mario, and his new friend Kersti (a sticker fairy, who greets him when he wakes up after the incident), to recover them from Bowser and his minions to restore peace to the Mushroom Kingdom.


From here, the adventure unfolds in typical Paper Mario fashion. Players are thrust straight into a game environment that feels incredibly familiar, and somewhat reminiscent of the earlier Paper Mario titles, as opposed to the Wii entry in the series. As usual, and as with all Paper Mario games, a dash of charm has been added to Sticker Star. This time though, it’s presented in its slickest form yet, with the title displaying an incredible amount of polish. It’s at this point that the game also sort of lulls the player into a false sense of security, with part nostalgia and part familiarity – with the assistance of its paper theme and familiar cast of characters. Everything appears to be more of the same. Then just when you thought things were finally back to normal, Sticker Star reveals one drastic game mechanic that separates it from all of the previous Paper Mario games.


It shows the much-loved levelling and experience systems the door. Although Mario grows in strength over time, no longer will players be able to level-up. While the game retains turn-based combat and minor real-time elements within, the battles are not as appealing as they once were. This is mostly because you’re rewarded with nothing more than coins and stickers, and all they do is fund and fuel your hunger for combat. Flipping the mechanics on their head just a little more, Sticker Star introduces the sticker system. For Mario to execute a move in battle, he must use a sticker from his sticker album. Stickers offer a variety of move sets, and can be rewarded to the player through battle, discovered in the game’s environment, or purchased from shops. This is also where the coins come in; you’re able to fund Mario’s addiction.

So instead of the deep leveling and battle mechanics the series was once praised for, we now have a simplified RPG formula where battling isn’t all that vital, and fate is often based on how much sticker hoarding you’ve been doing in your spare time. It’s just a tad disappointing that Intelligent Systems has opted for this simple design. The only upside of all of this is that the series has returned to its turn-based roots. Once you do get over this slight little change, it’s really not that bad either. It’s quite a streamlined experience. Mario’s attacks are based entirely on the stickers available to him in his album. In some circumstances, the player will have to make efficient use of the stickers they have on hand, or run the risk or running out of them altogether. Besides this, the fight sequences are the same sort of action we’ve seen before with Mario jumping on heads with correctly timed presses of the A button, or healing/protecting himself with mushrooms and shells. This time round, he’s also battling solo – so no team mates by his side.



Outside of the turn-based battles, the majority of time is spent exploring themed levels, navigating the new world map, collecting stickers, and talking to the locals of the Mushroom Kingdom. Adding a challenge to the mix are various sticker-based puzzles. In just about every level, there’ll be a point where certain stickers are required to unlock, activate or open the next path. After a while it becomes a bit of a chore, with X sticker going here, so X sticker can activate this. If you don’t pay attention, it can also be a bit of a guessing game as to which sticker goes where. If you get stumped though, Kersti is always there to lend a hand. With the tap of the L button, she’ll appear out of nowhere and offer some advice. Even with Kersti, the puzzle sections in Sticker Star are often a bit wild. Intelligent Systems’ idea of puzzles doesn’t appear to be as seamlessly designed as in other Mario titles. Very rarely is there a sense of flow.


Adding to the confusion are certain everyday items which can eventually be transformed into stickers and used to Mario’s advantage. These items ranging from fans, to light bulbs, to soft drink cans are hidden throughout the odd level. More often than not these items are required to progress in key parts of the game. Clearing up paths, or otherwise used in battle against boss-like enemies. This makes for a somewhat overwhelming sticker experience at times.

Considering this is Paper Mario’s first handheld outing, he’s done a pretty good job keeping things as large as life despite his downsizing. The title feels just as credible as any other entry in the Paper Mario series. The only thing that really falls flat is its plain, and at times dull approach to a lot of things. This is apparent from the very beginning of the game with the opening story. There are no witty lines of dialogue like some of the previous Paper Mario games have been known for, or jokes in between. It’s all just very ordinary from start to finish. Sadly the comments from a lot of the characters throughout the game are as forgettable as the characters themselves. Given Sticker Star is partly story-driven, it’s unfortunate the writing is lacking the punch needed to keep players on the edge of their seats.

It’s a pity Sticker Star falls short in certain areas because the game is wonderfully presented from a visual standpoint. The 3DS is the ideal companion for a series like Paper Mario. This game sells 3D better than most other games on the 3DS do, simply because of its storybook design. The layering within each level comes to life when 3D mode is activated, and while it doesn’t really change the way the game plays, it still manages to improve on the already stunning visuals. The sound is just as superb, with rich and vibrant tunes that really pay homage to Paper Mario predecessors and classic Mario sounds.  It’s these aspects of the game where the magic of Paper Mario shines through.



All up, as charming as Paper Mario: Sticker Star is, it’s likely to fall short with many long-time fans. The lack of levelling and experience, combined with the somewhat dull sticker concept, comes as yet another major blow to a series which used to provide a much more meaningful and satisfying experience during the Nintendo 64 and GameCube generations. Paper Mario has now been unhinged since the Wii was released and it’s worrying to think what will come of the series in the future. In saying all that, it’s comforting to see the return of turn-based battles and a more familiar style of adventuring. Hopefully this is a positive sign of things to come. For first timers, it’s still worth giving a go and seeing what you think. Even if this game is up against some tough competition on the 3DS, the accessible and unique nature of this game world shine through. While it’s not as rich or as lively in gameplay, adventuring, story or even dialogue as its predecessors, its charm is anything but paper-thin.

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About The Author
Liam Doolan
I’ve been writing about video games since 2006 and playing them since I was a kid. I started out with a copy of Mario & Yoshi on the Game Boy and before I knew it was in debt to Tom Nook. These days I spend much of my time trawling the eShop for the latest downloadable hit.

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