(GCN / GameCube)

Game Review

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Trevor Chan

He might be paper, but Mario's no flop

When Mario and friends appeared in their debut role-playing title nearly fifteen years ago on the SNES, it marked a significant new direction that the franchise would embark on and time has proved it's a popular one too. European gamers were understandably disappointed that Super Mario RPG never came to their continent, but they were compensated when it finally became widely accessible via the Wii's Virtual Console. When Paper Mario launched on the N64, it not only built on gameplay mechanics first experimented with on the SNES debut but also introduced key characteristics that would become distinguishing features in the Paper Mario series. With Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (PM: TTYD) being the second title in the franchise, how has it progressed from its predecessor?

The game's narrative starts off nice and simply: Princess Peach comes into possession of a mysterious map and wants Mario to join her in search of the hidden treasure. Upon arriving at the meeting place and talking to the locals, it becomes apparent that Peach is nowhere to be found because she's got herself kidnapped. Cue 'rescue Princess' obligation.

In order to discover where she is being held captive, Mario must find the seven Crystal Stars and, in doing so, the former can be worked out by deduction. One might think "yeah, heard it all before", but the game features several plotlines which intertwine nicely to keep hold of the player's interest steadily. The first few hours of play are understandably slow, with a lot of dialogue to get through! Once key plot-points have been reached, the game naturally gains momentum and there's significantly more 'playing' and less 'reading'.

The combat system is turn-based and follows in the footsteps of Paper Mario. Our moustached hero will always fight alongside a partner, with the ability to choose which one is in and/or out of battle. Actions will consist of normal and flower-point attacks, along with the ability to use items on yourselves or on enemies. Special star attacks that use up varying amounts of your star meter deal extra damage; with a new star attack unlocked every time you collect a Crystal Star. PM:TTYD introduces a new element within the fight sequences in the form of spectators: play up to the crowd by charming them with gestures or hit those well-timed commands and they will help replenish your star meter at a faster rate. They will also throw usable items to help you, as well as dangerous objects to harm you and it's this simple yet engaging addition that adds another dimension to the fight scenarios. The badge system is back and works exactly the same as before, which is a shame: although this allows players to modify their repertoire of moves, it's an area of the franchise that hasn't evolved.

The main themes are once again exploration, interaction and combat. What's great with Mario games is the familiarisation of their characters, and there's plenty in this game, that's for sure. Sprinklings of tongue-in-cheek humour can be found throughout the game, often straight from the dialogue itself, or from things happening in the background in conjunction with the foreground.

The game world is fairly expansive, covering ten different key locations with various interlinking regions that almost count as separate locations themselves. As you progress through the game, you'll learn new skills which will be beneficial as you back-track and gain access to new areas. A new feature in the series is Mario's ability to morph into different modes of transport. In line with the whole paper theme, Mario will fold himself into a plane, paper tube and even a boat in order to explore every part of the world. It's a nice concept but doesn't get implemented in puzzles enough; in fact, challenging puzzles are few and far between.

The presentation of the game hasn't changed much but that doesn't take anything away from the lush graphics and lovely blend of 2D characters in 3D environments. There are some nice special effects that are animated smoothly and look vibrant and crisp. When entering or exiting buildings, the walls will fold up and down and makes the transition between being inside and outside very smooth and near-instantaneous. Locations are identifiable from each other and an immersive world is created to house the narrative. At times, there will be hundreds of characters on-screen and on occasions like these, it really does show the quirkiness of the series in an affable light. The game not only follows the actions of Mario and friends, but the events led by the mysterious Lord Crump and his X-nauts, Princess Peach and her new-found 'relationship' with a computer not dissimilar to HAL, and Bowser as he plays catch-up to all the action. During these narrative tangents, the player takes control of these characters for a short time, seeing what they get up to. For example, Bowser will often appear in 'old-school' side-scrolling style mini-levels that resemble the old NES games. Well, 'mini-levels' is a bit of a stretch; more like minute-long teasers. This is unfortunate as 'proper' 2D levels would have been a nice deviation from the main storyline.

The sound design is the usual standard that one would expect from a high-profile Mario game like this. Tracks are often looped for an 'x' amount of time unless a new situation like a fight or the arrival at a new destination occurs. However, it's not something that you are conscious of as they are often quite catchy, in a non-invasive way. Each town has its own distinctive audio design that fits the mood of the location very well, further enhancing the atmosphere: Twilight Town, for example, has quite a minimalistic track that fits in perfectly with its mysterious appearance. Sound effects aren't exactly plentiful, asides from the fight scenarios. In attempting to defeat the first major boss, players will have to think carefully about the sound of a particular 'thing' in order to overcome it. This kind of lateral approach to puzzles could have been utilised much more than it was.

Although it might not be the most definitive RPG in the genre, it is a substantial game that will offer dozens of hours of gameplay. Even after finishing the final chapter, players will be able to continue playing for as long as they want should they decide to find every single badge, star piece, dish recipe and enemy profile via Goombella's Tattle attack. In hindsight, the dish recipes in this game are much harder to discover than its sequel, Super Paper Mario, as players aren't told what ingredients are needed, making it a trial and error process. Although a much more challenging method, this offers players more satisfaction when recipes are stumbled upon. There's also an additional playable character not featured on the main title screen that can be found somewhere in the game. Like all partners, this character will possess a unique ability; one that will come in handy should you find yourself hunting all the collectibles. There are several side 'missions' available, offering players enough replay value to keep coming back to the game.


It's a shame that PM: TTYD doesn't feel like it's evolved much from its predecessor: even Zelda games have explored territories other than the tried and tested Triforce route. With this game, the player will feel a certain déjà-vu with its game-play and narrative, and not always in a positive way. Even a portion of the ending seems to have been ripped straight from the first Paper Mario. Having said all that, it's not a bad game. As engaging as it is, the game is let down by the pacing of the progression: what starts off as compelling interaction slowly descends into easier-than-necessary gameplay by the third quarter of the game. The last quarter thankfully picks up again, both in quality of puzzles as well as the difficulty of enemies. There's no major innovation as far as the franchise is concerned, but what you have here is a solid action-orientated RPG starring the most famous plumber in the world. Even if you own the first and/or third instalment in the series, this is well worth picking up.

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User Comments (90)



JamieO said:

This is a quality, detailed review. Even though it notes the lack of new ideas that would have helped develop the series, from the review I may still purchase this in the future.

I have only played Wii Super Paper Mario, so I think that I would buy this one before the N64 version. If they are both similar, I might as well have the visually superior GCN game. Cheers, Trevor.



Phobos said:

Ooooh...I think I like this. I've been wanting to buy Super Paper Mario on Wii for a while, but I also think this is a great addition. We'll see which comes first. Great review by the way!



sugoisabarashi said:

I am loving this game so far and I really enjoyed the first.
I will pick up Super Paper Mario soon as well.



KeeperBvK said:

Definitely a 9 and one of the extremely rare instances where a sequel not only held up to my expectations but even exceeded them by quite a lot.



Carolyn said:

I'll have to respectfully disagree on this one. I find TTYD a dramatic improvement on its excellent predecessor, particularly in terms of story and humor--in fact, I think it's one of the funniest and most charming games of all time. The characters--both your party members and supporting characters outside of the party--are memorable and frequently hilarious, and many of the locations you visit are among the most inventive I've encountered in games. I certainly agree that it doesn't deviate too much in gameplay terms from its predecessor, but I felt that the foundation laid by the original was quite strong and appreciated the little ways in which this game refined those concepts. (Incidentally, when Super Paper Mario came along and did something completely different, I thought it was actually not quite as good as the earlier PM games, though I still enjoyed it and appreciated that they tried to do something new.) TTYD is easily my favorite of the Mario RPGs, with Bowser's Inside Story coming closest to giving it a run for its money. Still, I respect your opinion, and I'm glad to see Nintendo Life review this title.



James said:

I have to be honest, I really didn't like this game much. I played to about halfway through and gave up – the battle system was too cluttered for my tastes, with star points, flower points, audience meters and then having to dodge falling scenery and items thrown from the crowd as well. It really put me off, sadly.



Olorin said:

An 8 seems pretty low for such an amazing game. It's definitely in my top 3 of GameCube games.



odd69 said:

I still have my copy and will never part with it, this game has earned it's place in my collection. I loved it and consider it a great addition to the Mario franchise. I enjoyed Super Paper Mario just as much.



Bass_X0 said:

A better game than Super Paper Mario but I'm done with TTYD now and have been for a a few years. Regular N64 Paper Mario is still the best of the trilogy IMO.



Aviator said:

@James I think its a real basic system. HP, FP, BP. I think it has both enjoyment for those who are new to the RPG genre and veterans, as the badges are what really keeps alot of people. I think it is a great game, and its a shame they didn't continue with it in SPM. Plus, You got a Yoshi, a baby one, with a mowhawk. Ultimate Win.



WiiLovePeace said:

I am yet to play this one, or the N64 paper mario but I have played Super Paper Mario & it was awesome! I think I'll pick up the N64 & beat that one before I play this but I'll certainly be getting it if I see it!



Varoennauraa said:

I didn't so much like the style of this game. I wanted even more paperlike feel to it. Perhaps some crayon coloring and paper. The music was too crazy and emotioneless for me, almost ruining the whole game. But still the game was so fun, that I needed to download the N64 version too, even if I knew GC-game was superior and it felt like downgrade. Thousand Year Door has so rich battlesystem...it is one of my favorite battle systems ever. N64 game already had good system, but this adds two big elements to it. The audience is super fun and "style"-system adds even more skill and game to menu driven rpg-fights.



moomoo said:

I'd personally give it a 9 or 10, but the complaints are fair and the review is well written. Still, it's one of the best games on the Gamecube.



cr00mz said:

i love this game, and as odd69 i too will never part with this game. I Bought it on release back in 2004. Ah the memories. never managed to beat it until just a couple of months ago.



RonF said:

I love this game but I agree it is too similar to its predecessor which, by the way, I thought it had a better story. On the other hand, Super Paper Mario really showed some new ideas. Unfortunately, the new platform mechanics was much inferior to the turn based combat of the two first games.



Xkhaoz said:

I remember I rented this once. Pretty fun. Maybe I'll find a used copy some day.



Kevin said:

This is more of a 9 IMO. One of the best RPGs to grace the Gamecube.



accc said:

Doesn't feel like it's evolved much from its predecessor? Well all I can say is I'm glad I didn't play the same version of TTYD as the reviewer did! 10/10 all the way.



FantasiaWHT said:

Great game, I'd give it an 8.5, but I'd have a really tough time deciding whether to bump it up or down on an integer scale.



Cia said:

I would give this game at least a 9, maybe 10. It's the best RPG on Gamecube.



Percentful said:

This is my favorite game, other than electroplankton. I love the graphics, the music, everything about it! I personally think it has one of the greatest battle systems ever. I think it's awesome how the audience interacts. It suprises me that this got a lower score than the original. It's improved in every way, at lest imho. The battle system is deeper, there's a more original storyline, everything actually looks paper, there are more sidequests, and there is one thing that makes this game SO much better than some other RPGs [once again, imo]. You never "beat" the game. It's like pokemon, where you beat it, then you can go and do whatever you missed, it doesn't do that whole "you beat it, so now you're right before the final boss again" deal. Personally, I think the original deserves the 8/10, and this deserves the 10/10.
Whoa. Even electroplankton didn't make me type this much.



she_gamer said:

Definately one of my most favourite games... Yes, the battle systems were complex, but the game was long enough that you had time to learn each aspect of battle (badges, flower points, heart points, audience help/hinder, timing, partner abilities, etc.) By the end of the game, you really feel like you've developed some amazing skills. REALLY close tie between this and super paper mario.



TrevorTheChan said:

I thought about scoring it a 9 but in all honesty, I think that would have been too generous. The game does have some new ideas but overall, there's too many minor flaws. Repitition is one of them. Despite these forgivable blemishes, you can't ignore the fact that they exist. On my original save file (back in 2004), I racked up over 90 hours of gameplay and you don't do that unless you want to! Let's not forget that 8/10 is still a very good score and I reiterate what I said in the review, even if you own the first and/or third instalment, this is well worth picking up. I see it as one of the gems in the Gamecube era.



advance_melee said:

Id say this is like a 9.5

I remember this game being so good, I stayed in on New Years Eve to play it instead of partying. It kept me hooked. Its better than Mario RPG and Paper Mario N64.



Sean007s said:

Are these games worth buying NOW?....or have they dated?

I loved...and I mean LOVED....Super Paper Mario on the Wii...



pixelman said:

WHAT. How can the N64 version get a 10 and this one be two points under? This one improved on the first in so many ways. >:[



JamieO said:

8/10 is a very good score, reading the review left me wanting to buy it, trouble is I've been spending way too much on games recently! This is one for me to buy in the future.

@TrevorTheChan Whoa, 90 hours of game time is a substantial amount to build on any game's clock. Fair play.



Crunc said:

This and the N64 original are two of my favorite games of all time. I tend to think that the original is a little better, but both games are superb and you will want to play both of them. I actually played Thousand Year Door first. It was for my kids and I wasn't expecting to like it, just to have to sit through it with them to help them along, but in short order I was the one convincing them we should play it. I bought an N64 in part just so we could play the original. These are two of the 3 RPGs that I've enjoyed, the other being the fan translation of Mother 3. You'll note that all have extensive humor/don't take themselves seriously at all, and have an action element to them, which are big parts of what makes these games fun for me.



Starkiller said:

Needs a 9. Maybe it is more of the same, but sometimes change isn't always best. I certainly liked this game much more than Super Paper Mario, but it's good that they didn't use the exact same formula 3 times in a row - then I'd start complaning. I do hope they return Paper Mario to what it used to be (more or less).



Knux said:

I think this game deserves a 9, it is an awesome game that it is just as good or even better than the original Paper Mario. Great review though.



Percentful said:

Well, when you've just gotten a Wii and the only game you'll have for 9 months is SSBB, you'll find yourself playing it a lot. Realistically, it's probably more like 520, because there have been times where I left it paused for a while.



naut said:

This game deserves a 9 at least. It's one of the best GCN titles out there.



StarDust4Ever said:

Yeah, this game was so awesome. This was the first Mario RPG game I played, and it is truly an awesome game, the best of the Paper Mario Series. Super Paper Mario is excellent as far as Mario games go, but Super Paper Mario is more of the old-school platformer-adventure genre than a true RPG. Paper Mario Thousand Year Door takes everything from the first Paper Mario game and expands upon it going much deeper than the first, and contrary to the reviewer, I don't believe the badge system is a fault at all.




Percentful said:

Wait a second, this got a lower score than Paper Mario AND Super Paper Mario? Madness!



zezhyrule said:

This game was one of my first RPGs. I used to only play platformers and adventure games, but after this, RPG turned into my fave genre.



DK_vs_KK said:

I just picked this up from Ebay a few days ago. It's pretty much the same as the first Papaer Mario, and most of its improvements are made in the game's visuals. There's not much new content to be found, but it's a fun adventure nonetheless. Now all I need is a memory card to save my progress.



RichieTheSignPainter said:

This game is a tad better than the N64 game but it's harder to find and more expensive.
You can get the N64 game on the Wii for £7 so I'd say get that.



M00se said:

this is better than both paper marios, especially super paper mario, which was a spinoff.



bestbuck said:

I disagree with this review, I quote "Having said all that, it's not a bad game" What? This Game is Excellent and the best of all 3 Paper Mario Games. I would give this Game 9/10 easy



cheetahman91 said:

Agree 100% with the review and score. This is my least favorite Mario RPG (haven't played Superstar Saga and Super Paper Mario doesn't count) but it's still a good game.




From the excellent review it reads like a clear 9/10 and it certainly SHOULD be. Strange that its cored 8, but never mind.

What a great game it was/is. I've played all three in the series. I think Paper Mario is better and I prefer Super Paper, but still, this is great



moomoo said:

By the way, best Mario RPG that has ever graced a system, and one of my personal favorite RPG's, and I've played a lot. Just saying...
Also, I was looking forward to seeing 110percentiful's post.



Kid_A said:

Wow, surprised it didn't get a higher score. Brilliant RPG, even if it isn't quite as good as the original.



Ravage said:

If you didn't like Paper Mario, its not likely much will change that, but if you really wished the game didn't have to end, then this is an excellently superior and very much worth more than this score. Reviews are more like a range of scores, if you will, where the actual score is an average and it is depends on the reader to decide whether they think it will appeal to them more, etc. I think this score is very representative of that kind of thing, I think it should get a super high score (just not a 10) and I know several people who would easily rate it lower than an 8. The flaws in the first one are still present, but if you loved the first, this one is not likely to be any different. Therefore, if you haven't played it yet, and you loved the first, do it now!



Klapaucius said:

One of my favourite GCN games, along with the two Zeldas and two Metroid games. Deserves a 10 in my mind, or a 9 if you're being overly critical.



ToastyYogurt said:

Great game. Playing this game made me beg for the original on VC before it came out. Now I am so happy



Funky_Gamer said:

This is my fav Paper Mario. it should be at least a 9/10. Plus, once you beat it the games not just over. You can still do so many things! This is my 3rd time playing through it, and have spent more then 100 hours overall, and its still not old. You need to re-review this game...



Scarhino89 said:

Paper Mario : The Thousand-Year Door (Paper Mario : La Porte Millénaire in France) is a real masterpiece of the RPG !! I've got it and I like.



J-Forest-Esq said:

@5 Agree with everything you said

Also, this game is stupendous. Super Paper Mario was dissapointing.



rhythmheavenfan said:

This is one of my very favorite GameCube games and its the best game in the series. I give it a perfect 10/10.



kobe1724 said:

While I usually agree with the reviews here at NintendoLife, I would have to strongly disagree with this one. This game had me hooked from the moment I started playing it; I couldn't stop! It is better in every way than its predecessor IMO (it was still a great game though). That just goes to show that different reviewers have different opinions, because the person that reviewed Paper Mario 64 gave it a 10/10, but noted that he still thinks the sequel is better, but still, this gets an 8.



yobucky said:

@Sean007s Thiis is much better game than Super Paper mario. I don't know who thought it was a good idea to take mario and put him in an environment with all these strange polygon characters instead of the usual goombaverse. And SPM is not really an RPG, whereas TTYD is how rpgs' should be, short enough to not be repetitive but with enough to keep you busy for quite a while. It is hands down my favourite game on the cube and possibly second only to SMG2 on my list of all time best.



Varia01 said:

Paper Mario TTYD is on of they RPGs that I find fun. During combat ( You know the style were you run into a fight and it sends into a stage), I like the fact that you can actually control the abilities your self. The open-world exploration is impressive and even the side-quests are fun filled. There is a lot of suspense in the boss fights. There is some weak points like the fact that Mario dies, it's over, or even the fact of turns, I mean sure you can deflect attacks, but when you or your partner is running low on health and it is the enemy's turn, it doesn't give you the chance to heal. Another glad feature is that you can just play the main protagonist and role play with him. (It may rid the fact to create your own story, but it's better than wasting time creating a character with so much overwhelming hard choices). This is certainly one the better RPGs I played. 9.0/10



Ven said:

ok, this is so deserving of a better rating, considering this is the second best RPG on the Gamecube, better than super paper Mario and the crappy sticker star coming soon. this is a real RPG, with all the bells and whistles, that also highlights how good visually simple games are and how fun a Mario RPG can be. They improved on the story, the graphics, the frame rate and the battle system from the N64 game and got the perfect soundtrack that matches to the gameplay and the setting. my one grievance is that the puzzles in some areas are kind of irritating and can take a bit to complete, but the design of the game, the controls and the story should get this game at least a 9/10 if not more. Chibi robo was brilliant, but this is better, so how come chibi-robo got a 9, and this an 8? can anyone explain this?



Yulo303 said:

This game deserves a 10, or at least 9. Best Paper mario game in history, vastly superior to sticker star that's for sure. Loved all the partners (especially Vivian) and every chapter after 2 was AWSOME. Especially chapter 3 it's one of the most innovative chapters i've seen.



Socar said:

My favorite game of all time!!!!!!! only an 8/10??????!!!!!!!!??????



LuigiEGadd said:

This is an accurate review. 8/10 seems appropiate if not, 8.5/10.
IMO, the ratings should go like this:
Paper Mario- 9/10
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door- 8/10
Super Paper Mario- 10/10
Paper Mario: Sticker Star- 5/10

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