For a little more insight, let’s check out the sales stats of the 3DS entries and their predecessors (when applicable) according to VGChartz. All release dates are for the U.S. versions.
The first entry to grace the 3DS was Mario & Luigi: Dream Team on 08/11/2013 and it sold 2.33 million copies altogether. It was well received, averaging 81 on Metacritic. Pretty good so far!
Around four years later, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam would ship a respectable 1,010,000 units the day of its 01/22/16 release, with final sales totaling 810,000. Sadly, this would be the last original Mario & Luigi title we would ever see. If you are reading this in a future timeline were Nintendo revived the series and put out a new entry, please disregard the previous statement. While it currently averages a 71 on Metacritic, major sites like Gamespot and IGN granted it a 6 and a 5.9, respectively. Paper Jam holds the honor of being the lowest rated entry in the whole entire series.
Little over a year later, AlphaDream enacted a different strategy by remastering the Super Star Saga game and adding on an extra story featuring some of Bowser’s hapless minions as they search for him. Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowsers Minions launched on 10/06/17 and sold a meager 510,000 copies, despite the original GBA version receiving massive acclaim, averaging a sweet 90 on Metacritic and selling a lifetime total of 2.7 million copies. After having made a remaster of one of the best games in the series and receiving sub-par results, what’s a game developer to do? Wait two years and put out another remaster, of course! What’s the worst that could happen?
Enter Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey. A remaster of the biggest, baddest entry in the entire series, it boasts a hearty 90 on Metacritic and sold a whopping 3.77 million on its native console: the mighty Nintendo DS. It was the jewel in AlphaDream’s crown: their best-selling title. It was also the straw that broke the Koopa’s back. Releasing on 01/11/19, it is listed as having only sold 9,236 copies in Japan only, with no other figures available. After some digging, Famitsu had it listed as selling around 20 thousand copies before dropping off. Yikes. Later that year, AlphaDream would file for bankruptcy, ending their epic sixteen year journey creating legendary handheld Mario & Luigi adventures.
Wham, Bam, Thank You Jam
So, what about the game itself? As I mentioned earlier, it was created by AlphaDream and released for the 3DS on January 22nd, 2016. Paper Jam was the last original entry in the Mario & Luigi series and it sees our rotund hero Mario partnering up with his paper self. The setup is that Luigi (of course it was Luigi) inadvertently knocks a magical storybook off of a shelf, unleashing the residents of the Paper World upon the Mushroom Kingdom. I thought it was a cool idea to have all the paper versions of popular characters meeting up with their 3D counterparts. Paper Mario teaming up with the regular Mario & Luigi to fight Paper Bowser and 3D Bowser has to be the most ambitious crossover since the first brave soul who had decided to combine peanut butter & jelly. If you haven’t played it for yourself, just imagine all the hilarious hijinks that ensue when an egotistical villain like Bowser encounters his paper self.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as the others as you take control of a team made up of paper Mario alongside the regular Mario & Luigi duo. In battle, you can issue commands to all three of them independently, and while the old familiar Bros. attacks are still here, you can now use the new special Trio attacks. Badges from the previous entries have been replaced with a Battle Card system that allows you to equip a deck of up to ten cards, which play out one a turn during battle. These have a range of effects, such as buffing the party or dealing damage to the enemies. Not a big fan of this mechanic, to be honest with you. The “giant” boss battles are back, but this time it’s in the form of huge papercraft figures that duke it out with each other. It’s a clever way to further tie into the crossover theme. True to the series, there are also a variety of world-based abilities that help the trio traverse the kingdom and uncover secrets. These often have the trio working in tandem and capitalizes on Paper Mario’s, uh, paper-ness. My personal favorite is when Paper Mario folds into a glider while Mario & Luigi grab on to fly across large gaps. It’s a fun throwback to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door!
And here’s a fun little mushroom-sized tidbit: the music is composed by Square’s new golden girl, Yoko Shimomura. In fact, she’s composed the music for every entry of the Mario & Luigi series. You have most likely heard her recent works in Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III, but her decade-spanning music career also includes other famous titles like Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana, and more relevantly: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
There isn’t much else to say. Paper Jam is neither great nor bad; it has received middling reviews from most critics and is an average game by most accounts. It is a real shame because I’ve been a day one fan of both the Mario & Luigi series and the Paper Mario series since their inception on Gameboy Advance and Nintendo 64, respectively. Truth is that lately, I’ve felt that both series have lost their way by focusing too much on slick gimmicks rather than building up a game around a solid RPG core of an engaging story and character progression mechanics. You can see the difference yourself when playing the older titles and comparing them to the newer ones. I used to hold up these titles as the spiritual successors of the legendary Super Mario RPG, but now?
Not so much.
-By Richard Jewell
Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn't stop here... There's more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more: https://thewellredmage.com/2020/03/10/center-of-the-mario-multiverse/
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