Not every game on the Wii is an eyesore, y’know

Super Paper Mario (2007)

In your best Michael Caine voice, repeat after me – I wear eyeglasses, spectacles. Not a lot of people know that. But it’s true, and I know a lot of people will sympathise with me on this, but I’ve always felt that I look a bit of a dweebenheimer, or a bit of a prat indeed, wearing my glasses. I’m usually a form over fashion type of guy, but vanity and self-consciousness trumps all.

For this reason, I’ve always been perfectly happy to go out in public without my glasses, which essentially meant I’ve never been able to see anyone else’s face. And that really is a small price to pay; so long as I continue looking good, a bit of social embarrassment is always worth it.

Of course, this meant that I became king of the squints, so much so that I’ve probably invented some new types of face wrinkles. You’ll say I was a silly goose not to be trying any contact lenses, but have you seen what it’s like having to put those things in? The very thought of it turns my stomach. They seem to give you a weakness, as well. What if you’re shooting your mouth off at someone, which I do a lot, and they respond by punching you in the eye? Does that mean you now have a load of teeny tiny pieces of broken glass in your eye, obscuring your vision even further? So many questions.

It wasn’t until I went down to pick up a new set of glasses, approximately 16 years after I got my last set of glasses (what can I say, I look after my possessions, and I look after my mince pies even more) that I could spend a bit more, treat myself to a bit of fashion. Well, it was lost on me anyway – I just went with whatever her indoors said looked good, because as far as I was concerned my head was too big to make any kind of eyeglasses look good.

In the end, her recommendation to me was a pair of thick, black glasses – yes, hipster specs, but I’m current and trendy enough to pull them off as you well know. I was mainly looking for something that could be worn in public, especially since my old specs would only cause all sorts of embarrassment, being that they were so old and broken, they were only held together by cable ties and hair. Also, they were always spectacle-rly dirty, despite my best efforts at giving them regular saliva baths.

There’s also something on my driver’s licence that says I need to use my glasses while driving, some fiendish little number printed on the front, for the police’s attention. But you can’t see anything out on the roads anyway in Ireland, because there’s either far too many road signs, or there’s no light at all anyway, so I only took that note on my licence as a mere suggestion, rather than as a legal requirement. I wonder if the coppers would have ever accepted that?

In any case, once my glasses were ready and I went to collect them, I had ample opportunity to try them out in public, and hooo baby. You should have seen the difference – well, I literally could see it. Indeed, I could now see people’s faces for the first time. And God, are there a lot of ugly people there, or what? You should have seen the shopping centre where I used to work, it was like a scene from Village of the Damned, but then I’d always suspected this to be the case anyway.

Still, this was something else, an experience on another level. These were eyeglasses at their cleanest, and spectaclists out there will know that there exists that very brief period – it might be less than 10 seconds – after cleaning your glasses where they grant you almost Superman levels of vision, as in lasers might shoot out in a minute you’ve got that much optical focus. I was able to see time moving, see sounds from the cars, observe the grass growing. It was chalk and cheese, and I could probably even tell the two of those objects apart from a distance.

It was time for me, I suppose, to destroy my newly-found eyesight with a spot of gaming. And a new way of seeing things was the selling point of Super Paper Mario for the Wii, a game that represents the point where the fledgling Paper Mario series took a turn away from the standard RPG fare and started some experimentation. Bit of a mistake-a to make-a, as Mario might say, but if you’re gonna sin then you might as well be original.

And this really is an original game. In lieu of regular RPG random battles, Super Paper Mario presents itself as a 2D side-scroller where you can still level up, but this is done through stomping or otherwise defeating enemies. In the older Mario games, this type of violent behaviour just gave you points that counted for very little really, unless they were in the pursuit of lives, which again eventually counted for very little.

Here in Super Paper Mario though you’ll be jumping on everything you can see, in order to try and rack up enough points for a level up, though this only really gives you a bit more strength and HP – you can unfortunately forget about those juicy Badges and Flower-powered moves like the Paper Marios on N64 and GameCube.

Still, why live and observe a dull, flat, monotonous world like this when you can see things so much more clearly? It’s like when I got out of my last relationship and into another, I said to myself, “I can see Claire-Lee now, Lorraine has gone”. Anyway, with the click of a button, Super Paper Mario ditches the 2D plane and brings you into the third dimension.

Imagine if you will, world 1-1 from Super Mario Bros, and how that might look in 3D – instead of stomping on (or, very embarrassing but we’ve all been there, running straight into) the first Goomba, why not head into the 3D perspective and run around him instead?

Super Paper Mario becomes more of a side-scroller with puzzles really, where switching between 2D and 3D is the order of the day. It does start to give you a bit of a headache though, a pain that non-spectacle wearers (that is, people who never wear them as opposed to people like me who don’t bother) will know all about. It’s not helped by the reams of text you have to go through either, although the story is probably worth it and it’s fairly mature for a Mario game actually. That would become a bit of a recurring theme as the Paper Mario series went on further. 

In the end the game does become a bit monotonous. No matter which plane you play on, it gets plain. Still, I’d say Super Paper Mario is a game worth checking out, but strictly for cheap. You get to play as other characters, and the dialogue can be funny, but let’s be clear: some of the series’ rot was definitely setting in. Everything deteriorates, you know, but it only gets particularly bad if you let it.

Hence you can save your eyesight from hitting rock bottom, if you don’t act the clown like I did when I would play my Game Boy against the scantest of light. All that interfering with myself won’t have helped either. Nintendo ought to have exercised similar caution with the self-interference, so as not to let the Paper Mario series decline in the way it did. Do check out Super Paper Mario, give it a glance if you will, but do also keep in mind that this is where the series started to make gamers go a bit cross-eyed.

18 November 2022

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