Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door Review – Still The Best

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door Switch Review

Some remakes take out everything but the bones, so they can be rebuilt from the ground up. Others add a coat of paint and call it a day. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is different in that it somehow does both. This is a faithful remake that looks like your memories using fresh assets and resources. Either that or the devs cleaned up and perfected every existing model and background. The game is a triumph no matter what the answer is. This is the best version of an already excellent title.

This is the way of remasters these days. You think it’s just a port, based on the trailers. You’ve played this game before, you know what to expect. But you don’t! Not exactly. You see, TTYD has pulled off that clever trick that so many other remasters have tried lately. You think you’re looking at the original game, because it appears just like you remember it. When in fact, what you’re looking at is a complete overhaul of an old favorite. There are new lighting effects, new audio cues, new character models, and more. I wasn’t quite sure at first, but a look at the old game online confirmed it. This is practically a brand new game. The dialogue and gameplay is preserved, sure. But the devs have ripped the guts out of this thing and shined it up from tip to tail. 

More Than A Coat of Paint

Static visuals have become animated. Certain flat effects have been given slightly more depth. All the character models now look like paper cutouts. Mario and company aren’t exactly more lifelike, but everyone feels more vibrant, more lively. The characters more completely embody their papery selves. Princess Peach has a reflection in the slick cobblestones. Once you start looking, the changes are everywhere. You can hear the difference as well. Dialogue proceeds with rhythmic noise that reflects each character. Mario exerts himself with his more familiar joyous declarations. Your wahoos and whatnot. It feels like every action comes with a perfectly-crafted sound now. Things like menu navigation, save blocks, and screen transitions. It’s a subtle but significant change that brings the whole game to life.

Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Review

I’m getting ahead of myself. Thousand Year Door is the second entry in the Paper Mario series. It’s considered by many to be a high-water mark, a plateau the games never reached again. Mario is on a quest to rescue the princess and collect a list of MacGuffins, maybe stomp some bad dudes along the way. You know this game, you know this story. The devil is in the details. In particular, the dialogue is fantastic. Mario and crew are clever, snappy, and sincere. The jokes come fast and frequently, and even long speeches feel breezy. Although our plumber protagonist is silent, everyone else easily compensates for this. Your whole companion squad is a pure delight. Each line is crammed with clever energy, and almost the entire game has a pace to match.

Excellent Writing

Not every chapter is this cool, sadly. You encounter a tournament arc in the third chapter that I’d love to just skip. Especially since I’ve played the original. You just fight, collect your winnings, and wander around the tournament grounds. The battles are all pretty straightforward, and by the end I was feeling properly crazed. I can only watch Grubba break down the fight rules so many times before I lose it. Thankfully, the other chapters are rock solid.

Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Review

While the battles are simple affairs, you’ve also got puzzles to contend with. These are trickier for sure. Anyone who tells you otherwise has played the original game several times. Some puzzles rely on Mario’s abilities to solve, or the abilities of his many companions. Those are great puzzles. Other times you’re wandering around the dungeon until you pick out the one door or switch you previously forgot about. This is downright exhausting. The best dungeons combine exploration, abilities, and environmental objects to really cook your brain for a minute. This is rare, but always entertaining.

Fun With Badges

I’ve dumbed down the combat a bit in my initial assessment. Though it’s true that Thousand Year Door is pretty straightforward in battle, it gets tricky as well. You’ve got a host of badges to experiment with, tons of skills to master, and lots of enemies. Plus, Mario and company don’t get stronger very often. Instead, your victory is based on strategy and skill. This can make regular fights somewhat repetitive. After all, once you’ve solved a given encounter, what’s left to think about? I staved off this encroaching boredom by blowing resources like crazy. What else are you gonna use that fire flower on?

Thousand Year Door is a remake done right. The new sound and visuals look terrific. The game’s essential identity has been preserved. Plus, the original release is able to shine through with no distractions. It’s exactly as wonderful as you remember it being. I’m still impressed with the writing, and the level design is mostly excellent. I still hate the tournament arc, though. And I wish some of the puzzles didn’t involve scouring a dungeon until a forgotten button or door is dragged into the sunlight. Although the original release is amazing, it’s also nearly impossible to play anymore. For new and old fans, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is an essential addition to the Nintendo Switch library.

***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Fabulous new visuals
  • Excellent writing
  • Mostly great level design

The Bad

  • Some exhausting puzzles
  • One terrible chapter
  • Overall plot pretty basic