Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Review (Nintendo Switch)

A tear-iffic adventure!

By Paul Hunter

Twenty years ago, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door enamoured GameCube fans, myself included, with its quirky characters, undeniable charm and gameplay better than the original Paper Mario in virtually every way. Come 2024, Nintendo has remade this classic Paper Mario entry for Nintendo Switch with upgraded visuals, a sublime revamped soundtrack and some great quality-of-life improvements that make this amazing role-playing adventure even easier to get into.

Story-wise, The Thousand-Year Door's plot stays more or less the same in the remake, although a refreshed localization elevates the game's humour and adds a little more depth to some of the characters' story arcs. Like in the original, the tale begins with Princess Peach venturing to a new town called Rogueport and finds a magical map that reveals the key to opening the fabled thousand-year door. She then mails the map to Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom before being captured by the X-Nauts and sent to a remote location far out of sight.

Turning our attention back to Mario, he receives Peach's letter and heads by boat to the town to find her, only to get caught up in a whirlwind quest to find the seven Crystal Stars before the X-Nauts do, using his magical map. The introduction, while straightforward, is quite effective at setting the stage for a grand adventure and immediately hits a high note with all the eccentric characters Mario meets upon arriving at Rogueport. To help make the story more digestible, the game is divided into eight chapters, each focusing on fun and exciting new areas each with its own visual style and charming new characters to meet.

Visually, Nintendo has done a superb job upgrading and polishing the graphics, especially the vibrant use of colours and the newly added lighting effects that make areas like Boggly Woods and The Great Tree shine with a bold new lustre. Revisiting iconic locations like Petal Meadows and seeing all the lush new greenery or visiting the refreshed seedy back alleys of Rogueport is a delight for the eyes.

The revamped soundtrack, which features new jazz orchestral arrangements and fun variations of the battle theme in each location, only adds to the remake's appeal. Sound effects have also been redone in the Switch version, especially noticeable during battle sequences as attacks now have a greater punch to them.

Turning our focus to the turn-based combat, it remains largely unchanged from the original, which is a good thing given how popular the GameCube version's battle system was. During battles, you'll control Mario and can use his hammer to bash enemies, or in typical Mario-style he can also jump on an enemy's head to deliver some damage. Joining Mario is a host of friendly characters including the helpful Goombella who can scan enemies' stats, Koops who can bash enemies with his hard green shell and Madame Flurrie with her fiercesome wind attacks.

Much like in the Mario & Luigi RPGs, battles in Paper Mario involve active button presses to dole out additional damage to help mitigate incoming damage received. Timing your hammer strikes will make Mario strike with extra oomph, and likewise timing your jump attack button presses can make Mario bop the enemy's head multiple times. What's neat is battles take place in a theatre with Goombas and other folks watching, and nailing button presses can excite the crowd and award you with Star Power used to unleash your team's strongest special moves.

All the other battle staples from the original return, like Heart Points (HP), Flower Points (MP), and by gaining 100 Star Points (XP) you will level up Mario. Equippable badges are also back, and these can do anything from boosting your stats to giving Mario enhanced moves like a multi-jump attack.

While the core battle mechanics stay faithful to the original, there are a few subtle enhancements that make these moments even better. For starters, audiences can throw items like Mushrooms on stage or they can even come onstage to add a little fun and chaos, like dropping stage hazards on your team's noggin. Your partners now have their own HP instead of getting temporarily stunned by enemy attacks, and you and your partner can execute a new Super Guard move to negate all damage and even sometimes dish out a counterattack. These new additions may be small, but given how excellent the original battle system is, it's basically tweaking perfection.

As great as it is to control Mario in this grand adventure, you also get opportunities to control Princess Peach and Bowser, who each have their own sides to this story to tell. Peach's segments revolve around her exploring the remote area where she's being held captive, while Bowser's tale has him following in the footsteps of Mario as he seeks out Peach to prove he's still the baddest Koopa in town. Both of these side stories are smaller in scope than Mario's grand adventure, but they still offer memorable moments with their silly and unexpected results.

Focusing back on Mario's adventure, one big highlight is how you need to use Mario and his partners' special abilities outside of battle to progress. For example, Yoshi can use his signature flutter jump to clear gaps, Koops can grab items or hit switches in his shell form, and Madame Flurrie can blow down dog-eared paper to reveal new areas. Conveniently, you can now instantly switch between characters using the new character wheel, instead of flipping through the menu like you had to do in the GameCube version. As well, Mario will get "cursed" over his journey, which allows him to transform into a paper airplane, a sailboat or a paper cylinder to roll in tight crevices.

Numerous quality-of-life improvements make the whole adventure even better, including Mario's expanded inventory that makes backtracking to shops a little less frequent. Mario can also hold more coins, letting you horde your wealth without the pressure of needing to spend. There are also new save spots, and additional warp points to further reduce backtracking, and if you die on bosses you can jump back to the beginning of the fight and not have to rewatch the introductory cutscene. This version also adds a Concept Art viewer and a Sound Player so you can enjoy the game's beautiful artwork and catchy tunes whenever you desire inside the Journals tab.

Considering the graphical, soundtrack and gameplay improvements, the Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remake turns this already stellar adventure into something even better. Still, there are a few minor issues that hamper the experience, such as the excessive backtracking that drags on a bit too much. The new warp pipes bunched together in the Rogueport Sewers help to lessen some backtracking, but only a tiny degree. It was also frustrating that you can only take on one sidequest at a time in the Trouble Center (the game's NPC request board), forcing you to go all the way back to Rogueport every time you complete a quest.

Pre-release there was only chatter about the remake being 30 fps, down from the smooth 60 fps of the original, but I didn't mind as I found the gameplay to be super smooth regardless of the frame drops. There were rare frame hitches during some of the cutscenes, but it's barely noticeable and happened so infrequently that it never took away from my enjoyment.

The Verdict

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remake on Nintendo Switch is an utter joy to play and it's great to know Nintendo hasn't forgotten about this beloved series. The spruced-up presentation and bountiful quality-of-life improvements make this wonderful adventure even better than the top-notch original. With last year's Super Mario RPG remake, Nintendo is on a tear when it comes to revisiting their RPG classics, and hopefully, this is a sign that more Mario RPGs are on their way.

Final Score: 9.5/10 - Amazing

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door details

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Role Playing
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A key was provided by the publisher.