A Casual Stroll Through Paper Mario (Part One)

Every now and again I enjoy thinking back on games that I haven’t played in awhile but that mean a lot to me. Paper Mario is a particular favorite of mine from the Nintendo 64 era, and after playing Undertale it’s a game that has been on my mind as of late. The Paper Mario series has a quirky, fun sense of humor that leaves my smiling and laughing as I play, and that’s part of the reason I love them so much. And since the first Paper Mario is available as a virtual console title and could still have some current players, I figured this would be a great time to take a casual stroll through the game.

One of the best aspects of the early Paper Mario games is the group of partners that travels alongside you. These characters are of species that are not normally playable in Mario games and they have a number of fun and unique abilities. Now partners each have different uses, and I know that the first time or two that I played Paper Mario I didn’t have a full understanding of the best strategies to use with each partner. So this section is dedicated to explaining their abilities and uses.
Let me quickly explain some terms I’ll be using. There are three special enemy types: spiked, flying, and ceiling. Spiked enemies cannot be jumped on. Flying enemies cannot be hit with ground-based attacks. Enemies on the ceiling cannot be hit with ground OR jumping attacks. Partners have three levels: Basic, Super, and Ultra. With each upgrade, their damage increases somewhat and they unlock a new ability. I’ll be referencing these three levels during the post, and I’ll also cite specific damage values as well.
In Paper Mario, you deal more damage when you successfully perform an Action Command. These are timed button presses, button mashing, spinning the control stick, whatever. Different partners have different ones and the difficulty of these action commands varies from partner to partner.
This cleverly-named Goomba is a young boy with a blue hat who wants nothing more than to fight bad guys like his hero Mario. His main purpose is to provide guidance with his Tattle ability. Tattle is his Basic level special move. When you Tattle an opponent, you learn their stats and what kind of attacks they have. And more than that, any time you meet an enemy of that type again, you can see their HP so you know exactly how strong they are.
Now from a combat perspective, Goombario’s basic attack is a jumping maneuver. It deals two 1-damage hits (2 at Super level, 3 at Ultra level) to opponents on the ground or in the air. Enemies with spikes aren’t damaged by it, so he isn’t great in those situations. And because he has multiple low-damage strikes, he isn’t particularly effective against defensive opponents. However, low-defense enemies in the air are very vulnerable to Goombario, and at Ultra level he is tied with Bow for the highest-damage basic move.
At Super level, Goombario learns Charge, a move that increases Goombario’s attack power by 2 for one turn. Charging up can be a waste of a turn in typical battles, but against some enemies it is only possible to attack on certain turns. In this situation, charging up when Goombario can’t attack is a great way to set up for an attacking turn. And because Goombario’s attack hits twice, that’s two attacks at +2 damage. So at Ultra level, Goombario is now dealing 5+5, for a potential total of 10 damage (that’s a LOT in Paper Mario).
At Ultra level, Goombario gets Multibonk, which allows him to attack over and over again until the player misses an Action Command. This attack’s usefulness is completely based on your skill with the Action Command – if you don’t excel at it, don’t waste your energy trying to use this move.
Overall, Goombario is the most useful when unleashing his tattle ability. However, he’s no slouch when it comes to combat. When you need high damage for little to no cost, Goombario is a great option. Just be careful when to use him, as spiked enemies will damage him and he cannot hit enemies on the ceiling.
Kooper the Koopa (the names just keep getting better) is a blue-shelled Koopa that wants to be an archaeologist. He’s skilled at attacking ground enemies, and his hard shell protects him from enemies wreathed in flame or electricity. Kooper’s usefulness is very situational, as he cannot attack enemies in the air or on the ceiling. But when in the situations where he is useful, he does his job very well.
Kooper’s basic moves are the Shell Toss and Power Shell. He flings himself along the ground in his shell and slams into either one ground enemy (Shell Toss) or every ground enemy (Power Shell). The damage progression of these moves is 2-3-5 for Shell Toss and 2-3-4 for Power Shell. So there’s not a lot of damage to offer there, but Power Shell doesn’t cost that much FP, and early in the game it can be very helpful for clearing out weak or weakened enemies.
Kooper’s Super level move is the Dizzy Shell, an attack that inflicts the status condition “Dizzy” on all ground enemies based on the success of the action command. Dizzy is a status that causes enemies to lose turns, which means more time that you aren’t under attack. Of course, some enemies are particularly resistant to status effects or even immune to them. But this can be a good move for crowd control when facing vulnerable ground enemies.
Kooper’s Ultra level move is the Fire Shell, a fire-based attack that hits all ground enemies. This deals 6 damage normally, but 7 against ice-based enemies. This move isn’t worth much against standard enemies, but it’s useful in later areas where multiple ice-based foes are lined up on the ground.
Kooper is a solid character in the early game and in certain parts of the late game. His ability to strike enemies that are otherwise protected by fire or electricity is very helpful. But he doesn’t have much utility, as his attacks only effect enemies on the ground and they do not pierce defense. In situations where Kooper is useful, he does his job well, so don’t sleep on him just because his usefulness doesn’t come up often.
Bombette is a bob-omb (this is actually starting to hurt) who is pink. She’s a spunky young lady who loves to explode. Bombette is a ground-based partner but does eventually gain the potential to attack other areas. Her role is all about heavy damage, and her explosive attacks are the weakness of some particularly tough enemies.
A note about Bombette – every partner has field abilities, and certain field abilities work as First Strike attacks. A First Strike is when you hit an enemy outside of battle so you can do damage as the battle begins. Bombette’s field move is an explosion, and it is easily the best First Strike in the game. It deals heavy damage to one opponent and has all the advantages of her Basic special move without any of the FP cost. So be sure to take advantage of her field ability to deliver First Strikes against your enemies.
At Basic level, Bombette has the Body Slam and the Bomb moves. Body Slam is a tackling maneuver that deals damage in the progression 2-3-5. It makes physical contact with enemies on the ground, so unlike Kooper, she cannot tackle enemies that are on fire or electrical. Her Bomb ability is an explosive attack that deals damage in the progression 5-6-7. Explosions have a particularly useful feature – they flip over enemies made out of stone. This renders them defenseless and makes them much easier to defeat, and in early levels is the only way to deal with certain stone enemies.
At Super level, Bombette has the Power Bomb move. This is the same as the Bomb move, except it hits every ground enemy instead of just one target. It deals 6 then 7 damage. Finally, at Ultra level, Bombette learns the Mega Bomb move, which is just like Power Bomb except it hits every enemy on the field, whether on the ground, in the air, or on the ceiling. It deals 7 damage.
As you can see, Bombette’s moves are kind of redundant after awhile. Additionally, they get progressively more expensive, making it more and more difficult to pay the FP cost of the moves. Bombette is capable of high damage, and her moves are helpful against stone enemies. However, she deals less damage against defensive enemies, and while she is capable of dealing high damage in one blow, her maximum possible damage isn’t the highest in the party. Take advantage of her field ability to reduce the costliness of using her in battle.
Parakarry the Paratroopa *sigh* is a dutiful mailman with the ability to fly about. He carries you across large gaps and uses his feet and his shell to attack enemies. Parakarry is the first partner to join you with the ability to attack enemies anywhere on the battlefield, even the ceiling. His attacks make contact from above, so fire and electrical enemies will cause damage to him, as well as foes surrounded in spikes.
Parakarry’s Basic moves are Sky Dive and Shell Shot. Sky Dive is a flying kick that hits one enemy anywhere on the field. It deals damage in one blow, in the progression 2-3-5. Shell Shot is a non-contact special move that deals damage to one enemy in the progression 5-6-7. So this move has a lot of power and hits any opponent, making it an incredibly useful attack.
His Super level move is the Air Lift, an attack where he carries one opponent off of the battlefield. Some enemies resist this effect, and when it comes to gaining Star Points, Air Lift is pretty pointless. Generally speaking, it’ll be easier just to defeat the enemy instead.
At Ultra level, Parakarry learns the Air Raid move. This attack hits every opponent on the field for 6 damage when executed successfully. It deals a little less damage than Bombette’s Mega Bomb but also costs less and has the additional bonus of ignoring defenses. This means that high-defense enemies are unprotected against this attack, making it great for dealing with a large group of them. Not that there are many times that a large group of high-defense enemies are on the ceiling, but it does happen.
Parakarry is a powerful partner that first-timers tend to sleep on because his Action Command inputs are rather tricky. I advise that you learn them, because an Ultra level Parakarry is capable of dealing a lot of damage, even when your enemies are in difficult positions or have lots of defense. His main disadvantage is the lack of a high damage output move, and the costliness of his moves.

As you may have noticed, this is a two-part post. I’m going to cover the game’s other four partners in part two. For now, let’s talk about a couple of other things.

Badges are some of the most useful items in the game – they increase your stats and unlock helpful attack maneuvers that make battles a lot easier. In some cases (particularly in the early game), certain badges are the only way to defeat particular enemy types. But what badges are good to have? And where do you buy the suckers, anyway?
Important badges in the early game are the ones that increase your damage or ignore defense. There is a version of this type of badge for both jump attacks and hammer attacks. Being able to defeat high-HP enemies in one blow, or ignore the defenses of high-defense enemies, will be very important to making battles go by quickly and reducing the amount of damage you take overall. For your first time playing the game, you want the Close Call badge, no questions. When you are in danger of dying, it makes attacks miss sometimes, a huge boon when your health is low. Other badges I recommend for the early game are the Damage Dodge badge (which reduces damage by an additional 1 when you successfully block with the action command), the Quake Hammer badge (which allows you to deal defense-piercing damage to every enemy on the ground and the ceiling), and the Hammer Throw badge (which allows you to throw your hammer at enemies anywhere on the battlefield). The Quake Hammer is great for dealing with shelled enemies, particularly ones with high defense like Buzzy Beatles. The Hammer Throw is ideal for hitting enemies on the ceiling, a feat not normally possible with a jump or hammer attack.
As far as getting badges is concerned, many of the ones I mentioned by name are spread throughout the field and must be found by exploring. However, the game does have a badge shop, and the shop works by selling three badges at random every time you come to town. Badges tend to be somewhat expensive in the early game – typically running anywhere from 80-120 coins – but as you go on they don’t cost as much. The best thing to do is to leave and re-enter town a few times to shop, paying attention to the badges you really want. Then save up for them.

When you win battles, you gain Star Points. When you gain 100 Star Points, you level up. Each time you level up you get the choice between increasing your HP (heart points: how much damage you can take before dying), FP (flower points: how much energy you have for special moves), or BP (badge points: how much room you have to equip badges). This can be a very tough choice, as it’s pretty common to feel like you don’t really have enough of any of these. So here are some recommendations I have for timing your level-up choices.
When it comes to HP, you always want to have more than you think you need. Once you have the hang of action commands and get some defense-boosting badges, you may be tempted to think that you don’t need HP all that much. But this can be misleading. Often the difficulty will spike quite a bit when you complete a new chapter, putting you in a situation where you are dealing with enemies that chip your health down quite quickly when you aren’t prepared for it. And there are always enemies with ways to circumvent defense, giving you difficult status problems or piercing your defenses entirely. In these situations, HP matters a lot. Besides, look at it this way. Yes, it’s inconvenient to run out of FP. And it’s frustrating not being able to equip every single badge you want. But when you run out of HP, you die. Game over. Progress lost. That’s infinitely worse than the other situations, so give yourself some wiggle room to avoid it.
For FP and BP, the best way to decide is to increase the one that you’re finding yourself low on the most. If you get to the point where your FP is bottoming out constantly, chances are you need some more of it. Or if you’ve still got nothing equipped except Power Jump, Close Call, and Last Stand and you have a bunch of cool badges you want to try out, it may be time to increase some BP. When you notice the stat becoming a problem, increase it.
Generally speaking, you want to focus on HP first, then FP, followed by BP. Having HP keeps you from dying, having FP expedites battles, and having BP gives you new bonuses or moves. A viable strategy is to just go down the line, increasing them in order each time you level up, but just remember to prioritize HP for your first run. If you’re getting to a point where HP runs low frequently, boost it!

Okay, the final section for Part One of this stroll is going to be items. Items are an important part of every RPG and everyone approaches them differently. Some people like to use them immediately, some people hoard them, still others sell them. I’m going to make some recommendations about when and how to utilize your items.
Items are relatively common in Paper Mario. Many item boxes are spread throughout the Mushroom Kingdom, so if you don’t use your items frequently you’ll often find yourself overloaded with the things. Items have a number of different applications: some heal HP, some heal FP, some deal damage to enemies, some inflict status problems, and there are a few with other effects as well. With so many options, how should you use items? Which ones should you save?
If you’re going to hoard anything, I recommend hoarding the healing items. Things like Mushrooms and Honey Syrup are going to be very important during boss battles, so you’ll want to have a good number on hand. The exception to this are status-healing items: at most, you might want to hold one of these things, but more than likely they’re just going to waste space in your inventory. If you’re in an area where you frequently find yourself affected by status problems, then feel free to stock up. Adjust to your own experience.
When it comes to battle items, the best thing to do with them is to use them. Typically they don’t have much application in boss battles, so using them against troublesome enemies in regular battles is a great way to burn through your full inventory. Particularly useful are POW Blocks – don’t sleep on these things. They deal 2 piercing damage to all ground-and-ceiling enemies, and flip anything wearing a shell. Fire Flowers are fine for battles with a multitude of exposed enemies, but they are useful for cooking as well so you may want to save them for that (more on that tomorrow).
Selling items can be a decent way to get rid of something that you find absolutely useless. However, I will let you know that it isn’t a particularly great way to make money. Most items worth any impressive amount of coin are more useful in your inventory than as selling fodder. The stuff that’s really useless – things like Fright Jars and Mysteries – don’t sell for much of anything at all. That’s not to say you shouldn’t sell things. After all, there’s no harm in it. But if you’re in a situation where you have to choose between keeping something you want to sell and picking up an item you may use, picking up the new item is always the right move.

That’s gonna be it for the first half of this casual stroll. Tomorrow we’ll cover the other four partners, as well as talking about recipes, fortunes, and star pieces. If you enjoyed today’s stroll, remember to share it on social media or in person as part of Multiplayer Week. You should also check out the blog on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr in order to get access to exclusive content!

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