The Home Stretch – Preparing for My Final Run in Paper Mario: Black Pit

For about a month now each week I have provided an update on my progress in Paper Mario: Black Pit, a fan game that makes Paper Mario 64 into a roguelike focused around The Thousand-Year Door’s Pit of 100 Trials. After sharing my first impressions of the game I did deep-dives into two major game modes: the Roguelike Pit and the Maze. Each of these modes gave me necessary resources to work my way towards the central challenge of the game: the Classic Pit. Today, I’ll share my progress up to this point as well as what I’m planning in order to prepare for my final hours with the game.

During my last play session I spent a lot of time preparing for the Maze. This is a challenge focused less on battling (though battles are still a factor) and more on optimal movement through trapped rooms to find treasure chests full of star pieces. Star pieces have multiple important functions, the most immediately appealing of which being permanent increases to Mario’s HP and FP. These boosts are essential to making sure Mario can survive more difficult floors of the Pit, so I needed to make a concerted effort to boost both stats to the maximum. This required me to explore the Maze to the fullest.

Despite being a Maze, the structure of this mode is actually relatively straightforward. Two doors on either end of the main lobby lead to long hallways including two trapped rooms connected by a single safe room. At the end of each hallway is a corner room with chests and enemies. A third hallway connects these two corners, and the safe room between each corner and the connecting treasure chamber has a third path that branches downward. One of these leads to more treasure while the other leads to the master of the Maze, a boss that you have to beat in order to get one of the three artifacts necessary to beat the game.

I ran out of room to depict the traps rooms that should link all the treasure chambers on the right side to the connecting chambers, but this gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Maze.

The Maze is on a timer, so the challenge with this mode is to make your way past the traps and monsters as quickly as possible while opening every chest you can to collect the maximum number of star pieces. This is made more complicated by the fact that one of the chests in the main lobby is sealed by a puzzle. Three symbols on the chest have to be locked in on three hidden blocks located in the corresponding treasure rooms at the opposite end of the Maze. I discovered this completely on accident – while trying to avoid an enemy in one of the rooms, I happened to jump up and hit the hidden block in the room. This gave me some essential information about how to beat the Maze – I would need help from Watt, one of Mario’s partners.

Watt is the sixth partner you recruit in the game; she is normally obtained during chapter four of Paper Mario 64 in Shy Guy’s toy box. In Black Pit, partners are instead unlocked by reaching specific levels of the Classic Pit. Since I had made it to floor 50 and only gotten as far as Parakarry, that meant I would need to get to floor 70 – 20 floors farther than the one I had already struggled to! – in order to find Watt. Now that I understood the structure of the Maze and knew how to get around the traps pretty reliably, I did enough grinding to get 35 HP and 30 FP and set off for the Classic Pit once again. My stats upgrades really helped me to make some meaningful progress, and it also helped that the deeper I explored in the Classic Pit, the more my combat options expanded.

One mechanic I haven’t discussed much with regards to the Classic Pit or the Maze is how you accumulate badges. Badges are contained in the big chest on every 10th floor of the Classic Pit, or can be purchased at random from Oaklie for 500 coins. The moment you start playing Black Pit, you already have 30 BP to work with, so as you begin to discover badges it is pretty easy to throw them on. However, it takes time and repetition to build a collection that’s actually large enough to strive for a particular build. Going 70 floors deep into the Classic Pit meant collecting 7 more badges to consider, and as I played my build began to take shape more and more. Not only was I getting more badge rewards but my coin rewards were bigger too – now that I’d managed to scratch and claw my way to good enough stats to really make progress, my growth started happening in leaps and bounds. I made it to Watt with little trouble and brought her back to the Maze to continue exploring there.

Watt was the last piece of the puzzle for me to truly master the Maze. Now able to reliably find the puzzle blocks for the main lobby chest, and with enough hitting power and knowledge of the area to move quickly through the obstacles and battles, I started doing runs of the Maze that would get me hundreds of star pieces instead of 60-80 at a time. It didn’t take long to max out Mario’s stats and take on the boss of the Maze, getting me the second of the three artifacts I would need to clear the game. The time seemed right to make a concerted effort to take down the Classic Pit, the final unconquered mode and almost certainly the location of the final artifact I would need.

With my newfound strength in the form of maxed stats and a solid badge build, I was able to make it all the way to the 90th floor of the Classic Pit without too much trouble. Floors 91-99, though…those were a struggle. The difficulty spike between these floors is massive, with damage values jumping from 4-6 to 8-9 and enemy health totals regularly landing in the 15-20 range. This isn’t even including the appearance of the occasional Amayzee Dayzee, an enemy with 20 HP that can deal 20 damage AND put you to sleep with its attack. By the time I battled my way to floor 99, I had about 3 HP and 5 FP left to my name with no items or star power to speak of. When I saw that floor 100 contained a superboss, I knew I still had work to do.

*chuckles* I’m in danger.

With Mario and all of his partners fully upgraded, I’ve got three main ways I can improve to take on the lower floors of the Classic Pit. Way #1 is badges; each run of the Classic Pit will expand the moves I can use and buffs I can give myself, allowing me not only to have one functioning build but to rotate builds based on what is most appropriate for a particular situation. Way #2 is items; I won’t be able to approach a superboss with just the random crud I farm on the way down through the Pit. I need to intentionally purchase high-level healing items to make sure I am equipped to deal with the hardest floors of the Pit. Way #3 is star power; despite all the progress I’ve made, I still haven’t gotten enough achievements at this point to get even to 4 units of star power. This means that I will have to be very intentional about farming for achievements, particularly for ones that give high payouts of star points. That means revisiting both the Maze and the Roguelike Pit in addition to continuing to take on the Classic Pit as well.

The Classic Pit has presented my biggest challenge yet, and overcoming it will require all of the skills I’ve learned up to this point as well as focused effort to address the areas where I can still improve. I can see the ending on the horizon, but getting to that ending will still take work. It’s work I’m excited to do, though; Black Pit has been a very enjoyable experience for me, taking my mastery of one of my favorite childhood games and truly putting it to the test.

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