Paper Mario: The Origami King

There are blatant improvements to the story, but the development of the script feels undercooked at several points; there is a lot of great design to be found in the exploration of the overworld, but there is an unnecessary simplicity restricting what Mario can do; and there may even be value to be extracted out of its puzzle-based battle system, but combats are so straightforward, easy, and pointless that it feels like they are there more as an obligation than as an actual creative decision. The result is an enjoyable, charming, and funny adventure game whose remaining RPG gameplay comes off as empty and unnecessary, and stuck in this uncomfortable position of not fully committing to any of the facets that it tries to embrace, The Origami King could have never matched the golden days of the franchise. However, for what it is worth, the game is the saga’s best entry to be released ever since it began to move away from its glorious and distant start.

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Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Ironically, even though it is more recommendable to longtime Fire Emblem players due to the fact it lacks the long introductory arch of The Blazing Blade, the steps The Sacred Stones takes towards accessibility may cause some frustration in those veterans. After all, its abundance of enemies and goods removes the stifling resource restrictions of its predecessors, making its adventure – therefore – much closer to the easier contemporary entries of the franchise than to the mighty challenges that were rather frequent in the past. That caveat aside, The Sacred Stones is yet another very good entry in the saga, and it is likely to universally please. Because, in the end, its greatness does not originate solely from the fact it adds the practicality of a world map to a well-known gameplay framework that has repeatedly proven it works well. The Sacred Stones is great, ultimately, because it joins exciting strategic battles with an engaging plot that moves through sweetness, sadness, and darkness. And when that formula is achieved, the Fire Emblem franchise is at its finest state.

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Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade

In the end, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade was undoubtedly a very good choice for being the franchise’s first entry to be released outside of its home country. And even after the further establishment of the saga all around the world with a sequence of equally strong titles that certainly built on it, revisiting this Game Boy Advance chapter is still more than worth it for aficionados and casual fans alike. Surely, some of its traits will reveal a roughness that was neatly smoothed out as the saga developed; but, at the same time, a portion of these old-school values actually make The Blazing Blade be one interesting transitory bridge between the brutal past of Fire Emblem and the more accessible future that would lead it to universal success. And in that sense, it is a kind of adventure that cannot be tackled in many other places.

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Super Paper Mario

Through those various problems, however, Super Paper Mario still stands relatively well. The decision to dilute the RPG elements of its predecessors and bet on the action and puzzle-solving components of the saga does make sense when the context in which the game was inserted is taken into account. Nevertheless, its quest, the general dullness of its combat, and the varied but ultimately overly straightforward nature of its puzzles reveal the process of simplification may have gone too far. Super Paper Mario, therefore, is able to find a way to work as a game not thanks to the excellence of its gameplay, but because the charm of its world and the competence of its mechanics are accompanied by a very well-written plot and individual chapters that shine quite brightly. As such, even if in the end it is just its script and characters that will truly leave a mark and be remembered by those who go through the adventure, the title is worth playing thanks to its uniqueness and its powerful heart.

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses

The main problems Fire Emblem: Three Houses carries are certainly those that come forward due to its expanded focus on the franchise’s extremely valuable social component, a move that, on one hand, greatly increases its size and the impact of its plot, but that, on the other, turns a big slice of its gameplay hours into a chore. Regardless of that partial misstep, the title is nothing short of a major achievement in content and storytelling goodness; in those two areas, whether through three branches that display vastly different perspectives on the same general tale or via borderline infinite options of character growth, Three Houses offers more than anyone could have possibly expected, and it does so with the confidence of a property that knows – more than any other – how to mix heart and strategy into a stunningly uniform fabric.

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Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows Of Valentia

Given Fire Emblem was created to match the strategy elements of Famicon Wars with the stats-focused and story-heavy nature of role-playing games, it is not surprising all games of the saga have lived and died based on how well they were able to balance those pieces. Shadows of Valentia, therefore, does not escape such judgment; and while, truth be told, the game does not excel in any of them, there are redeeming and intriguing portions in all of those areas.

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Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is still a blast, though. It is a fun, engaging, and challenging game whose value is a sight to behold. It may feel far closer to an expansion pack than to a true sequel, but it is a must-buy to either those who greatly enjoyed the original and are looking for more missions of deep strategic values pained with a charming cartoonish look or those that want to get to know the franchise and feel like starting with its most complete and well-presented installment.

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Pokémon Sun And Moon

Those changes are overwhelmingly positive to the overall experience of Sun and Moon. This is still a Pokémon game like all others in terms of how addictive and engaging it is to travel this fantastic world with nothing but a backpack and a handful of pokéballs, and the joy of watching one’s team develop from that single starter of choice into a full-fledged combat machine ready for whatever obstacles can be found out there remains the same one that existed in the Blue and Red versions. However, more than the 81 new creatures – some of which have blatantly questionable designs – these morsels of change lend Sun and Moon an aura that is clearly unique and special. And – as usual, since Diamond and Pearl – the traditional set of online features, like battles and trading, give these titles endless value; they keep on giving and offering new challenges and goals for as long as players feel like finding them, be it filling up the Pokédex, grinding for EVs and IVs, breeding endlessly so that a Pokémon can be born with an ideal nature, looking for shiny or legendary monsters, or building an unstoppable team.

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Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

With minor improvements, and powered by a wheel of creativity that puts Mario in a series of situations that are absurd, engaging, and intriguing, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is not only one of the GameCube’s finest titles, but also one of Mario’s best adventures. It is a playable storybook that reveals outstanding characters, sharp writing, and fantastic humor with every page that is turned, and complements those elements with a great battle system and smart level design. It takes advantage of the fact it stands on ground that was firmly prepared by its predecessor, and uses it to fly towards an incredible set of ideas whose coexistence in the same tight package is the proof that lighting can indeed be captured by a bottle.

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Paper Mario

By its curtain call, Paper Mario will have proved itself to be an improvement over its predecessor; certainly not an affirmation to be taken lightly given the classic status of Super Mario RPG. Supported by three strong pillars of unquestionable quality – its creative writing, its engaging exploration, and its simple yet deep RPG elements and battle system – the game shows that Nintendo and Intelligent Systems used the knowledge acquired from their partnership with Squaresoft to build a work that is utterly original, from its visuals to its gameplay, and that is not afraid to abandon the more traditional approach of Super Mario RPG for something that feels fresher and even more aligned with the aura of the Mario franchise. Legends are not easy to topple, but Paper Mario does it.

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