A Switch remake (mostly) befitting a masterpiece

A Switch remake (mostly) befitting a masterpiece


It’s criminal that there’s been no way to play Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for over a decade. The only way to experience the original 2004 Gamecube title was on that console or the Wii, which thankfully supported Gamecube discs (something that feels like a genuine miracle now). There was no Gamecube hardware support on the Wii U, unfortunately, and The Thousand-Year Door never popped up on its online store. So here we are, 20 years later, with a complete remake for the Switch. It’s fantastic, befitting a game that was already a masterpiece — it’s just a shame that Nintendo took so long to revisit the game.

Here’s some sobering perspective: I first played through The Thousand-Year Door as a senior in college, where my roommates and I made it a communal adventure. Now I’m married with two kids but I still lament the loss of Gamecube titles almost daily. Where’s Eternal Darkness, one of the best horror games ever made? Where’s Skies of Arcadia, an RPG I adored on the Dreamcast and which was later re-released on the Gamecube? I realize re-releases take work, but surely there’s an audience for these beloved titles!

Anyway, back to the remake of The Thousand-Year Door: It’s great, you should play it. It’s an easily accessible RPG for newcomers with a cute setup: Princess Peach has been kidnapped (of course), but this time it’s by aliens! It’s up to Mario and a group of friends — including a treasure-hunting Goomba named Goombela, and Koops, a cowardly Koopa — to save her by solving the mystery of an ancient civilization.

Like Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario before it, Thousand-Year Door is sort of a hybrid action RPG. You get to explore worlds and level up characters like an RPG, but battles also involve some responsive button mashing to keep you on your toes. A well-timed button could let you jump on an enemy’s head more than once, or counter incoming attacks. It’s an innovative approach to RPG mechanics that I wish more games picked up – the excellent Sea of Stars was a rare exception.

Nintendo

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is also well worth revisiting for the olds with nostalgia for the original. The graphics are richer and more detailed, with sharper sprites and lighting that makes the environments feel alive (the reflections, in particular, are often stunning). The game’s score has also been revitalized to feel less MIDI-like – don’t worry, there’s also an in-game perk that can change everything back to the original Gamecube tunes.

It’s too bad Nintendo had to lower the frame rate down to 30fps from the Gamecube’s silky smooth 60fps, but it’s not the end of the world. If you can enjoy some of the greatest games ever made in 30fps, like Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, The Thousand Year Door is no different. The remake also adds enough new graphical elements to make it look better than the original. I’m sure I nailed the game’s timing-based moves more often in 60fps, but they’re still fairly easy to pull off (except for those damn counters).

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

Nintendo

Had Nintendo released this remake earlier in the Switch’s lifespan, I’m sure fewer gamers would be complaining about the 30fps dip. But at this point, the Switch is on its last legs and we’re awaiting news about its successor. Both Sony and Microsoft have had “next-gen” consoles out for so long they’re considering mid-cycle upgrades. It’s simply odd to see a game running more slowly today than it did on the Gamecube 20 years ago, especially when Nintendo is charging $60 for a lesser experience.

Perhaps the Switch 2, or whatever Nintendo’s new console is called, will be able to run The Thousand Year Door at 60fps. But it really doesn’t matter. It’s still a masterpiece, even at half the frame rate.



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