Paper Mario Talks — Is Superguard a bad mechanic in TTYD?

A superguard in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (TTYD) is one of two defensive action commands. Instead of pressing A before an enemy hits you, you press B with even tighter timing. Executing a superguarding successfully results in all damage being negated and, sometimes, Mario will deal damage back to the attacker. Is it a good addition to the Paper Mario combat system, or did it make the game too easy and break combat? Let’s find out!

First, we need to dive into some more mechanical aspects of the game. TTYD runs at 60 frames per second (fps). Executing a successful Guard requires you press the A button within 8 frames of an attack dealing damage to you. This will reduce the damage Mario takes by 1. To execute a successful superguard, you must press B within 3 frames of an attack dealing damage to you. This will negate all damage, and when an enemy is directly attacking you (some direct attacks are exempt) Mario deals 1 point of damage to the attacker.

Sounds pretty broken, right? Well, to be blunt, no. I think superguarding is a perfect extra option for players, and not just for challenge running (that’s a topic all on its own)! In fact, it’s pretty easy for Mario to emulate the effects of superguarding with enough defense (DEF) and Zap Tap equipped. Besides moves that require charging and Amayzee Dayzees, the highest attack (ATK) power you’re getting from enemies is 10, and that’s from Gloomtail’s Earthquake attack or Smorg’s Claw attack. But let’s forget bosses, too. The most-damaging normal enemy attack fitting that description is a Piranha Plant, with a whopping 9 ATK power. So, how much can Mario stop from that with all of his resources minus superguarding?

All of it. How? Well, let’s do some math!

Assuming Mario has Defend Plus (+1 DEF) and P-Down, D-Up (+1 DEF) equipped, you need only use 1 Courage Shell or +2ATK+3DEF Power Lift (+3 DEF). From there, Mario is currently sitting at 5 DEF. Add in the Defend command which adds another point of DEF and a Guard Action Command, and Mario will take only 2 damage from a Piranha Plant and deal 1 point back if electrified. With 2 Damage Dodges, that’s 0 damage. With 1 turn, Mario can block up to 9 damage naturally without superguarding, and it’s not very hard to get all the items required for this. Going into Danger and equipping 1 Last Stand makes this more cost-effective in exchange for damage. With Last Stand, a Piranha Plant’s damage is reduced to 4 with a 0 DEF Mario that’s guarding. Let’s start raising our DEF again.

With Defend Plus (+1 DEF), Mario still takes 4 damage with a successful guard. To learn why, check out jdaster64’s blog post on stacking badges. It explains how Last Stand is factored into damage.
With Defend Plus & P-Down, D-Up (+2 DEF), Mario now takes 3 damage with a successful guard.
With both badges equipped & the Defend command (+3 DEF), Mario would still take 3 damage with a successful guard.

So, Mario has now eliminated a Courage Shell or Power Lift. Let’s take this even further and equip 2 Last Stands. With 2 Last Stands equipped and 0 DEF, Mario now takes 3 damage with a successful guard. Back to the math!

With Defend Plus (+1 DEF), Mario still takes 3 damage with a successful guard.
With Defend Plus & P-Down, D-Up (+2 DEF), Mario now takes 2 damage with a successful guard.
With both badges equipped & the Defend command (+3 DEF), Mario still takes 2 damage with a successful guard.

So, with 2 Last Stands and some Defense Badges (or 1 badge and the Defend command), Mario can negate almost all of a Piranha Plant’s attacks while dealing 1 back while being electrified. If you simply equip 2 Damage Dodges alongside all this, here’s the damage you take:

1 Last Stand equipped: 2 damage.
2 Last Stands equipped: 1 damage.

(NOTE: Because of how Last Stand works, you will always take 1 damage unless you weren’t taking damage in the first place.)

This is on Turn 1 of a battle if you started in Danger. Granted, you need to be in Danger, but that’s beside the point. You need to be at or below 15 HP for the damage you’re taking without Last Stand factored in to really feel like you’re in danger of being KO’d.

So, when fully equipped, is 1 damage taken really a big difference from superguard? I don’t think so. There’s so much more reward and so much less risk in guarding that superguarding is pointless at this point. Sure, you can argue you don’t need any of this if you superguard well, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the game gives you the options to completely negate its use in combat.

(NOTE: This doesn’t apply to piercing damage, which negates Defend Plus, the Defend Command, and Damage Dodges, but you’re still taking less than 5 damage per turn in Danger.)

Besides its obvious usefulness in challenge running where restrictions can mean superguarding gives you precious turns you need and is sometimes required, superguarding presents a nice risk/reward factor in combat for more casual play. Let’s say you’re at 9 HP of 25, and fighting an Elite Wizzerd and a Piranha Plant, both at full health. Your partners are all KO’d. You have 2 Mega Rushes and 1 Power Rush equipped – a whopping +12 ATK if you’re in peril. You have 1 Boo’s Sheet in your inventory, and enough Star Power for Power Lift (with very little audience; not enough to get Art Attack in two turns). You also have Multibounce, Jumpman, Attack Plus, Last Stand, 2 Damage Dodges, Spike Shield, Defend Plus, and P-Up, D-Down equipped. You are at 97 Star Points. Do you Power Lift and go for the risky +17 or +18 ATK by letting the Elite Wizzerd hit you for 8 damage with a guard and superguard the Piranha Plant? That means you automatically win next turn by using Multibounce. Or, do you play it safe, and use your Boo’s Sheet and Sweet Treat to bring yourself back to over 20 HP, where you can more comfortably re-asses your situation and possibly take out the Elite Wizzerd or Piranha Plant 1 at a time? Maybe use Clock Out, Earth Tremor, or you can go for more Sweet Treats to preserve yourself as you do more steady damage with Spin or Spring Jump.

Those kinds of options are always present in Paper Mario. Do I use Sweet Treat or a Super Shroom? Do I take out enemy x first, or get damage on all enemies and take them all out in the next turn or two? Superguarding just adds another layer of depth to the on-the-fly thinking (Reactionary Theory) that players use to emerge victorious in battles. There are plenty of situations where superguarding reigns supreme, and situations where it’s worthless. While mastery of superguarding can very well be seen as broken, mastering the other facets of combat can be just as broken, and both require a lot of playing and a good understanding of how combat in Paper Mario works. To finish, there are many great challenge runners who still struggle with superguarding. If they’re still struggling to master it, I don’t see where it can be broken, as mastery of a game makes you “broken” by default. Truly, the only game-breaking mechanic is Danger Mario…which happens to be next week’s topic.

Just Sayin’