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’

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Was E3 2012 as horrible as it was made out to be?

E3, one of the big gaming events of the year, was last week, and although I had finals, I did take some time to explore E3 and what it had to offer. As I perused, I noticed that almost everyone held the same opinion about the event as a whole – that it sucked. And I found myself disagreeing. Ultimately, I think it’s because too many gamers aren’t critically thinking about what decisions each company has to make and because they were expecting big surprises, but I digress; let’s dive into the big three conferences, first:

Microsoft:

This was the worst conference according to popular opinion, and I do agree that Microsoft’s was under the bar. There was a lot of ‘apps’ being shown and not a lot of games – of course, there was Halo 4, Gears of War, and the like, but this is a problem that every company had – a lot of their games shown were of franchises that have been out for years. In short, they’re safe bets, but I’ll talk about why I don’t think this is that bad later. Besides that, Smart Glass looks cool – if they can pull something off with it next year I’ll be impressed.

It seems to me that Microsoft is trying its arrest to be that one system that every family wants to have – a true entertainment hub. Honestly, I think it’ll do fine – great, even – if it gets there. I think anyone can see why they’re trying to go for the ‘entertainment hub’ angle. If they beat Sony to the punch, they’ll pull out ahead.

Sony:

Sony’s was definitely better – a new God of War, Tomb Raider, Beyond, and The Last of Us all looked solid, and as you can see, a mix of some newer games. There was a lot about the Vita and ‘apps’, though, which disappointed a lot of people, but like Microsoft, Sony is trying to be a hub of entertainment for people. Sony’s style usually is, “take something and make it better,” so when you look at how Sony has developed, it’s easy to see why they’re trying to bring out new material to show that they can make better ‘apps’ than Microsoft and Nintendo. And they still had some great-looking games thrown in. The Wonderbook is a huge source of anger for gamers, but I found this to be fascinating. I realize that many hardcore gamers think this is trash, but look at the possibilities! Now, Sony has a way to compete with Nintendo for younger ages. In a market where Nintendo generally dominates the younger market thanks to kid-friendly characters like Mario and Kirby, parents may now decide to purchase a Playstation and Wonderbook instead.

It has to be good, so I’m not really sold, but it has a lot of potential.

Nintendo:

Because Nintendo is more of a first-party developer than a third-party one like Microsoft and Sony, it had a lot more on the line when it came to their franchises. What’s more, it had 3 conferences to cover everything it wanted to. I only saw the press conference and 3DS Showcase, so that’s what I’ll be talking about here.

The press conference, I thought, was just as good as Sony’s. The Wii U looks awesome, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. What really jumped at me was Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Pikmin 3, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and ZombiU. All of them look awesome, and because I am a huge fan of Nintendo, I do intend to purchase all of those games. The Super Mario’s looked good, and Nintendo Land looked interesting and fun. One of my problems with the conference was how long they took to explain one mini-game in Nintendo Land. It was really stupid. Besides that, Nintendo’s press conference, I thought, was good.

Their 3DS showcase was, for me, AWESOME. I got to finally see some real Paper Mario: Sticker Star gameplay, which I’ve been wanting for a long time, and hearing the New Super Mario Bros. 2 is co-op was a pleasant surprise. The new Castlevania game coming to 3DS looked nice, and they showed Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance with better trailers than ones I had seen before. The new Epic Mickey I did not care for, and it didn’t look very good to me.

——

All in all, I enjoyed all three conferences, which many people I talked to were surprised to hear. Many wanted something new and big. They wanted a huge surprise like Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs (which does look sick!) but instead got games that were, as I said before, safe bets. But that isn’t bad. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony all laid their new cards (Wii U, Smart Glass, Wonderbook) on the table, and to complement that they laid out games that will, more or less, sell well. This allows them to work on new games and hopefully have some big surprises next year.

The 3DS showcase garnered a lot of disappointment because it only showed games we had already heard of and games releasing this year, and this is not just Nintendo – all three companies were getting complaints about this. To that, I ask – why would they show you something that’s going to be released next year? Wouldn’t that be something for another event like the Tokyo Game Show? Maybe next year’s E3? It just didn’t make sense to me.

While I was watching the 3DS showcase, all the comments were, “Where’s the new Animal Crossing/Zelda/Fire Emblem?!” Hey, guys, ever thought about them coming out next year? Why get gameplay for something that’s not going to come out for another year or two? That’s a stupid thing to do, in my opinion.

Just wait until next year’s E3 – that’s when I think all the surprises are coming. For now, I’ll be content with my Super Mario’s and Paper Mario‘s and ZombiU.

Just Sayin’.

P.S.: I would comment on the booths, but I wasn’t there. I heard all of them had way more games than showcased during the presentations, so that’s good to hear!