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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Salt (and why it can be good for you)

Salty (Adjective) – To be (usually to a somewhat high degree) angry when losing. Generally used in competitive gaming.

I get angry when I lose in competitions.

Like, really angry.

I just want to punch whomever beat me in the face for outplaying me and taking advantage of things I did wrong. Why couldn’t I have done that instead? I should be the one advancing to the next round, I know I’m better than this. I want to rematch them right then and there to prove it. I want to beat whomever just beat me so badly.

And yet, here I am, writing about how it feels like my opponent chained me to a 300lb weight when I lose, and I’m unable to lift it. It’s incredibly frustrating.

How do people take losses so cleanly? I really don’t understand it. I can’t smile after I lose.

I’ve literally spent hours of my time looking up how to take losses better. I thought it was a problem that I couldn’t take my losses cleanly – that I wasn’t learning from them like the best players do.

Then it hit me earlier today while thinking of something to write about for today’s blog post; being angry about a loss is fine. I can be angry that I lost a match, as long as that anger can force me to look at the match and learn from it in a healthy way. Basically, channeling your anger into something useful so you don’t just sit there yelling at yourself on the inside.

Being angry can actually be an incredible motivator for improvement, but there’s a lot of stigma to being angry which prevents it from being used. “Going on Tilt” is to get angry and start playing at a sub par level, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re just getting angry and that’s it, of course you’re going to start playing worse. I think the problem is that people have a really negative impression about anger in competition, when I think it might be a great way to psyche yourself up and continue to play at your best. When I lose a stock in Super Smash Bros., I get angry. Did I really just let myself lose a stock? It’s not happening again. I’ll nod that my opponent made a good play, even tell him it was a good play, but I’m still angry that I’m one step closer to losing. That doesn’t make me play worse – I play better, harder. I don’t want to lose, because I loathe losing.

I think the reason people go “on Tilt” when they’re angry is because they realize they’re angry and don’t want to be, which affects them more than they may realize. I say be furious, but be in control of what you’re doing and feeling (mainly because if I were actually furious all the time I’d probably have a heart attack or something). Don’t just be angry – channel that emotion to have a purpose. You don’t want to just sit there and be angry and then play your next match. While it seems weird, it’s entirely possible to feel angry and motivated at the same time, and that’s the good kind of anger.

You can say good games at the end, admit your opponent played better than you, and be a good sport. But that doesn’t mean you’re not seething inside and are itching to beat them next time so you can pop off and say you’ve gotten better.

Just Sayin’

What makes a “good” game?

Last night, I played a game called Metagame, which is literally a game about debating about games. It’s a little like Apples-to-Apples, where you place a card down and pick a game that most suits it. Then, you have 2 minutes to argue your stance. The worst gets knocked out and becomes a judge (alongside other existing judges). But this isn’t a post about Metagame, it’s a post about something that stemmed from me playing it with friends. It’s a topic I’ve constantly thought and rethought about: what makes a “good” game?

I think a good game is a game that is playable. That may sound a little weird to you, but let me explain.

This is a hard topic to wrestle with, and it’s not because of our opinions of games. I believe it’s a difficult topic to discuss because of how we individually perceive what a “good” game is. It’s an interesting topic to cover because we all have different views on various subjects, but on things that are subjective (such as this), it’s hard to reach a solid conclusion because of just how subjective those conclusions are.

Let me dive a little deeper into that with an example: If I like role-playing games and dislike platforming games, I may, on reaction, state that a platformer such as Super Mario Bros. or MegaMan is bad. Obviously, it’s hard to deny the success of both franchises and those two games, specifically, but why would I say they’re bad? Because I don’t like those kinds of games. To me, platforming games aren’t enjoyable, and since I don’t enjoy it, it’s bad.

Now, that’s an impaired thought process because it’s inherently subjective. Someone else may love platformers and say those two games are incredible, and they think those games are good. But that is, essentially, the same line of thinking.

So if I can’t say a game is bad simply because I don’t like it, I can’t say a game is good because I like it. Fair enough. Let’s dive deeper.

I could say that the modern-day music, graphics, and gameplay mechanics are simply more advanced, and therefore better. I could also reverse that thought process and claim that the “old-school” games are superior because of how simple, yet compelling they are to play. They defined what games are today.

This is a bias towards a certain era of games, which boils down to, “I enjoy this era of games more than another era.” And ultimately ends up subjective, which does nothing to help us answer the question at hand.

So I say that I enjoy the gameplay of a game more than another, or the music of a game more than another, or the writing is better than another game’s writing. While writing can be objectively defined under certain constructs, music and gameplay cannot. Why? Because they’re both very subjective topics. How is rock better than alternative? How is death metal worse than hip-hop? Why is country better than dance? You can try to fit them under a construct that may give way to an objective conclusion, but ultimately, it falls when it comes to games. Gameplay itself is another way of liking or disliking a certain genre and subgenres.

So how does this all come together? Let’s pit two games – say, MegaMan and MegaMan Battle Network. MegaMan is a platformer with 8-bit style graphics, chip-tunes as music and sound effects, and a very linear story with not a huge amount of background and no dialogue, no twists, no modern-day story-telling elements. Battle Network has a linear story (although has side quests, dialogue, and twists), RPG-style gameplay, 8-bit and more modernized techno music, and Game Boy Advance graphics. So which is good and which is bad? Most will probably claim MegaMan is the good game, but why? Because they like nostalgia? Because they like the music, sounds, graphics, or story better? Do they prefer platformers to role-playing games? How does that prove anything except what you like and dislike?

But wait, there’s more: what if graphics or music is what’s important to you in a game? What if MegaMan Battle Network is better than MegaMan game simply because it has more modern graphics, despite MegaMan having “better” gameplay? (just assume it does for this example, there’s no need to debate that right now.) How do you determine what’s good and what’s bad with someone who may think music isn’t important, while you do think it’s important? What if a certain style of game (like a fighting game, for example) is deemed to need only certain elements (writing is really the only thing I can think of, but you get what I’m saying) to make it a good game?

This is why determining what makes a “good” game difficult.

So let’s circle back to my original statement: “Good” games are games that are playable. What does that mean? It means it’s a game that can be played. “Can be” is important. It doesn’t matter whether or not you enjoy it, if it has the potential to be playable, it’s a good game. It’s a game with music that someone can enjoy, a story (if needed) that is passable and allows the game to logically continue, and no bugs or glitches that break the game and render it unplayable or exceedingly frustrating. It has the potential to breed subcultures (like a fighting game creating a competitive community for it, or how Portal finds its way into other games via cameos).

So, under that definition, both MegaMan and MegaMan Battle Network are good games.

Now, you might be thinking, “Kappy, you must not think a lot of games are bad, then,” and you would be correct. There are very few games that I, personally, think are bad. One of those few is Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic ’06). Sonic ’06, to me, is bad. Why? Because when I played it, the controls were unresponsive to the point where I got a game over on the demo. I played the actual game and would randomly glitch through the floor and die, sometimes multiple times. The first boss fight in Sonic’s story against SIlver found Sonic being stuck against a table, invincible and unable to move or take damage, which guaranteed a restart. The story itself plays through and then resets itself so it never happened (which, by my standards, is awful). The loading times were obnoxious. I could go on, but I won’t, because this isn’t a rant about Sonic ’06. This is simply an example of a game I find bad, and I find it bad because, to me, it is unplayable. 

Just sayin’

P.S. Before I end, I just want to point out that my way of judging whether a game is good or not does not judge how good a game is (which I think some mix together accidentally). It just judges whether a game is good or bad. With that said…

What do you think makes a “good” game?