Paper Mario Talks — Pro Mode & Hammer

Continuing with gushing about things I like in my last post about Pre-Hooktail Pit Runs, today’s topic covers something I found exceptionally interesting in Paper: Mario Pro Mode, and that’s how you approach The Master.

If you’re unaware, someone by the name of Clover created a mod of Paper Mario that enhances its difficulty. Enemies do double damage, badge costs have changed, FP costs have changed, new enemy layouts, smart AI, new areas to explore… it’s quite a lot of new content. If you’re curious, click here to check out the release trailer that contains a link to download!

Anyway… one boss, in particular, stood out to me in Pro Mode, and that was The Master. His entire gimmick was changed – he now starts at 0 ATK (first form) / 1 ATK (second form) / 2 ATK (final form) for his basic attack (his combo moves have set damage), and with every strike you inflict on him, his ATK for the basic attack increases by 1. This means a Jump increases his ATK by 2, and Hammer by 1. I’m sure you see where this is going, but let me explain: this new gimmick actually makes Hammer a more viable choice than Jump when fighting him.

In 64 and TTYD, Jump is generally vastly superior to Hammer. It has generally better badges (Multibounce, Sleep/Shrink/Dizzy Stomp, Power Bounce) and nets a greater increase in power when you increase your attack because the attack of both Jumps are increased when you perform a successful Action Command. So, essentially, your ATK for Jump is doubled when compared to Hammer. The only thing Hammer has going for it is against high-DEF enemies and challenge runs that restrict your badges…but most of the time, your partners are there to help clean up. It’s much more effective to rely on Jump than Hammer almost every time. I will note that the Hammer is inherently better in 64 than in TTYD thanks to awesome badges like Power Power Quake, which are souped up Quake Hammers that can easily out-damage Multibounce, but for single targets like bosses, Jump still reigns supreme. However, The Master in Pro Mode turns that on its head.

Because of his unique gimmick, the battle is more about maximizing single hit damage so you can better control how much damage he’s inflicting. You can’t attack The Master recklessly. You need to make sure you’re doing the most damage with every strike to maximize your own damage and minimize his. With Mario’s Hammer, you can more smoothly increment The Master’s damage output to manipulate your HP into Danger or Peril, and using Charge makes sure you’re doing 10+ damage per hit with Hammer and Power Smash or Mega Smash. This makes Hammer a much more viable choice. You need seriously beefed up Jump to match what the Hammer can do, and even then, you’ll have a much harder time manipulating his ATK if it’s always increasing by 2. Honestly, I’m impressed with his design, because Mario’s Hammer being superior carries through for all 3 forms of The Master. It’s a strange concept to grasp. Almost every other boss I fought had me using some combination of D-Down Jump, Spike Shield, Ice Power, and ATK-increasing badges. The Master was the only boss to make me choose Hammer over Jump.

And yes, you could use Power Jump or Mega Jump… but the Hammer itself costs no FP, and The Master has DEF as he grows stronger, so D-Down Pound becomes a viable choice in his later forms. Besides, those two specific Jump badges are Hammer-esque in how they work anyway!

That’s my short spiel on The Master in Pro Mode and why I like it so much. I wish more bosses made Hammer a clearly superior choice over Jump.

Just Sayin’

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Paper Mario Talks — Why Pre-Hooktail Pit is the Perfect Challenge

There are many, many challenges in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door — Level Zero, No Jump No Hammer, Single Partner, BP Only, Double Damage, etc… but one among them all stands the test of time, for me, as the best TTYD challenge out there. That challenge…is Pre-Hooktail Pit.

A Pre-Hooktail Pit run is a run where the player completes the Pit of 100 Trials before completing Chapter 1, which is done by defeating Hooktail. Back in the old challenge running days, this was considered one of the top challenges. Today, I consider it to be one of the “gatekeeper” challenges, a challenge that breaks you into the higher tier of Paper Mario players. Despite my labeling it as a “gatekeeper” challenge, I think it’s the perfect challenge for upcoming challenge runners and veterans alike. Here’s why:

1) It tests everything

Remember my first blog post for Paper Mario Talks? I talked about the 4 skills of a challenge runner. Well, this challenge tests every single one of them and does so in an amazing way. You need to manage peril’d partners, choose the right badges/items for the job, work with on-the-fly RNG, and figure out strategies for all the various enemy loadouts you’ll encounter. Sometimes, you’ll be put in a tight spot and need to superguard and guard well or execute good Power Bounces, Multibonks, and Sweet Treats. Seriously, no other challenge tests everything at the same time so much.

What separates this from a challenge like Level Zero is it also tests your endurance. In full-game runs, you have the luxury of saving and quitting, only doing bite-sized chunks of the challenge. Pre-Hooktail Pit (and other Pit of 100 Trials challenges in general) provide no such luxury. You have to go through the whole thing, including Bonetail, before it is truly complete. And while I don’t consider endurance a particular skill of a Paper Mario challenge runner, it certainly is a skill that any player can benefit from. If you get too tired, you can start committing silly mistakes that can cost you a run.

2) It’s modular

Pre-Hooktail Pit is only the base form of its type of challenge. One can also choose to up the difficulty by including extra restrictions such as 10 HP (Mario cannot increase his HP above 10 in any way) or No Mega Rush P (cannot equip the badge Mega Rush P). You can also combine the two to create a devilishly difficult 10 HP No Mega Rush P restriction. All three of these add to the difficulty, but don’t take away too much from what it’s testing of the player. They all require a little more superguarding, but other than that they function mostly the same, and so provide a good stepping stone of challenges to attempt as you improve as a player. This is what allows newer challenge runners and veterans to continue performing this challenge.

What’s more, speedrunning the base form of the challenge is somewhat popular, and tests the player in a completely different way since you don’t have time to loaf around and prepare – you need to think on your metaphorical feet much faster than someone going through a normal Pre-Hooktail Pit run, who has all the time in the world to figure out a solution. While it’s a little too RNG-heavy to be a completely legitimate speedrun, it is a cool and interesting take on the challenge.

Now, other full-game challenges are also modular (it’s a nice thing about TTYD’s challenges – many are modular), but I particularly like the increase in difficulty the different restrictions of Pre-Hooktail Pit provide without sacrificing something. Many of the “step ups”, so to speak, of full game challenges omit or heavily downplay something crucial in terms of skills being used.

3) There are multiple ways to complete it

While most players follow a general rough guideline on stats, badges, and items to bring, the challenge itself can be completed in a myriad of ways. Some players will choose Heart Finder or Item Hog, Quick Change or Power Plus, Pretty Lucky or Close Call, etc… some decide to upgrade Goombella, others decide to upgrade Koops (or both!). Some will bring Life Shrooms, others will bring Courage Shells, Fire Flowers, POW Blocks, Mushrooms… in short, there’s a lot of variety depending on the player’s preference, and it changes how the run is tackled. While some strategies are definitely better than others, there are enough viable strategies to keep the run fresh and exciting for new players looking to enter challenge running and for veterans to try new things when doing the run.

Again, lots of full game runs offer this same level of variety, but I think an important distinction to make here is that many strategies will be developed on-the-fly that will vary. While you have time to prepare in a Pre-Hooktail Pit run, you have to work around your preparations in case something goes wrong. When you’re really only fighting bosses, you can prepare very well and not have to worry about something going wrong impacting your strategy too much.

And, well…that’s really all I have to say on the subject. I do want to say that most challenges, full game and Pre-Hooktail Pit, are very good, barring a select few I don’t think test all the skills I’d want it to. but if you ever want to get into the next tier of Paper Mario players, Pre-Hooktail Pit is a perfect place to start. There is no better challenge run. Give it a try!

Just Sayin’

Paper Mario Talks — How To Break Combat (64): Status

In Paper Mario, there are six kinds of status that the player can inflict on an enemy (Dizzy, Stop, Paralyze, Sleep, Shrink, Attack Down). Let’s take a look at them and how to inflict them!

Attack Down – Reduces an enemy’s attack by 3 for 4 turns. [Chill Out]
Dizzy – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Dizzy Dial, Dizzy Shell, Dizzy Stomp]
Paralyze – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Power Shock, Mega Shock]
Shrink – Opponent’s damage is halved for x turns. [Shrink Stomp]
Sleep – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Sleepy Sheep, Sleep Stomp, Lullaby]
Stop – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Stop Watch, Time Out]

For your information, the range of status where it lasts for x turns can vary from 1 – 4 turns.

Of these six, four of them do the exact same thing – hinder an enemy from moving. Without any differences (attacking a sleeping opponent does not wake them up, for instance), these statuses all cripple opponents in the same way, making combat in 64 very simple – find an enemy’s weakness to an immobilizing status and exploit it.

While I enjoy using status, and I consider knowing when and where to utilize status as a key element in strategy in Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the monotony of what status do in 64 makes combat really easy. Furthermore, because so many status do the same thing, you can effectively lock an enemy into status and prevent them from ever attacking if they’re weak to two different kinds or very weak to one. Compare this to TTYD, where Dizzy no longer immobilizes enemies, Paralyze doesn’t exist, and enemies can wake from Sleep after being attacked; there’s much more variety, and you can’t really prevent enemies from attacking.

Now, while status is pretty broken in 64, the ability to inflict the same condition with so many different status does have its few benefits, but that mostly applies to challenge running. If you’re trying to inflict status to start setting up with, say, Super Jump Charge, you can cycle between an item/badge and Dizzy Shell or Power Shock to try and get a status inflicted sooner. It’s a cool concept, but that’s really all I find cool about the monotony of status in 64. This specific brand of status monotony is also why really hardcore challenges can be beaten in 64.

Let’s take a small turn and focus on the other two status, Shrink and Attack Down, which both reduce damage Mario takes. As you saw in my previous post, Chill Out’s Attack Down status is ridiculous. For 4 turns, an enemy has -3 ATK. That’s a big deal for the Tank Mario build and for just longevity in general. It cripples enemies in a different way. Sure, they can attack, but doing no damage is the same as not attacking at all (except for the ones that inflict status on Mario, but let’s not talk about those…). To supplement Tank Mario even more is Shrink, which halves an enemy’s damage. Halves. That’s Last Stand without having Last Stand active! With Last Stand and Shrink active, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that can damage Mario besides Final Bowser.

Speaking of… I find Bowser really interesting. Up until Bowser, every enemy in the game is stuck with their fate when inflicted with status. Bowser can remove status from himself (including Attack Down!!) with the Star Rod buff, and is the only enemy capable of removing status on Mario and his Partners. The entire game, you’re used to being able to do pretty much whatever you want, and then Bowser turns that on its head. It’s probably why I find him such a fun and interesting boss, and also why he really ramps up the difficulty curve when it comes to challenge running. But, we can talk about Bowser another time.

Anyway, the bottom line is…status is broken in 64. Even superbosses in Paper Mario: Pro Mode can’t prevent you from status-locking them. And while it’s cool to do that and be rewarded for using different status, I wish there had been more variety because just selecting a different item to do the same thing to an enemy can get a little stale.

Just Sayin’

Paper Mario Talks — An Examination of Danger Mario

When Mario is at 5 HP or less, he’s in what’s known as Danger. If he has 1 HP, he’s in Peril. In Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, there are badges that only activate when you’re in Danger or Peril. These badges are as follows:

— Close Call (and partner variant) [Increases chance of enemies missing]
— Last Stand (and partner variant) [Halves damage Mario takes]
— Power Rush (and partner variant) [Increases damage Mario deals by 2]
— Mega Rush (and partner variant) [Increases damage Mario deals by 4 (64) / 5 (TTYD)]

These 4 badges are quite powerful and represent a “last chance” kind of effort for the player. It allows them to win by the skin of their teeth in normal gameplay, especially if you have Mega Rush equipped, which only activates when Mario’s in Peril. However, if a player is upgrading HP often, these badges become less useful because you can go entire battles without it activating. On the flip side… there is a badge setup known as Danger Mario. A character in both games called Chet Rippo allows Mario to swap stats around. This makes it possible to make Mario’s HP 5 instead of 10, effectively putting him in permanent Danger. This is the basis of Danger Mario, and it enhances these 4 badges beyond their normal usefulness.

Now, Danger Mario is quite notorious. Many players frown upon it, saying it’s powerful, but not fun. I’m inclined to agree, but I’ll save my opinions for later. For now, let’s jump into what makes Danger Mario so good. Let’s break down TTYD’s first, as it’s the one most well-known as the “Danger Mario” build.

There are quite a few builds of Danger Mario in TTYD. The first one is the most common: hyper offense.

Here’s the setup:

Hyper Offense Danger Mario

– FP Plus
– Spike Shield
– Ice Power
– Multibounce
– Power Bounce
– Quake Hammer
– Power Rush x20+

Now, you’re thinking “20+ Power Rushes? What??” Well, in the Pianta Parlor, you’re able to buy badges for tokens you win while at the parlor. One of them happens to be Power Rush. Buy enough, and you can make Mario a monster, dealing up to 99 damage per Jump if you buy and equip enough. With Spike Shield and Ice Power, Mario can jump on any enemy barring those on the ceiling, but that’s what Quake Hammer is for. Multibounce allows you to OHKO basically every enemy, and Power Bounce lets you destroy bosses in one turn. Truly, this is Mario’s most powerful form offensively.

This specific setup is the one everyone knows about. There are plenty of videos of it online. The reason it’s so powerful is that you can stack badges in TTYD, and there’s an infinite supply of Power Rush badges for Mario to equip. The other three badges can be stacked, but you need to grind badge drops from enemies, making builds focused around stacking them more tedious to implement. The other one I’ve seen used often is one with a bunch of Close Calls, which makes Mario an evasion tank that will never be hit.

Now let’s look at 64’s Danger Mario. Unlike in TTYD, you’re only able to get one of each badge. But, Last Stand functions differently in 64. Instead of being last in the damage calculation and rounding the damage taken up, Last Stand comes before Guarding & Damage Dodges, and rounds down. This is a significant difference and makes Danger Mario in 64 much more potent defensively than TTYD’s. It’s the only Danger Mario setup that can successfully use a Peril Mario setup.

Now, an offensive build in 64 is actually not incredibly potent. While you have Jump Charge/Hammer Charge, Mega Rush and Power Rush don’t stack with each other like they do in TTYD. Furthermore, Mega Rush only increases your ATK by 4. Without any other badges, you’re sitting at only 7 damage with Ultra Boots. Couple in the lack of partners using items AND lack of ATK-increasing items, and your only real way of powering up is Watt’s Turbo Charge, which makes your ATK 8. No, offense isn’t what makes Danger Mario in 64 so potent. It’s Mario’s defensive setup. Let’s look at Tank Mario.

Here’s the build skeleton:

Tank Danger Mario

– Last Stand
– Damage Dodge x2
– Defend Plus
– P-Down, D-Up
– Fire Shield

Without Last Stand active, Mario’s current DEF is 2. With a Guard and two Damage Dodges, Mario can reduce his total damage taken by 5. If you add in Sushie’s Water Block, that total is now 6. With Chill Out, it’s 9. If the move is a Fire move, Fire Shield blocks that for an extra 1 point of damage. Now, since Last Stand comes before guarding, a move reduced by Last Stand can have its damage output effectively reduced by 6 (7 for a fire move) before Last Stand takes effect.

Let’s see what Mario’s taking before he guards with Last Stand active!

  • Final Bowser’s Flame Breath (10) -> 3 / 2 -> 1
    • No Chill Out = 6 / 2 -> 3
      • No Water Block = 7 / 2 -> 3
  • Final Bowser’s Lightning Blast (10) -> 4 / 2 -> 2
    • No Chill Out = 7 / 2 -> 3
      • No Water Block = 8 / 2 -> 4
  • Star Rod Powered Final Bowser Flame Breath** (20) -> 16 / 2 -> 8
  • Huff N. Puff’s Full Power Ground Slam (15) -> 9 / 2 -> 4
  • Huff N. Puff’s Ground Lightning* (12) -> 7 / 2 -> 3
  • Anti Guy’s Flashy Attack (12) -> 6 / 2 -> 3
    • No Chill Out = 9 / 2 -> 4
      • No Water Block = 10 / 2 -> 5
    • No Water Block = 7 / 2 -> 3

*Huff N’ Puff’s Lightning Attacks go through Water Block’s 1 DEF increase.
**When Bowser has the Star Rod active, Chill Out will not work on him.

Look at that damage! Because no attacks pierce in 64, everything is affected by all DEF boosts Mario has. Now, let’s factor in Guarding and Damage Dodges!

  • Final Bowser’s Flame Breath = 0 damage
    • No Chill Out = 0 damage
      • No Water Block = 0 damage
  • Final Bowser’s Lightning Blast = 0 damage
    • No Chill Out = 0 damage
      • No Water Block = 1 damage
  • Star Rod Powered Final Bowser Flame Breath = 5 damage
  • Huff N. Puff’s Full Power Ground Slam = 1 damage
  • Huff N. Puff’s Ground Lightning = 0 damage
  • Anti Guy’s Flashy Attack = 0 damage
    • No Chill Out = 1 damage
      • No Water Block = 2 damage
    • No Water Block = 0 damage

So, with 6 badges equipped, Mario has successfully negated damage from all but a few attacks, and some don’t even need Water Block or Chill Out! The only move that truly defeats him is Final Bowser’s Flame Breath while being boosted with the Star Rod. That’s an insanely tanky Mario. Even without the extra badges increasing DEF, Last Stand rounding down coupled with Chill Out or Water Block can cripple most enemies and bosses for practically the whole game. And, unlike TTYD where you have to wait until after Chapter 5 to access permanent Danger Mario, you can access permanent Danger as early as pre-Chapter 2 in 64. You also don’t need to stack any badges to achieve this level of defensive prowess.

With only 6 badges equipped, you have more than enough BP to equip some badges that boost ATK, D-Down Jump, Flower Saver, HP Drain, and more! You can also equip Dodge Master for easier guarding. With this setup, Mario can basically emulate superguarding from TTYD by equipping Zap Tap and tanking his way through enemies.

So, now that we’ve broken down common builds of Danger Mario and how they function, what do I think of Danger Mario? I think 64 definitely has the more broken Danger Mario. It requires no grinding for stackable badges and only requires a few badges to be truly terrifying. Even Last Stand alone is ridiculous, and because Chill Out exists, it just cripples enemies.

And yet, for how broken 64 Danger Mario is, I find it fun to use when it’s needed. Using only 1 of each badge forces more strategic thinking and planning in both games. And with the exclusion of items like Point Swap and Trial Stew in 64, it becomes even more pronounced. And, because most damage is moderately high from more deadly enemies if you miss a guard, there’s still a feeling of tension. You can’t mindlessly run through the game Multibouncing everything in sight with +40 ATK. If you miss a couple guards, you’ll probably game over. I feel the same way about TTYD, but like I said earlier, that only applies with 1 of each badge equipped. Stacking a ton of them can be fun once just to see Mario run a train through every enemy and boss left, but being a challenge runner, I prefer being challenged and not mindlessly playing. Although, I will say I think the evasion tank build is quite hilarious and cool, and am a fan of it over the hyper offense setup.

All that being said, I do tend to stay away from Danger badges – especially Mega Rush in TTYD and Last Stand in 64 – if I can help it, but I’ll use them if I need to. Sometimes, the most elegant or most creative strategies require them.

Also, Close Call is incredible. Seriously.

Just Sayin’

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’

Paper Mario Talks — Skills of a Paper Mario Challenge Runner

Coffee…Check.
Fingers and hand stretched…Check.
Paper Mario information…Check.

I think I’m ready.

Welcome to Paper Mario Talks! In this new series, I’ll be exploring various areas of the Paper Mario series as it relates to gameplay, game design, and challenge running! I have a lot of opinions on this series that I haven’t really expressed to, well…anyone! So, what better way to talk about the series I love the most than through blog posts and videos!

Oh, yeah, there’ll be videos, too! They’ll be available on my YouTube channel. Here’s how it’s going to break down: these posts will be more in-depth into various topics of the series that I want to write about, and the videos will be more focused on my favorite/least favorite badges/partners/etc…

Paper Mario Talks will be more focused on Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door; the reason will be a topic all of its own!

To begin this series, I want to bring to light what challenge running is so that you know what angles I’m coming from. Unlike speedrunning, where the goal is to beat the game as fast as possible, challenge running aims to beat the game under certain conditions or with restrictions. This is to force a new style of gameplay or make the game harder. RPG’s are usually pretty great for these, as you can easily restrict certain items/attacks/level ups and change the way the game is played.

There’s a wiki detailing a lot of different challenges in the Paper Mario series to get you more familiarized with what I’m talking about. Check it out if you’re interested!

Anyway, today’s topic is about the core skills of a challenge runner in the Paper Mario series. There are four distinct skills I believe most great Paper Mario players are proficient in – execution, planning, game knowledge, and reactionary theory. Let’s define those:

Game Knowledge: How well you know enemies, their health, their stats, Mario’s abilities, partners’ abilities, boss AI, etc… This is an ever-growing skill until you’ve memorized everything. If you don’t know enough about the game, you can’t really improve the rest of your skills. However, it’s easy to improve this one – ask someone or look it up online. Besides Color Splash, the series is pretty old and has a lot of FAQs/guides dedicated to the other games in the series.

Planning: How well you can plan out a strategy for a given fight. If you know enough about a certain boss, you can plan turn-by-turn strategies around them. You can account for RNG and have a plan of attack no matter what the boss does. You can be adequately prepared for any kind of encounter. Theoretically, you can win fights before you even get to them! Everyone can plan to an extent, but truly remarkable players can optimize their strategies further.

Execution: This is Planning’s cousin. You can win fights before you even play them, but can you execute on your strategies and actually win the fight? Can you guard or superguard every attack you’re planning to? Can you hit all the necessary Action Commands? Planning & Execution go hand-in-hand with each other.

Reactionary Theory: Probably the trickiest of the skills challenge runners need. If your plan goes awry, how can you get back on track? Can you save the fight? If you encounter a certain enemy loadout that you weren’t expecting, can you formulate a plan for success? This kind of on-the-fly thinking is crucial to certain challenges and is great for when you messed up an Action Command or RNG truly shot down your strategy. This is the hardest skill to become proficient in.

These four together form the core of a great Paper Mario challenge runner. How I define these skills helps shape how I view challenge running – and by extension certain facets of the series – so I hope this helps shed some light on how I’ll be approaching the rest of the topics in Paper Mario Talks.

Just Sayin’