Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door – Is the drop to 30fps justified by the visual upgrades?

May 22, 2024
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A beloved GameCube classic from 2004, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door has been deemed worthy of a new release on Nintendo Switch a full 20 years later. Original developer Intelligent Systems is at the helm here, substantially reworking its visuals, rearranging its soundtrack and adding a suite of bonus extras via a new gallery section. It’s a fittingly lavish upgrade for a game that still holds up today, with its charming paper and card aesthetic, interesting combat system, and captivating level design. Unfortunately, the visual upgrades come with a stiff frame-rate penalty, with the original 60fps target on GameCube dropping to 30fps on Switch. Was that the right move, or is it too severe of a cut? We’ve tested the opening chapters to deliver an early verdict.

To cut to the chase, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is one of the most unique RPGs to land on Switch. Its paper aesthetic is a huge part of its appeal, of course, and feeds directly into the game design too. Once Mario lands at the very first hub area, Rogueport, every location you enter features backdrops that fold out and collapse like a pop-up book. It’s all rendered in full 3D, but the conceit of building a world out of wafer-thin material creates this wonderful diorama effect. It’s a miniature, paper playground working to its own logic, allowing you to flip, bend and fold its world – and even Mario himself. Aesthetic and game design blend into a beautifully cohesive whole.

This Switch Edition visual overhaul goes much further than I expected, though it very much keeps the core gameplay loop, level layout, puzzles, and dialogue from the GameCube original. There are reworked textures across almost every visible point in the world on the Switch version, while UI elements are reworked to suit modern TVs. Geometry is rebuilt from scratch for every level – and even 2D sprites are swapped out for full 3D replacements, often with the aim of emphasising the effect of cardboard cut-outs. There’s a huge amount of extra detail layered in. Crucially though, what’s here is still in keeping with the spirit of the original, even if textures and geometry are redesigned.

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