Mario, prepare to get smashed for your biggest's adventure yet!
Visuals & Sound: From the start, Paper Mario comes at you with excellent visuals and music. The 2-D/3-D hybrid art style is phenomenal, and is my favorite graphical style of any N64 game. As for the sound, the music is just great with lots of variety. Even when you've heard the same tune for hours, it's still enjoyable...and holds the special little part of your brain that triggers memories
Gameplay: Paper Mario has a fairly standard RPG style....you can attack, defend, use items, and use magic ("Star Spirit"). You are permitted 1 partner to help you battle enemies, and the partner is able to attack, defend, and switch party members. Within the battles, you won't fight several enemies, but the variety of the types is what makes this work. There are enemies that you can't jump on (because they have spikes), enemies that you can't hammer (because they have shells)...and they also effect how you want as your active partner. These different enemies actually manage to bring a fair bit of easy going strategy, a nice relief from the nail bitters of standard RPGs. There are some interesting concepts here as well....one is the badges you will find and equip to help Mario in battles. Some badges are geared to boost attack power, some to allow Mario to attack all enemies at once, some are just to give Mario a little extra HP, and there's plenty more. The biggest attraction to the gameplay is the timed system, which keeps each fight fresh and exciting. You'll be challenged to jump on Mario's foes and press the A button in sync to get addition attack power. The timed system works great...with both tight timing, and great opportunities to make the battles go smoother, it's an excellent back-bone to the standard battle system. Also, having a side-kick, and being able to switch up partners is a blast... as each one of the 7 characters have their own skills inside battles, and abilities during the platform adventuring.
Story: One of the greatest parts of this game is the story and dialogue with other characters. You travel the entire Mushroom Kingdom, meet all of it's inhabitants, and assist them in saving the day. Also, the main enemies couldn't be more fun... everything from the gigantic Shy Guy, to the Koopa Bros, to Browser himself... a true blast from start to finish carried by a wonderfully designed story.
Overall: As an overall experience, Paper Mario is second to none. Everything works to make a fantastic platform/RPG that was not easily compiled. The only setbacks include a very easy difficulty level (including both battles and puzzles [which is actually refreshing]), and a little too much running back and worth (but there are a few things to help [namely, the pipe tunnels]). Those are the only real setbacks, and they are so very minor.
Paper Mario has my recommendation 100%. If you own a Nintendo 64 console, this is one game you must own on a system with so very few "must-own" titles. If you're looking for something different, treat yourself to Paper Mario, 20+ hours of pure joy. !