I’m currently playing Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, and largely enjoying it. It’s no Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door, but few things in life are.
Like all games in the Mario RPG family, Paper Jam expertly mixes action with menu-based commands. Pulling off well-timed hits feels good in a weighty sort of way, which makes fights feel quick and productive.
But even though I appreciate the battle system behind the Mario & Luigi games, I never mastered it regardless of how much practise I poured into hitting and dodging. You’d think “The ‘A’ button controls Mario’s actions, and the ‘B’ button controls Luigi’s actions” is as easy as instructions get, but apparently there’s some kind of bottleneck on my nerve impulse highway. The commands that whip between my brain and fingers go careening over the guardrail, and Luigi dies.
As a consequence, I’ve long had a hard time enjoying the Mario & Luigi games as thoroughly as other fans, even though I want very much to adore them.
Then I discovered Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam offers clear cues indicating which brother an enemy has its sights set on. The cues, which are optional and can be turned on and off on the fly, give my reflexes and my brain sufficient time to chat and formulate a plan for survival. This prevents me from drop-kicking my Nintendo 3DS and then retreating to my Shame Corner with a cartoony stormcloud hanging over my head.
See, I’ve had coordination issues all my life. I still mix up my left and my right, and I have to pause to make sure I’m not putting on my clothes backwards. As a kid, I suffered in school because of my poor handwriting and dismal math skills. Looking back at my report cards, I see a lot of “wtf, this chick can’t use scissors or a pencil, lol.”
In fact, I can’t say I actually started enjoying school until I was permitted to start typing my tests and exams — which didn’t happen until grade 11.
I’ve since come to realize my coordination issues are almost certainly centered around the fact I’m cross-dominant. My handedness split is about 65% right and 35% left. I definitely wouldn’t equate it to being disabled in any regard, but nevertheless I have little control over the quirk, and it’s made things kind of weird and difficult at times.
So when a game like Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam offers a gameplay mode that makes my experience a bit more enjoyable, it makes me so darn happy.
In recent years, there’s been a great deal of noise about games that offer optional “Easy Modes” and “Super Modes” (like, say, the invincibility leaf in Super Mario 3D World). As the gaming landscape becomes more divided because of Reasons, there’s a growing sentiment that “real gamers” should forego all assistance and “get gud.”
This is one reason I reject the term “gamer” as an identity, even though it’s a pastime that’s been a massive part of my life since I was four. My philosophy is that games are for everyone, and for that reason, they should reach out to players of all skill levels.
I’m not asking for EVO to include a “Hooray, Everyone’s a Winner!!” bracket. I’m asking people to remain calm when Nintendo offers kids, busy parents, and people with varying physical weaknesses and disabilities the option to skip a level in Yoshi’s Wooly World instead of forcing them to stay mired in some level of Bad Sweater Hell.
The adjustable difficulty in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has made the experience much more relaxing on my easily-befuddled brain. If you have an issue with that, I don’t even know what to tell you.
Instead of being mad, why not hug this sabrekitten?