I didn’t forget about this.
At the end of each chapter, the narrative turns from the viewpoint of Mario and co. to Princess Peach, and then Bowser, in that order. These alterations don’t take too much time away from playing as Mario, but they’re fun little variety bonuses for completing each chapter. Call it the dessert for finishing the main course, which you had to complete a fetch quest for. Jokes aside, there is some minimal importance to these little side missions.
Setting them in their natural order, taking control of Princess Peach has you placed within the X-Naut base, where they are holding her captive for an unknown purpose. Even before the focus falls upon Peach, it typically gives some insight to the X-Naut base of operations, including the strategies and insight of their leader: Grodus, who looks like he has a magic 8 ball for a head. It also foreshadows some events to come when the attention turns back to Mario, such as Grodus sending the Shadow Sirens after Mario before Chapter 2. Most of it is basically the same old, same old; Grodus is informed that Mario has another Crystal Star and he gets pissed and tells his soldiers to stop being shit.
Once in control of Peach, the duration of most of her segments has her walking along hallways and talking to TEC, the base’s main supercomputer, who conveniently falls in love with Peach upon first sight. I’m not joking. As the chapters go along, TEC becomes more and more “human” in the sense that it learns through Peach about the concept of “love,” and all the emotions that go along with it. One should probably question how this is possible for a computer, but this is Super Mario Bros. and not a college class in Logic. As this love for Peach continues, TEC reveals more and more about her situation and the intention the X-Nauts have with her captivity. But it’s not like it knows everything, and even enlists Peach to aid its curiosity. This, in turn, has Peach traveling around the X-Naut base disguising herself as a normal X-Naut, or turning invisible, to deceive others and collecting information.
In terms of actually playing as Peach, her gameplay is very limited. The most the player can do is move and interact with people or objects. In some cases, the player hardly does anything more than just talk with TEC. Peach’s segments are very dialogue-heavy and contain important foreshadowing and inside information about the enemy intentions because of it. On a personal note, I enjoyed Peach segments for that purpose, but I can’t say I enjoy playing as her. She can’t even jump. You just move and press “A.” I enjoy the chapter where you play with potions and make her invisible, but other than that, they’re pretty much a visual novel.
At least you can watch her shower.
Then, there are the Bowser segments. These parts of the game don’t typically take as long as Peach segments and aren’t as dialogue-heavy, but they’re more comedic in nature and one is actually given a nice array of control over Bowser. The narrative of Bowser’s focus is typically his goal of collecting the Crystal Stars before Mario can and/or finding out where Peach is so he can steal her for himself. The humorous part is that after every chapter, Bowser is shown in the area preceding the chapter that Mario had just completed, making him always one-step behind. He is accompanied along his travels by Kammy Koopa, an old Magikoopa who rides around on a broomstick—one who is constantly subjected to the same “old person” jokes that this game seems to be so fond of. She doesn’t serve much a point other than to serve as a counselor for Bowser, whether that means talking him into a calm state or being his punching bag.
Much like the Peach segments play out a certain way, the Bowser segments play out a certain way, too. Bowser comes onto a scene, interacts with those around him, and then he either fails in a humorous way or stumbles upon the news that he’s too late to get the Crystal Star or whatever. Ensue laughs (or groans), end scene. There’s not much point to his segments aside from perhaps showing what characters from previous chapters are up to after Mario has visited them. That and humor. Well, this game’s version of it. I feel it’s hit or miss. Doesn’t do much for the repetitive nature of the jokes that surround him, but it does feel fun blowing fire at things around you, even if they (unfortunately) don’t react accordingly.
The saving grace to Bowser segments are the short little homages to Super Mario Bros., which has Bowser running through edited courses from the original game in a 2D side-scrolling fashion. While they are criminally short, they also serve as a fun distraction to the typical play style of the RPG-themed Mario segments. And by criminally short, I mean you can complete them in under a minute. I’m not exaggerating. The first stage given to you after Chapter 2 can have you go from start to finish in about twenty-five seconds. It’s disappointing, but it retains the value of fun you would expect from typical Mario games. Better yet, Bowser can collect his own “mushrooms” through meat on a bone to grow larger and larger still. Collect more than one and Bowser will grow to a massive size and become invincible, completing destroying every enemy and obstacle in his path. It’s shit like this that makes me appreciate this game.
There’s not much else to really say about them. Peach’s segments give information to the player about the situation and foreshadows future events, while also developing a computer with a thing for blonde chicks, but gives little in terms of excitement through gameplay. Bowser’s segments are the complete opposite, with little to no importance based around the plot of his actions, but are an enjoyable treat to play through. These sections of the game won’t take a large chunk of gametime off the total, but they have their merits. I wish Peach had more to do, while I wish Bowser had more of a point, while expanding upon the side-scrolling action that he made his own. But alas, I can only dream of the perfect Paper Mario game. Here in reality, that perception has long been shown to be dead with each passing year.
(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of PKSparkxx DatHottneSS.)