I wasn’t really expecting a lot when I first played Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door — I’d heard it was a good game, but that was about it — so it came as a surprise when it hooked me as much as it did. It was a game I thoroughly enjoyed. But among all my moments with it, one in particular stands out to me because of how perfect it was.
Twilight Town was an awesome location in the game, as I’m going to get into. But what made it perfect is how I, completely by chance, stumbled into it right during October on the year that I played it. So for me, exploring Twilight Town and its surrounding spooky areas is literally a Halloween memory, and I didn’t plan it to be that way at all.
It really is a perfect Halloween area; more so than most games or areas in games I can think of, it personifies Halloween in almost all respects, with a great balance of whimsy and spookiness. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door did a great job of building an interesting world in general, and with an area like this in the game, it’s no surprise that it ended up being my favorite location in the entire Mario series, and I’m going to talk about it at length and you’re going to sit down and listen to me. I mean… please?
Early on in the game you meet a fellow named Darkly, a weird little goth dude who simply says that he likes dark places and that he’s done talking to you. This antisocial little fella is hilarious, but doesn’t seem worth noting; I just assumed he was another silly character with funny dialogue. Turns out he’s important and will help you get to Twilight Town later in the game. When I heard the area described, I thought it sounded cool. Little did I know it wasn’t going to be cool at all… it was going to be awesome!
Greeted immediately with this amazing song to make the area feel spooky and melancholy, I learned of the plight of the folks of Twilight Town (who all look exactly like Darkly). You see, a monster in Creepy Steeple is ringing the bell and turning one of the townsfolk into a pig (a fully 3D pig; what’s up with that?) each time it does so. So your mission is clear: venture to Creepy Steeple and take that sucker out.
But first you have to get through Twilight Trail, once again to an amazing song.
Twilight Trail is an epic overworld area that’s legitimately spooky. The place gets gradually darker, shifting from the red twilight skies into true night as you progressively get deeper into the woods (reached by journeying into the area’s background). It’s a straight shot to Creepy Steeple, but it’s effective as one; Twilight Trail is a dangerous path, and straight or not, the journey to Creepy Steeple is harrowing both in terms of difficulty and in terms of atmosphere.
And man do I love that atmosphere. The song for Creepy Steeple is eerie, but I think Twilight Trail is easily the most unsettling song of those for the Twilight Town region… and even of the game. These songs are very moody, shifting from the dark melancholy of Twilight Town, to the almost ambient menace of Twilight Train, to the soundscape of a grotesque mystery in Creepy Steeple. It’s an excellent progression, and these are some of the most artful tunes in the game. The areas, in no small part thanks to the music, are some of the most impressive of the game, because of how well they mix the game’s silliness with a grim and authentic setting. It blew my mind.
The boss of the area, on the other hand, is a total douchebag.
With even his song radiating “ridiculous jerk” (while still fitting the setting and his role as a curse-wielding monster), Doopliss is a hilarious villain and an interesting contrast to the area at first glance. It’s a great effect, given how the game sets up the menace of the area and the horrible act he’s committing against the townsfolk… but he’s just a lazy goofball lounging with modern conveniences at the top of Creepy Steeple. The battle is easy enough.
Except it isn’t over yet!
Better get used to that main Twilight Town music (good thing it’s such a good song), because you’re going to be spending the next section of the game listening to it while you converse with crows, sneak around town, gather information, and ally yourself with a super-cute old foe (shut up, I know she was male in the Japanese version, but she’s not in the English one!). Doopliss steals your identity and forces you to go up against yourself and all of your friends, not to mention the enigmatic Shadow Sirens who serve the main villain of the game. It’s a cool moment that fools the player yet again: Doopliss is initially made out to be scary, then revealed to be goofy, but yet still he reveals these sinister powers and proves a challenge to stop completely. Eventually you defeat Doopliss and reunite with all of your friends, while Doopliss himself takes Vivian’s place on the Shadow Sirens while herself she joins your party permanently.
That’s not the last you’ll see of the little creep since he and the Shadow Sirens are fought again later, but for the most part his story is done, and sadly, so is the tale of Twilight Town. That’s okay, though. It’s still, for me, the coolest location in any Mario game to date and one of my fondest Halloween and gaming memories alike. As I said, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is excellent in general at world-building and story-telling, but it excels at them in this region more than anywhere else.
Twilight Town is referenced later on in a Mario Kart DS course called Twilight House, but otherwise has not appeared again (as is to be expected from a Paper Mario location). Still, I’ll always remember it and hey, maybe someday we’ll get to see it or someplace similar again. Until then, “Have a nice twilight”!
Be sure to tell me what you thought of Twilight Town!