Developer(s) – Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Directors(s) – Naohiko Aoyama & Taro Kudo
Producer – Kensuke Tanabe
As one of the last games internally developed by Nintendo for the Wii U, Paper Mario: Color Splash was released in later 2016, and ended up garnishing mixed to positive reviews upon release. Fans of the series, however, were not so lukewarm to the game upon pre-release, with many of them complaining about the departure from the formula of classic Mario RPGs such as the original Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door for the GameCube. A Change.org petition was even started to have the game cancelled before release, which to me, is far too overly harsh. Personally, I think this was the best game released all that year, and the second best game on the Wii U for a number of reasons.
Graphics – 9/10
One common complaint out the game during pre-release was how much over-emphasis there was on the paper theme that has been re-occurring since the fifth generation of gaming, which to me, is one of the most ridiculous criticisms I’ve ever heard anyone make about any video game. There’s nothing wrong with the paper theme, as it is generally something different to the rest of the Mario series, as opposed to the 2D side scrolling or 3D platforming themes that came long before it. Color Splash is also set in a completely different place to what most Mario games are set in, which adds even more to the game’s unique look. Though the critics were right in saying that hardly any new characters are introduced, with everything else that has been undertaken with this game on a conceptual level, the series has been given a mostly fresh coat of paint, so to speak, with new locations, new items, a handful of new characters and a catchy new soundtrack thrown in for good measure.
Gameplay – 9/10
Following on from the rest of the Mario RPG series, Color Splash introduces the feature of having to use cards to determine what attacks are used, and in what abundance the attacks are carried out. Cards are also used to heal and call temporary allies to Mario’s side, whilst unique cards found throughout the game, such as the lemon card and fire extinguisher card, act similar to how summons work in the Final Fantasy series, or they are otherwise used to solve puzzles either inside or outside of combat, giving the gameplay a very exceptional twist to it compared to other RPGs. It’s actually quite reminiscent of Nintendo’s early history, as they started out in 1889 as a playing card company. The cards with flowers on them especially speak of this, since the playing cards they manufactured were for a game called Hanafuda, meaning Flower Cards. The only criticism I would have against the game’s style of play is that a lot of the time, it can seem quite easy to progress through with a lot of meagre battles throughout; however, the game’s bosses provide more than enough challenge when confronted.
Controls – 10/10
Though the game introduces new elements to the Mario RPG series, the game poses no problems in terms of controls, as in essence; it functions on the same basic gameplay structure as the likes of Super Mario RPG and the original Paper Mario. It also makes some of the best use of the Wii U’s GamePad I’ve ever seen, as players use the GamePad to cycle through and select from their list of cards in order to attack enemies. It’s also used to solve puzzles throughout the in-game world; mostly involving creating means of getting to otherwise unreachable areas.
Lifespan – 9/10
The game can easily be made to last 35-40 hours, which for both a Super Mario game, and a Wii U game, is exceptional. Whilst I doesn’t quite live up to the average lifespan of an RPG, as many can be last to last over 100 hours, it will still provide players with hours upon hours of gameplay, as in addition to the main quest, there is also a plethora of different side quests to complete, such as collecting every card in the game, completing the rock, paper, scissor challenges and fulfilling the criteria listed on the lampposts of the main plaza.
Storyline – 6.5/10
Whilst the game does depart from many of the typical settings of a Mario game, and introduces a handful of new characters, the plot is not so unique overall unfortunately. Mario, Peach and Toad receive a letter of a paper Toad drained of colour sent to them from a region called Prism Island. They decide to investigate; only to find the main town deserted. They come across an anthropomorphic paint can called Huey, who explains that the fountain he was found in is powered by six stars called the Big Paint stars that provide Prism Island with colour. The party later discover that Bowser is draining the island of colour in order to enhance his own power. Mario and company resolve to restore the Big Pain stars, and thus put an end to Bowser’s plan. At first, the plot seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to other Mario games about 5 hours in, but then, they throw in the whole Peach gets kidnapped thing seemingly for the sake of it. As it happens, they also sneak in a fourth-wall joke about no one could have expected it to happen, which is part of the reason why I can bring myself to not punish the game too much for it. There are also references to older Mario games all over the place in some dialogue spoken by some of the more obscure characters, which keep thing relatively interesting. But overall, I found the story was about the only thing that I found to be wanting whilst playing this game.
Originality – 7.5/10
Aside from the plot of the game, the rest of it is quite unique compared to most other Super Mario games, and does fairly well to stand out from the rest of the Mario RPG series, which is why I’m thankful that the Change.org petition fell through. TechRadar’s Nick Pino described it is “a frightening example of how quickly, and harshly, we judge games we know next to nothing about”, and I agree with him fully on this. If we were so quick to pre-judge every game before its release, some of the best titles may not have hit shelves at all. The game stands out for it’s unique take on turn-based RPG combat, as well as its exceptional art style.
Overall, Paper Mario Color Splash was my favourite game of 2016. It’s enjoyable to play, very long with plenty of things to do in addition to the main game, and stands out in a style of play that to me, has not been explored enough in recent years, and for a game of this genre in this generation to feature the most iconic video game character of all time shows promise for the future of the genre.