I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with JRPG's. Most of the time if the story is compelling but doesn't have engaging gameplay, I have to stomach my way through the game just so I can enjoy the plot; sometimes the opposite is also true. I haven't had many problems with the JRPG's that Nintendo produces, but I was greatly displeased with Paper Mario Sticker Star when it came out. It was bland, formulaic, and had a virtually non-existent plot with un-impressive writing or humor. Plus it didn't really help matters that the reward system for the battles was absolute shite. Now when Paper Mario Color Splash was announced, I was skeptical. From the gameplay footage shown, it appeared to have the same gameplay as Sticker Star and would have similar writing, but being the gambling man that I am, I decided to pick up the game and give it go.
The story basically goes like this: Princess Peach receives a letter in the mail from someplace called Prism Island, but the letter happens to be a folded up Toad with all of his color drained. On a dark and storming night, she takes the seemingly dead Toad to Mario who then decides to go to Prism Island where with the help of a magical paint can named Huey, he uncovers a dastardly plan by Bowser (and his army of Shy-Guys) where he infused himself with the sinister power of black paint to help him conquer Prism Island by capturing the six Paint Stars to hopefully keep Mario from using their power to stop him. Not the most original plot, but in concept it's at least is better than Sticker Star.
Now first of all, this game looks absolutely gorgeous. The game is in full 1080p 60fps and has a very impressive art style. Everything truly looks like it is made of paper or cardboard, save for the 3D "things" that you occasionally run into here and there. Everything is also very bright and colorful which makes it feel all the more inviting; It all just pulled me right in. My only real gripe about the design though is the fact that the paper aesthetic was just a visual style in the earlier games whereas in this game, just like in Sticker Star, the paper visuals is actually what their world is made of and further reinforces this fact when the characters and NPC's refer to themselves as such. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but with the release of Mario & Luigi; Paper Jam, I don't think this will be changing back any time soon.
The gameplay is just about the same as the previous installment where all of your actions are limited to however much space you have available in your inventory (99 cards max). Where Sticker Star had it where all you had to do was find an attack sticker so you could use it in battle, Color Splash adds a little bit more strategy to the mix, although that's not saying much. In this game, most of the cards that you get are unpainted and must be painted first before you can use them in battle, but using paint in any way depletes your reserves which are needed to recolor the spots that had been sucked dry by the invading Shy-Guys. Luckily, it is possible to find pre-painted cards to circumvent this handicap. In addition, while winning battles in Sticker Star would only reward you with coins, in Color Splash you are rewarded with coins, paint, and special mini-hammers which will permanently increase your maximum paint reserves once enough of them are collected. I guess one would equate these mini-hammers to being battle experience since there is no way to "level up" in this game, but it is certainly better than nothing. Overall this system is decent and a good step up from the last game.
Now the map is certainly something. Unlike the previous game which had a very predictable map and was laid out and numbered like a traditional Mario game, the map of Prism Island was much more open ended in design. But because the story is still linear (as most JRPG's are), the map gives the illusion that the world can be explored in whatever order you so choose. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it would've likely been a much better game had it had that option.
Now one thing about most modern Mario games that has been leaving such a bad taste in my mouth is the overuse of Toads; This game is no exception. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but some time after Mario & Luigi: Dream Team there was some sort of decision to only have Toads as the "good guy" NPC of choice. Once again, not really a bad thing and the attempt to make them have more varied personalities in this game is a nice touch. But the way I see it, there is still no variety if they all still look the same; Make them look more interesting, and I would be more inclined to talk to them.
Which brings me to the writing. This game's writing was MUCH better than its predecessor. The humor was on point when it needed to be, and there was a natural progression of plot and character development (what little of it there was). Plus I loved all the little references and inside jokes that were thrown in here and there. It made it feel a bit more alive compared to Sticker Star. Plus the music compliments the writing very well. It was upbeat when the dialog was humorous and was intense during scenes of duress. Plus it didn't shy away from the more melancholy writing and music as well.
Overall I found it very difficult to hate this game. It has this problem where is feels disconnected from the first three Paper Mario games in the series, but it certainly tries to recapture their charm. I feel that it definitely could've been better though. It was missing the atmosphere that the first three games had, but it was otherwise quite the enjoyable experience. I would definitely recommend this game for first timers of the series, but even if you are a fan of the older games, you might find some enjoyment with it here and there. So until next time, I'll be seeing you.
Edited by Gilgamesh
Edited by Gilgamesh