Paper Mario: Color Splash Review (Wii U)

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Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo

Main Review

Review Context: After playing Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES), I have always looked forward to another Mario RPG game. What became of it are two different series; Paper Mario series on consoles, while the handhelds got the Mario & Luigi series. I played most of both series, but haven’t played the recent Mario and Luigi games (Dream Team and Paper Jam). Also, I have not played Paper Mario: Sticker Star, which was probably for the best.
Date of Playthrough: October 10, 2016

After what many consider Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Old Door (GCN) to be the best of the franchise, other Paper Mario games are always unfairly compared. When the game was shown during a spring Nintendo Direct, everyone was ecstatic that a Paper Mario game was finally coming to the Nintendo Wii U. That moment was short lived when gameplay of the battle system looked similar to the poorly received Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS). After that, the game wasn’t shown again until E3 during the Treehouse presentation. It appeared to be Wii U’s swan song on the console until The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild release date was announced. Does Paper Mario: Color Splash make right where Sticker Star went wrong or should you wrap this game up in a paper ball and trash it?

Graphics

Like what Good Feel did with having the style of everything made in yarn for Yoshi Wooly World (Wii U), Intelligent Systems always nailed the feel of a world made of paper with the Paper Mario franchise dating back to the Nintendo 64. With this game, you’ll get lost in the world of everything made of paper and cardboard. Limited movements of the characters to their fear of water are nice little touches. I was in awe when a character came out from the water and looked soggy with their colors washed out. The biggest surprise is when actual objects play a huge part. I’m used to seeing real objects in video games, but seeing how realistic the objects looked (lemons, plunger, piggy bank etc) in a colorful environment really make the moments stand out. One of the reasons I look forward to a new Paper Mario game is getting enriched in a storybook world. Unfortunately, there is slowdown when you do your final attack on an enemy. This is disappointing since none of the previous games had this issue, though it is minor doesn’t affect the gameplay.

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Control

Like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U), this game only uses the Wii U Gamepad that has more features than Off TV Play. This game gives you the option to use the touch screen to their fullest extent during battle. The default scheme has you using the touchscreen during battle. I checked and discovered you can have a mix of traditional and touch screen controls. I had it to where I used the touchscreen for minimal use, while I used the button scheme for battle. There are moments when you look at the Gamepad during battle while finding secrets that are done well. If you get stuck, pressing Up on the D-pad will have Huey (your sidekick) give you a hint on what to do next. Speaking of secrets, there are moments when you have to find a hidden path by cutting pieces of the background to close the layer so Mario can gain access. Like I said, it is cleverly done and doesn’t feel tacked on.

Design

This single player adventure has Mario and the gang (minus Luigi, of course) visit Port Prisma (clever) to notice something is not right. Once they discovered a Toad being sucked of its color by a Shy Guy, you learn from your new sidekick bucket Huey that the world has been drained of their color and must be restored by returning the six Big Paint Stars. Oh and spoiler alert, Bowser kidnaps Peach, but not how you think.

I mentioned earlier that I’m glad to skip Paper Mario: Sticker Star, here’s why: Fans of RPGs know that battle systems make or break the genre. The story can be terrible, but if the battle system works the game is saved. The battle system in Color Splash is easy with little to no challenge. You collect cards, and these cards are used in battle. Those cards can be picked up after defeating enemies or by using your hammer to knock objects. Normally, when you defeat an enemy your stats go up to get your character stronger, but not here. While defeating an enemy gives you cards, your stats do not go up so I find myself avoiding enemies since nothing is gained. The only time your stats increased is after a boss battle to increase your health and you collect hammer icons to increase your paint usage. There are moments when an enemy will steal your cards to change up the gameplay, but the only time I have a challenge is during boss battles. These are my favorite moments, as each boss has a weak point you have to exploit to win involving strategy. Once you find the weak point, the difficulty goes back down, but for those moments the boss battles can get intense.

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While the battle system isn’t to my liking, I would recommend this game to someone who loves the RPG genre, but hates the type of gameplay that has you grinding throughout the game. The length is decent and has an overworld map to the older Mario games so you won’t get stuck on what to do next if you take a hiatus from the game.

Something that always save the Mario RPG games is the writing. The story is nice, but the dialog between the characters and enemies are great. Some had me laughing to where I had to take a break. While I still feel that the funniest character came from Super Paper Mario, the writing on Color Splash has a lot of witty charm. It also helps that while you look at the Gamepad to choose a card, the enemies mock you for taking so long.

Sound

While I still have Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars as one of my favorite video game soundtracks, the soundtrack for Color Splash is decent, but nothing I’ll remember except the battle theme because that’s the tune you’ll hear a lot. They add a nice touch if you’re low on health, as the music gets disoriented. There’s not much in audio in terms of character voices, since you’re reading the dialogue, but the sound clips from the enemies are cute and those classic Mario sound effects you know are here although somewhat changed. The funniest sound goes to the Shy Guys yelling.

Similar Games Liked:
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Old Door (GCN)
Super Paper Mario (Wii)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)

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