Review – Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling

Remember when Paper Mario used to be the best thing to ever come out on a Nintendo console? Ok I might be exaggerating a bit, but nobody can deny how great the first two games in the series ended up being. Sadly, the series descended into a downward spiral of irrelevancy with the release of a decent, yet ugly platformer for the Wii, as well as two massive duds for 3DS and Wii U, respectively. It seems that Nintendo has never managed to understand how beloved Paper Mario‘s mix of overworld platforming and accessible RPG mechanics were. Thankfully, some folks who most definitely grew up playing those games did understand this. They have released a game to remind us of that magic and that comes in the form of Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling.

1082710_20191229200356_1

It’s an RPG, so yes.

Describing Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is easy. It is Paper Mario, purely and simply. It looks like Paper Mario. It plays like Paper Mario, both in and outside battles. It sounds like Paper Mario. It tries to emulate the same sense of humor featured in Paper Mario. It even features a lot of the same completionist nightmare elements present in those games, such as tons of recipes, badges (called “medals” in here), and a gigantic bestiary you can fill up by researching monsters during battle. It’s everything you love from Paper Mario… with the exception that Mario isn’t here. Remove the Mushroom Kingdom setting and replace it with cute and cartoony insects. You get Bug Fables as a result.

Bug Fables does feature a handful of elements in order to try to spice up its gameplay and differ itself a little bit from the Paper Mario games. For starters, you don’t have a roster of allies to choose from. You control three characters throughout the whole game: a beetle who focuses on close combat, a little bee who wields a boomerang, and what I assume is a moth or a cicada who’s also a cryomancer.

1082710_20191229201538_1

They included a freaking cordiceps-infected ant to bring back the trauma from reading about that fungus.

You can also decide to “donate” a character’s turn in order for someone else to perform two moves in the same turn, at the cost of a reduced attack output on the second move. So, for instance, if your enemies are airborne, you can make the beetle character donate his turn to the bee with a boomerang in order to perform two guaranteed attacks in a row. It’s an extra layer of strategy I ended up liking a lot. Another neat addition is that while the entire team shares the same amount of “medal points”, you can assign specific medals to individual members of the team.

In fact, Bug Fables is so damn similar to Paper Mario that it’s hard to pinpoint issues I had with it as a game of its own, as most of my issues ended up being the same ones I’ve had with previous Paper Mario games. Namely the poor camera angles, some weird button placement choices, and the occasional responsiveness issue whenever you’re trying to pull off a special move during a battle. None of them were particularly egregious, but I feel I need to point them out regardless.

1082710_20200105002145_1

Word.

The only major issue I had with Bug Fables is that it’s just not as charming as it thinks it is. It tries too hard to be a successor to Paper Mario, and while it does succeed perfectly in the gameplay department, it just suffers from the fact it isn’t Paper Mario. Those games were too ridiculously charming, with fantastic levels, dialogue, and music all based on previous Mario lore. The little insects in Bug Fables do their best and there’s even a handful of good jokes in here, but at the end of the day, half of the charm from Paper Mario came from the fact you were playing as Mario. That’s a problem that Bug Fables would have even if it ended up being technically superior to its sources of inspiration.

1082710_20200104235941_1

Boss fight time!

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling doesn’t try to hide that it’s trying to be the classic Paper Mario fix you have been craving for ever since 2005. Thankfully, although the game is nowhere near as charming as the titles starring the Italian plumber, it does succeed at providing players with a cute, funny, and accessible RPG that most certainly resembles its sources of inspiration. Maybe Nintendo will take this game as a wake-up call to remember how good and revered Paper Mario used to be before the duds released for Wii, 3DS and Wii U? Let’s wait and see.

 

 

Graphics: 9.0

Not only does the game manage to emulate Paper Mario‘s art style and iconic animations, but the levels and characters are also very well-designed.

Gameplay: 8.5

Basically the same combat mechanics and overworld exploration controls from Paper Mario, with a few additions in each in order to make the game feel a bit more original. Some weird button placement choices and responsiveness issues drag the gameplay down a little bit.

Sound: 7.0

There is nothing wrong with the soundtrack. It’s decent, but unremarkable. The sound effects are clearly inspired by Paper Mario and do a decent job.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Bug Fables succeeds at what it’s trying to do: being a spiritual successor to the classic Paper Mario formula. It’s funny, simple to play, and ridiculously charming. Although nowhere near as charming as its main source of inspiration.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

Advertisements