This game was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a video game that was released on the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One back in 2020, but I just now got around to really sinking my teeth into and finishing in 2022. This game was always high on my radar because it takes direct inspiration from the Paper Mario games of old. To truly understand the significance of that key element it might be worth checking out a post I wrote a year ago about The Rise and Fall of Paper Mario in my, and most of the fans’, eyes.
Bug Fables is almost shameless in how much of its DNA is really derived from Paper Mario. But it’s admirable in a sense. Paper Mario fans have been asking for a return to form for almost two decades and finally someone comes along and says fuck it, we’re going to do it ourselves. So this perfectly scratches that itch that fans have been so longing to scratch. From the action commands in the turn-based battle system to the puzzle-solving using unique abilities and from the same paper aesthetic to the same badge/medal system, Bug Fables borrows a lot to give fans exactly what they’ve been dying for all these years later. Frankly, I’m not mad at it. If Nintendo wants to refuse to deliver on fans’ expectations then naturally that was going to leave the door open for someone to do so. And we have good ol’ independent developer Moonsprout Games to thank for giving it to us.
And that’s not to say that Bug Fables is just a Paper Mario clone and nothing more. The amount of influence and gameplay elements taken directly from the first two Paper Mario games is undeniable, to the extent that this might as well have been another entry in that series. But it does it with such heart and a lot of care put into every aspect and oozes a ton of charm on its own as well. From what initially seems like it will just be an excuse to do a lot of bug puns and bug-related names, they actually take the whole bug aspect and use it to really flesh the world out quite well with everything from unique character designs to fun dialogue and an engaging story.
Needless to say I was hooked from beginning to end and while of course there are things I would like to improve on or change if they were to make a sequel in the future (fingers crossed), that’s not really what I wanted to highlight here. The main takeaway is this: Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door are two of my favorite games ever and I’ve been endlessly disappointed with the direction the series has gone since then. Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling gave me a burst of that joy I felt when playing those two games and I am so, so grateful for that. The attention to detail and heart, with a breadth of content too, make it clear that this was a love letter to true Paper Mario fans and one that I will cherish forever!