Why I love Bug Fables

Blog, Gaming, Reviews, Written Posts

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!

The Rise and Fall of Paper Mario

Blog, Gaming, Written Posts

Tonight I decided to talk about what was historically one of my favorite series of video games ever: Paper Mario. While there certainly is a “fall” referenced in the title of this blog, make no mistake… Paper Mario as a series is beloved to me. Few video game series bring me as much joy just to think about. But the unfortunate reality is that I always have to preface my love of the Paper Mario series in saying that my love is for the older games in the series rather than the newer ones. I equate it a lot to a feeling that many Star Wars fans have when talking about the original trilogy versus the prequels. It’s almost a 1:1 comparison for me, really. The first three (Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and Super Paper Mario) correspond almost perfectly to the original trilogy. Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 is the equivalent to A New Hope in that it is a true gem and you can’t go wrong with the one that started it all. The Thousand-Year Door on the Nintendo GameCube is like Empire Strikes Back in that it is the GOAT and really perfected what made the series great. And lastly, Super Paper Mario on the Nintendo Wii is most like Return of the Jedi in the sense that it is the more off-beat of the trilogy and slightly more contentious than the others, but appreciated nonetheless. Although the correlation isn’t quite as direct, the newer trio of games (Paper Mario: Sticker Star on the Nintendo 3DS, Paper Mario: Color Splash on the Nintendo Wii U, and Paper Mario: The Origami King on the Nintendo Switch) would be viewed similarly to the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films in that they are so different stylistically from the first three and, in my opinion, lose a big part of that original spark and can’t compare in quality as a result. Hopefully that comparison is as apt for you as it has always been for me.

For me, the first two in the series stand head and shoulders above the rest. The Thousand-Year Door has always been my favorite but the original is almost equally timeless and is up there with some of my favorite role-playing games. The worlds, characters, dialogue, music and presentation of both games just ooze charm and in many ways can’t be rivaled in my eyes. Super nostalgic, for sure. At the time of Super Paper Mario‘s release, I definitely expressed my concerns with it in that it was quite a departure from what I wanted from the series and was a far cry from the legendary status of TTYD, but in retrospect and juxtaposed with what was to come, I have a much greater appreciation for it. It isn’t exactly what I want when I play Paper Mario, but it had its own charm and certainly had no shortage of clever writing, with a surprisingly detailed story and fun (but different) gameplay. That being said, I and many other Paper Mario fans naturally hoped the series would see a return to form with its next installment, and remained optimistic for the future.

Everything changed when Sticker Star attacked. Years had passed since SPM‘s release, and naturally hope for a revival of the series was dwindling. But lo and behold, Nintendo bring Paper Mario: Sticker Star out of the woodwork and raise fans’ excitement, only to have it come crashing down with an unbridled rage. Was it really that bad? Well, it is MAYBE a decent game by itself, but it is a horrible Paper Mario game, and that is a trend that the series will continue to have to date. The greatest artistic crimes it commits include completely disincentivizing battling enemies while taking out the really fun battle system of the original games as well as completely taking away the unique character designs and fun dialogue that made the Paper Mario series so special. It’s almost as if Nintendo had no idea why their fans took a liking to the series to begin with and just assumed they liked the haha funny paper gimmicks, so they decided to go all in on that. If you like being paper and that’s all you want from a Paper Mario game, then this is the game for you. It has it in spades.

Color Splash came along a few years later and while it was a noticeable improvement, it immediately reeked of Sticker Star in presentation as well as some gameplay elements. There was still no incentive for battling enemies, really, and the worlds were full of exclusively Toads rather than unique character designs. The dialogue was alright, I guess, but doesn’t even remotely resemble what fans have still been dying for since TTYD. I do want to point out that I thought Color Splash was genuinely a fun game, but it just doesn’t have any of what I want from Paper Mario. It’s an insult to fans to call it that just because Mario happens to be made out of paper in it. Get it outta here. Full disclosure, though, I barely played any of The Origami King, but from all that I’ve seen of it, it doesn’t in any way remedy the problems that I’ve had with the series since TTYD, so even though it may be a swell game in comparison to the previous two, I’m fine batching it in with the prequel trilogy here. At some point I’ll get around to playing through it, for sure, but for now I’ll stick to Bug Fables (an awesome indie game that shamelessly rips off the best qualities of the original games- almost like a spiritual successor for the fans).

I can only hope this isn’t the end of the Paper Mario story. There have been persisting rumors over the years of a true return to form for the series, but I continue to be disappointed, time and time again. One day, hopefully, I can be a Paper Mario fan with pride once again.

Videos I Posted This Week:

Box Art Battles! – Episode 5 [Shrek Edition] – Tarqaron ft. Rusty
Black Widow Review – Tarqaron
Survivor: Vanuatu Ep. 11 Reaction (The Leann Blindside) – Tarqaron
Smash Summit 11 was absolutely insane
Loki: Season 1 Review – Tarqaron
Is Dimash the greatest singer in the world?

Things I Enjoyed This Week:

My 2018 in Review: Gaming

Gaming, Written Posts

I love video games. In fact, video games have been my greatest passion for as long as I can remember, really. Yet, despite that, my priorities seemed to shift from gaming to television and film for much of 2018. In many ways, video games kind of fell to the back-burner for the year. The fact that I was studying so much television and film in college throughout the year probably had something to do with that. Not that it’s a problem, really, but I would like to finish more video games in 2019 while continuing to enjoy television and film as much as I have as well.

Ultimately, I only finished 7 games in 2018, which is a pretty lousy number all in all. Obviously I played much more than that throughout the year, but for the sake of a brief recap, I will just list those few that I finished.