I have a bit of a history of playing Paper Mario games late, going all the way back to the origin of the series, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. My excuse for that game was a youthful lack of funds, and for the first official game in the series, Paper Mario, it came so late in the N64’s life that I was just waiting for the GameCube to drop (and, well, more youthful lack of funds). I did pick up Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door around the time of its release, but it was at a time when I finally had a grown-up job and grown-up money, which meant that I also bought other games. A lot of other games. Games that I didn’t have time to play. Eventually Super Paper Mario released on the Wii and garnered the same kind of high praise that the previous entries had, so I bought that one, too. I still hadn’t played Thousand-Year Door yet, though, so I decided to go back and start my journey with the series there.
I bring all of this up only because my reaction to playing Thousand-Year Door was “why did I wait so long to play this?” It was such a bright, fun, surprisingly hilarious take on the Mario franchise and formula. It charmed my proverbial pants off and was way better than I thought it would be. So you know what I did? I put off playing its sequel, Super Paper Mario, because I was worried that it might feel too similar to its predecessor. When I did eventually play it, you know what I thought? “Why did I wait so long to play this?” And when I eventually bought the original Paper Mario on Wii’s Virtual Console and played that? “Why did I wait so long to play this?”
I like to think of myself as a pretty smart guy. I’m no genius, but I can usually spot patterns and learn from them. But I can be an idiot, too, because of course I deftly avoided playing Paper Mario: Color Splash when it came out. I pre-ordered it. It arrived on release day. I was excited to play it. But I didn’t. I don’t even remember why. I think it was that I’d also gotten the PlayStation VR and a bunch of games and there’s only so much time in a day, right?
“Why did I wait so long to play this?” That was my thought a couple of weeks ago when I finally played Color Splash, almost two years after its release. Many people complain about Nintendo “releasing the same game over and over again,” and I think there’s some validity to that gripe, but iteration is also one of Nintendo’s greatest strengths. They are masters at refinement. Color Splash is a little cuter, funnier, and flashier than its predecessors. It has so much visual style in how it presents this beautiful paper world that I kept catching myself admiring the smallest of details. The smallest and cutest of those details is the Holo-Peach, a mini-cardboard Peach that carries messages to Mario. Pictures don’t do the cuteness justice. After it opens up and projects its message, it shuffles toward Mario, arms up, and Mario scoops it up like a little baby. I want one.
I’ve heard people complain about the game losing its RPG elements, but I don’t think it’s that dramatic of a shift. You do gain experience, of sorts, in the form of hammer points, which you use to upgrade the amount of paint you can hold, and the only difference that I could tell about the combat is that it doesn’t display damage in the form of numbers. It’s the same turn-based, action/timing-oriented combat that the others used, I think. Would I like another actual RPG set in the Mario universe? Sure. But I don’t hold that against this game, and either way, in the end, I loved it. Will I learn my lesson if/when Nintendo releases the next Paper Mario game in (hopefully) a year or two? Look for my “why did I wait so long to play this” post in three or four years.
(Source for featured image: https://nerdist.com/paint-to-your-hearts-content-in-paper-mario-color-splash/)