It’s hard to believe that, with all the years the franchise has been out, Paper Mario has never had any sort of high-definition treatment. It’s certainly a game that’s deserving of the format, with its colorful environments and its awe-inspiring visual style. But better late than never, as Intelligent Systems and Nintendo finally get to present it to the format with Paper Mario: Color Splash.
Considering this is Nintendo’s big Wii U title for the holiday season (the 3DS is getting a lot more love with games like Pokémon and Yo-Kai Watch 2), there’s a lot riding on this title. But, fortunately, the team manages to do a fine job, even if the game’s role-playing elements aren’t always in sync with what worked so well in the past. Regardless, you’ll have a good time, mainly with the strength of the story and the dazzling presentation.
The new battle system involved with Color Splash deals with cards, which are earned over the course of the game. You’ll use these in the course of each battle, each with different effects and techniques. However, it’s how you use them that can get a little monotonous, as you use the GamePad to move the card, color in the card (the more color it is, the more effective it is in battle), and then deal it out to do damage, using controller functions to add extra damage. It can get a little tiring with all the battles that happen, but it’s still effective, especially against boss enemies.
Other than that, Color Splash has a lot going for it, as it has a deep exploration theme. Mario makes his way around Prism Island – a place bereft of citizens and, in some spots, color – using his hammer and the assistance of a paint can named Huey to restore certain elements to it. Along the way, he’ll have to contend with enemies and sometimes even reshape the course of the world itself to bring it back to normal. One sequence involving a level actually folding up on him while avoiding debris falling from the top is actually a pretty cool one.
Being able to color in elements of the world and clean up on coins is pretty cool, and unlocking new levels and seeing what new dangers unearth in it is a lot of fun as well. Again, you’ll have to put up with the fight system a little bit, but it’s worth it – especially as you discover new areas.
That’s because Intelligence Systems did a superb job with the game’s presentation. The colors of Paper Mario come to life like never before, with excellent 3D level presentations, beautiful rainbow-esque displays, and quality character work. This is easily one of the best Paper Mario games we’ve seen to date – imagine how much better it could be once the new NX adventure rolls around.
What’s more, the writing is awesome, mainly because of the splendid sense of humor on display. There are plenty of great jokes in here, especially ones that we’re surprised got by Nintendo’s usual kid-friendly squad. They’re hilarious, and help the story move along with ease.
On top of that, whoever did the soundtrack deserves a hearty pat on the back. Filled with beats that go from country to dance to smooth jazz (yes, smooth jazz), it’s a sheer delight to listen to, and the sound effects are old-school Paper Mario at their finest. I loved listening to this game.
So, yeah, while Color Splash isn’t quite perfect when it comes to its battle system, there’s still more than enough to enjoy here, especially when it comes to exploration, storyline, genuine laughs and solid presentation. If all you have is a Wii U this holiday season, consider this a colorful addition to your collection.