Our exclusive editorials about the 3DS and its games, as well as Nintendo as a whole.
When it comes to Super Mario 64 hacks, two names tend to be the first that come to mind. One is Super Mario 64: Last Impact, whose developer we interviewed about a week ago. And then there’s Super Mario Star Road.
Aka the most well known Super Mario 64 ever made. Released in 2011 by a hacker named Skelux, it featured 130 new stars across a wide range of interesting levels, as well as numerous ASM additions and custom mechanics years before most hacks had anything to match.
In fact, the game became so popular and well known that it was featured on mainstream news sites, unofficially referred to as a Super Mario 64 sequel and even got some people claiming that it was the best Super Mario 64 ROM hack of all time.
So to commemorate it and bring a bit more attention to its 3DS sequel, here’s our exclusive interview with Skelux himself!
As is the norm, let’s start with a personal question. Can you tell us a bit about yourself in general?
I’m some kangaroo Australian weirdo who has been ROM hacking as a hobby for nearly a decade. I’ve spent quite a lot of this time refining various skills for this such as coding, 3d-modelling, musical composition, and image manipulation among others. In present times I also work as a waiter which I’ve been doing for a couple of years, and moving into teaching IT by the end of the year.
What got you interested in the Mario series?
I’ve been playing Mario games since I was a kid, and found interest in modifying SM64 when I stumbled upon Toad’s Tool 64. After that I collaborated with someone in making the first major SM64 hack, The Missing Stars. He did most of it, I just made a couple of areas, most notably The Secret Woods level.
So why Super Mario 64 in particular? Any reason you got into hacking that game rather than say, Super Mario Bros 1, 3 or World?
Hacking 2D games has never really interested me much since there are more creative limitations, but every now and then I make something, i.e. the Legend of Zelda (NES) hack I made several years ago, or the Super Mario Land 2 (GB) hack I’m currently working on which will be released probably by the end of the month.
Onto the original Super Mario Star Road now. What inspired you to make the game?
I made Star Road because no one else had really made a full custom-model SM64 hack yet. I’m not too proud of most of the level models and game content these days, as they are extremely dated compared to my current standards and abilities. The DS port I’m making serves to correct that.
And what inspired the level design here? Because it’s pretty different from the original Super Mario 64 in feel, and seems a lot more focusing on precision platforming…
The main point I make with my level designs is never to use the same theme twice. Other than that I just tried to be very creative and make the levels fun to explore.
It was also a very technically advanced hack for its time, with stuff like custom enemies and blocks being present in later levels. How did you learn to program for the N64 to make this stuff possible?
There were a few documents to get me started, and the rest I figured out myself. A lot of the functionality of current SM64 hacking is only possible because of the extensive updates I have made to the level-editing software. Many of the issues with the software at the time lead to limitations in the original Star Road, such as levels with small boundaries and a low polygon count, and buggy music importation. This especially affected the music level, ghost level and lava level, since the game would crash if there were more than about 1500 polygons.
People’s reactions to Star Road have generally been pretty positive over the years, with some people calling it the ‘best Mario 64 hack ever’. Did you expect this amount of popularity or acclaim?
Above: Star Road actually got a magazine feature about it in Nintendo Gamer
I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this popular, no. I’m hoping my DS port can receive the same level of attention.
Do you ever think you made some of the levels too easy or too hard though?
The difficulty was somewhat inconsistent, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it really.
A few general questions now. What’s your favourite level in the original Star Road, and why?
My favourite might be the toy level, I just feel there are a lot of creative ideas in it.
And your least favourite?
My least favourite is probably Mad Musical Mess, it was pretty bad compared to what I had originally envisioned – again, this was a result of buggy software.
So it seems you’re remaking the game as a Mario 64 DS hack. What’s the reason for this? Did you just want to try out a different game engine?
I like playing around with a variety of different game engines, plus I want to make a version of the game which doesn’t have all the drawbacks of the original – including being able to play it on real hardware.
I also hear it makes some fundamental game design changes, like toning down Gloomy Garden or removing those bee enemies. Is that true? And what other changes do you have in mind for the DS version of the game?
Yes, it is extremely different. If you’ve played the original Star Road, the DS port won’t just feel like a port. The level designs are very much improved, matching my current standards for game design.
What about Yoshi, Luigi and Wario? How does the game accommodate them?
I haven’t entirely figured that one out yet, I might be replacing Wario and/or Yoshi with different characters.
They have new Power Flower abilities too. Does the level design now incorporate those?
And they’re also usually locked up. Do you plan new levels to unlock them as playable characters? Are Goomboss, King Boo and Chief Chilly still the bosses in said levels?
Yes, there are new levels where you unlock the characters, and some cool new bosses, none of the originals.
When it comes to 3D platformers, it’s easy to think the genre is on its last legs. Rare have given up on Banjo-Kazooie. Nintendo has slowly gotten rid of any real exploration in their 3D Mario platformers. And heck, even the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro are now wasting away in the Skylanders franchise instead of headlining their own games. So who’s even left now?
Well, quite a few games really! Because thanks to all those kids growing up playing the N64 and PS1, a whole host of indie developers have now taken on the role of trying to resurrect the 3D platformer. From Banjo-Kazooie successors like Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time to linear Crash Bandicoot successors like Tiny Knight, it seems the 3D platformer is just about to make a long awaited comeback!
So let’s look at them. Let’s look at the many indie 3D platformers that have been in development over the last three years or so. And the list begins with…
Systems: Microsoft Windows, OSX
Developer: Gears for Breakfast
With a game pretty much everyone knows about by now. A Hat in Time is an upcoming 3D platformer by a company called Gears for Breakfast, which plays like a mixture of Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie and the 3D Legend of Zelda titles.
The game stars an interstellar traveller called Hat Girl, whose spaceship is apparently broken into by the Mafia (from the first world of the game). This results in all her spaceship’s fuel (called Time Pieces) being scattered across the world and a trip across the world to get them all in order to stop her enemy Mustache Girl from taking them and time being broken as a result.
Either way, it’s a game we’ve covered a lot here before, so we won’t go into too much detail here. Instead, look at its features in our comparison article, and the marvel at how professional this game really looks.
And people knew that. Why? Because the game did really well on Kickstarter, raising a whopping $296,000 in total. That’s impressive for an indie game by a team with no chosen track record, don’t you think?
But hey, enough about that one. Now onto something a few less people have heard about…
Systems: Wii U eShop
Developer: Fuzzy Wuzzy Games
Namely, Armillo for the Nintendo eShop. This 3D platformer has a strange style of gameplay reminiscent of cross between Mario 64 and Super Monkey Ball, with our hero rolling around various worlds in a ball and jumping across platforms and solving puzzles in the process.
It’s not quite as a big a title as A Hat in Time or Yooka-Laylee, but it’s a decent enough title anyway (with a 72% average at Metacritic), and possibly one worth checking out if you want a 3D platformer for the Wii U without waiting for 2017 (when the other such games are being released).
Systems: Windows, Linux, Wii U, OSX
Developer: Rob Wass
However, while the other games mentioned so far were loosely inspired by Banjo-Kazooie, there are actually some other indie platformers which are a bit more… blatant. Like Clive n’ Wrench, a Banjo-Kazooie style collectathon starring a humanoid rabbit and a monkey who act much like their bear and bird brethren. In this title, they have to journey across various time periods to save the world from the evil Dr Daucus and his world dominating scheme. While doing this, they have to collect the Watches and Ancient Stones to open up new eras and stop Daucus from collecting the fabled Bunny Medals and becoming immortal in the process. And well, dodging the doctor’s minions in the process.
In other words? It’s basically Banjo-Kazooie with Clive standing in for Banjo, Wrench for Kazooie, Dr Daucus for Gruntilda and the collectables for the Jiggies and Notes.
Unfortunately for the team behind it, the project didn’t do too hot on Kickstarter. This is partly because Yooka-Laylee was basically the same concept with better aesthetics and more ‘star power’ behind it, and partly because well, the trailer was absolutely terrible:
Yeah, it’s not exactly something that inspires you to back the game, is it? The narrator alone was pretty obnoxious, and that’s all without getting into the actual game footage and how it was presented. As a result, it made about $2000 of a $25,000 goal on Kickstarter and ended its campaign in failure.
Still, there is some positive news to come from this. Namely, the Kickstarter failure didn’t actually lead to the end of the project, with the game’s team continuing development regardless of the Kickstarter’s outcome. So development is currently continuing, and the game will be available to play one day.
But for now? Let’s look at a different type of game. One that seems to have been released, albeit while dropping off the radar immediately afterwards.
Systems: Windows, OSX, Linux, Ouya, Wii U
Developer: Kitatus Studios
And by dropped of the radar, I mean absolutely no information seems to be present online about this game or what actually happened to it. It’s got a GameFAQs page with a release date of February 24th 2014, but there’s no actual information there about any of the game’s content.
There’s a few links on IndieDB implying it was on Steam Greenlight at one point, but it seems to have been taken down in the last few years or so. A Mac games store used to have it, but currently says its out of stock and has no idea when more copies will be available to buy. And with IndieDB saying it’s not in development any more, it’s a bit of a mystery what exactly happened to this title.
Was the one released an alpha? Cause that’s the only version that any reviews exist for. Was it really so unpopular that no one made a single video or forum topic about it before the game went down?
Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever really know. It’s a shame given the intriguing ideas included in the game’s storyline (like how in your escape from an alien prison, you find portals to new worlds and save them from the alien overlords as well), or the original art style (it seems to be cel shaded), but hey, problems happen, and companies go bankrupt.
It’s just a shame that this game ended up mostly lost to history because of it.
Systems: PC, OSX, Linux
Developer: Called Shot LLC
Which unfortunately, seems to be the roughly the same thing that occurred with the ‘Electric Adventures of Watt’ game too. Set on a dark planet involved in a war between the forces of light and dark, this game had you take one of two sides and destroy your enemies with powers related to the side you chose. In other words, it was a ‘head to head’ platformer inspired by Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Psychonauts and Limbo.
Which on the face of it, sounds like a pretty good idea. However, the Electric Adventures of Watt did not do well in getting funding. Even with an (extremely low) goal of $14,000, the game barely reached $1,335, a paltry amount barely made acceptable by the ‘flexible funding’ on the Indiegogo site.
And that was obviously nowhere near enough for the team, since all development on the project stopped dead in late 2013. So what went wrong here?
Well, in a nutshell, they showed no game footage. They had a campaign sure, but it was entirely concept art based with a lot of story and character details instead of any actual proof the game had started development. That’s not a good thing when raising funds. Remember, people don’t want mock-ups and visions of a product, they want proof there’s an actual product being worked on right now and that the creators are the people who can realise it.
The Electric Adventures of Watt had none of that. So like many other crowd funded games, it’s interesting ideas were wasted as the project sank without a trace.
Developer: Studio Besus
But that’s not a fate that Firewing 64 will likely share! Why? Because unlike the Electric Adventures of Watt, Firewing 64 actually has a real trailer showing the game in action! Here it is:
As you can see, it’s a 3D platformer very much inspired by the Spyro series from the original PlayStation. You play as a dragon (presumably called Firewing), run around collecting items and stomping on bad guys and get various extra abilities like the power to fly through the air in the process.
Heck, there’s even apparently a kart racing section!
Also interestingly here, the game doesn’t seem to be on any crowdfunding sites. Instead, each of the versions/demos can be downloaded from the official site or IndieDB as the game gets updated. So yeah, it seems like the folks at ‘Studio Besus’ are just outright making their dream game there and then rather than expecting people to pay them thousands of dollars to do so. Talk about a smart move in today’s day and age!
Oh, and talking of games you can get already…
Systems: PC, Wii U
Developer: Rainy Night Creations
There’s FreezeMe, a Mario 64 successor for the Wii U. Originally launched on Kickstarter in early 2015, the game had a lot of trouble getting funded and fell short of its goal by more than $10,000.
But developers Rainy Night Creations fortunately didn’t let that stop them! Oh no, they kept developing the game, kept improving it for a few months and then managed to release the whole thing on the Wii U eShop by February 2016! That’s extremely impressive, especially given how ambitious the title was and the sheer scale of the worlds you explore in this game.
So what’s the game actually about? Well apparently, it’s about a photographer called R who can freeze time by taking pictures with her camera. She’s on the trailer of her best friend ‘M’, who’s been kidnapped by the main villain ‘Fat the Cat’ as part of his plan to create a ‘Dog-Free-World’. It’s not exactly a complex storyline, but it’s a decent enough excuse plot regardless.
And as far as quality? Apparently it’s pretty good according to the reviews I’ve read. Nothing on the level of Mario 64 or Banjo (or the upcoming Yooka-Laylee), but a decent enough experience that might keep a die hard 3D platformer fan satisfied while waiting for the bigger budget titles to come out in 2017 or so.
Developer: Vamped Games
Moving onto another title now, with the oddly titled ‘Funk Unplugged’ game. Starring a living amplifier called ‘Ampy’, this game has him ‘repairing a broken world with the power of good vibes’. Or in other words, saving his world with music.
In other words, it’s a fairly typical 3D platformer in the style of those from the N64 era. But it seems to be a decent enough take on the genre none the less, to the point the title managed to both reach its funding goal on Kickstarter and get greenlit over on Steam, It’s in active development too, with a new demo released just months ago and the latest trailer being uploaded last week.
Definitely a title that could be worth checking out when it’s completed!
Systems: Windows, OSX, Linux, Oculus Rift
Developer: Prismic Studios
Just like this one, which is now available to buy in full right now! Gnomes vs Fairies: Greckel’s Quest is another one of those unique genre blending indie titles that likely comes across as ten times more complex in the description. A ‘Hack n slash-action RPG platformer’ set in a magical land, the title has your gnome protagonist trying to take back the land of Ventocia from the evil fairies, who’ve taken over your home, captured your friends and who are now ruling the world with an iron fist. So it’s your job to fight back, with everything from weapons to magical spells! A pretty neat concept, especially given how much depth this stuff might add to the platformer gameplay.
Either way, it’s out, it’s available on Steam and it might be a decent time killer while waiting for the likes of Yooka-Laylee and Lobodestroyo to get finished.
Go and check it out if you’re a bit bored.
Developer: Breaker Box Studios
But back to Kickstarter campaigns now, with Griff the Winged Lion. Inspired by Spyro and Crash Bandicoot, the game has a winged lion called Griff save various realms from the forces of evil by beating up mythological creatures and turning things into gold with your magical powers. It’s fairly typical 3D platforming stuff for the most part, and you can see its influences right there and crystal clear.
Like say, with a Crash Bandicoot style chase section, various boxes that give you money when shattered and the obvious ability to glide large distances with your wings.
But hey, at least it’s more inspired by PS1 games than N64 games this time around, and it does look nice enough to be worth playing in the future. Well, if it reaches its funding goal anyway, since it’s only at $906 of $15,000 with two days left to go.
Another potentially decent choice here.
Systems: PC, OSX, Linux
Developer: Occultimate Games
Continuing the 3D platformer line up, we now have perhaps the most awkwardly named N64 throwback you can possibly think of. Aka, ‘Spooky Poo’s Happy Hell’, a name which simultaneously manages to put off both kids and parents at the exact same time!
Still, the game itself seems like it’s better than the name lets on. I mean, how many other collectathons have your protagonist make a deal with the devil before the game begins, and then manages to have the whole game set in hell as a result? Pretty few, I’ll say that much!
And with new abilities gained by literally selling your soul and the areas based on hell in Dante’s Inferno, this game is certainly a little darker in terms of story themes!
So it seems like a cult classic in the making if you ask me. It reached its funding goal, but not by very much. It looks okay, but nowhere near as ‘good’ as a lot of its competitors in the space. And with a story and name like that one, it’s one of those titles a mainstream audience likely won’t buy barring a miracle.
It’ll probably be something you’ll see written about on Hardcore Gaming 101 at some point (assuming it’s released). But hey, it could be worth a shot, if you want something a little more unusual from your 3D platformer!
Kind of like the next game really…
Which has one of the most heart-warming concepts in a video game to date. Why? Because this game is being developed to support various charities helping kids suffering from cancer, that’s why. Set in an island world, the game follows the adventure of a girl named Hope who’s life is ‘turned upside down’ by a mysterious monster called Cancer that falls from the sky and lands on her island home. So like you do in these games, she has to travel to the neighbouring islands to collect items that make her more powerful in order to prepare for the ultimate fight to defeat the monster and save her world.
It’s one of those games that actually makes you proud to be a gamer, especially when you realise that the team behind it created the title so kids in hospitals could feel stronger and more courageous about their real life fight with cancer after defeating the similar monster in the game.
And unlike a lot of educational or emotional games (like those awful, awful SNES games about diabetes or dental hygiene), this one seems like it’ll be a solid game in its own right, with the message communicated via a trek through interesting worlds that everyone can appreciate on a game design level as well as an emotional one.
Sadly though, it seems this wasn’t enough for the Indiegogo campaign to hit its target, with the campaign only raising $1,707 out of its $20,000 goal. And while that didn’t lead its cancellation like with so many other projects on crowdfunding sites, it still meant the title’s potential is likely not going to be realised as well as it could have been.
It’s a creative looking platformer which could have sent a positive message as well. Which is sadly a bit of a far cry from the next title on the list.
Systems: Windows, OSX, Linux
Aka, the Yooka-Laylee clone that originally advertised Grant Kirkhope as the composer, then had the bad luck of him leaving the team immediately afterwards.
There are some awkward character designs, like a female protagonist that seems like she’s straight out a Sonic fan game. There are some questionable levels (like the haunted house one with all those narrow corridors and precision jumps). And before a recent change, it even directly copied Yooka-Laylee’s Kickstarter page design.
It’s got some interesting stuff (like swappable partners), but for the most part, it seems like Yooka-Laylee 1.5 with a less experienced team.
Systems: PC, Max, Linux, Wii U, Ouya, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Lefthanded Studios
Which is fortunately not something you can say about this title. Covered heavily on Gaming Reinvented already, Lobodestroyo (or The Legend of el Lobodestroyo Vs. la Liga de los Villanos in full) has luchador wolf Mutt trying to rescue his captured friends and defeat the evil villains who’ve taken over parts of the world.
Here’s the Kickstarter video, in case you’ve forgotten about it:
Either way, we’ve covered it a fair amount in the past already, so read up on the game in our interview, or in our comparison between this, A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee. For now though, we’ll just move onto the next title in line…
When it comes to the Paper Mario series, it’s pretty clear the series has been going in the wrong direction. There are fewer original characters and elements not found in the New Super Mario Bros games. The battle system is no longer a traditional RPG one, with things like experience and levelling up being completely removed.
And with partners no longer a mechanic in the games, the overworld exploration has become a lot less enjoyable than it used to be.
But while Nintendo’s dropped the ball on the Paper Mario series, it seems there are indeed other companies willing to pick it back up! Yes, Paper Mario is getting some spiritual successors! And while they’re not quite as popular as Yooka-Laylee or Mighty No 9 have been, these games still promise to offer the old school fans what they want from Paper Mario. Namely, good old turn based RPG gameplay with a paper style aesthetic!
So let’s take a look shall we? Let’s look at some of these successors and see which ones really do recapture the feel of the early Paper Mario titles!
Kickstarter Funding: $61,787 CAD
The first of which is a pretty unique game indeed. Billed as Harry Potter meets Paper Mario, Ikenfell is an RPG adventure game about wizards and witches attending a Hogwarts style magic school and the ‘trouble they get into’.
It’s an interesting concept for a game. And the people on Kickstarter seemingly think so too. Why? Because as mentioned above, they poured more than $60,000 in this title. So we’ve certainly now got proof that Paper Mario style RPGs can be a potentially lucrative market if you show them well.
However, I will point out one thing.
Based on the screenshots and videos, Ikenfell could possibly be better described as a Mario & Luigi successor rather than a Paper Mario one. It’s got a similar graphical perspective to those games and the gameplay looks closer to a hybrid between that and the Legend of Zelda than it does Paper Mario.
But hey, if the creators call it a Paper Mario like game, who am I to argue here? It’s a bit less Paper Mario inspired than our next game though…
Another game following up on the Paper Mario formula, Paper Bug is.. basically Paper Mario with the characters replaced with bugs. It’s kind of in the name you know?
But none the less, it’s an interesting project in its own right. Why? Because it’s a very quiet, understated little game that’s not been heavily advertised online and instead gets regular updates on its official Tumblr blog. There’s no Kickstarter, no Indiegogo campaign, very little coverage on gaming news sites… yet the team still ploughs on regardless. It’s like a time warp to how indie games used to be developed. Quietly with regular updates and without demands for large amounts of money from online backers.
So while it’s not the flashiest project, it’s still one that could be worth looking out for at some point in the future. Which seems to be more than can be said about this title…
Kickstarter Funding: $1,644
Named Paper Knight’s Story and developed by ‘InQu Games’, this game was basically trying to be a free successor to Paper Mario. Yes, free. The campaign actually said the game was going to distributed for free when it was finished.
And it did okay too. It raised $1,644 on Kickstarter (not a massive sum, but much better than most of its competition), was fully funded at the end of its campaign and even had two episodes released!
But here’s the catch.
That’s all that happened.
The finished game? Never released. The online services? Not forthcoming. InQu Games’ activity on social media? Absolutely non existent since March 2013 or so.
Basically, the team took the money, worked on it for a bit and vanished never to be seen again. So yeah, we definitely got part of a Paper Mario successor. Just not anywhere near the full thing.
Thankfully, the next game likely won’t suffer the same fate…
Because the Paper Soul Theatre devs Otyugra Games’ pretty much never leaves the Paper Mario subreddit. So hey, they’re already communicating with their fans more than some indie devs we know about!
Either way, Paper Soul Theatre is a… fairly odd little game. For starters, while the odd song and graphics update is posted on the official site, there’s not really a lot of information about the title as a whole or any footage showing it in action. So actually figuring out how the game plays or what stage it’s at is pretty difficult.
And it’s also got one hell of a strange concept to boot. I mean, can you picture what this game is trying to be from its official description? From this one paragraph written below?
Paper Soul Theater is a subversive 3D turn-based RPG/platformer/survival horror video game, modelled after “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door,” about a girl in a surreal fantasy world, and the allies she gains, who use peaceful communication, violence, spiritual help, and the power of ancient totems to stop crusaders from beginning a devastating war with her weak confederacy.
Because to be honest, I can’t. It sounds like a weird hybrid of Paper Mario, Super Paper Mario, Fire Emblem and Resident Evil based on the description, which is certainly not a combination I can make much sense of without a trailer or screenshots.
Still, it’s not cancelled, and the team do still post online on a regular basis, so we should have some sort of preview at one point or another. There’s still the strong possibility that Paper Soul Theatre will be finished at some point in the foreseeable future.
Which isn’t likely the case with the next game on the list…
Kickstarter Funding: Unsuccessful ($276 of $175,000 goal)
Because Paper Tails did not do too well on Kickstarter. In fact, it bombed really hard, to the point only 0.1% of its target was met before the campaign ended.
Either way, Paper Mario 1.5 with flash animation (or Paper Tails as its actually known) was a very clear attempt at cloning Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door. Like, so close you could make a Paper Mario fan game by swapping the graphics and music out. That close.
And like so many other indie games, the team decided to take it to Kickstarter. Which is honestly where the game’s issues came in.
Because you see, their target was not small, like the $1500 one for Paper Knight’s Story. Oh no, they wanted $175,000 for this game. Which as you can probably tell, looked closer to a Newgrounds flash game that something you’d see on consoles.
And which was topped off with a marketing campaign that puts the Wii U’s to shame. (Read, no marketing campaign whatsoever).
As a result, it didn’t pay off. The game bombed hard, updates have been scarce for ages, and all activity related to the title online has completely dried up. It did get greenlit on Steam, but whether that’s ever going to lead to a finished game is another story.
Either way, it’s a good warning for indie devs considering a Kickstarter. Namely, make your game look decent before trying to raise money, and then actually bother to advertise it in some meaningful way. Otherwise you’ll go down like Paper Tails did!
Let’s move onto a better project now. Like South Park: The Stick of Truth for PC and modern consoles.
The only Paper Mario ‘clone’ that’s actually been released in full, South Park: The Stick of Truth is basically Paper Mario, except with South Park characters and themes instead of Mario ones. You explore various parts of the South Park town (in much the way you’d explore Paper Mario’s locales), you fight battles with action commands playing a crucial role, and as you can expect, there’s a lot of humour to be had here. After all, what did you expect? It’s based on a animated comedy show!
Here’s a video showing the game in action (the trailers show barely any gameplay footage):
As well as the link to get the game on Steam:
South Park: the Stick of Truth on Steam
It’s definitely one you should check out, if you’re a Paper Mario fan that happens to also be a fan of the South Park series. Or if you just want to try out a genuinely good licensed game for a change (cause damn those are rare)!
Indiegogo Funding: €142 (of €10,000 flexible goal)
But back to unreleased games now, with an interesting little RPG game called the Donnerwald Experiment. Set in a strange world filled with speaking animals, unusual robots and the ruins of ancient civilisations, it stars a mechanic called Johanna as she gets dragged into ‘an insane project called the Donnerwald Experiment’.
And it’s not just the story that’s a little unusual here. Oh no, the game design itself seems to be an odd hybrid between a standard eastern RPG and a western one, with players give the choice on how they want to handle the game world and story. They can cooperate with the inhabitants to make the world better. They can run away, never to return. Or heck, they can just kill everyone and destroy the world outright. It’s like in say, the Elder Scrolls or Fallout.
The battle system sounds interesting too. It’s got action commands and partners, like in Paper Mario. But you’re not meeting these partners. Oh no, you’re apparently building them from scratch, with your skills as a master mechanic and robot builder. There are also Pokemon style elemental types too, and a system that dictates how many moves you get per turn like in Sticker Star and later games.
So it’s a very unique title really. I mean okay, it’s probably not gonna reach it’s goal (cause getting 99% more backers in 8 hours would be insane), but it definitely looks like a new take on the Paper Mario formula, and one that’s a damn lot more creative than Color Splash. So it could be worth checking out.
But the Donnerwald Experiment isn’t the only Paper Mario inspired game on Indiegogo…
Indiegogo Funding: $300 (of $10,000 flexible goal)
Oh no, Underhero is listed there too. And this one… is again not your typical Paper Mario successor.
Because it’s a side scroller. You know, like Super Paper Mario was on the Wii. Or those various Paper Mario fan games are on MFGG.
Here’s the trailer from its Steam Greenlight page (where it was greenlit by the community):
As you can see, this one has quite a lot going for it. There’s a nice unique art style with some really impressive pixel art. The battle system looks inspired by (but not too close to) the Paper Mario series. And heck, the characters even speak ‘simlish’ or ‘Banjo speak’ like in Rare’s N64 titles!
It’s a good game, and one that seems to be in active development as we speak.
So that ends our list of Paper Mario spiritual successors! Some of the games look amazing and seem like they’re bring their own unique mechanics to the genre, some outright clone the Thousand Year Door with original characters. None the less, there are plenty of titles out there for you old school Paper Mario fans, and plenty of alternatives do exist for those uncomfortable with Sticker Star and Color Splash’s changes to the series.
But what do you think? Do any of these spiritual successors fill the void left by Nintendo’s changes to the Paper Mario series? Could any of these titles be more enjoyable to play than Paper Splash on the Wii U? Or are you waiting til Nintendo themselves makes a new Paper Mario game instead?
When it comes to Paper Mario, just about everyone will agree it’s declined over the last few years. With Super Paper Mario being a weird platformer/RPG hybrid and Sticker Star having no original characters, there have been lots of articles and videos about the death of the series and how Nintendo has screwed it over. How Miyamoto has ruined it based on surveys.
How Paper Mario Color Splash is Sticker Star 2 and marks the final nail in the franchise’s coffin.
You know, that sort of thing.
But is all this negativity misguided? Are the calls to #MakePaperMarioGreatAgain a little premature?
Well, I think so. In fact, I think Color Splash (and Paper Jam before it) are evidence that the series is actually returning to its roots, and that Miyamoto’s stranglehold on the series is gradually being loosened.
So here’s why…
The Content is Getting More Interesting
Because when you think about it, there seems to be a slow but gradual return to the more original characters and settings as the game goes on. Think about it.
You’ve had Paper Mario Sticker Star, where all worlds were generic Mario stuff. You had grass land, desert land, forest land, ice land, Bowser’s Castle, etc. All very predictable, and with a few memorable exceptions (mostly in the ice world with the Enigmansion and boss), as generic and New Super Mario Bros like as you can get. Characters are all identical Toads, and bosses are 99% grunts with a fancy sticker crown on their heads.
Then came Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. Yes, it’s a Mario & Luigi crossover more than a Paper Mario one, but still. It had areas with actual names and interesting themes, there were some more interesting things to do there (like the weirdly ghost antics in Gloomy Woods and the drill puzzle stuff in Mount Brrr) and it even had a few more ‘original’ areas too. Like the Twinsy Tropics Dungeon (Guantanamo Bay in a Mario game!). And heck, even the characters were a bit more interesting here. Like how King Boo, King Bob-omb and Nabbit all appeared with interesting, unique personalities.
And when Color Splash came around, things arguably got a bit better still. Characters with new designs returned in a limited way (like the Rescue Squad, Rock Paper Wizard and the Paint Stars themselves). World themes actually got unique again, with a military base, Super Paper Mario like SMB 3 remix and circus being stand outs. And an RPG esque upgrade system that actually makes it more like the original Paper Mario games, not less.
So on a content and character level, it’s improving. But that’s not the only thing that’s getting better, is it?
Characters are Seeing their Personality Return
Oh no, even the characters personalities are getting better in these games.
Remember how generic Bowser was in Sticker Star? How he never spoke in the entire game and had zero personality?
Well, in Paper Jam, he returned to his older Paper Mario personality, albeit with a slightly darker side. And in Color Splash, he’s again the comic relief.
Same goes with Peach (who now has lines and something of a personality), the Toads and everyone else in the game.
But it’s not just characters and general content that’s improving. Because…
Stories are Getting Better
With each Paper Mario game since Sticker Star gradually making the story less and less like the main series than the last.
For example, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam may have had Peach captured, but it was all presented in a way far superior to Sticker Star. Both versions of Peach tried to escape the castle rather than staying put right till the final boss battle. The Koopa Troop was using Toads as slaves to mine ore in a dungeon under Twinsy Tropics, to find the fuel for the flying castle they’d later use. And heck, Bowser even kind of gets over his princess crush in that title!
No seriously. Not only does he not try and get Peach back after the midway point, but he outright tries to kill her and destroy the entire castle:
That’s pretty shocking if you ask me! As is Bowser and his paper counterpart planning to burn the paper book (and hence Paper Mario universe) with the Mario bros and friends trapped inside. Again, not something you’d expect from Bowser, and possibly evidence the Paper Mario games are willing to try something new.
Which brings us to Color Splash. What happens in this one?
Well, Bowser not being evil, that’s what. He’s not really behind the events of the storyline.
Yes, he’s shown in game as a villain and you do fight him. But in this title, he’s been possessed by the black paint from the fountain, and turned into a malevolent being of pure evil and destruction. You can actually see this in the battle, where he’s confused about why he’s fighting Mario to begin with.
In other words, it’s basically a lot like what happens in Superstar Saga with ‘Bowletta’. Or Partners in Time with ‘Shrowser’. Except you know, the real villain doesn’t fight you as a separate entity. We have a new villain in all but gameplay.
So the story is getting significantly better in each of these titles. Maybe not up to the standards of the original three games, but certainly more interesting than a standard princess kidnap plot like in the New Super Mario Bros games and Sticker Star.
And with the characters and content getting better, the storyline improving and the character personalities getting deeper and more enjoyable, what’s left?
Answer: The battle system. Which also seems to be getting a tad better:
The Battle System is Improving
Cause in Color Splash, the bosses seem to be gradually moving away from the ‘Thing needed to defeat puzzle boss’ concept.
Think about it a minute. What’s the only notable thing that seems to improve over the course of the game?
It’s the Koopaling fights. Because they get less and less Thing dependent as the adventure moves on.
For instance, Morton (the first one you seem to face) is pretty clearly a puzzle boss through and through. His flaming hammer will obliterate you if you can’t counteract it, and putting it out makes him weak enough to be defeated easily. So that’s very similar to the Sticker Star fights.
But then the others seem to get less boring. Iggy has the chariots he rides in, yet you only need the Bone Thing for the second half of the battle. The first one? Pretty much an entirely typical RPG style boss battle where you choose any attacks you like and attempt to block his attacks.
And in turn, that continues until the last two or so Koopalings. These ones (Lemmy and Roy) are for to all extents and purposes, not puzzle bosses. They have gimmicks, but the Thing card is used at most once during the battle for a specific event and then never again. I mean, go back and look at the Roy Koopa fight shown in the livestream. Literally 95% of it comes before you need the Washer thing.
Add how Bowser himself (from what I remember) doesn’t need any Things to beat, and it seems like the series is gradually improving the combat and moving away from puzzle based bosses in general. Yeah, it’s small steps, and it’s not as complex as in Thousand Year Door or the original. But it’s a damn marked improvement over Sticker Star’s boss difficulty brick walls. A sign that someone at Intelligent Systems does want a decent combat system and fun bosses in these games.
So yeah, I think Paper Mario is indeed returning to its roots and getting more interesting. It’s slow and it’s happening bit by bit, but Paper Jam and Color Splash are miles ahead of Sticker Star in terms of quality none the less. Maybe Intelligent Systems and Nintendo are already starting to make Paper Mario great again.
But what do you think? Is Paper Mario returning to the good old days, one small step at a time? Or do you think Color Splash is just more evidence of the franchise’s terminal decline? Either way, post your thoughts at the Gaming Reinvented forums or on social media today!
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