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The Gradual Return of Paper Mario?

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.

paper mario morton

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.

roy color splash

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!

The Advertising Standards Authority Investigates No Man’s Sky

Ever since No Man’s Sky launched, the game has been riddled with controversy over ‘missing features’. The multiplayer seemingly didn’t exist, as tested by two players on Reddit. Planetary physics and functional differences between ships didn’t exist. Landing on asteroids and shooting down space stations wasn’t in the game. Heck, someone over at Reddit even put together a big list pointing out every ‘missing’ part of the title:

The No Man’s Sky ‘Missing Features’ List

But now it seems the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has gotten involved as well. As recently confirmed by Eurogamer, the organisation has launched a full investigation into No Man’s Sky and its marketing material, with the hope being to see whether it could be considered misleading. The investigation will involve looking at numerous marketing materials related to the game. Like say, the official Steam page and website. Or the ads posted on sites like YouTube.

And if it’s proven to be misleading, then the ASA has the power to get it changed or taken down. So the Valve could be compelled to edit the Steam page to remove misleading feature comments. Hello Games could have to edit the trailers and ads to make things clearer. And media sites could be asked not to sell ad space to the company to promote the title in tne near future.

Above: Will this trailer be considered misleading?

So how did the investigation come about? Well, people who bought No Man’s Sky reported it of course. One of these people is a Reddit user called AzzerUK, who had this to say about the situation:

I figured that if we want Steam store pages for games to start falling in-line and stop misleading consumers, then it would take consumers to point these problems out to the ASA, rather than all sit around on Reddit complaining to each other but assuming that it’ll all get sorted by itself eventually

Which is a very reasonable thing to say. After all, games have always been a bit dodgy about promising features and content not present in the actual game. So pointing out these issues to the ASA might help here.

But for now, let’s just wait and see what happens. Maybe No Man’s Sky’s ads will be seen as misleading. Maybe they won’t. But for any future devs, consider this a bit of a wake up call. Unclear or misleading marketing is not a good thing to have for your game.

What do you think about the ASA investigating No Man’s Sky?

Source:

Ad Watchdog Looking at No Man’s Sky (GamesIndustry.biz)

Explosion Royale Beta Found by Stuart Ashens

When it comes to finding lost or cancelled video games, there are usually a few places where you’d normally look. On the internet in some obscure archive site. In a box of CDs auctioned from an old warehouse or ex developer’s office. Maybe on eBay or some other auction site if you’re lucky.

Either way, it’s usually not in a charity shop. You’re not normally gonna the likes of URA Zelda lying around in Cancer Research or Barnardo’s.

But it seems there are always exceptions to that rule. Indeed, a pre alpha of the unfinished ‘Explosion Royale’ game was found by popular YouTube user Stuart Ashen. And oh boy, there’s one heck of a weird story behind this one:

Namely, he found the game in a local charity shop. It didn’t look like anything interesting (just a counterfeit game based on the poor quality of the box), but he felt like trying it out anyway and hence decided to purchase it.

After which, he basically stuffed it in a cupboard for a good few years, before somehow bumping into the folk behind Did You Know Gaming in Tesco and mentioning it as an unfinished game he had in his collection. And so after a bit of discussion, we got these videos of the game:

Pretty neat story, isn’t it?

But what about the game itself? What’s that like anyway?

Well… It’s very unfinished, that’s what. When Ashens said this was a pre alpha, he was not joking in the slightest.

Because dear god, this game was clearly just starting development when it was canned.

For example, none of the items (apart from the gold) can seemingly be picked up in game. Which means destroying the cannon and finishing the first mission is impossible.

And that the collision detection is quite literally near non existent. The enemies and main character can’t hurt each other (the bullets go right through), the player cannot die in any circumstances (even if he falls off the edge of the map or gets blown up), the walls near the waterfall can be passed straight through into the void and well, some items act more like brick walls than collectables.

It’s a shame really, given how good the game could have been had it ever been finished. I mean, it looks and feels like Battalion Wars on the Gamecube. And the pre alpha is already better than a lot of finished games (like Big Rigs). So the full game could have been really good if it’d gotten the chance.

But that’s life. Companies struggle, games get cancelled. At least Explosion Royale got ‘released’ in some format so future generations could experience it and archive the game in a convenient way. At least the folk on Unseen64 and The Cutting Room Floor can document everything about it. It’s cancelled, but it’s not forgotten.

So what do you think? Would you have played Explosion Royale had it been released as a full game? And how does the pre alpha look, given its early status?

Shovel Knight is Appearing in Yooka-Laylee!

No, we’re not making this up. Playtonic Games have announced that Shovel Knight is appearing in Yooka-Laylee. Here’s a picturing showing him in game:

As well as a trailer featuring him in action:

His role isn’t known as of yet, but it’s best to assume he’ll be an NPC you’ll interact with in levels. Maybe he gives you a sidequest or something? Or you have to bring him a certain item for a Pagie?

Either way, it’s a guest appearance by the star of one great indie game in another, and something we can’t wait to find out more about it come Yooka-Laylee’s release!

But what do you think? Are you interested by the prospect of Shovel Knight in Yooka-Laylee? And for that matter, what would you think about the opposite happening at some point?

A Quick Thought About Nintendo NX Rumours

As you may have noticed, Gaming Reinvented has mostly avoided posting about the Nintendo NX and its rumours. Yes, we’ve covered the odd quote by a company like Ubisoft, and we’ve posted about The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, but we’ve never really talked about the NX in general. Some people might be wondering why this is.

Well, here’s why:

nx fake rumour

That’s a rumour from NeoGAF about the NX and how it’s supposedly a hybrid system. According to the original posts, it’s somehow presented by a Foxconn employee working on the system, with the picture being their quick mock up of it.

It’s also complete crap. Indeed, as somehow found out in that same topic, the whole thing was basically from some Chinese message board posters wishlist. Or speculative post about the NX.

So that’s why we won’t be posting NX rumours here. They get some traffic, sure. But 99% turn out to be false or misleading, and it basically ends with us having to go back and correct every article when the post is inevitably debunked. It’s tiresome, and not fair on the readers.

As a result of this, only obviously true leaks will be posted. What’s an obviously true leak? Well, a video of some guy playing the NX system with the controller and main system visible, a game like Breath of the Wild on the TV in front of him/her and a level of video quality at least in line with a decent YouTube video.

Not a drawing that looks like it was done by a 5 year old. Or a text post on 4chan. Not an article that doesn’t cite any sources. Actual real hard evidence.

But since that’s unlikely to happen, it’s more likely the next big NX post will be about the upcoming announcement by Nintendo. The one in October where they actually reveal the console. Via an official channel like a Nintendo Direct or livestream. Isn’t that more interesting than another ‘rumour’?

So what do you think? Are our views on covering NX rumours reasonable?