The surprising success story of Paper Mario: Color Splash

Out of the three most widely reviled Nintendo exclusives this year, the one I was the most pessimistic about was Color Splash. I had not finished Sticker Star at the time it was revealed, and I was not impressed at all by the early clips they showed in Nintendo Directs. Early on, I was actually planning on skipping it, as I don’t really have a lot of time for games these days anyway. But as time went on, I began to be won over by the game. First by Gamexplain’s analysis of the trailer, than by official gameplay footage, and then by the release of the final product which has, very likely, cemented itself as my personal GOTY.

How exactly did this happen? My expectations early on this year were that Star Fox and Fates would be my game of the year, but that did not happen. A part of that was due to my expectations not being met. Star Fox did not introduce nearly enough new features to keep me playing, and Fates was… well, Fates. But Paper Mario did something different. It delivered a product that no one was expecting, and I think that’s a big part of why people have received it surprisingly well, while pretty much everyone I know, myself included, thought it would do poorly due to it’s association with Sticker Star and how that was a ‘bad’ game.

But that did not happen. Actual numbers aren’t in yet, but the fact that idiots aren’t spamming YouTube videos crying about sales says a lot. I know it topped the eshop charts, and I know even vocal critics of Sticker Star like Gamexplain and the muppet fucker Arlo liked it.

Keep in mind Arlo was the guy TTYD fanboys were posting everywhere to try and ‘prove’ that the new direction Paper Mario was going in was inherently a bad idea. He was the big centerpiece of the backlash, and to see him struggle to try find something wrong with Color Splash says a lot about it’s actual quality. I can confirm all the criticisms he lobbied towards the game, specifically towards the combat, should be ignored because it simply isn’t true. He also tries to make the whole ‘adventuring’ aspect of the game, the overworld, sound boring and tedious when it really isn’t.

Fuck Arlo, but even he gave the game a positive review in spite of his pretty clear bias. I don’t think anyone is really criticizing Color Splash right now. In 2016, this was the last Nintendo game I expected to get a pass from Pretendos and end up well received in spite of the controversy surrounding it. How can that be?

A big part of that is due to the fact that the Pretendos could not decide on what the problem with the game was supposed to be. Initially, people thought that the fact that it was a Sticker Star sequel meant that it would be a carbon copy of that game. The issue, at first, was stripping Paper Mario of it’s personality.

But as time went on, we learned that wasn’t the case. Color Splash was filled to the brim with interesting, funny dialogue that gave a lot of personality to the game and characters within. The game actually has lots of fun little stories going on in it, and it’s really charming to people. It really reminds me of The Thousand Year Door in a lot of ways.

Without that huge, killer aspect to the game, TTYD fans really had nothing else fall back on. The complaints about the world map screen, the combat, the level design,  all of that really started to feel hollow the more we saw from the game. It really felt like, after a while, the only complaint that anyone had was that characters didn’t have discernible traits.

As a bit of an aside, has anyone else noticed that the traditional partner designs are being referred to as ‘OC’s?’ As in… Original Characters? The exact same phrase that Deviant Art users who draw Sonic recolors use to justify their creativity? Just an observation.

It really did come off as if the only people complaining about Color Splash were a vocal minority of obsessed fans with nothing better to do. The only real problem they had with Color Splash (And Sticker Star) was because they see it was getting in the way of the’real’ TTYD sequel. But that wasn’t enough to keep people from becoming interested in and enjoying the game, despite how badly they tried to pretend as if it were something terrible.

 

They were under the impression that the only way to save Paper Mario was to return to the TTYD formula, while Nintendo knew that the Sticker Star formula was just fine. It just needed a bit of work to really make it shine. I think other unpopular Nintendo games this year, namely Zero and Federation Force, will get sequels that improve on the original in the same way Color Splash did.

When you have real, genuine talent, you can afford to make mistakes.

 

 

 

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