BUG FABLES: THE EVERLASTING SAPLING Is Not The PAPER MARIO We Deserved, But The One We Needed

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is slowly becoming one of my favourite games of the year, and I simply cannot praise the developers enough for the amazing job they've done; I will try, though.

Reviews Opinion

I played the original Paper Mario when it released in February of 2001 and dumb 17 year-old me wasn't immediately sold on the game because I wrongly compared it to Square Enix's phenomenal Super Mario RPG. I gave the game a chance, however, and ended up loving it even more than Square Enix's critically acclaimed title.

When Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was released, I was first in line to purchase the game on launch day, and loved the game almost as much as the first one; if not more, actually. This new game was full of charm, edgy, and hilarious dialogue, and the same battle mechanics seen in Paper Mario; everything was there, and was getting my fair share of RPG greatness.

I never got the chance to play Super Paper Mario, but I knew the game had strayed from the original formula, so I didn't really feel like I was missing out. Then came Paper Mario: Sticker Star; a game that I played, completed, and felt like nothing more than a waste of time.

While I do know that there is another Paper Mario for the Wii U, the series died for me after Sticker Star, and it wasn't until I first heard about this new developer that was working on a spiritual successor to the original Paper Mario games that I felt like I still needed that does of classic RPG games that I wasn't getting from Nintendo.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a role-playing game developed by Panamanian developer Moonsprout Games that is heavily inspired by the first two titles in the Paper Mario series, but don't let that fool you, since there is a lot to love about this game that isn't necessarily inspired by Nintendo's long-neglected RPG franchise.

Moonsprout Games' new RPG title originally launched on PC last year, but the game was finally released for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One a bit over a week ago. I purchased it, and immediately fell in love with its characters, gameplay, soundtrack, and overall charm.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a game that isn't afraid to show that it was inspired by the Paper Mario series, but it isn't really trying to be a Paper Mario game — and that just may actually be the best part of it; it feels like a breath of fresh air for the genre as a whole.

The game introduces us to Vi, Kabbu, and Leif as its main protagonists — each with their unique personalities and complementary abilities — who go on an adventure that will put all of them to the test; it's a simple premise that will soon have you on the edge of your seat.

Before we go ahead, no details about the story will be shared in this review, since it is best for players to go in blind in order to enjoy the game to the fullest, but you will soon fall in love with these characters, and the game's charming world. For the sake of the review, I played the game on the Nintendo Switch.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about the game's combat.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling has borrowed all of the best elements found in the Paper Mario series, and the developers have even squeezed in some new mechanics that makes each of these character essential, since some enemies can only be defeated by specific abilities that are unique to Vi, Kabbu, and Leif. 

The game uses a turn-based combat system that actually feels more dynamic than most mechanics found in the genre, and this dynamism comes from the fact that in order to effectively land these attacks, players need to actively input commands that test their accuracy and timing.

I'll make a bold assumption here, but I'm pretty sure that even players who don't like turn-based combat in role-playing games will still get a kick out of the combat system in Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling; lots of strategy, and most of the characters' regular attacks feel like playing a mini game in their own right.

In terms of visuals, Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling looks like an HD version of the classic Paper Mario games, but the world itself shines when you see just how creative the developers were when designing all of the unique NPC characters players will come across, especially the enemies and how menacing some of them actually look, as well as all of the varied locations they will be visiting.

When it comes to the soundtrack, the game immediately captivated me with its ridiculously uplifting, and charming main theme, and I cannot wait until the official soundtrack becomes available to purchase.

While it is true that a big part of the game is the presentation, from a visual standpoint, the game is mainly brought to life by French composer Tristan Alric — who has done a wonderful job, well, bringing life to the game. I don't know if he was also inspired by the music in Paper Mario, but some tunes definitely feel like taken straight out of any of those games; especially the battle theme.

Besides the combat system, the amazing soundtrack, and the lovable main characters, Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling also shines in the world-building department, since every single NPC has always something interesting to say. The insane amount of lore these NPCs give you definitely makes the world feel lived-in.

Some of this lore actually comes from battles themselves, since every enemy players encounter can be spied on, and this will not only reveal some interesting details about HP and weaknesses, but it will also offer descriptions that tell players more about them, and even include some of the reactions the main characters had when they stumbled upon them.

There is only one thing that I didn't like about Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling — and this is mainly a nitpick, since everything else is so well-designed that I almost feel guilty not giving it one negative point — but there are some platforming sections that require some polish.

What's interesting is that this is also a complaint I had with the first Paper Mario games, since there were platforming sections that due to the game's controls were made a tad more difficult than they should be, and Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling has them too.

Most of these sections that require platforming aren't even difficult per se, and the game does have some very generous checkpoints in case you happen to fall trying to make that tricky jump, but some of them can still be frustrating; checkpoints or not.

With all that said, it's only a nitpick that I felt should be mentioned; chances are that it will not affect your gameplay experience in the slightest. It is probably the one aspect borrowed from the Paper Mario series that I considered the game could have improved upon.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is not the Paper Mario we deserved, but the one we needed. It is the game that will give fans of the Paper Mario series everything they've been asking for since Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door released for the GameCube.

I cannot praise the developers at Moonsprout Games enough for Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, and I'm already looking forward to see what they do next with the Bug Fables intellectual property, or even with a brand-new game. I encourage everyone to give this game a try, especially if you're a fan of the Paper Mario series, or a fan of great role-playing games in general. I give it a very solid 4,5 Vis out of 5.

Hidden within the foliage of nature lies a small but prosperous continent - Bugaria. Insects from all over the world travel to it in search of the treasure scattered across it. The most sought after of these relics is The Everlasting Sapling! Eating just one of its leaves can grant even immortality! In search of this ancient artifact, a brave team of explorers - Vi, Kabbu, and Leif - will travel across many different environments. In order to do so, they must work together to clear puzzles, defeat strong enemies and help the general bug populace!

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is currently available for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC.

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