Like many series, the Paper Mario games have been caught in a downward spiral from which they don’t yet seem capable of recovering. While Super Paper Mario was certainly not the most popular game in the franchise, it was not until Sticker Star that I believe the series’ decay became clear. Not long ago, I somehow managed to stumble across a trailer for the newest Paper Mario game, Color Splash for the Wii U. I had not been looking for it, as I had lost interest in new entries for the series ever since its decline. Nevertheless, I decided to check it out.
After watching this short video, my initial thoughts on the upcoming Paper Mario game were a bit muddled, to be honest. It looked…cute, I suppose, and they definitely appeared to be taking the whole “paper” theme to new levels. But was it going to be another traditional Paper Mario game like the original and The Thousand-Year Door or was it going to continue the unfortunate decline of a once great series? It was rather difficult to judge the game too much based on one short video, but I had a strong feeling this game was leaning towards mimicking Sticker Star rather than any of the original Paper Mario games.
Called Color Splash, this game has Mario visiting Prism Island, which is in danger of losing its color. I’m all for the Paper Mario games embracing the “paper” half of the title, but only within certain limits, as I always felt that Paper Mario was largely only “paper” in art style and nothing more. It’s the difference between paper Mario himself looking like a flat cutout, but acting almost the same in all other respects, and the yarn Kirby in Kirby’s Epic Yarn having the actual ability to unzip things in his environment or unravel enemies.
Now, forgive me if I sound contradictory here, but I must admit at this time that I wasn’t actually a big fan of Kirby’s Epic Yarn. I know a lot of people liked it, but I just felt as if the yarn aesthetic was more of a gimmick than anything meaningful. It was a cute game, yes, but does it have the same feel to me as a traditional Kirby game? No. It was cute and surprising during my initial playthrough, but after that, I’m back to games like Kirby Superstar and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, which are more traditional titles that follow the pattern that made Kirby a success to begin with.
This is where the Paper Mario series has gone wrong, and I think almost any fan will agree with me on this one. Sticker Star felt like a gimmick. Maybe Super Paper Mario wasn’t the best game in the series, and the whole flipping between 2D and 3D concept felt rather gimmicky, but it was still a pretty fun game. It was just kind of like Paper Mario “light”, keeping the same main characters and the same level of story, but just scaling back on the RPG elements as it relates to battles. I never played Sticker Star, despite my great love for the Paper Mario series, but one thing that made me reluctant to try it out was when I heard that battles were fought with a limited number of stickers, making item management more important, an aspect of the game that took away many people’s enjoyment of it. (It’s that very thing that made Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories more of a chore for me to play than something actually entertaining.)
And further research taught me that Color Splash is going to have the same issue. It appears that this game employs cards in battle, and from what other Youtubers have said, it sounds as if battles are unnecessary because it only uses up your limited cards and paint without giving you anything useful in return, like experience. What kind of RPG doesn’t allow you to gain experience? You may as well just play a regular Super Mario Bros game, where battles are also largely optional and have no real impact.
Now, before I go any further, this post is not meant to sway anyone’s opinion on Color Splash. These are merely my own thoughts, provided for background purposes. As I sought out more information on the game, I always turn to the Reception section of the game’s Wikipedia article, and I was surprised to see that a petition had been created with the hopes of cancelling this game. The same had also been done with what is probably a more well-known example, Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a game that angered many fans because it was using the Metroid Prime title without appearing to have any relation to the Metroid Prime series.
I’m not good about keeping up with gaming news, so I was rather shocked that people had expressed their dislike for an upcoming title in this way, and it got me thinking of some posts Cary and Hatm0nster had recently written about hype. To summarize (please check out their posts for the full story), they discussed the intense negative reaction of fans when they learned that No Man’s Sky was being delayed, to the point of even sending death threats to the game’s developer, Hello Games. While a petition is certainly far more peaceful than death threats, it is a bit surprising sometimes to see how fans will react to news they don’t like. On one hand, you have fans enraged over the delay of a game they think will be good, or you have fans angry over the development of a game they think will be bad or will otherwise tarnish a good series.
Which brings me to the main point of this post. Is it appropriate to petition for a game to be cancelled? Because I, for one, just don’t feel like that’s really the right way to go about it. If we simply demanded every game that didn’t look good in a two minute trailer (which represents a tiny fraction of the game’s entire length, mind you) be cancelled, then we could very well miss out on a lot of good games. If this was how we reacted to all games that differed from our expectations, maybe, for the sake of an example, Majora’s Mask would have been cancelled. Oh, this game doesn’t look like a traditional Zelda game. We have a time limit. There are only four dungeons. And what’s this, it doesn’t even take place in Hyrule? Let’s put a stop to it before it can even see the light of day.
No. That just…doesn’t sound like the right response, now does it? The way I feel about it, it’s the developers’ business to make whatever games they choose, and it’s our business to buy the games we are interested in and pass on the games we don’t want. Is it such a disaster if a bad game reaches completion and is released for public sale? No. Don’t buy it if you don’t want it. How can we even judge how good a game will be until it’s been released and we’re able to read reviews from people who have played it and watch actual gameplay footage that give us a better picture of what the game is really like? Petitioning for games to be cancelled could easily prevent good games from being created, and, you know what, it won’t stop bad games from being published that were merely lucky enough to have good trailers.
I completely agree that developers should listen to the fans when we share our opinions in a respectful manner (with an emphasis on “respectful”), and I also believe that developers should take the fans’ suggestions into consideration. If fans are begging Nintendo to make a traditional Paper Mario game, they should respect the opinions of the people who support their games, or at least try and meet us at some middle ground. Fine, make Color Splash, but make the battles more like those of the traditional Paper Mario games. That might help to ease fans’ doubts about the game. Then, maybe the gimmick of painting things that have lost their color won’t seem so bad anymore. Maybe.
The thing is, we, as the consumers, don’t always have much say in what is made, whether it be movies, books, or video games. I admire any developer who can humble themselves and actually listen when the fans have something to say, but in the end, we can only control our own actions, not the actions of the people working at Nintendo or Hello Games or anyone else. In that case, what can we do? Well, when words don’t work, let our money speak for us. Support the games you like; don’t support the games you don’t like. If games like Color Splash and Federation Force receive poor sales, then perhaps Nintendo will realize that we were serious when we said we didn’t want these games.
Of course, if you think either game looks interesting, by all means, go and buy it. I am not asking anyone to boycott these games on principle. I only believe that money sometimes speaks louder than words, and if not enough people are interested in a game, then change might happen. Both games are scheduled for release by the end of 2016, so obviously the petitions did not prevent these games from being developed. As for my own intentions, I don’t have any desire to buy Federation Force, as it doesn’t interest me. As far as Color Splash is concerned, well, I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t like certain aspects of the game, such as the battle system in particular, but it’s still too early to decide whether or not the rest of the game will still be something fun to play. Maybe it will end up being a better game than we all think. It’s just too early to say for sure.
In the end, we don’t need to go to such extreme measures because we aren’t happy about something that has happened to our games. Anger is not the answer. Neither are petitions. I’m disappointed, too, when a series I like changes, but it happens. I just won’t buy the games anymore, and if enough people do the same, wise developers will take notice and make a change. If not, then I suppose that’s life. There are plenty of other good games out there to play.
So what do you think? Should gamers ever petition for a game to be cancelled? If so, in what circumstances is this appropriate? Also, what are your thoughts on the games I discussed above? Please let me know in the comments.
Ducks That Go Splash