Paper Mario: Color Splash is one of those games that looks to the past to help shape the future. Everywhere you look, it’s referencing previous entries in the series, employing nostalgia to create clever callbacks, and using things that worked in the past in new ways. It may most obviously resemble Paper Mario: Sticker Star, but there’s plenty of other references there too.
The writing in Paper Mario: Color Splash has the same clever writing and snappy, self-referential quips as many games in the series. Characters are self aware and break the wall, just as they did going all the way back to the original Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64. They show an awareness and insight of their roles that’s a series trademark. Their remarks are snappy and insightful, . In one of her first lines introducing Mario, Peach says, “And this is my… friend Mario. He jumps on things and hits them with a hammer when necessary.” When Huey gives Mario the ability to bring color back to the world, he says, “The paint you just absorbed is basically my blood, sweat, and tears. You’ll have time to shower later.”
Its introduction even is a callback to one of the best games in the series. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door began with a letter. Peach summoned Mario to Rogueport, packing a map inside to initiate adventures. Paper Mario: Color Splash begins in a similar manner. A colorless toad has been mailed to Peach, and Mario, Peach, and Toad head to Port Prisma to investigate the situation. It prepares you for the adventure in the same way the earlier game did, giving you a hub to rely on and leading you to a bigger mystery with a simple start. Port Prisma itself is very similar to Rogueport in layout and offerings, with the same
But, let’s go back to Huey. He shows how Paper Mario: Color Splash never shies away from a pun. I mean, the paint can assistant is named Huey. When he’s introducing Mario to concepts, he says he’ll give him a primer. He is a repository of clever quips that are often a stroke of genius. It made me want to brush up on my own art-related puns, because because he kept thinking of ones that were pure genius.
He’s also a callback to both Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Huey is an omnipresent ally, like Tippi the Pixl or Kersti the sticker fairy, with abilities that allow Mario to alter the world around him. Mario’s hammer slams paint onto barren spaces, bringing color back, thanks to his new friend. He even introduces you to reality-altering abilities. One of the earliest ones lets you cut out part of the background background to reach otherwise inaccessible areas or unveil some sort of secret for coins. An ability similar to Super Paper Mario’s flip makes a comeback, altering your viewpoint and perspective.
Paper Mario: Color Splash’s battle system directly references Paper Mario: Sticker Star, only with cards that are liberally doled out and affordable in shops in place of more limited stickers. At the start of your turn, you pick out one or more stickers, depending on how many slots you have open, then choose how much paint to apply to blank cards to power them up. Once you flick the cards back up to Mario to trigger his actions, you again perform each ability in time, pressing the A button to hopefully trigger additional or more powerful attacks. Other alterations include the deck size gradually increasing to allow you to stockpile more cards and a paint stockpile that grows larger after collecting hammer pieces from defeated enemies.
It’s easy to look at early Paper Mario: Color Splash screenshots and footage and point out all the ways it resembles Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Because it does. The battle system and environmental interactions are directly inspired by the previous game. But, it also references many other Paper Mario games. It has a localization and script that calls to mind previous games, with an introduction that greatly resembles Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. It has some reality-tweaking abilities like Super Paper Mario. It references games we’ve loved in natural ways.
Paper Mario: Color Splash will come to the Nintendo Wii U on October 7, 2016.