I introduced my son Tyler to the Paper Mario series with the original Paper Mario on the N64 and Thousand Year Door on the Gamecube when he was around seven years old.  He loved the series and, along with Super Mario RPG on the SNES, played for hours until he beat each and every game.

Super Paper Mario came out for the Wii and was quite a change from the previous two entries.  There was a very cool dynamic that allowed the paper world to move from 2D to 3D so you can discover new things, areas, and bypass places you weren’t able to go to.  The companion characters were gone but Ty liked that you had Pixl characters that allowed you to have different abilities and help you throughout the game.

While I had also played and beaten everything up to this point I personally stopped play the Paper Mario series at Sticker Star.  I was excited for the game, bought it, and could barely play it.  The game mechanics were just awful and I had no clue why Nintendo allowed such big changes (the fighting was done with stickers you collected.  It worked awful).  I asked Ty what was bad about Sticker Star and all he said was, “Everything.”  Everything?  “EVERYTHING!”  Fair enough.  Imagine making a Super Mario Bros game but took away Mario’s ability to jump on enemies.  It almost just felt that weird using the stickers as an attack.

Paper Mario: Color Splash arrived in October 2016 and, now at twelve years old, Ty once again wants to play the latest Paper Mario game.  As Ty hated Sticker Star he hoped that Nintendo would bring things back to the classic Paper Mario games.  Early videos weren’t promising but he kept the hope alive.  Now in playing Color Splash on a scale of A to F he puts the game squarely at a C.

What doesn’t he like about this latest Paper Mario game?  “There’s no leveling up of your character.  There’s no companion characters.  There’s no badges!”

I said that Super Paper Mario departed from the first two games and he said, “It was still cool partnering with the Pixl characters.  It also felt like Thousand Year Door because when you jump on an enemy, Mario sometimes does the cool midair maneuvers that he did in Thousand Year Door.  It was unique.”

He then added, “They got rid of everything that made the first two Paper Mario games awesome.”

So with no leveling up, no companions, and no badges I asked him if there is anything good about Color Splash.  “Everything looks great,” he said.  “It has great graphics.  There’s a few callbacks to the original games, which is nice.  But there’s not many.  And it still goes away from the storybook feeling of the original games.”

Color Splash adds a cool painting mechanic to the game.  ShyGuy’s with straws are taking away the colors in the game and Mario is adding the colors back in.  What does Ty think about the adding of the colors?  “It’s stupid,” he lamented before asking again. “Why did they take away the old battle mechanic?”

Does Ty prefer the Mario & Luigi games for the GBA/DS/3DS more than the Paper Mario games – because they usually keep near the same mechanics?  He said no.  “I like the Paper Mario series more but just because of the first two games.”

I also inquired if Tyler preferred the newest Mario and Luigi game Paper Jam (which also featured the Paper Mario character) over Color Splash and he noted, without at a doubt, that Paper Jam was the much better game.

I like that the kid thinks like I think.  I loved those original Paper Mario games and don’t understand why they decided to change things up.  As a game series grows you do want to change things up – you don’t want things to become stale.  But this series has so radically changed things that the only real connection is just the look of the series.

Ty’s end recommendation?  “Just play the first two Paper Mario games.”  If you have a kid who loves Mario and wants to try these games download Paper Mario on the Wii/WiiU’s Virtual Console (Thousand-Year Door is not yet available via the service).  And Ty’s final thoughts?  “I hope Nintendo brings us a good Paper Mario game again someday.”  Finer words have never been spoken.

RANK: C