The Paper Mario Spiritual Successor You’ve Been Looking For- “Bug Fables” Game Review

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Main Menu provided by Benjamin Birnbaum

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Main Menu provided by Benjamin Birnbaum

Jakob Birnbaum, Writer

[Minor Spoiler Warning]

Since Nintendo released Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door in 2004, the series has gotten progressively worse to the point that fans have been looking for a spiritual successor to the series to fill the Paper Mario RPG hole in their hearts.

Thankfully, Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is that successor. Released in July 2019 by Moonsprout Games and published by Dangen Entertainment, Bug Fables is the game that transcends the original Paper Mario games.

The game takes place in the land of Bugaria where a Beetle named Kabbu and a Bee named Vi search all over the land to find ancient magic artifacts to help the Ant Queen, Elizant II, find the Everlasting Sapling. 

Along the way, a Moth named Leif joins the party and you soon realize that the leader of the Wasp Kingdom is also looking for the artifacts, but he plans to use the Everlasting Sapling for nefarious purposes, so it’s up to you and your allies to bring him down and find the Sapling first.

Bug Fables’ world-building is much more in-depth than Paper Mario. At first, the layout of the land can be confusing as to why there are swamplands and a desert with walls around this. This confusion was lifted in Chapter Three when we gained access to a Beehive with a massive telescope. When looking through the telescope, the player discovers that you’re playing as bugs inside a human’s world, with the game setting itself inside a backyard with the towering behemoth of an abandoned house overlooking it. This raises unique questions about what happened to the humans and why do the bugs have sentience. Thankfully throughout the game, you collect lore books that help with world-building and I loved learning more about the world as the game progressed.

The characters are way more grounded and complex and with only three playable characters; the writers had more time to develop the characters and the relationships between them. Their vastly different personalities and backgrounds can lead to very funny dialogue that makes you feel like the trio have known each other for years and are good friends despite only meeting at the beginning of the game.  Each of the three characters goes through a unique arc that gives the player more insight into the main characters.

Kabbu is level-headed and concerned with helping others around him regardless of the reward. He often reprimands Vi for her temper and concerns for a reward but he has his flaws as well. Vi is more reckless and only cares about a reward, but is also very self-conscious and can lash out at other characters who think that just because she is a small bee, she can’t be an explorer. 

My favorite character of the trio is Leif who is more emotionless and monotone but will join in to offer some hilarious dialogue. However, he feels out of place in the world, even commenting that when he and his crew left for Snakemouth Den to find the artifact, it was over several decades ago during the reign of Elizant I. He’s so out of place and it’s funny to watch him comment on technology that is currently outdated.

The Battle System while being similar to Paper Mario feels like a game more designed for kids who grew up on Paper Mario. Basic and special attacks have to be performed with precision and with three equal fighters, giving the game a more tactical edge as certain enemies can only be hit by certain characters. The fights are also way more harder than Thousand Year Door and require a tactical strategy and with the addition of hard mode and custom metals, you feel more in control in these difficult, but satisfying battles.

The OST constructed by Tristan Alric is phenomenal. Some of the music is very atmospheric like the moody and jazzy music played in the background of the Termite Capitol or the peaceful music of the Sacred Hills, but pieces, like It’s Getting Scary, can get a bit repetitive and drawn out.

Now while the game for the most part is a masterpiece there was a small issue I had while playing the game. The only really big issue I have with the game is the Forsaken Lands which operates on sort of a Lost Woods gimmick. This means if you make a wrong turn in the area it will send you back to the beginning and it’s frustrating since the game doesn’t have a clear sign that tells you the correct direction you can go in. Also, there are so many quests so you have to keep coming back to this area lots of times and sometimes you might accidentally discover a new area that is part of the optional quest and waste time figuring the area out. 

In conclusion, Bug Fables is the spiritual successor to Paper Mario that fans have been looking for but don’t know it exists. It’s a hugely underrated game that’s worth picking up. I have to give it up to the small developers at Moonsprout Games for giving so much care to the game’s development. I recommend this game to any Paper Mario, or RPG fans out there for an incredible experience.