Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 16.06.2020 1

Review for Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling  on Nintendo Switch

Whilst Paper Mario fans have been ecstatic thanks to the surprise announcement of Paper Mario: The Origiami King, there's been another exciting development for fans of the original games. A self-proclaimed spiritual successor to the original Paper Mario and its sequel Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, this tale of three little bugs on a grand adventure certainly looks the part, in every aspect. Classic turn-based combat; quirky writing; some platforming mixed in for good measure; and, of course, the all important paper theater aesthetic. After a successful Indiegogo campaign, the title launched on Steam at the tail end of last year, and now it's fittingly coming to Nintendo (amongst other consoles), to the home of its inspiration.

The game opens on a horned green beetle named Kabbu. He's arrived at the Ant Kingdom to take on the role of Explorer, heading off into the wilds of Bugaria on a quest to try and find the legendary Everlasting Sapling. His plan to enlist hits a bit of a snag when he's informed all Explorer teams are pairs, and he is stuck as a solo - until he finds another bug in the same situation. This one couldn't be any different from the stoic, serious, honourable warrior that is Kabbu. A bratty, mouthy, brash, little Bee named Vi. The pair is a decent straight-man and foil double act that makes for some funny lines as they head off together; an odd couple heading to the nearby Snakemouth Den in search of a legendary artefact that promises to light the way to the Everlasting Sapling.

This first adventure expands the duo to a trio, as deep within the cavern they find another bug strung up in a Spider's web. A mysterious moth known as Leif, one with a penchant for referring to himself with the royal 'We,' for a lack of memory, and for the strange ability to use ice magic. The trio completes its first quest, and returns back to the Ant Queen with the artefact, becoming a trio of Explorers in the process. Beginning a grand quest that sees them travelling through the various kingdoms of the insect tribes to gather the other artefacts that will lead their Queen to the Sapling and everlasting youth.

The quest for the Sapling is the primary storyline, but it's a simple enough backdrop for the better storytelling, and that's in the character developments. The trio of characters are hugely likable, and very different character. While Kabbu is the first introduced, all three can easily be seen as the protagonist of this tale. The mystery of Leif's travel through time, and his link to the artefacts; Vi maturing and developing, dealing with the angst in his family; and, finally, Kabbu has a shadow hanging over him and a promise to keep.

Screenshot for Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling  on Nintendo Switch

In combat the characters are just as individual. Combat itself is a turn-based affair, where the three characters are placed in a row of three that can be altered per turn before any character makes a move. Like many other similar games, the character in front takes the most damage, and is most likely to get attacked, making sense to plant the tank Kabbu there. However, the character at the front receives a bonus of attack when they're able to get the jump on an enemy.

Each character has a different style of input required for their attack. Vi has a boomerang to throw that can hit flying enemies out of the air to allow the other two to be able to attack them and throws it by way of an age-old reaction test: hitting 'A' as an arrow travels a bar to land in a target area. Leif's ice magic requires either pressing the correct button within a set time limit, or hitting a sequence of buttons in the correct order. Kaabu's attacks require holding down a button until prompted at just the right time to release. Timing it perfect adds some extra damage, while missing results in much less. Blocking is a reactionary affair as well. Hitting the block just before an attack lands can reduce or even nullify the damage completely.

Unlike many RPGs, levelling up from the beginning of the game, all the way to the end, doesn't see a colossal change to the stats of the three characters. Every level-up grants an upgrade to one of three different stats. Health, Medal Points, or Teamwork Points. Choosing Health adds one health point to each of the three characters. One. With only 27 level-ups to go through total, the party won't be reaching 9999 HP. Not even 99.

Screenshot for Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling  on Nintendo Switch

Medal Points take the place of equipment in the game, reminiscent of Paper Mario Badges. The team has a set pool of points to assign with equippable Medals, each with a cost assigned based on their ability. These Medals are scattered through the world, hidden in nooks and crannies, given as quest rewards, purchasable from shops. The very first is given in the opening moments; a Medal that when equipped makes all enemies more difficult. A dangerous proposition for an already challenging experience. As Medals come in, they offer standard little bonuses like HP up, poison resistance, ways to display enemy health without inspecting them, and even unlocking new abilities for the team.

These abilities work a little differently to most games, the pool of points to fund them, the "MP" of the game is Teamwork Points (TM). This pool is shared between the entire party, and so use of abilities is a fine balancing act - especially when taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of the wide range of enemies. When should the TM be held back for Vi to keep for heals? When should it be used for Leif to freeze enemies, stopping them from attacking? Much like HP, the pool will remain low throughout the journey, and that is where items come in.

Instead of relying on skills, items need to be a key part of battles. Exploring the wild gives plenty of items to play with. Honey, aphid eggs, crunchy leaves, along with a cornucopia of berries and fauna. These can restore HP and TP, along with giving stat bonuses and dealing with familiar debuffs like poison, shock, and sleep. In their raw form they're sufficient enough, but it's best to take them back to a town and get the local chef to cook up a dish that's more effective. An Aphid Egg will restore just 3HP, but a fried egg will recover double that. Mixing different items comes up with surprising and powerful effects. Berries are also the currency of the world, used to purchase items from shops, to stay at inns, or to open a bank account to accrue berry interest.

Screenshot for Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling  on Nintendo Switch

Skills matter outside of combat too. Exploring the world introduces its own obstacles, and as new abilities are unlocked for combat, they also give ways to progress in the world. Vi's boomerang can hit switches at a distance, Leif's ice magic can freeze water to make platforms, and Kabbu can burrow underground to bypass barriers. As these are unlocked there's plenty of backtracking, and previously unreachable areas hold both incentivising rewards and challenging optional boss battles. Similarly, two areas in the game hold machines that can offer up boss rush and enemy rush modes with big rewards behind them. Lots of challenge there, and it will keep players busy after the main story.

That core storyline runs for about 25 hours or so of playtime, with an extra couple for those who want to clear up all of the optional side quests and hunt down all the rare Crystal Berry collectables. These side quests start out as the most standard RPG fare at first. "Deliver this item!" to a bug two screen over… and it takes a while for them to be anything but such fetch quests, but towards the tail end of the game there are some real crackers, including a fully fledged card game, and while it's no Triple Triad or Tetra Master, it's lots of fun.

The paper theatre aesthetic is very well done. The sprites are crisp and sharp, and the thick black bars that surround the 2D characters make them stand out on the 3D world. It's not surprising how good it looks. The aesthetic has worked for 20 years, after all. What is surprising with this is the soundtrack. For a game of this scale the soundtrack is surprisingly large and impressive. There are so very many different tracks here, and they are absolutely great. Honestly, there are some retro tracks here that put many AAA titles to shame. Highly under appreciated.

Screenshot for Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling  on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Everyone that is excited over the prospect of the upcoming Paper Mario: The Origami King needs to pick this up. While Sticker Star and Colour Splash took the series in quite unwelcomed directions, this fully embraces the original. The combat system keeps things constantly engaging, the world is inviting, and the trio of main characters utterly charming. This is a world that deserves to be further explored and returned to, and it will hopefully see future instalments. The Origami King has some genuine competition here.

Developer

Moonsprout Games

Publisher

DANGEN Entertainment

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I love this - after your recommendation, I jumped straight in and it has the feel of an AlphaDream game. I'm soooo hesitant about Origami King... after being bitten by Super Paper Mario, Sticker Star and the Colour Splash.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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