Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is an RPG very much akin to the Paper Mario series. As such, it’s drawn many comparisons to it. With such lofty ambitions, does it rise to the occasion or fall flat?
Bug Fables is absolutely stunning to look at. The backgrounds are colorful and pleasing to the eyes. You’ll travel from the grasslands to the deserts. From mountains to caves. The areas are varied and look great. The three main characters, Vi the bee, Kabbu the horned beetle, and Leif the moth, are all beautifully crafted. I found myself staring at the gorgeous backgrounds as I entered new areas. Even after having been in areas multiple times, I never got sick of looking at them.
The enemies are designed well, though there’s only a few types per area. As you reach the conclusion of the chapters, you tend to get sick of seeing them. Even as new enemies are added onto the maps, the old ones stay making them even more bland.
In combat, the attacks look good, though once again, you’ll get tired of seeing the same animations over and over again. Leif’s skill Frigid Coffin, which can freeze enemies, is one that particularly stands out. And as the characters lose health, they start slumping over and looking beat up which is a nice touch.
The soundtrack in Bug Fables is one of the best parts of the game. The music changes in each area so it never gets old. It fits the areas it’s played in as well. Similarly, the battle theme is fun and catchy. There’s a traveling performer in the towns where you can buy your favorite tunes with the berries you earn and listen to them as you please.
In combat, everything sounds like you would think it would. The aforementioned ice attack makes a freezing sound. Vi’s boomerang attack sounds like a boomerang. And Kabbu’s horn attack has a nice solid thud to it.
The story is your typical affair. The heroes are tasked with retrieving items needed by the queen. They meet some challenges along the way that are very obviously coming to anyone who’s played a video game before. Each of the protagonists have their own side story which is a bit more entertaining though going about solving it is anything but.
There are 7 different chapters, each containing one main quest, and multiple side quests, though the side quests can be done in any chapter after unlocking. Most of them boil down to fetch quests or battles. They get tedious after awhile, though the rewards can be useful, ranging from berries, to medals.
The dialogue is charming, though if you don’t like puns you will be groaning a lot. Moonsprout Games decided to fit a new bug pun into almost every conversation and every new area, though it never really got old.
The gameplay is where Bug Fables starts slipping up just a bit. As you progress through the game, the three characters start unlocking different abilities that can be used on the over world. For instance, Kabbu unlocks the ability to chop down plants, Vi is able to use her boomerang to toggle switches, and Leif is able to freeze water or enemies that can be used as platforms.
When you unlock the ability, the game makes you use it way too much. Instead of feeling good about solving the puzzle, you feel tired. The fun of puzzles is figuring them out not going through the motions.
Another frustrating feature is having to platform with a fixed camera. It’s not enjoyable to have to make a jump to a platform that is off screen. Thankfully, this is needed to get to a secret area hiding some goodie rather than to progress the story. Also, having to line up Vi’s boomerang to hit some switch can take multiple tries, especially when trying to use the hold feature. If you weren’t in exactly the right location it would miss and you’d have to re-line up your shot. This wasn’t normally too bad, except when you had to get through a section quickly.
Some of those sections are downright irritating. There’s one section, about midway through the game, where you need to sneak through enemies. This isn’t all that entertaining on it’s own, but there’s one part where you must freeze a block, switch to Kabbu, and hit it towards a ledge so you can reach it. However, you only hit the block half a foot. At the same time, you have to wait for the enemy to turn around so you don’t get spotted.
And since they turn quickly, you only get the chance to hit the block once before hiding. If you get seen, you start back at the beginning and must reach the location, freeze the block, and start moving it half a foot at a time until moving it to the ledge.
Not every section had a frustrating section like this, but there was enough in the game to stop the fun I was having. Failure is never punished all that harshly, except for the tedious sections like the one above.
There are some fun sections when exploring the different areas so it isn’t all bad, though there’s enough problems to bring down the experience. It can be worth exploring though, as you can collect medals which change the combat.
The combat gets repetitive quite quickly. The active participation in battle actually hurts the experience. Every attack or skill requires some input from you. For example, Kabbu’s basic attack has you holding down on the thumbstick until the meter fills up and you can release. Vi’s attack has you pressing the A button when the arrow reaches the bar. And Leif’s attack has you pressing one of the face buttons when revealed.
Similarly, you can block enemies attacks by pressing A right as they’re about to hit to minimize or even fully block all the damage. While this starts out fun, it eventually wears on you.
Skills can be used to do a bit more damage or add effects to enemies. Each skill has their own input and it can be difficult to remember what you need to do for each, potentially wasting precious team points, or TP, in the process. TP is the mana bar of the party, and is used to activate the skills. It can be increased as the party levels up, and can be refilled by resting, using items, or certain save points.
However, you can only carry 10 consumables at the start. Some of those will probably be healing items, so spamming skills is ill advised. This hurts later in the game as enemies get tougher, but your basics don’t. Luckily, save points are pretty common, however not all of them heal you. The yellow ones do, but disappear after a certain point in exchange for a paid healing service.
As you level up, you’re given a choice between increasing the party’s HP by one point per character, increasing the TP by 3, or increasing the Medal Points by 3. It’s easy to pass up the Medal Points early when you only have the Hard Mode medal which doesn’t require any MP. If you make that mistake you won’t be able to equip a bunch of useful medals such as increasing the party’s TP or raising one of the characters HP.
Those are just some of the many medals in the game. Some are found throughout the world, while others can be purchased from the store. There’s even a medal that kills weak enemies when touched in the overworld which can help keep fights from becoming stale.
There’s also a library section in the menu which you can fill with 50 different discoveries, 90 different enemies, and 70 different recipes. In each town there’s a cook that can combine ingredients to make new dishes. Some combinations work, and some lead to… other things. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is enjoyable, though can get tedious as you have to talk to a chef every time. Plus with only 10 inventory slots (at the start), you have to run around buying ingredients if you want to go on a cooking spree.
If you can get over the fairly repetitive gameplay and some frustrating sections, you’ll find a decent RPG with a entertaining, albeit cliched, story. The art style and music are wonderful though and do make it worth a look.
Note: We received a review code from Moonsprout Games and DANGAN entertainment.