Classic games that put a fun spin on the RPG genre were the two original Paper Mario games, to which the series began to flounder as further games came out and tried to be something completely different or change the mechanics to freshen things up, rather than just expand upon a tried and true method that was already there. In this writer’s opinion, Paper Mario hasn’t been what it once was since the early 2000’s. This is where Blue Omen Operation, a Kickstarter game, comes in.
Developers BananaSoft recently put out a Kickstarter backer demo for their first game Blue Omen Operation (lovingly referred to as BOO by the developers). The purpose of this demo is different from the last. Whereas the first demo was a sort of mini-level to show potential backers what the game could be, this new backer only demo shows what the game is becoming. And I have to say, minus some incredibly tiny criticisms, this game is shaping up quite well. This is an incredibly short demo, so I’ll try to be brief with this hands-on preview.
The art style is improved from the game’s original demo, which is surprising because the original art was already fantastic and incredibly fitting for the tone presented, reminiscent of Akira Toriyama’s art style for his landmark Dragonball franchise
First and foremost, there is no exploration in the demo, as that was mostly covered in the original. Instead, this one is showcasing the refined combat primarily, and it has definitely been refined. Just as Paper Mario had a fun active and reactionary battle system where the player did more than just pick an ability and wait, Blue Omen Operation has the player trying to hit buttons at key moments to combo for higher damage.
For instance, Jiro (one of the two party members who I like to think of as Greaser Vegeta) has shapeshifting abilities. As long as the player presses Jiro’s button at the right time, his arm will transform with each punch, giving him one more hit (up to three) where his arm transforms and does more damage. Yagiko (a sort of cat-witch lady with a mischievous grin) on the other hand has different kinds of attacks, unleashing lightning down on her enemies with a targeted reticle that players need to hit at the right time to damage enemies. Both of them each have special attacks as well, which are essentially super versions of their regular attacks (but thankfully the game has the player do something different for each one of these).
The combat is great and is expanding on what Paper Mario once was, but this game is not shaping up into a one trick pony. The presentation is incredibly improved from what the original demo showcased (with a fun intro cut-scene starting the demo off that clearly took some work). The chiptune music the game presents is lively and upbeat, but well themed to the western-themed level the demo is set in. The art style is improved from the game’s original demo, which is surprising because the original art was already fantastic and incredibly fitting for the tone presented, reminiscent of Akira Toriyama’s art style for his landmark Dragonball franchise. Far and away the most impressive part of this demo is the little animations, which hold so much personality within every move whether it be taking damage, attacking, hitting a combo, etc. The animations are impressive, and that’s without seeing the great menu animation from the original demo which already felt so energetic.
I think Blue Omen Operation is shaping up incredibly well, and I can’t wait to see what else they want to show off as development moves forward. I look forward (and hope) that the writing and story hold just as much personality and surprises as the past two demos. Most of all, I look forward to just playing the finished game.