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✔️Artistic locales brimming with secrets to discover.
✔️A unique and interesting combat system that rewards mastery.
✔️Quirky and fun writing that will be sure to bring you laughs along the way.
❌Little bit too much of a departure from traditional RPG roots.
❌Removal of some aspects may displease long time fans.
Finally, I’m back! I’ve been released from the review dungeon once more to grace your screens with my words! Much has changed since I last had the time to spread my fingers and clack away at my laptop in an attempt to form coherent sentences. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail as to why; I’m sure if you’re reading this you are actually more than likely sick of hearing about it, so I’ll just say this: It’s great to be back once again, and with a first-party title no less. Aside from the world right now, it’s been an… Interesting… year for Nintendo. The last few years for the Switch have been fantastic. We’ve had clear cut schedules on when and what to expect from the big N, all the way up until the release of Animal Crossing New Horizons in March earlier this year.
The only news we’ve really heard is information on DLC updates, changes to the way we will receive our news (IE Nintendo Direct) and a dumbfounding 0% in relation new first-party video game news. It’s been strange to have radio silence from Nintendo after 3 years of knowing exactly what they’ve got in the works. To everyone’s surprise however, seemingly out of nowhere, we received a signal beacon towards our next release. Late one night a very tired Bryce Dewit scrolled all the way until the end of new updates on his Twitter feed and decided that fifteen minutes of scrolling the abyss was enough to feed his insomnia driven mind, and decided to do one more refresh. 45 seconds prior to that refresh, Nintendo had decided to drop a bomb; Paper Mario: The Origami King would be releasing on Switch in 3 months time.
Creasing and Crumpling…
This was actually quite a shock for most people which seemed to either fill people with joy or disdain. Paper Mario (as of recent entries) has been under fairly controversial discussion. For a long time, there were rumours and peeps about a Thousand Year Door port showing up on the console sometime in the near future, but no, here it was. An entirely new and original entry to the Paper Mario series, which since Sticker Star has had either a bad or mediocre reception. There were plenty of people who had already given up on the idea, but there were an equal amount that were hopeful that this game would not be the killing blow for Mario RPG’s, especially since the developer behind the Mario & Luigi series Alphadream shut down earlier this month, leaving that series in limbo and passing the torch to Paper Mario to go it alone.
I’m going to come right out and say it; Paper Mario: The Origami King is taking great steps in the right direction and is doing things that I personally wanted as quality of life changes in previous games, and as a result, I’m enjoying it far more than previous titles. If you’re reading this review it’s likely because you are looking for answers as to why, and if you’ve been on the divisive side of the argument leading up to the release of the game, I hope that this review will sway you to give it a go because while it isn’t a perfect example of Paper Mario, it’s a step in the right direction for the series that offers a lot of fun along the way.
Paper Mario: The Origami King starts about as obvious as the title suggests. Within the opening ours of the game you learn that Mario and Luigi are riding towards Toad Town atop their mighty steed (A Kart, of course) at the invitation of Princess Peach, asking that you attend the town’s Origami festival that very day. Within 15 minutes of your time you are introduced to every story concept that’s necessary. The Origami King, Olly, has taken control of the castle, and had begun folding Toads and Bowser’s minions (and even Bowser, though be it a mostly unsuccessful endeavour) into Origami drones in an attempt to create a perfect Origami world at the displeasure of his fellow Origami sister Olivia. Olly (along with an Origami Princess Peach) offer you a chance to join them in folded glory to which Mario, Olivia and Bowser refuse, and in response Olly raises the castle and moves it to a distant mountain as the trio make their escape and get clobbered by a passing streamer. Bowser gets separated from Mario and Olivia and falling to the ground below your adventure begins.
The premise is pretty simple by anyone’s standards. There are streamers wrapped around the castle, and it’s your job to run around destroying each of them over various locations of the world until the castle is freed so that you may make your move and save the Princess. This time ditching the level select formula and opting for an interconnected world instead. Honestly, it really is just a run of the mill Mario RPG story. It’s always either the Princess, the Castle, or both in trouble, and it’s up to Mario to travel the world, meet some kooky characters along the way and make it to the end and be the moustachoid hero he needs to be. If you’ve been a long time fan of Mario RPG’s you will feel right at home here with no issue whatsoever (except for maybe that party characters are near absent this time around).
There is nary a moment where you are sick of hearing what is going on because the dialogue and the world is filled with quirky humour and charm. If it looks like something weird is happening in the distance it most likely is, and it usually comes in the form of Toads or Bowser’s minions getting into mischief or in trouble which you can choose to save them from (something that more often than not is a Toad problem) and by helping them in their plight you are often rewarded with battle items, some snappy dialogue that will get you chuckling to yourself, or another Toad to join your ranks in The Origami King’s brand new battle system.
Signed, sealed and Delivered…
Levels and stats are ditched this time around which does seem concerning at first, but it’s replacement in the new wheel board mechanics keep the game moving at a more relative pace rather than relying on traditional RPG grinding in order to pace out the story, which is a welcome touch for a more light hearted series like Paper Mario. Essentially when you enter a battle via the overworld (be it scripted or touch encounter) you will be transported to a battlefield surrounded by grand-stands (Which your saved Toads sit in, by the way!) and you are given the option to spin the wheel to reposition enemies before making your attack. By lining up enemies correctly (1×4 vertical lines for boot attacks, and 2×2 areas for hammer) without any mistakes, you are given an attack buff and you are able to defeat enemies with relative ease.
Making mistakes with this system can also be costly, as failure to adhere to proper line up mechanics will often mean you won’t kill them un-buffed, and taking attacks from so many enemies can really hit you hard. There’s no player determined healing in battle, so making a good selection within the allotted time limit will often end a battle faster whereas making more mistakes is likely to not only draw the battle out longer, but give you a much higher chance of being sent back to your last save box. Bosses also have a similar structure in their battle gimmick, but they instead opt for more of a Snakes & ladders approach, which can actually give you a few different and unique ways for taking down bosses.
That being said, the real problem with this is that once you perfect it, battles become near useless. With no levelling, stats or unique rewards obtained from specific enemies, obtaining coins and confetti (used to fill holes in the world) are pretty much the only reason to fight them. There are plenty of uses for coins both inside and outside of battle, such as purchasing items that can help you in battle, story progression, extending your puzzle phase time, or even calling Toads in from the grand-stands to help you in the fight. But again, if you are playing perfectly these things are pretty much useless. Every puzzle is made to be solvable within the turns and time given (as far as I can tell) which opens up options for challenge runs and the like by avoiding coin usage, but it’s just honestly a boring reward and a few times I’ve just overlooked enemies completely because I have a fat stacked wallet at all times.
There is a second form of combat that’s explored a handful of times in the overworld at certain points that allows you to fight regular enemies and bosses using Mario’s typical abilities in a real time fashion, a concept that has been explored before but I feel is done especially well here in some cases. Rewards received in this manner are often smaller than that of the encounter battles, but again, you’ll come across them in droves during your adventure so the reward is hardly the takeaway from doing them.
Wrap it up...
Outside of battles there is also a whole range of side content to tackle as well, usually in the form of collectables, stray Toads, minigames and more. Something The Origami King does well is ensure that as pretty as the environments are, they also serve a purpose to some form of side content. Anything worth collecting usually comes from minigames and can range from statues for your gallery to new equipment or even health upgrades. It’s my belief that, to some degree, this is more or less the reason that battles were made devoid of such rewards. There is lots of cool side content in The Origami King to make mention of, from wild water rafting to shuriken target practice. It’s often worth going out of your way to complete some of these if you want to make it easier on yourself later on, but it also doesn’t force it upon you if your only intention is to get through the story and call it a day.
Of course, we can’t forget about the usual ending segment in all of my reviews, and that is the soundtrack. This time around all I can really tell you is that it’s relatively solid overall, some of the music arguably more memorable than Odyssey in some respects. The battle theme in particular is likely to be stuck in my head for a while. There is some gems hidden in there amongst the various musical numbers throughout the game which are either entirely original or sometimes rearrangements of old themes or classical music. The game dishes out many different types of emotions very well through song alone, and the sound design and gameplay are well complimented by it when necessary. There’s a particular moment early game that is a very nice piece of comedic value that represent within a mere 30 minutes the tone of how the soundtrack is used in this game, and it’s brilliant.
When it comes down to brass tacks, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a case of two steps forward, one step back. It’s definitely an improvement over both Sticker Star and Colour Splash. It’s an incredibly charismatic game with a lot of charm, stunning visuals and plenty of fun to be had. That being said, some of the design choices are likely to disappoint some. Sometimes, it can feel like a bit too much of a departure from the series core values such as the simplification of unique party members and abilities, variety within the battle system and lack of meaningful rewards. Hopefully both new and long-time fans will still find something they will love here, because it would be a terrible shame if this game wasn’t viewed as it’s own piece, and just “Not-The-Thousand-Year-Door”.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
Paper Mario: The Origami King is a 2020 action-adventure RPG developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch console. It is the sixth game in the Paper Mario series, part of the larger Mario franchise.
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