- Developer: Intelligent Systems
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Price: £49.99 / $59.99
- Release Date: 17/07/2020
- Review Copy provided by Nintendo UK
Introducing: Paper Mario: The Origami King Review
I can remember clearly the day that I got to rent Paper Mario for the N64 back in middle school. It was really exciting for me because I was such an enormous fan of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Paper Mario looked like it was going to fill that void in my twelve-year-old heart. The best thing about it? I was totally right. The humor was there, the atmosphere was fabulous and the characters were memorable. It was a wonderful time full of rosy memories. Before too long, The Thousand Year Door came out and I was in Paper Mario heaven. Everything was an improvement on what I had loved in the previous entry and I was loving everything about it.
But then, things started changing. Super Paper Mario was VERY different but not in a bad way. It was unique, colorful and had a pretty marvelous story. It was alright, but at the same time, not what I was hoping for. I enjoyed it, sure, but it wasn’t the grand adventure I was expecting from this series. The next few entries were… how do I put this, not great. Sticker Star was tremendously unfulfilling in nearly every aspect (and I bought that the DAY it came out. It was the first ever game I waited in line for). Color Splash was the first game in the series that I was entirely unmotivated to buy. I did not have hope for all things Paper and Mario.
But then, like a beam of light shooting forth from the storm clouds, Nintendo just threw a trailer out of nowhere for a brand new Paper Mario game: The Origami King. It looked beautiful! There were hints of partners following you! The combat looked weird, but interesting. THERE WAS HOPE AGAIN! But with hope comes trepidation. Will they just hurt me again? Will this just make me sad when it’s all done? There were so many questions that this new title brought, but I knew there was only one way to truly know: I had to face my fears of the unknown and take this beast head on.
It’s time to give Paper Mario another chance.
In The Origami King, Mario and Luigi start off by heading to Toad Town, just outside of Princess Peach’s castle to take part in the Origami Festival and the festivities therein. Once they get there, they find the town deserted. Investigating further, they both head in to the castle only to find that Peach has been folded into an origami version of herself. This folding seems to have turned her into some sort of origami zombie version of her true self. She throws Mario into the dungeon where he must now find his way out as well as the person who is behind all of this. Before too long, Mario meets an origami girl named Olivia and a very small folded up Bowser. Together, you find that Olly, Olivia’s brother, is the grand mastermind behind all of this insanity! He plans to fold the entire paper kingdom into an origami world where he will reign supreme.
After attempting to save the day, Olly summons five enormous streamers from various distant locations in the world to surround and encase the entirety of the castle. As the building is torn from the ground, Mario, Bowser and Olivia run for their lives to escape the ensuing chaos only to be caught up by it and scattered to the surrounding areas. Your task is to gather up your strength and defeat Olly’s Folded Soldiers, destroy the five streamers and save the day (and Peach!) before Olly destroys everything in his path!
A Disclaimer Before We Continue
You need to know one thing right now that will help you understand this game and how I feel about it. This one simple truth is this:
The Origami King is worth every second you can give to it and proudly sits as my second favorite Paper Mario game to date.
I’m sure by this point you have seen a great deal of things for this game. Trailers, YouTube clips, opinion pieces, 30,000 tweets, etc. Everybody had an opinion on The Origami King, and I know that it felt like everybody was pessimistic about this game. From what people were expecting, we were looking for Thousand Year Door 2. We were asking to be brought back to 2003 to have those golden times all over again. We wanted the bad taste of Sticker Star and Color Splash to be washed out of our mouths so we could revel in the greatness that so many fans remembered. Many people were sad to see that in early trailers that this was not the direction things seemed to be going.
But then I got a hold of this game with my own two hands and I can tell you that it ended up being so much more than we could ask for. This is a great game and it takes some adjusting from what my expectations were to REALLY enjoy a game a great as this one is. So, remember these things as we head forward.
Tearing into a New World
Paper Mario has two main gameplay elements: adventuring and combat. Both of these are pretty top notch. Let’s start with the adventuring, because it’s pretty wonderful.
The world of the Origami King is immense and very satisfying to explore for a variety of reasons. See, there are several collectibles and completion bonuses you can find in each area. First, you have the “not-so-bottomless-holes” that you can fill with the confetti you find nearly everywhere in the game. Secondly, there are hidden question blocks filled with the finest items and coins a person could ever hope for. Lastly there are the billion-and-a-half Toads that are hiding in every nook and cranny you could imagine. Each little thing you do also corresponds to bonuses you can get in other aspects of the game. Filling the holes and finding the blocks will unlock music and trophies in the museum back in Toad Town as well as shower you with enormous amounts of coins.
Now, the Toads are what you should spend your time hunting. Toads give you a few coins upon saving, but that’s not all. Each Toad you save will sit in the bleachers surrounding the arena where you fight and they’ll cheer you on. Also, you can pay these toads to do a whole bunch of things! By throwing fat stacks towards these friends they can heal Mario, attack enemies , and even make combat significantly easier!
Next on we have what might be the most controversial part of this new entry: The combat. When Mario enters combat the fights take place on a circular arena that kind of looks like a dart board, but is comprised of several rings. Enemies will jump onto this board and scatter themselves among the many spaces on it. Your job during these fights is to arrange these enemies into either straight lines or two-by-two squares. If you “solve the puzzle” of getting the enemies into these shapes then Mario gets additional attack power to quickly beat the snot out of his foes.
It’s pretty basic stuff, but it’s kind of exciting to solve those puzzles. Admittedly, these fights can get a bit stale after a while, especially when the power boost makes fights nearly trivial, but there are a few solutions to make this more fun. Remember how I talked about cheering toads before? If you pay them more than 500 coins they will start solving the puzzle FOR you. On top of that, as you get health increases in the game you also gain the ability to smack weaker enemies and instantly KO them.
(Hole) Punching the Bosses
Now, boss fights are where the combat REALLY takes a turn for greatness. Instead of the standard “line ’em up, knock ’em down” combat, the boss fights have the big baddie riding high and mighty in the middle of the ring. You will fight a pretty hefty number of bosses ranging from powerful Vellumental beasts, strong Folded Soldiers and eventually fearsome members of the League of Stationery, the bosses of this series. Each of these fights has Mario manipulating tiles to steer himself closer to the boss to do the most amount of damage possible. It’s here where the combat REALLY starts to take off.
See, each of these bosses actually alters the board every time you fight them! For instance, the Fire Vellumental leaves flaming arrows in the tiles that hurt you when you walk through them, while the Colored Pencil Boss will target specific areas and will attack you if you cross those spaces. Every fight becomes a very distinct and frankly difficult experience that really tests how you react to very real changes in how you can move. Seriously, this is worth the entire price of admission.
The Prettiest Tapestry
This game is art. Like, DO YOU SEE THIS GAME?!? The work that went in to make this game look as good as it does is astounding. Every inch of this game feels lovingly hand-crafted and is an absolute treat to look at. As the game progresses each new area has a different energy and different cool effects that they use to make it even more fun to look at. I’m not sure what kind of black magics they decided to employ to make The Origami King shine to a blinding polish, but I am really glad they did. There is so much charm and personality pumped into this whole experience and I can’t wait for you to just stare at it.
The music is decadent and continues to be better than it ever needed to be every time you hear a new tune. Nintendo did not need to go in as hard as they did for this soundtrack. There are themes that you hear a lot for recurring things like fights, but every new area has a new spin on it. On the ocean? Now the battle theme is on the accordion. In a volcano? Now there’s some shredding guitars. The music never disappoints as you go on your great adventure. I love it. I love it all.
Adding Foiling to an Excellent Picture
So there are two main things that will draw you into this game when you start playing it. One at the beginning, and one a few hours in. The first, and arguably most important thing that will have you coming back for more is the writing. Oh. My. FRIG. This game is hilarious. Everybody has something clever or stupid to say to you that will have you laughing or saying “what even was that?” I can verify that I now have over 125 screenshots of clever lines or fabulous comebacks that this game delightfully sent my way. I cannot express to you how much of a beam of shining, brilliant light this game was to me during this whole pandemic stuff. I haven’t had this much fun reading a game in a long time.
The second hook is the story. It starts out pretty great! Peach coming out in that creepy way gives you a sense of the kind of vibe this game gives off as you move forward. It’s a different tone than I’m used to with Mario games. It isn’t until the end of the second area that things really ramp up into overdrive. When a certain moment hits, and believe me you’ll know what it is when it happens, you notice that this game is decidedly more serious than it might look from a first glance. It’s powerful even! I can tell you that this game made me FEEL things that I never expected from a game rated E for everyone. And this isn’t the only scene like it. Trust me when I say that this game is GREAT!
The Finer (Pin) Points
This game controls well and works just as well as you would expect a first party Nintendo game to handle. Everything responds just how you want it to and doesn’t leave you frustrated. I literally don’t want to spend more than a few lines on this because this game runs so well that I never noticed a moment when things slowed down or glitched. There are so many better things to talk about with this game.
Finishing Touches on This Tapestry
There are a few things I would like to tie up for anybody on the fence with things I haven’t covered yet, so I’ll wrap up a few things here before I say my final words on this experience:
- Yes, weapons have durability and can break during combat. You will have so many backups that this will literally never be an issue.
- Yes, there are like, a TRILLION coins in this game. Spend them as often as you would like because there will always be chances to get a million more.
- Partners are more of an afterthought in combat, but wonderful in the adventuring segments.
- This game is a really great action adventure game, and kind of a lousy RPG. But, that doesn’t make it a bad game.
- You will finish this game and say to yourself “that was a really good game!”
Look, The Origami King is fabulous. It might get off to a slow start, but the payoff is immense and worth every second. I know I’m going to give it some time, but I will certainly get back to play this again and again. I ranked this as my second favorite Paper Mario game, and that’s mainly because it’s been a while since I went back and played The Thousand Year Door. It’s just that good!
- Music is incredible and keeps the energy high
- The most clever writing in a game I have ever played
- Boss fights are an absolute joy
- Partners in combat are just north of useless
- Coins are literally everywhere, to the point of being ridiculous
- Regular enemy fights can feel pointless after a while
Paper Mario: The Origami King may not be the game that a lot of us asked for, but it certainly knocks it out of the park in what I can easily say is one of my favorite games in the series.