Paper Mario: The Origami King
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Released: July 17th, 2020
Series: Paper Mario
Intro: Paper Mario: The Origami King is the 5th Paper Mario game in the series (6th if you count Paper Jam) and the first released on the Switch. In this adventure, Mario sets out with newfound friends to save Princess Peach and the world from the attack of King Olly, the Origami King. Mixing adventure, platforming, and RPG elements, it has a little something for everybody. There will be spoilers.
Story: Mario games have never been known for deep storylines, but the Paper Mario series has gone above and beyond to bring forth fleshed out tales that probably wouldn’t work in a simple platformer. This time we meet Mario and Luigi as they arrive to Toad Town in front of Princess Peach’s castle to celebrate the Origami Festival. This is all well and good until they find out things are being taken over by King Olly who is hellbent on turning the world into origami. We meet his sister, Olivia, and she leads us on a journey to save everyone from Olly. It’s your typical RPG setup, but it works. Throughout the journey we get to meet numerous characters and worlds that for the most part feel fairly well developed for a Mario game. It’s our partner characters that bring the story to life and give us motivation to move forward, and sadly we are with them for far too short of periods of time. On a handful of occasions, Olly pops up to remind us what he’s up to and cause some mayhem, and these short interactions remind us how serious things are. The unfortunate part of the story is that as we visit each town/location, the direness of the main plot seems to halt while we have to solve the problems of the current locale. Thankfully, the problems are always linked to the origami aspect so it keeps it relevant but there are times it does feel like it has ground to a crawl. By the time we reach the final act, teaming up with some very unlikely allies, the game truly shines with its story. An epic air battle never before seen in a Mario game really ups the ante and dialed everything up, right up until the final battles. Mostly the story was well done for such a basic premise with some surprisingly emotional moments that lead up to a satisfying bittersweet ending. 3 out of 5.
Characters: Our primary protagonist is of course Mario, and as always in the Paper Mario series, he is silent. Not to my memory have they ever said why he doesn’t speak but that’s okay, because he still makes for a likable lead. Mario always has been the good guy, always looking to do the right thing and help everyone he meets. His partner throughout the game is Olivia, an origami girl with a bright attitude, albeit she tends to be naïve. She is very likable, understanding little of the paper world but just as kind hearted as Mario. They make a great team and you quickly grow fond of the pairing. Other characters we come across include Bobby (a bob-omb), Professor Toad (an archeologist), Luigi, Kamek, Bowser Jr., and Bowser himself. They all play varying roles but each of them are likable (yes, even the villains!) and have a lasting impact on your adventure. Well, except poor Luigi. He really does not get his time to shine, acting as a convenient “Hey, here’s a key!” when you need one, but he spends most of his time offscreen. I really wouldn’t have minded the occasional side quest with him as the star as you find the keys he conveniently gives Mario. One of my favorites had to be Kamek, however, as we actually get to see him be a leader and come into his own. The downside to the characters in the game are that majority of the towns are filled with toads. And only toads. Sometimes we get shyguys, maybe some koopas or goombas, but otherwise it’s all toads. Past Mario games (both Paper and otherwise) have shown a ton of other creatures that populate areas and would have been great to see them as well. 3 out of 5.
Graphics: One of the best things about the Paper Mario series has been the simple paper graphics. Everything is made out of paper to varying degrees. It is all utilized in a way that makes the world vibrant and colorful. I love seeing how creatively they utilize paper and cardboard to be everything from water to trees to pipes. Enemies this time around are made to look like origami or paper mache’, giving them a more three dimensional look than the paper-thin counterparts. It’s a nice contrast and immediately lets you know who is up to no good. It’s also interesting to note how they blend into the background more than the paper characters, who have thick black borders and white outlines, making them stand out. Another unique element are the bosses, modeled after things like a tray of colored pencils, rubber bands, a stapler, a pair of scissors; all made to look like their real world counterparts. They resemble neither paper nor origami so it gives them a sense of otherworldliness. One of my favorite things to see were the giant vellumentals, made to look like elemental creatures out of origami, Bowser’s flying ship, and the ever-shifting Origami Castle. I give this a 5 out of 5 in graphics because it did exactly what it set out to do in every aspect, and I noticed nothing out of place or glitchy.
Sound: The usual sound effects from the Paper Mario games are all here, from Mario’s grunts and grumbles to his battle sound effects. Other characters all make the same effects heard before, from the Toads’ excitable squeals to the clip clop of the koopa troopa shells. What’s new is some of the background music, which is what stands out. Every area has its own soundtrack that perfectly suits the environment. My favorite had to be the rock n roll tracks of certain boss fights. None of the Paper Mario games have voice acting, relying on text boxes, and it works just fine, because who really needs voice acting for these to come off well done? I’m gonna give this a 3 out of 5 because the music was great even if the sound effects were forgettable.
Gameplay: This is where the game hits and misses. Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door are the first two games in the series and the only two with a true RPG feel to the battle system. Sticker Star and Color Splash had the worst battle systems, giving you no reason to want to fight at all. In fact, I purposely tried NOT to battle. Origami King fixes that to an extent, giving each battle a puzzle element to it, but it quickly becomes more of the same, the only incentive to fight being the acquisition of coins, used to buy boots, hammers, and items for battle. Occasionally you may have a partner character who does an attack, but they are unreliable at best. I’ll take OK’s battle system over SS and CS but I am biased toward TTYD’s system, which was not perfect but was much closer to an RPG. Where I think the battle system truly shines is in the boss battles, which switch it up and forces you to creature paths to the enemy within a limited number of moves, all the while aiming to hit special tiles for attacks and power ups. Every boss adds its own strategic elements, requiring proper positioning of your attack to timing the type of attack. There is definitely no easy way around these fights and they really are a challenge. I think I would have enjoyed the battles a lot more had all battles been in this fashion, but it makes the bosses all that more enjoyable and challenging to fight. As far as the adventure aspect, there are the typical platforming elements mixed in with puzzles galore. The only truly pointless part seems to be the confetti, which is 100% a holdover from Color Splash, just under a different name. 2 out of 5.
Content: With its flaws, the game makes up for it with having plenty to do. In addition to typical fetch quests (which are few and far between honestly), there are hundreds of Toads to find hidden in the paper world, secret ? blocks to hit, collectibles, not-bottomless holes to confetti over, and special challenges. To get 100% for this game it would take a lot of work and effort, but it gives it longevity. While a lot of these result in mostly coins, some of the Toads turn out to be very helpful, selling accessories or solving a puzzle or two. 4 out of 5.
Overall: 3 out of 5. The game was definitely fun and I got my money’s worth. I enjoyed the story and the characters, even if the regular battle got old fast. I loved the boss battles and loved that everywhere I went I could find hidden goodies. It truly encouraged exploration and revisiting old areas. It surpasses Sticker Star and Color Splash by miles. If they wanted to make a perfect Paper Mario game, they would have everything this game had, but the battle system of TTYD, except keep the bosses in this game’s style. While I am done with this game for now, I will definitely revisit it someday and enjoy it just as much as I did now.