Paper Mario: The Origami King Review
The newest installment to the Paper Mario series has finally graced our Nintendo Switch Consoles and what an experience it is! Since its debut on the Nintendo 64, Paper Mario has delivered a fun and friendly turn-based RPG experience, time and time again. Although, the sequels since the Nintendo 64 have never done quite as well in terms of average review score. Their scores have progressively got worse upon each release, with the exception of Super Paper Mario for the Wii-U, scoring a slight increase with a 7.8/10 average. Although, that is not to say they were (in any form) bad games. The lowest-scoring title still achieved averagely around the 7/10 mark, with critiques stating the game was fun to play, but didn’t do anything new and exciting. With the power of the far superior Nintendo Switch and a new direction for Nintendo, does this latest installment restore the series to its former glory? Read on to see our Review of Paper Mario: The Origami King.
Paper Mario: The Origami King, has a remarkably simple gameplay structure. You play as a Paper Mario, who lives with his paper pals in the hand-crafted Mushroom Kingdom. Mario’s abilities are simple, he can hit things with his trusty hammer and simply jump over, or on, obstacles and enemies. The world in this game is presented in 3D and is navigated in 3D as-well, as expected in most typical Japanese RPG games. Mario can interact with nearly anything in this world, such as entering structures, opening chests, reading signs, breaking walls, talking to people and so many other unique things.
Like many Mario games before it, the world is littered with collectibles to find throughout. These can range from gameplay specific ones, such as powerups and skills, all the way through to coins and trophies hidden collectibles. Although, the most important collectible in this game is the search for “Toads”, which are hidden throughout the world. Finding these paper inhabitants is by far one of the most fun things to do in this title as it requires you to sometimes thing out of the box. The Origami enemies that have taken over the lands have folded and hidden each Toad and its Mario’s job to uncover where these have been hidden. Some of the hiding places that these have been put in are pure genius and you feel amazing when you conquer these puzzles and uncover their hiding place. One small attention to details that I really liked when finding these little mushroom people, was that as you uncover them, they begin to inhabit the Mushroom Kingdom again. An area once filled with enemies will now be littered with Toads! Making the world feel that little bit more alive the further and further you go, making you visually be able to see your own progress.
Upgrades in this game are quite simple. There are only a couple of equippable weapon types: Boots for jumping on enemies or Hammers for squashing them, which keeps things a bit too simple. I also felt a little disappointed to find that using a new weapon would not change the appearance of it when being used in battle, which felt a little bit lazy. There are also usable items that can be utilized either in battle or in the world areas, which range from heals for Mario to fire flowers that deal devastating ranged attacks to enemies. Lastly, there are trinkets that can be unlocked which give Mario small boosts and extra skills in the game such as more HP in battle, or cosmetic changes to Mario’s confetti. The simplicity in the upgrade items is not necessarily a terrible thing as it keeps things from becoming too complex, although, for more seasoned veterans of this genre, like myself, I found that it does make the game feel like it lacks in variety.
One of my biggest gripes with this game is its battle system. This title introduces a brand-new battle mechanic where you are required to spin and move disks on a battlefield, with the intention to move enemies into a position in which you can best attack them. Although, your number of moves are limited and there is a time limit to move them within, meaning you must choose carefully and quickly, where and when to move an enemy. On paper, it does not sound like a bad mechanic, but in practice, it just becomes boring and annoying. Although to give credit where it’s due, I do appreciate that Nintendo is always trying new things with this series, and I do think this could have been better if it had been thought out a little more. But in its current state, it just didn’t hold my attention or make me enjoy the battles to any degree. Again, however, I do like that the only incentive to battle is that you gain large sums of coins, and coins are how you buy upgrades for your character, which aren’t critical to you being able to complete this game. If you don’t fancy battling, but you really want that upgrade, you do have the option to go and find coins litter throughout the world instead as-well. The majority of battles can be skipped by simply running away and jumping over enemies in the world, so it never felt like Nintendo was forcing me to always be fighting. One final big gripe with the game is that it does not feature leveling, like the previous entries and other titles like this, which was a big down point for me, as I quite like building my characters up and making them ridiculously powerful. Although, from a perspective of someone new to this genre, the game keeps character development as simple as possible therefore is easier to manage. As this game is primarily advertised for young children, it is likely that they will fall into this category. As a result, to those fans of the typical turn-based RPGs, the battling and character development might not be for you. For those who are new to this genre, this is a brilliant entry point for you to start your JRPG journey on.
Throughout your journey, you will find companions who will join you and support you in many ways but primarily through battle. These characters usually join your party with a story of their own, that they will resolve as they travel through their voyage with Mario, which is a nice touch. Although, when these companions join you in battle, but don’t really add any real value. You cannot control their actions and they have a high chance of failing anyway, meaning that any time they do actually achieve anything in battle it’s a nice little added bonus, but doesn’t really change the “tide of battle”.
Overall, the gameplay can be a bit repetitive and basic, although most of the fun in this game can be found during the majority of the game, where you are left wondering around this beautifully crafted world. Finally, the simplicity of this title was never enough to stop me from playing through the adventure, although it had me yearning for more from beginning to end.
Over time, Nintendo has perfected the art of taking something that exists in our world as an inanimate object and perfectly integrates it into a living breathing world of a game, with titles such as Yoshi's Craft World and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Paper Mario: The Origami King fits into this category, with no issue. Characters are not only thin sheets of paper but by using the extra available power of the Nintendo Switch, they have been given paper-like textures. The origami characters, all look believable and realistically folded giving them a slightly more 3D look. Although, when this is taken to wacky levels, such as an Origami character transforming into something else, the reality gets a bit lost, but is kept extremely wacky and fun. Characters that are 3D, such as the Paper Mache enemies, are built with structural frames that get exposed more and more as you weaken and break those characters down, so they never feel that they don’t belong in this world due to their more 3D like properties. Quite simply the character design in this game is perfect and beautiful.
The world that you navigate uses a blend of different techniques to build it up, ranging from cardboard cut-outs through to over-embellished drawn shapes, which when blended together form the world. Due to the cartoonish history with Mario and its 2D roots, you never are left feeling like this is an unnatural environment for Mario to be in, which really helps you become engrossed in the beauty of it, and never sit there thinking “that doesn’t look right”. Nintendo has used a bloom effect all over this world to add a glow to the world that gives the final touch that makes the art style just pop.
The story of The Origami King is actually, a sweet story that matches in quality to the greatness of the original titles. The story does a really good job of mixing traditional JRPG story tropes and merging it nearly with the whimsical Mario Universe. The story goes, the Princess is holding an Origami party. When Mario and Luigi arrive, they find that the princess is not her normal self and is challenging Mario to embrace his “inner folds”. After-which, her castle is taken by a mysterious Origami King and is holstered up on top of a mountain, being locked behind strange colourful streamers. It’s Mario’s job to go and break all of these Streamers and save the Princess from the Origami Kings grasp. A story that takes similar direction to crystal based JRPGs, in which you travel the world to find 6-8 crystals.
The world is strangely full of its own unique lore, in which each character and place has its own story. Which is a feature I really enjoyed. I found myself speaking to every Toad that I rescued in the game just to simply learn what they were up to. They fill the void to explain what happened to that particular area, or how they became captured in which most stories make for some comedic additions. That nicely takes me onto the comedy and writing in this game. This is a game that does not take itself seriously, it has goofy one-liners and a lot of 4th wall breaking, and it's amazing. I do not want to spoil any of it, as it’s a nice surprise, but be prepared for some cross-series references such as a toad “being met with a terrible fate”.
I do strongly believe that one of the key things that Paper Mario is missing (see what I did there), is side content and quests. I would love to have some optional extras to be able to do, in terms of quests to learn more about the world and unlock more in game features in this way. It is a perfect opportunity to build on lore, that I think Paper Mario misses.
The music in The Origami King is as delightful and fun as a game of this genre should be. It takes a majority of key songs from previous Mario games and remixes them and also features brand new tracks specifically written for this title. The unique tracks do match the stylings of the tracks you’d expect to hear in a typical Mario game, although, they fall short on being as memorable or as significant as songs that we have heard from the series in the past. Although the music in this game is good, it just doesn’t feel better than music that we’ve heard from the Mario universe before.
The game doesn’t feature any voice acting, therefore requiring players to read characters' dialog on the screen. From an accessibility standpoint, this isn’t perfect, but the game isn’t overall too complex, so doesn’t matter too much. When characters talk, they all have a unique text scrolling sound, that mimics what their speech would sound-like, which helps make conversations held by characters feel a little more engaging. Finally, The Origami King features the classic sound effects straight from other Mario games such as his iconic jump sound, or the sound of collecting a coin, which just helps round off the feeling that you are in the Mario world universe.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is a decent 25 Hour journey, which features amazing reimagined characters from the Mario Universe. The gameplay is a bit repetitive but is not repetitive enough to stop you from playing over-all. Battles feel poorly designed, although this is made up for in the amazing work put into making the Paper Mario World, really fun and interactive. The story is simple, yet effective, with a pretty nice soundtrack to boot. Overall, this is by far, not the best entry to the Paper Mario universe, it certainly is a step in the right direction from the previous 3 titles. If you are a fan of all of the previous games you will love this one, if you weren’t a fan of them then it won’t be for you. If you are entirely new to the JRPG genre and want to get into it, I would say Paper Mario is a fantastic start.