Paper Mario: The Origami King, the sixth installment for the Paper Mario series, released a few weeks ago. If you are unfamiliar with the thematic goodness of Paper Mario, it is a stylized set of Mario games where all the characters are 2D paper cutouts and the world as a whole is papercraft. The style is cute and fun and allows for creative new perspectives and abilities to interact with the environment.
What's It About?
In Paper Mario: The Origami King, Mario and Luigi are headed to the Mushroom Kingdom at an invitation from Princess Peach to attend an Origami Festival. However once they arrive they see that some fiend has set a trap for them after having turned Princess Peach and many others into origami. (Which is scarier than it sounds.)
Mario escapes along with a new friend, Olivia. Olivia is a cheerful sprite character who is, herself, origami and who you quickly learn is the little sister of the villain of our story, Olly, the titular Origami King.
Bowser does make an early appearance in the game but he is no evil mastermind here, rather he himself has been watching his minions fall victim to the origami folds and is part folded himself when Mario comes to his rescue. (Later in the game Bowser returns to the scene, but no spoilers here!). Olly then transports Peach’s castle to a high mountain peak where it is wrapped in colorful streamers which stretch out into different areas of the world.
Olivia and Mario, along with the additional companion on occasion, head out to find the ends of these streamers in an effort to break them and unravel the castle to save Princess Peach. Each streamer you chase feels similar to entering a different World in other Super Mario games…one might be a desert area, another in the sky, and so on.
Each has mini boss (generally a creature called a vellumental which provides you with a new skill upon victory), and then a main world boss which is guarding the end of each streamer. Of course, tying into the paper theme, these main bosses include a hole punch, stapler, tape, and so on, while the vellumentals are more typical fantasy creatures.
If you persevere, you eventually can (spoiler?) save the princess. Besides that however, there are several achievement focused goals to attempt to 100% as you go along.
Depending on how much of an overachiever you are, the game can take an estimated 25-40+ hours to beat. I think for me to find all the collectibles I will end up far past the 40 hour mark…unless I cave and use the internet to find them.
What I love most about all Paper Mario games is the creativity and humor. The game really takes advantage of the “paper” theme and plays on that well, with using pieces of confetti to fill in holes that were torn in the environment (also clever as it allows you to see a metal frame which is behind the paper), pulling paper toads out of jammed fax machines, and saving various other Toads which have been turned into origami shapes by using your hammer to flatten them out.
Additionally, the jokes, references, puns, and Easter eggs dispersed throughout enhance the overall experience. Luigi pops in and out of the story throughout the game as he is apparently on his own quest in trying to help Mario in ridiculous fashion.
Character interactions in The Origami King are disparate from the common Mario games as well. With the enemy focus being the Origami King and his Folded Soldiers, every character who is not origami is a friend. Including Bowser’s minions!
In fact, you are able to work alongside of Bowser himself at points to free the kingdom, and enjoy a drink in hidden coffee shops that are the typical haunts of Goombas and Koopa Troopas.
Several different game styles are blended in The Origami King…including puzzles reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda, role playing, and action-adventure. Some would argue whether this one is an RPG title, but loosely it does fit within most RPG genre boundaries (plus Nintendo classifies it as such, so we will go with it for the sake of this article). Each streamer/world offers unique challenges by using this mixture of genres and keeps the game feeling fresh with each world rather than a continuation of the same old stuff. As a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I enjoyed the Great Sea area with diving for treasures and coming across islands to fill out your sea chart.
I have one word for you: combat. The ring-based battle system which The Origami King introduces is clever and unique…and extremely convoluted and pointless.
Every time you enter a battle with a minion you are transported into the middle of 4 rings with different blocks where an enemy can stand. Before the battle commences you have a puzzle to line up your enemies in a way that either you can jump on them or hit them with your hammer most effectively. The first dozen times this was fun, but it quickly got tedious for me.
There is also a feature where before you start sliding rings you can pay toads 10 gold a piece to come and help with arranging the board, giving you health, or doing minor damage to the enemies. Due to the large amount of gold you get in the course of the game there is no reason not to do this other than that you want to have the satisfaction of beating your opponent without toads. Whether you buy helpers or not, the fights can take a lot of time and when you are enjoying the unfolding story of the game, it becomes a hassle that I end up trying to avoid when possible.
The boss fights are a different version of ring battles, with the boss now being in the center of the rings and Mario needing to make his way toward the center to attack. Scattered around the rings in these battles are different power-ups, attack buttons, or directional arrows which you need to aim for by again moving the rings to design your route before telling Mario to go.
Once he starts moving, you have no control and can only hope you laid out the arrows in a way that get him where you want him to be. These are much more engaging than the minion battles, and therefore much more enjoyable, but I personally still prefer classic fighting to ring puzzles.
Finally, for those of us who are not loving the trend of weapons breaking… this game has a lot of it. During ring battles you can choose what boots to equip or hammer to use and these decay and break quite often. Perhaps this is another reason for the immense amount of coins you collect in the game?
It isn’t Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. You've probably heard that one before. But it's true.
Ever since the release of The Thousand-Year Door in 2004, fans worldwide have been looking for a true successor to it, and despite several other Paper Mario games having been released since, once again fans were disappointed to find that The Origami King did not return many of the RPG mechanics which The Thousand-Year Door made use of.
Don’t let that skew your perception of The Origami King, however, as this game is a true gem that deserves to have a fair shot.
2020 has been a pretty bad year for everyone. My feeling is that we all need a little more happy, cheerful entertainment in our lives right now to counter the real world. Paper Mario: The Origami King delivers on that point. The humor, the cheerful colors, and the lighthearted feel of the entire game makes it a perfect respite from everything else going on around us. Plus we get to save a princess. Again.
Also if you are interested in watching footage of Paper Mario: The Origami King, our very own Capsulejay has been livestreaming his streamer chase (pun intended), and you can check out the shenanigans on his Twitch channel.