Paper Mario isn’t an RPG franchise anymore, and that’s a hard pill for fans to swallow. Along with that, its latest outings Sticker Star and Color Splash weren’t received very well. Luckily, Intelligent Systems‘ Paper Mario: The Origami King turns the ship around. This is an action-adventure puzzler worthy of your time.
Battle out your differences
The battle system in The Origami King has been a source of concern for some gamers. I’m happy to say that, for the most part, it gets the job done. The battles take place in a layered ring with dozens of spaces around Mario. Your goal is to line up enemies so Mario can utilize his attack in the best ways possible, using his hammer, jump attack, and various other items you obtain throughout the game. Battles begin simply, but the challenge ramps up after the first few hours.
The importance of getting a “perfect line-up” cannot be overstated. Mario takes quite a beating with each turn, so you really don’t want to botch your turn. Getting a perfect line-up will also boost Mario’s attack for the turn. Luckily, if you’re struggling to get the line-up, you can buy more time with the gold coins you obtain from the overworld and winning battles.
Items and accessories come in handy in battles as well. Items are special attacks like fireballs to roast a line of enemies or POW blocks to put them all in a daze. Accessories work as buffs on the battlefield. For example, a Silver Heart accessory will raise your overall health, and a Guard Plus will give you stronger guarding in combat. Companion characters will come and go throughout the journey. They help you out in battles with attacks that you don’t control. They can be a great help when fighting a lot of enemies at once.
The boss fights, meanwhile, are pretty much the exact opposite of regular battles and take some strategic thinking. Instead of enemies surrounding Mario, a boss will sit at the center of the stage. You rotate the origami stage to guide Mario in the correct spots to attack. Boss battles are pretty challenging because the table is randomized each turn, and they can take a hefty amount of time to beat.
I was really enjoying Paper Mario: The Origami King’s combat system the first half of the game. Sadly, the further I got, the more repetitive it felt. It was never a slog and the boss battles were always fun, but the normal battles did lose their luster after a while. I started to skip enemies in the world whenever I was stocked up on confetti, items, and coins — which are the main reasons you’ll need to battle because there’s no traditional EXP system in the game. Fortunately, Mario learns the ability to completely stomp out smaller foes in the overworld without needing to go into battle, which speeds things up a bit.
Not a paper-thin adventure
On the plus side, there are sections throughout the story where it’ll become more of an action game. You’ll use Mario’s hammer, jump attack, and more to take out baddies in real time. These moments were some of my favorite parts of the game. They also kinda made me wish Paper Mario went back to doing solely real-time action like in Super Paper Mario.
In typical Nintendo first-party fashion, Paper Mario: The Origami King is stunning. I was constantly impressed by its beautiful vistas, stellar lighting effects, and vibrant colors. The attention to detail in the handcrafted environments is super impressive. And some of the water animations made my jaw hit the floor.
The Origami King is broken up into different major sections, and they all have their own theme and color palettes. I was always eager to keep moving forward in the story just so I could see what the new environments would look like. On top of that, the soundtrack is varied and tons of songs are catchy as hell. Developer Intelligent Systems definitely brought its A-game with the presentation.
That’s not the only area the studio knocked it out of the park. The writing and humor are high-quality as well. I was constantly chuckling and smiling while playing The Origami King. The writing is witty, cute, and even cynical at times. To my surprise, there are even some emotional moments in the storyline that hit me in the feels. I even grew a connection with some of the characters, which I wasn’t expecting at all. The writing and comedy in the game make up for the paper-thin plot.
A new villain by the name of King Olly turns all of Mushroom Kingdom into an origami nightmare and wraps Princess Peach’s castle with five different colored ribbons. Then Mario sets out to untie all five ribbons so he can get back to the castle to save Peach and bring harmony to Mushroom Kingdom once again.
My main gripe with the structure of the main storyline is the game throws in some useless padding. Basically, it’s “go here, get this” filler that hinders the overall pacing.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is chock-full of collectibles. All the Toads in Mushroom Kingdom have been turned into origami, and you’ll find them scattered all throughout the land. The more you find, the more Toads you’ll have cheering you on and helping (if you need) in battles. There are also collectibles that are trophy versions of in-game items/assets. Then there are parts of the environments you can repair with Mario’s confetti. It’s really addicting to get 100% completion for all of the different sections of the map. Sadly, you don’t get anything special for doing it, but I still couldn’t stop trying to find everything. It was simply fun to do.
At the end of the day, Paper Mario: The Origami King surpassed my expectations. It isn’t the RPG return to form many gamers were hoping for, but it is the best Paper Mario game since The Thousand-Year Door. The combat is unique, the writing is superb, and the world is brimming with charm.
A review code was provided by the publisher.