Fans have been clamouring for a new Paper Mario game for years now. Although I am by no means a fan of the prolific plumber and his subsequent games, I do like how Nintendo and longtime first-party development studio, Intelligent Systems, have recognised the power of the fanbase and decided to try and bring the series back for a new generation. While Paper Mario: The Origami King only resembles previous entries in an aesthetic more so than anything else, there is no denying how it carries the same devotion and determination from past games of the series. With this in mind, the franchise has a very passionate fanbase. Therefore the question of whether Intelligent Systems and Nintendo have delivered on the long-awaited hype for a sequel, or perhaps it falls flat on its face, remains to be seen. Spoiler alert: it mostly succeeds at what it needs to do.
Like pretty much every other Mario game, Paper Mario: The Origami King starts with Mario and Luigi visiting Princess Peach at her castle. Naturally, something seems to happen with Peach and Mario is thrown into the dungeon. Shenanigans ensue and Mario, with a new companion and fellow prisoner Olivia, are banished from the castle. As is par for the course, our favourite red-hat plumber will not take any of this, and the game opens up with a quest where Mario and Olivia find their way back and save the day. Getting there is not as easy you might imagine, however. Along the way, Mario and Olivia must first get rid of streamers that have been hung throughout the land. To remove the streamers, Mario must make his way through the various regions and levels the streamers are tied to and defeat a collection of new franchise bosses called Vellumentals.
Given how Paper Mario is known for the charm and humour that sets it apart from other Mario franchises, it is great to see how Paper Mario: The Origami King does not disappoint. The fun way all the creatures and characters are portrayed in origami is particularly great to see, with many unique designs for new characters and returning classic designs from previous Paper Mario titles (like Goombella). It is a breath of fresh air to see and experience Paper Mario on the Nintendo Switch.
Unfortunately, while all Paper Mario: The Origami King characters look like they were pulled right out of the previous generation and remixed to fit beautifully with current technology, the gameplay itself feels rather… odd. The most glaring point of contest fans will come across is the distinct lack of experience points the game has to offer: there are none. While this is not an issue, it is odd how this Mario game is marketed as a Role-playing Game (RPG), and yet it does not feature what is arguably the single-most-important element of an RPG. Instead, Paper Mario: The Origami King features a new system that continually rewards players in a unique way. It adapts to how players interact with the game by changing the way everything works in steady intervals. Combat, for instance, gets an entirely new spin on it as soon as it notices players are getting comfortable. Exploring also experiences changes, with new ways to manoeuvre stages making themselves available in steady and accessible intervals. This steady cadence of new powers, companions, stages, and items is a nice way of keeping things fresh for players without the game succumbing to classic RPG tropes.
As all Mario franchises go, Paper Mario: The Origami King plays exactly as expected. Stages (or worlds) are divided between vastly differing biomes. All worlds are accessible by pipes that magically teleport Mario from one world to another. Mario can jump, run, and spin his way through all of these stages in classic platforming fashion. Given the nature of the game, platforming is a must-have when there are things like toads and coins to collect. Multi-coloured toads, for instance, are hidden away quite nicely, but are very useful to grab as soon as you possibly can. As you expected, collecting toads goes hand-in-hand with this, and will make it much easier to traverse stages later on.
Coins in Paper Mario: The Origami King work as they did in older titles, with the exception of how they now act as meaningful ways to get around tougher enemies. They are still as plentiful as ever because they are needed to solve combat puzzles. The only point of contest is how accruing many toads and coins will eventually make the combat bafflingly easy. While this may work for casual gamers, it is evident gamers who pride themselves on how skilful they were at older titles will have a hard time adjusting.
Despite the lack of a points system in the game, the way toads and coins work in tandem with the combat system ensures things are kept interesting. You can also use coins to buy power-ups, skills, and even accessories that apply boons and buffs to Mario. This makes beating down the cute thematic origami enemies quite a treat.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is a delight. It is clear Intelligent System has put a lot of love and care into the game. While it is not the greatest Mario game of recent memory, it certainly stands on its own merit as a unique take on the Mario franchise. In a way, Paper Mario: The Origami King redefines this beloved spin-off series, and is an excellent addition to Mario’s portfolio. It features unique folded paper characters with colourful and bold stages reflecting all walks of life. The new characters are memorable and cute, while all the favourites have returned to feature in some form or another. It is a definite must-have for fans, and will assuredly serve as a nice entry point for players looking to embrace the iconic plumbers lively escapades.
|Time Played||>20 Hours|
|Acquisition||Review courtesy of Nintendo|