Matthew Torres is a college student currently living in Miami Florida, he enjoys writing about video games as well as other topics.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is what is perfectly described as a step in the right direction. For years life long fans of the series have begged for the incorporation of elements seen in the original Paper Mario as well as Paper Mario: The Thousand Year door. Although Origami King has a sense for what fans want and definitely takes an aim in the right direction, it falls short in many others. On its own Origami King is a great game, but due to all the expectations and all the great and not so great games before it, the game has big shoes (or in this case boots) to fill.
The most talked about element fans begged for a return of was partners, which thankfully the game brought back. In the first two games partners played significant roles in the series, especially in Thousand Year Door, which is what arguably made the game so great. Partners were characters in the Mario universe (usually enemies) with some type of clothing and lots of personality, Thousand Year Door even had unique text to fit the personality of each character. These characters brought a lot of charm and identity to the game especially since the main protagonist Paper Mario himself never spoke. Origami King thankfully included partners in the game, the personalities of most partners were decent, with some of course that stood out such as Kamek and Bowser Junior. Although present the inclusion of partners alone wasn’t enough to rekindle the charm the series is known for. In past games partners could actually be controlled in battles, and had important functions in the over world used to overcome obstacles. Throughout Origami King only one partner has this type of over world ability, which works for the partner specifically, but also shows what could’ve been for the others. In battles partners if present act as a mere extra attack, which is uncontrollable to the player and highly based on chance throughout the first half of the game. The writing for the characters gives them all great personalities, but the lack of abilities when compared to the older games makes them a bit bland, they feel more like NPC’s than actual important characters. This is not to say they aren’t entertaining, or don’t add to the story, but allowing more abilities for the partners definitely would have made them more complete and would have allowed for more enjoyment for older fans of the series.
The battle system while not as talked about as partners is the biggest issue with the game. During a battle in Origami King players must solve a circle slide puzzle to attack as many enemies in one turn as possible, while the battle system has a unique and creative idea it can be tedious especially when players discover that battles don’t deliver experience points, while Mario does grow stronger with his hit point growth and stronger items, the battle completion rewards definitely ruin the battle. The first couple of times battles can be entertaining, but at some point they feel overdone and repetitive, especially when the player is rewarded with coins or confetti, while confetti isn’t a horrible reward, it is used more for competition or side quests than actual progression, and coins are mainly used to solve puzzles the player finds difficult in these types of battles. There is not much strategy when it comes to attacking enemies or blocking attacks, timed button pressing does make battles more engaging, but the lack of skill needed makes the attacking part of battle far too easy and often mindless, the same can be said about blocking attacks, most enemies attacks function in a similar fashion, which makes blocking heavily reliant on button mashing instead of mastering different attack patterns which again ties back to older games in the series. A second type of over world battle system does exist that actually compliments the game fairly well and allows for the game to shine. These types of battles are known as paper macho battles, which involve battling giant paper mache versions of enemies. These types of battles while simple are significantly more engaging, while they start off easy, these types of battles begin to spike up in difficulty towards the end of the game, which definitely adds to the game and makes playing it more enjoyable. The third and most entertaining system of battling are the boss battles. While the boss battles in the game are similar to the normal battle system, the way the game shakes up boss battles actually works surprisingly well, instead of lining up enemies, the player must line up arrows to guide Mario towards the boss or other needed space to damage or make the boss vulnerable. Each boss contains a unique challenge and puzzle (aside from the battle system) for Mario to solve. For example aside from the battle system at times Mario may need to freeze or burn a certain boss depending on their weakness. The bosses themselves although initially seeming uncreative actually become justified as the game progresses and suite the game well. Colored pencils, scissors, tape, and rubber bands, are all examples of some of the bosses players will face along the way. Although they rely heavily on the paper theme, the writers did such a great job each of these bosses contains a unique and individualized personality which is both memorable and suits each of these bosses very well. Other types of bosses include the four Vellumentals (four diety like creatures based on elements). The strong personalities given to the inanimate objects and creativity behind the Vellumentals make the bosses some of the most enjoyable features of the game, it is clear that whoever worked on them did with passion and lots of creativity.
Origami King’s story, while nothing unheard of is actually great. It’s inclusion of dark undertones and great characters really compliment and help the story become even greater. In the game the players main objective is to rid the mushroom kingdom of several different color ribbons which block peach’s overtaken castle, this is of course reminiscent to the seven Crystal stars Mario must collect in Thousand Year Door. Most Mario games choose to make Bowser the villain and go with the predictable story of Bowser kidnapping Peach, but the fact that this game didn’t already made the story so much better, in fact most Mario games are when they stray away from this predictable story choice. The story actually starts off with a lot of creepy and ominous tones. King Olly the game’s main villain wishes to take over the mushroom kingdom and turn it all to origami. Because of this big threat Mario and Bowser actually work together which is always amazing to see. Giving Bowser character is one of the best choices to make when making a Mario game of this caliber. Bowser’s character is actually very goofy and comedic, a few times in the game he even makes comments about parenting, which is a side of Bowser that isn’t talked about often and is actually very refreshing to see. Olivia the main companion, and King Olly’s sister allies Mario on his journey, her commentary has a sense of innocence and purity. Her curiosity of the world and kindness to Bowser and even her impulsive brother makes her a memorable and fleshed out character. Olivia views lots of her adventure with Mario as fun even when things are falling apart and her presence alone is comforting, she brings a child like enjoyment to the game.
Origami King’s soundtrack is also great, how the music changes depending on where battles take place and with different bosses were great decisions on the developers part. Although the music is great, the games animation and art definitely surpass it. It is clear those who designed the game put a lot of work into it even more than other parts of the games. Regardless of the games flaws, the visuals in the game are definitely easy to appreciate whether one enjoys the game or not. All the origami creations and animations glow iridescently with detail and are truly remarkable. Even simple animations such as confetti falling the ground look absolutely amazing. Even when comparing Origami King to other games in the series it is clear to see that Origami King has set a bar when it comes to its visuals. It is vibrant and intricate and an overall masterpiece, if there is one aspect to appreciate about the game it is definitely this.
In terms of side content the game offers quite a bit including collecting toads, filling in spaces with confetti, over world shenanigans and even a way to re battle bosses. Collecting toads allows for perks such as more benefits when asking for assistance in puzzles during battle and is just overall rewarding in itself. Confetti, a new mechanic in the game is just alright, while it does feel good to fill spaces with confetti, not much can be offered except working towards completion for completions sake, coins, and items. In terms of over world content some areas throughout the story allow for attempts at new records or a chance at obtaining an award which is often a collectible treasure. Origami King does the bare minimum with side content, while it contains a lot of it, this is a sense where the quantity outshines the quality. Thankfully the side content does not take away from the main campaign in any form nor does it make it any worse.
The Paper Mario series is known for its crazy antics and personality which Origami King is thankfully brimming with. The game although not perfect is creative, funny, well written, and looks better than most thought possible. The story although nothing groundbreaking is fantastic and contains memorable and relatable characters. As a stand alone game Paper Mario: The Origami King is a masterpiece, and is a great game for any fan new to the series, sadly compared to its predecessors Origami King is no more than a mere step in the right direction which is enjoyable nonetheless. In its visuals and soundtrack Origami King unsurprisingly ranks a 10/10. In its battle system Origami King sadly ranks a 6/10 and as an overall game Origami King ranks a 7.5/10. The Paper Mario team is definitely moving in the right direction and it would be great to see them reach what the series fan base would love to see.