Paper Mario: The Origami King has arrived to save Summer! In a usually bleak period for game releases, this portable adventure has dropped just in time for the Summer Holiday.
The Nintendo Switch is one of the hottest consoles on the market at present and the desire to possess one will only grow with this quaint adventure featuring Nintendo's mascot.
Paper Mario is an appealing and unique spin on a classic Mario adventure, combining paper elements and mechanics with turn-based combat.
Here's our review for Paper Mario: The Origami King.
What Is Paper Mario: The Origami King?
If you've not heard of the Paper Mario series before, this is actually the sixth entry into the series. The original Paper Mario was released on the Nintendo 64 back in 2000.
Almost 20 years have passed since then and the game still attracts big interest and continues to impress with its quirky story and mechanics.
Paper Mario is a game that holds action-adventure and RPG elements, developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo.
You play as Mario, and as you can expect, you are tasked with saving Peach. Although the universe you play in remains a constant, none of the stories are related to one another.
In this game, you are tasked with saving the Mushroom Kingdom and Peach from the evil Origami King King Olly. Olly is responsible for turning inhabitants into evil Origami, who are trying to take over the world. Peach's castle has been captured and sealed away under streamers and it's up to Mario to venture across the Kingdom to release the castle.
PAPER BEATS ROCKS: Nothing will stand in the way of Mario saving the day
Along your travels, you will encounter characters that you can team up with as you explore the world.
Being a Paper Mario game, it introduces paper-like mechanics that are required to solve puzzles.
During your adventure, you'll also come across enemies to do battle with, in turn-based combat. What's unique to this game is that the combat has been changed to feature a 360-degree ring-based battle system; requiring you to line and group up enemies to maximise your moves as well as grant power-ups.
This will require Mario to take turns using an arsenal of tools to fight and block his opponent's attacks.
No Expertise Required
The story doesn't follow on from any of the previous games, meaning you can hop straight into the adventure and enjoy the story without having prior knowledge. As long as you're familiar with Mario and his friends, you'll be right at home.
As described above, the story features the Origami King taking over the Mushroom King by turning its residents into evil Origami soldiers, while enclosing Peach's castle in streamers. King Olly is at the centre of this evil and you're given little context on why or how he's arrived.
All you need to know is that he's evil and must be stopped! Fortunately, Mario has an ace up his sleeve in the form of Olivia, Olly's sister. She acts as the guide and even assists in certain parts of the game as you aim to release the castle from the streamers.
That's basically it, a very simple and straight forward story. If you're someone who's not necessarily interested in big stories, this is right up your street. Although for a game that does aim to be an RPG or consist of RPG elements, it's a little odd to not flesh out the story a bit more.
Games such as Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Old Door had an incredible overarching story with plenty of subplots wedged in between. Meaning you always had a new objective and a new character to care about.
While the motivation to get up and go is certainly there, it's far from the magic that previous games before it have brought.
I can't help but feel like the (slight) downfall in ratings for the latest Paper Mario games is due to the story not being as immersive as it used to be.
"The game is full of puns, jokes and inventive dialogue that will have you cackling at the cringe one-liners."
Even though the story lacks some substance, the personalities of the characters have been developed very well.
The game is full of puns, jokes and inventive dialogue that will have you cackling at the cringe one-liners.
It's certainly one way to work around what is quite a vanilla storyline and will make you want to talk to everyone you see, just to hear what they have to say.
Olivia, in particular, stands out as a charming companion that keeps the game flowing even during its drabber moments.
The game rarely has you following a rinse and repeat sequence of events (other than battles).
You'll get up to such a variety of adventures and interactions, you'll lose track of time.
There are in-world puzzles, quiz shows and boss battles to mix things up.
Tasks and quests aren't often repeated and that's exactly the way it should be.
As you expect, the gameplay is rather straight forward, never straying too far from what Mario is known for. Running and jumping. My fear is it's TOO SAFE.
I remember playing The Thousand Year Old Door back in 2004 and being obsessed with how smart some of the mechanics and puzzles were.
In past games, Mario had paper themed abilities such as turning into a paper aeroplane and flying through the air, or turning into a boat and floating on water. There were really simple moments where Mario could simply turn sideways and the world you were in completely changed and things that weren't visible before were now crystal clear.
While gimmicks like the 1000-Fold arms are certainly fun when using the motion controls, they fail in comparison.
The game also removed a lot of RPG mechanics and really watered down the importance of items that can change your battle style, the variety of moves have also majorly been scaled back since the earlier days.
Perhaps this made things too complicated and Nintendo wanted to reach a newer, younger audience? Its predeccessors perhaps had too many barriers for entry? I think that's fair but the more hardcore audience, that has stuck with the series, can tell something is sorely missing.
The addition of the confetti mechanic, similar to Color Splashes painting, is a nice touch and occasionally shows you how cool the concept could be. But it ultimately used in a very simple manner in this game and never reaches its full potential.
Puzzle Battle System - The Solution Paper Mario Needed?
While the Ring Based Battle System can be a choir at times, especially in the early stages of the game, it certainly can freshen up the state of battles when you're trying to solve the puzzle put in front of you.
Whilst playing, I was trying to decide whether I like the addition and I came to the conclusion after an hour or two that I did. I think that was more due to the fact that the exploration has been watered down, so it was nice to do something that engaged my brain a bit more.
Would I be sad if it was the one and only time it was used? No, I wouldn't. It's a nice feature, but I'm not in love with it and I would gladly trade it for more variety within battles. Especially when the enemies you face are quite limited.
Ultimately, battles have a predetermined outcome not allowing for much variety. If you have a field full of enemies, it can be particularly rewarding lining enemies up appropriately and equally frustrating getting it wrong; that's what makes it strangely addictive.
Where it really shines is in boss battles. Not only do you need to make sure you get the sequence right, but you need to ensure that you attack in the right way or risk being severely punished.
The biggest issue that stands with the battles is, what is the point in them? You're not penalised for avoiding them as there is no EXP attached to these fights, there are so many coins in the world that you don't need to fight them to gain more and confetti can be found everywhere. So what do they offer other than a larger game time?
What Paper Mario does right is that it gives you the opportunity to grab collectables and Paper Toads (if you're interested in that sort of thing).
From an RPG perspective, it's great to have something to grind for and give you a reason to revisit key areas in the game.
What's brilliant is the fact that the more Toads you save, the more impact they have in battles. This arguably needless grind does have you lingering around the world a bit longer to try and find these helpful friends.
The more Toads you collect in the world, the more will watch your battles with enemies - if you call upon their help they will reward you with hearts, damage enemies and throw special items at you.
What I've always enjoyed about past Paper Mario games are the companions that join you on your adventure, bringing their own unique twists, abilities and stories.
I severely feel like this is something that wasn't optimised to its fullest potential, especially as your first companion only arrives once you've removed the first streamer.
You have no control over their moves and progression in battle. They do not even join you in boss battles! While they are a nice addition, they seemed more of an afterthought than a standout piece of the Origami King puzzle.
This may be due to the fact that Producer Kensuke Tanabe recently revealed that they can no longer modify original characters.
It's a big shame because I think that's a huge loss for the series as a whole and would have certainly developed the story further.
On The Map
A big fat tick for this game is the structure of the map, the world is so much bigger than some past games. Not just that, but every section has been beautifully crafted to include a multitude of tricks and secrets.
From the beginning, I was afraid I would be following a linear path with no real exploring available; but that's thankfully not the case.
Toad Town acts as a hub for the world, allowing you to quickly warp back via pipes, allowing you to see how your efforts have had a positive effect on the world.
If you're not interested in returning, the game does a great job of seamlessly allowing you to progress in a linear manner.
Each area is also quite expansive and encourages the user to explore. It does a fair job at keeping the player going in the right direction without you realising.
Graphics And Sound
Mario's Best Life
For a Paper Mario game, it looks phenomenal and is arguably one of Mario's best-looking games to date.
It's always hard to compare graphics when its set in a cartoon style, but the world around Mario is beautiful and the cutscenes are incredibly pretty; they really make for a great setting.
The colours are vibrant, the textures are great and it's visually incredibly appealing to look at.
While the sound is not the emphasis for a game like this, the soundtracks are extremely groovy and will get stuck in your head if you listen for too long.
The game will keep you occupied through the main story for about 20-30 hours, which is a solid time to rack up for a game like this.
If you're a completionist, you're probably looking at 40+ to grab all the collectables, plug all of the near-bottomless holes and find all of the Toads.
While there's no multiplayer, the game hardly needs it. DLC wouldn't go a miss at a later date and hopefully, the good times can continue and evolve with new characters and worlds.
Is It Worth It?
I think the game is incredibly fun and although it may seem like I'm overly harsh on the game at times, it's because I know how good this game can be and it's a shame not to see it reach its full potential.
I respect that the series has always tried to mix things up with new mechanics and layouts - it's why I'm a big fan of Paper Mario games.
If you're new to the genre and you're put off by the RPG and combat elements, don't be, they're incredibly inviting and explained brilliantly. If you're a hardcore RPG player, you may not find the glory you remember from past games.
It's ultimately a classic Mario adventure, that combines familiar elements from the franchise into a colourful and engaging world. With Summer upon us and a lack of titles to get stuck into, this is worth anyone's time.