Paper Mario: The Origami King is a special game. From the moment it was announced two months ago, it had fans stirring. When initially revealed it was met by mostly positive feedback, but there were some fans who still didn’t like what the series has become. After its second entry, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, each game would start to lose its RPG elements, and take on a more Action Adventure feeling. The following games would bring in new mechanics and new ways to fight with each entry. Some dislike that, but others like me have grown to accept and enjoy it. Paper Mario: The Origami King brings a whole new way to fight with a new ring system. It also features a plot featured around Origami, the return of the partner system, and some of the best writing, and music in the series.
The Sinister Origami Plot
The game starts out with Mario and Luigi getting an invitation from Princess Peach to attend a Origami Festival held in Toad Town. As they arrive they are met with abandoned streets and homes. It is as if the entire populus got up and left the town. The brothers make their way to Princess Peach’s castle to find that she has been folded into an origami version of herself. Wishing for Mario to be reborn like her, Mario declines and is shown that Bowser’s minions have been also turned into origami monsters. It is at that moment Mario meets who would become his new partner, Olivia. Olivia is the princess of the Origami Kingdom, and sister to the main villain, King Olly. King Olly wishes to eliminate all Toads out of existence using the One Thousand Crane Technique. To give himself time he summons five different colored streamers all around the Mushroom Kingdom. It is up to Mario and Olivia to rid the Kingdom of the streamers, and to stop King Olly at all costs.
Spectacular ways of combat
Starting off with the new way to battle is the Ring System. Every battle now begins with Mario standing in the middle of a giant ring. Players will then have the opportunity to move the rings as they so choose. You can move the ring vertically or horizontally to line-up as many enemies as you can. Let that be a straight line of four, or 2×2 to use Mario’s hammer. Line-up the enemies in a certain way and you can get bonuses such as x1.5 damage. The ring system is a lot fun to play around with, but it lacks in certain areas. Some may find it repetitive, and unneeded. The ring system also lacks compelling items. The game features jump and hammer attacks, but has 4 other items that do damage. Previous installments had a wide variety of items players can choose from, so it is sad to see the only options being the Fire Flower, Ice Flower, POW Block, and the Tail.
Partners make their return to the series
Fans have been asking Nintendo for years to bring back the partner system that last debuted in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Nintendo listened and brought back partners, but not the way many expected. Many expected that the partners would behave like they used to in previous entries, but in this game they kind of do their own thing. They will leave Mario at times for story purposes, or be knocked away so they can’t help in fights. It is a very weird way to re-introduce the partner mechanic, but I found them enjoyable. While Bobby the Bomb-omb looks a generic bomb-omb, he has a lot of story to him, and personality that helps the generic look. Same goes with other two. I hope in the future they flesh out the designs a bit more to really differentiate from normal enemies/toads.
3D action makes its way back into the series
Paper Mario: The Origami King also features overworld battles that do not use the same ring-based system. These are only used when fought against Paper Macho enemies. Macho enemies are larger versions of normal folded soldiers. The previously mentioned are fought by hitting their backside to remove a King Olly sticker. Once done, Mario will be able to hit the enemy as much as he likes. This second type of battle system is way more enjoyable, and I wish this was the main form of combat. You need to know when you can hit the Paper Macho enemy, and when to dodge. Overall it adds another fun way to play the game.
Boss battles take on a new way to play
Finally the last form of combat is the boss battles. Boss battles take a spin on the ring system. This time the boss is in the middle and Mario is outside of the ring. Mario needs to make paths by using the ring to get close to the boss and to attack. It is not as easy as it sounds, as the bosses can alter the ring in their favor. Let that be different traps, or making multiple rings move at the same. You are going to need to be on your toes and be ready for anything with these new bosses.
Legions of Stationary
Speaking of bosses, Paper Mario: The Origami King features some of the weirdest bosses to date in the franchise. These are of course, the Legion of Stationary. Ordinary Office supplies turned to evil creatures that follow under King Olly’s rule. They’ll do anything to protect the streamer, and stop Mario for good. They are not easy to overcome either. Each boss will have something up their “sleeve” that will make players stop and think of their next move. You can’t go into these types of fights all willy nilly. There are other types of bosses in the game that will help power up Olivia. They too use the same ring battle system as the Legion of Stationary.
The expansive folded world
Paper Mario: The Origami King features a more open type of world than previous entries. It is more free flowing, and not held back from many load zones. Each section is filled with detail and collectibles that there is never a boring section. The collectibles in this game are figures of the enemies, characters, and items you see and fight along the way. You can find these in chests, hidden blocks, buying from shops, or even helping out NPCs with various tasks.
Toads make their appearance once again as the main NPC in the game. While most Toads look the same each of them have their own personality that makes them shine. They are also one of the collectibles you will find in the overworld. Toads can be anywhere and everywhere. They can be butterflies, dogs, bugs, or hiding in walls. As you collect more and more Toads they will fill in the bleachers in back of battles. If Mario cheers in battle, the Toads will come and attack the enemy, heal mario, and even solve the ring puzzle so Mario doesn’t need too. Toads can also give helpful advice to players such as to remember to equip items, or hints as where a collectible may be hiding.
Is there a moment where there are too many Toads?
I have never disliked the amount of Toads these new Paper Mario games give us. If they are written well and are fun to find, I say keep doing it. Finding Toads is like finding Star Pieces in the original two games, but this time you get something more out of it. Let that be a funny piece of dialogue, a hint at a collectible, or unlocking more art in the museum. Toads may seem worthless and unneeded, but they are a fun incentive that made me want to collect all of them. As you collect more Toads, they will also start to repopulate Toad Town, and bring it back to life. The music gets more light hearted, and happier as more Toads go back.
The Paper Mario series has some of the best music Nintendo has to offer. Each game brings more and more fire tracks to the table. Paper Mario: The Origami King is no different. Each new area gives a twist to the normal battle theme to make it extra special. Areas like Sweetpaper Valley, Shogun Studios, Shangri-Spa, the Origami Castle, and the final boss theme are just some examples of how good the OST is. Sweetpaper Valley is a nice chill, and mellow song that incorporates whistling. Think of an old western, as Mario and his partners walk down a hot valley. Shogun Studios drops Mario in an Asian mountain theme park with the sounds you think would hear when doing so. It truly is great and sucks you in wherever you are in the world.
The creasing Faults
While I had a positive time with The Origami King, it is not to say it’s perfect. The combat may be fun, but in the end it is completely optional. There is no real incentive to fight all the enemies unless you want to fill in the museum with their data. You can breeze right past them for the most part, and the game won’t do anything about it. Having no experience points is fine, but at least make battling worth it in some way. Talking about battles, the boss fight system is tough to get into it. They kind of just through it at you, and make you learn on the fly. Some bosses have devastating moves that you can know from picking the hints on the battlefield. Olivia will give a shortened version of what must be done, but at times it isn’t the best.
As stated before with the low amount of items, I really wish there was more to do with the ring. You will only ever attack in a straight line, or the 2×2. Even with the complaints of the last games, not having dedicated jump and hammer buttons they still had way more items and power-ups to choose from. I wish there were more items that would affect more of the ring. Like an item that covers a 3×3, or two straight lanes. It feels like a missed opportunity to enhance the ring gameplay.
As another Paper adventure comes to a close
Paper Mario: The Origami King isn’t a game that I would let slip by. It had me smiling with its humor and writing, stunned me with its many forms of combat, and wowd me with its beautiful world. It had me clamoring to get every single collectible as well. The Origami King is a truly special game that built up from its predecessor Paper Mario: Color Splash. It takes a lot of the good from that game and expands on it to make an excellent 20 hour adventure.