Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop Download
Category: Action, Adventure
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: July, 17th, 2020 (Worldwide)
Price: $59.99 USD
The Paper Mario series has been going since 2000 when the first title released on the Nintendo 64. There have been five previous entries featuring the titular hero prior to Paper Mario: The Origami King. four of these titles have released on home consoles and one of them on handheld. A crossover title called Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (or Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. as it is called in some regions) also featured Paper Mario who helps Mario & Luigi on their own adventure.
The Paper Mario series has somewhat of a divided fan-base. On one side, the community enjoys the games for what they are. The other side, however, feels like the series has been deteriorating since Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Most of the criticisms were aimed at the battle mechanics and failure to listen to feedback. With what has been revealed about the Paper Mario: The Origami King before its release, it seems that we have another case of history repeating itself.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is the newest installment in the series that is releasing on the Nintendo Switch. First impressions from other media outlets seem to have confirmed public concerns that fan feedback on previous entries has gone ignored once again. Be that as it may, we must accept that the newest entry is not a return to the original formula. So, it is best to look at the game and value it on its own merits, rather than on that of its predecessors.
Paper Mario: The Origami King takes place in the papercraft world of the Mushroom Kingdom. Paper Mario receives a letter from Princess Peach to meet her are the castle. Luigi gives Mario a lift on his kart to the castle where some toads are waiting to let Mario inside to meet the Princess.
Inside the castle, Mario sees Princess Peach but there is something very off about her. She is not in her ordinary 2D paper form but has been folded like Origami. Princess Peach traps Mario in the dungeons below but he soon escapes his confines. In the dungeons, Mario meets up with Olivia who wishes to help Mario with what is happening. Mario also finds Bowser but he has been folded up into a square.
The three of them managed to make their way outside of the castle but are stopped in their tracks when they meet King Olli who is revealed to be Olivia’s brother. King Olli entwines Peach’s Castle with ribbons and transports it to the top of a mountain. This is just the start of his plan to refold the Mushroom Kingdom in his own image.
Mario, Olivia, and Bowser escape in time onboard the Koopa Clown Car. They escape but before they can reach safety, the Clown Car is hit and Mario falls out of the Clown Car with Olivia. The pair pick themselves up and set off on their journey to stop King Olli and his Origami plot. As their adventure unfolds, they will make new friends and allies in old foes as they unite to fight against a common enemy.
The story itself seems quite similar to other story plots in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series in that another malevolent villain who isn’t Bowser captures Princess Peach. Mario and Bowser have to put their differences aside and work together in order to stop their mutual enemy and rescue the Princess. After all, the only baddie who can kidnap Princess Peach is King Bowser. It’s his main reason for getting up in the morning.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is an action-adventure game with a semi “Open-World” environment. I use the term Open World loosely as the game features rather linear gameplay through expansive worlds. The title has pulled away from the few RPG elements that remained of the previous Paper Mario Games and has mixed up the battle mechanics once again. This time around, there is a puzzle element to battles as well as turn-based combat.
In combat against most enemies, Mario will stand in the center of a circular arena made of rings. Each ring is broken into segments or ‘panels’ with enemies standing on them. Each battle has a time limit in which Mario can execute as many moves as possible. Mario can rotate the rings and shift the panels in order to line up and group enemies together. Once the enemies are in the optimal position, Mario can use his boots to jump on them in a line or bash a group of them with his hammer.
The enemies are origami forms of Bowser’s minions that have been folded to serve King Olli. This includes the likes of Goombas, Koopas, Shy Guys, and Spinies. You can find them all over the world but most can be easily avoidable if you don’t wish to engage in combat. When you do take on enemies and beat them in battle, you won’t earn EXP but Coins and confetti (more on that later). You can use coins to purchase items like Fire Flowers and Mushrooms, or they can be spent buying more time in battles.
Aside from his main attacks, Mario can also use items like the previously mentioned Fire Flowers and POW Blocks. They can give Mario an edge in combat but they are limited use. Some are single-use and others can be used multiple times before they wear out completely. Some items can not be used straight away either. They have a crinkled form and need to be thrown into a special spring in order to rejuvenate them.
When it comes to Boss Battles, they are played out differently. Instead of Mario being in the center of the arena, he is outside of the rings and the boss is in the center. Some of the panels in the rings have arrows on them or chests and other things. Mario has to line up the rings with the arrows to make a path towards the center to harm the Boss by attacking their weak spots.
The battles against the common enemies can be somewhat of a novelty at first. The absence of earning EXP means grinding is non-existent. The Coin and Confetti rewards from battles can feel lackluster and unnecessary seeing as you can find plenty of both of them in the overworld. Still, there are some battles that are unavoidable but they shouldn’t feel like a chore though. They can actually be quite fun in their own right.
You will occasionally find some enemies that can be defeated in the overworld. These Papier Maché monsters are much larger in size than their Folded counterparts. They can only be dispatched by hitting them from behind to remove Olly’s Seal and then wailing on them multiple times with your hammer when they are not flashing. You have to be careful though as they can charge at you with temporary invincibility.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Mario could paint colorless areas with his partner Huey. In Paper Mario: The Origami King, there is a similar mechanic where Mario uses confetti to fill in holes in the world. At the beginning of the game, you will pick up a bag to hold confetti. This is used to fill in near-bottomless holes in the world.
When the holes are full, they will reveal coins or open paths. Confetti is a consumable resource and needs replenishing. You can acquire more confetti by bashing objects like flowers and trees with your hammer. It can also be gained by participating in battles (as we previously noted in the gameplay section).
Paper Mario also has a new ability. When he stands on top of a Magic Circle, Mario gains the ability called the “1,000 Fold Arms”. He can use this ability to interact with different parts of the environment to push, pull, or tear to find hidden areas, create platforms, and manhandle bosses. Motion controls can be used to move the arms around as you try to grab ahold of objects. You can turn motion controls off in the settings if you prefer to plat without them. Other Magic Circles can also be found in the world. They too require special abilities but I will refrain from saying what they are as to avoid spoilers.
There are collectibles in the form of Toads and Trophies. The Toads are scattered all over the world and there are literally hundreds to find. Some can be found trapped in the likes of bushes or hidden behind objects. Other Toads have been folded into other objects like butterflies, dogs, bugs, or even fried eggs and require a whack with the hammer to knock them out flat. Toads have multiple uses aside from increasing your health. When you are in battles, the number of Toads you have found will sit in the stands around the arena and come to your aid when called.
Trophies can also be found all over the world hidden in chests. After they have been collected, you can find them in the Museé Champignon (Mushroom Museum) in Toad Town. The Museum doesn’t just preserve your trophies, it also exhibits artwork, Origami Toad forms, and enemies, as well as a Music Gallery. It is very bare-bones to start of but the museum will soon fill up if you keep picking up every collectible you find.
Exploration is a big part of Paper Mario: The Origami King and the vast regions require Mario to use some means of transportation to get from place to place. This includes sailing a boat and riding a Kuribo’s shoe car! Mario also receives the help of new partners but their aid is only temporary, unlike in Paper Mario 64 where your partners are with you all the way. They do help in battles somewhat, some more than others but very few are actually useful in the overworld.
I do very much enjoy the music in Paper Mario Games and Paper Mario: The Origami King is no different. There is plenty of new music to make the game feel fresh over its predecessors yet there are enough familiar tunes to keep Paper Mario: The Origami King close to its roots. The Peach’s Castle theme and the Graffiti Sewers theme are two of my favorites in particular.
One thing that has been a staple in Paper Mario Games is the minimization of voice acting. All dialogue between characters is written and is accented by the vocalization of sounds for speech. You can occasionally hear one-liners from Luigi and other characters but it is very limited. A lot of the sound effects from previous games are reused in Paper Mario: The Origami King but there are plenty of new sounds as well. It might take an attuned ear to spot new sounds and old sounds though.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
The visuals of Paper Mario: The Origami King really are incredible to look at. The vast papercraft worlds are beautifully designed and very colorful. The visual effects of some instances and models that are based on real-life items like the Coloring Pencils boss and the water effects look very lifelike.
The strange thing about the water in this game is that there are actually three kinds of water effects (IGN will have a field day with this). I do love this blend of the cartoony world with real-life objects. It is like a reverse Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The performance is particularly solid. Intelligent Systems has worked long enough with the Nintendo Switch to know how to get the most out of the console. Yoshi’s Crafted World and Fire Emblem: Three Houses are just two examples of Intelligent Systems’ fine work on Switch. Paper Mario: The Origami King looks great and plays brilliantly.
I, like many others, had hoped that Paper Mario: The Origami King would have been a welcoming return to the original formula. However, this is not the case and I can see why some fans of the series will be disappointed. The Paper Mario series has always been about doing things differently with each title. Some features stick and make it into the next game and other things get left on the cutting room floor.
The lack of EXP earning does take away part of the reasoning for battling grunts and lower class minions. As you get stronger by other means, you will reach a point where you can do away with battling weak enemies altogether. A simple whack of your hammer or a stomp to the head will easily dispatch them. Paper Mario: The Origami King focuses more on exploration than actual combat and there is plenty of secrets to find and secrets to uncover.
What I find interesting is the implementation of a certain “Pay-To-Win” mechanic. I find it interesting because it doesn’t require real-world currency nor does it guarantee a win. As I said before about using coins in battles to get the Toads to help you and to buy some extra time on the meter, you still have to put most of the effort in yourself to actually beat your enemies.
This game may fall flat with some series veterans but as the adventure unfolds, most players will embrace the it’s beauty, charm and colourful cast. In short, Paper Mario: The Origami King has truly shaped up to be an incredible game.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*A download key was provided by Nintendo UK for the purposes of this review
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