Minor visual spoilers ahead!
The Paper Mario series has remained a core experience on Nintendo consoles since the N64. While a lot of extremely passionate fans disagree with the direction Nintendo has taken, a whole new generation of fans have built up to enjoy this new Paper Mario. While previous games focused entirely on being RPGs with fantastical stores, Origami King is more of an action-puzzle-RPG hybrid. When it was first revealed, there was a lot of backlash, but as we learned more, excitement genuinely grew for the game! It’s time to find out if Origami King is crafting a good future or wadding up the series for the end!
Princess Peach has invited the Mario brothers to the Origami Festival in Toad Town! When the duo arrives, they find an empty city filled with holes and silence. After rushing to the castle, they discover Princess Peach has been folded into an origami monstrosity, Bowser has been stapled to a mere flap of his former self, and a small origami girl, named Olivia, has been sealed into the walls. After freeing Olivia, Mario discovers that Olly, now going by the mantle of the Origami King, is responsible for laying waste to the Toad population and anyone who tried to stop him. Mario and Olivia must travel around the world to collect the power of the Vellumentals and defeat Olly. Along the way, you’ll meet many partners and solve the problems of each area you visit!
Origami King’s plot doesn’t get more complicated. Individual character interactions are what pushes it forward. Chapters repeat a lot of the same quests and story beats, but I never found it tedious. Origami King stands out most for the writing. Each and every line produced a grin or a chuckle. When the game wants to be depressing, you feel sad, and when the game wants to be scary, you feel tense. Origami King goes places no Mario title has gone before, and I doubt many will venture again.
Over the years, Paper Mario has become an adventure game. Adventure is truly how I would describe Origami King. At the beginning of each chapter, you’re placed in a sandbox and let loose. You’ll spend most of your time exploring and solving puzzles. Each area feels huge and looks beautiful! By pressing a trigger, Mario releases a lot of confetti. You’ll have to fill in a ton of not bottomless holes to 100% each area. Around the worlds, you’ll find a ton of Toads folded and in need of saving. They’ll help you out later, so I recommend looking for them.
Origami King isn’t an open world, but it’s very connected. You can physically walk from one side of the world to the other. Toad Town will serve as your main hub, but you won’t visit it often. It provides easy access to shops, fast travel, and healing, but each area individually offers all of these resources too. I only found myself visiting Toad Town if I desperately needed cheap gear, or to go hunt in an earlier area.
An RPG is only as good as it’s battle system, and Origami King is quite complicated. Mario’s two basic attacks, the hammer, and jump can be upgraded with equipment that will break after extensive use. Timing a button press just right, Mario will do more damage to an enemy. Sometimes, you’ll come across a magic circle that allows you to use a Vellumental attack. In regular battles, Mario sits in the middle of a ring and has to solve a puzzle to line enemies up. If he successfully lines them up, he hits harder and gains more coins. I love the battle system. I wish there were a few more variations per enemy. By the end of the game, I’d had memorized every solution to getting perfect scores against Goombas and Koopa Troopas
Boss battles serve as unique pace-breakers. They’re the inverse of regular battles. Mario sits on the outside of the circle and uses arrows to get to the boss and attack. These battles are much more in-depth and make heavy use of magic circles. I found the boss battles too infrequent to get used to them. I just didn’t like them as much as regular encounters.
Battles aren’t limited to rings. Mario can encounter Paper Macho enemies in the overworld. You’ll have to dodge their attacks and hit them from behind. These battles are much more challenging, but reward a ton of coins and confetti. You’ll even fight a couple of bosses in the style of Paper Macho encounters. I personally loved this style. I think the entire game should’ve been built around it.
Newer Paper Mario games have taken a lot of heat for removing RPG staples. Experience points and level systems are the most obvious omission. The entirety of Origami King is balanced around coins. You use coins to buy more time to solve complicated puzzles, pay off Toads for help in battle, and buy items to use in battle. It may seem like you get a ton of coins, but everything is extremely expensive. The numbers look high, but they balance out. As much as I love a good story and masterfully crafted skill-tree, Paper Mario has never been about those things. You could balance things a bit more, but I would love it if the series continued in this exact direction.
Origami King looks and sounds amazing! Everything you see could really be done with paper. There’s so much attention put into every little animation and design. It easily has the best water I’ve seen in a Switch game. The game, somehow, sounds better than it looks! There are tunes of epic proportions! The star theme specifically caught my attention. I had to pause the game and take a moment to process it.
Origami King takes leaps and bounds to glue itself back into the graces of the community! I would’ve liked to see a lot of classic elements, but I love where Origami King is taking the franchise. I think there’s room for Paper Mario to become more action-oriented and another Mario RPG fill the void of the Mario and Luigi series. For what we’re left with? I highly recommend Origami King.