Most gaming sites always start their Paper Mario posts with a riff on the current state of the series… so let’s continue that trend in proper fashion. The fact is, Paper Mario changed after the release of Sticker Star on the Nintendo 3DS, which could be seen as a soft reboot of the Paper Mario franchise as a whole. We’ll get this out of the way right now: Paper Mario: The Origami King is in no way a “return to form” for the series. That being said, I’ve played the game for several hours, and I’m honestly quite impressed with it. If you’re on the fence about whether to buy this game… maybe reading some of my opinions will help? Or – the most likely scenario – maybe it won’t. This will be the first of potentially several posts I write on Paper Mario: The Origami King, so let’s get started!
Story & Presentation
The Origami King is the only Paper Mario game I haven’t completely spoiled myself on. In other words, I don’t know how the story ends, but I do know how it begins. Peach’s Castle is seized by an origami-pixie-thing named King Olly, who surrounds the place with colored streamers. Mario and his new friend Olivia (who happens to be King Olly’s sister) are then tasked with following each of the colored streamers and unraveling them. And that’s about all I know so far! Paper Mario games aren’t known for their story – well, not since Sticker Star, anyway – and unfortunately The Origami King seems to be no exception. That being said, I’ve only played the game for about five or six hours, so it’s entirely possible this could change later on.
Let’s talk about the game’s presentation, then, because this is where The Origami King really shines. Its overall aesthetic is very similar to Paper Mario: Color Splash on the Wii U. Understandable. The Origami King iterates on it, though, by making its worlds more detailed and varied. So far, I’ve been through a forest, an autumn mountain, a few temples, and a cave. They’ve been fairly interesting throughout, and I’m sure there are plenty more interesting locations that I’ll get to visit later in the game.
The Origami King has a solid soundtrack, too. The battle theme, in particular, is really catchy and brings a lot of energy to enemy encounters. The overworld themes have been solid, too, but I don’t remember them as clearly as the battle theme. But, again, I’m sure there are plenty of catchy tracks I haven’t gotten to listen to yet. When I make my next post on The Origami King, I’ll be sure to talk about this subject in greater depth.
Battles are where The Origami King initially fell short for me. At first, I couldn’t really get the hang of it. For those unaware, The Origami King’s battles are literally turn-based. As in, the enemies are positioned on a board game-esque ring, and you have to turn the ring to line them up and attack. The early enemy battles are rather straightforward, but some formations are really tough to figure out. After a few hours playing the game, though, I’m beginning to warm up to it. Boss battles are really interesting, because the player and the boss switch places. The boss takes its stand in the center of the ring, and Mario has to flip and switch the rings around to create a path to the boss. It’s more easily shown than explained. Boss battles were a tad intimidating at first, but I began to really enjoy the strategy and thoughtfulness each encounter had to offer.
And it’s entirely possible that some of you might not like The Origami King’s battle system. That’s fine. My opinion of it improved over time – and as the game kept adding new mechanics to it – but not everyone will agree with me. Another important aspect to note is that The Origami King has removed consumable items (for example, Sticker Star’s stickers and Color Splash’s color cards). Or at least, it’s removed them to an extent. Mario can purchase variations of his Jump and Hammer attacks that can eventually break. I’m not really sure why durability was added here, but so far I haven’t found it too annoying.
One issue I’ve noticed is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to battling. Even though I’ve been able to wrap my head around the ring system, fighting enemies only gives you coins. There’s no experience points or level-up incentive to keep battling. I often found myself running away from enemies, only to eventually be caught. Then, when I’d try to flee, Mario would fall down and get attacked. All this in spite of the fact that I was capable of defeating each enemy with a single hit. If I can defeat enemies in one hit, why do I have to fight them?! This is my current frustration with The Origami King.
Overall, though, the first few hours of The Origami King have been enjoyable. I think what’s important – in kind of a sad way – is that you shouldn’t go into it expecting a Paper Mario game. At least, not one in the same vein as the first three entries. If you go into The Origami King expecting a somewhat slow-paced strategy / adventure game, I think you’ll have a good time. And of course, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve only played the game for a few hours — when I get farther along in the story, I’ll be sure to update you all with more… defined opinions. Thanks for reading — and be sure to let me know what you think of the game so far (be it via the comments section or our Discord community)!
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