Our favourite 2D plumber is in a brand new adventure and this time, The Origami King threatens the paper Mushroom Kingdom with a new folded dimension. With Sticker Star and Color Splash being met with discontent from traditional Paper Mario enthusiasts, The Origami King aims to recapture the magic that made its first two entries beloved successes whilst still steering into a new RPG-lite direction. However at the end of the day, much like Princess Peach’s new folded perspective leading toward an identity crisis, so too does the series fail to know what it’s wanting to be.
The battle mechanic is always going to be the main topic of conversation with any new Paper Mario entry and the circular puzzle layout causes for a lot of attention and a raised eyebrow. The aim of this new mechanic is to provide more interactive depth, especially considering the letdown that was Color Splash‘s arbitrary card/paint-based battle system which came before it. In The Origami King, Mario is situated in the centre of a circular arena, with four rows of enemies surrounding him. With each round, the player must rotate the enemies so that they line up for either your traditional jump and hammer attacks. Therefore, your battle outcomes actually come down to your puzzle solving skills rather than a number-based system, rewarding brain over perseverance.
In Color Splash, you could interact with the world by using Mario’s hammer to colour-in blank patches. The Origami King has a similar concept, using confetti pieces to fill in holes in the world. Color Splash was very generous with giving the player paint, to the point where it felt almost pointless to battle enemies because battles cost paint and you wouldn’t get much back; The Origami King has learnt from that mistake, giving large amounts of confetti bonuses and coins after battles, whilst not needing to use confetti in battles. However, this method still results in the same issue where if you have a healthy amount of confetti in your bag (and you’ll always have an abundance of coins), you’ll want to avoid battles at all costs because they are time-consuming and brings your progress to a screeching halt.
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Boss fights are ingenious puzzles that flips the metaphorical (and physical) gameplay table and pits the enemy in the middle, requiring the player to strategically manoeuvre to attack the enemy and avoid their devastating enslaughts. In addition, other sub-boss fights throw out the turn-based battle system entirely and implements a more traditional action/adventure approach. These boss fights are certainly the high points of the game and for more experienced players, they may be the only time they feel challenged.
The world areas are more open than previous entries have been, which can be viewed as both a pro and a con. Having a grander world provides a wide variety in exploration, with hidden secrets, Toads to find and holes to clear up with confetti; however, Mario isn’t a particularly quick moving character which therefore makes some of the game’s areas feel aimless and tiresome. Although in much wider areas, such as the desert, having a boot-shaped car is a convenient addition.
Story / Personality
The Origami King is set out in an arc format, with a new subplot within each disconnected area that gradually moves the primary story forward. In each arc, you’ll encounter new partners, similar to classic Paper Mario entries. However, these partners don’t remain with you and their assistance in combat is limited.
True to the series, this entry is packed to the brim with wacky scenarios, with a personal favourite being a reenactment of that iconic scene from Westside Story between two rival Koopa Troopa gangs. Non-traditional Super Mario characters may no longer be around for the Paper Mario series, but its left-field antics sure are. And besides, there are still some creative villains… like the giant rubber band man. In addition, there are some surprisingly shocking and impactful moments that either had me smiling from ear-to-ear or shedding a tear.
Graphics / Art Direction
Nintendo sure knows how to get the most out of their own hardware. Back in October 2016, Color Splash showed fans just how detailed Nintendo’s HD hardware can be and The Origami King takes that to a whole new level. Its fine detail effects gives the game’s landscapes much more elaborate personalities than any Paper Mario game before it and if you don’t believe me, see for yourself…
Music / Sound Design
As is to be expected for any Mario game, the music is fun and jolly, with a great sense of eariness when the moments call for it. The use of sound also makes for some fantastic comedic timing that the series is known for. There’s not much more to say on the game’s soundtrack other than Nintendo sure know how to make good music.
Final Score: 78%
Paper Mario: The Origami King improves on its previous entry’s shortcomings, but its core fundamentals remain flawed. It bounces back with its delightful charm, witty dialogue and bravery to try new things and for the most part, it gives the series a brand new entry that dares to do something different. The Thousand Year Door enthusiasts may be wanting the series to revert back to its roots and in a lot of ways, they make compelling points; however if Paper Mario is set on experimenting with the formula, The Origami King takes many steps in the right direction.
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