Paper Mario: The Origami King Review

I wasn’t clever enough to come up with a witty subhead, sorry.

Author’s Note: This is more of a script for a video than a written review of the game in question. I didn’t want to just post a video and leave my reading audience out of it so I decided to post the script here. The running gag throughout the piece really only works in video form. You can find it here if you wish to watch it. Thanks! Bye!

I wasn’t even supposed to play The Origami King. On the Saturday following the game’s release, I was sitting in my room after work doing nothing. I was in one of those moods I talked about in my Catherine: Full Body video where I didn’t feel like doing anything. I was swiping through Twitter and saw that everyone was enjoying Ghost of Tsushima on the PS4 (it had released on the same day as Paper Mario). It was after eight o’clock and I decided that I wanted to try Ghost of Tsushima since I’ve always been fascinated by Japanese history and the samurai in particular.

I decided that the only way I had any chance whatsoever to play the game that evening was to buy a physical copy of the game. Most of you don’t know this but I have the same internet speeds as the cavemen of yore. If I had purchased either Ghost of Tsushima or Paper Mario: The Origami King online then I would still be waiting for them to download to this day. Anyways, as I was saying, I decided that I needed to get a physical copy to have any chance of playing the game that night.

There was one small problem, of course. I don’t know if you’ve heard but there’s a pandemic on and thus most stores were still closing early in mid-July here in the United States. Even Walmart closed at 8:30, for God’s sake! I wasn’t going to make it to Wally World in time but I had a stroke of luck. Target had begun staying open until 10 pm once again. I grabbed my mask (not to rob the place, mind you, but my mask to “reduce the spread” as they say), jumped in my car, and headed for the place where white people hang out!

Unfortunately for me, I had failed to look online to see if Target had any copies of Ghost of Tsushima. They didn’t, in case you’re wondering. Thus, I was left with the crushing disappointment of a wasted trip…or was I? As I was leaving the electronics section, I happened to spy Paper Mario: The Origami King on a display stand. Now, I had seen the surprise announcement trailer just a month before and liked what I had seen but I had never played a Paper Mario game before so I wasn’t exactly sold on it. Faced with the prospect of playing nothing else, I said “Oh, what the hell” and grabbed a copy of The Origami King.

And, just so you’re aware, it was the best decision I made that night. I have seen that a lot of people who are fans of the Paper Mario series were not happy with this latest entry. I don’t know what their problem is but I had an absolute blast with the game albeit with a few caveats. I may have enjoyed it more because I haven’t played a Paper Mario game in the past. Regardless of the reason, I’m so glad that Target didn’t have a copy of Ghost of Tsushima since I have discovered a new series to both play and review. Before we do that, however, let’s take care of this battle first.

*insert battle here*

So, what is Paper Mario: The Origami King? Well, to keep it simple, it is the latest entry in the spinoff Paper Mario series. In this world, Mario and all of its denizens are made out of paper. Even the world and all of its environments are made of the stuff. This gives the game a unique visual style and it is very beautiful to look at. I loved how all of the colors made the world pop. Visually, it is quite stunning. I liked looking at the game as much as playing it.

This was helped by the fact that Mario visits many different locales and areas during his journey in the Origami King. Each one sports a new look and color palette. I always relished moving on to a new area just to see what it looked like. I know that that feeling is true for most games (we always want to see what’s new) but this sense was heightened for me with The Origami King since it is such a pleasure to simply look at.

While we’re on the subject of moving to new areas, I feel I should bring this up here. The Origami King is, at its heart, an adventure game. Its design, story beats, and variety of wacky locales definitely reminded me of the few SNES games I have played. There was always another wacky or interesting location just around the corner and I personally couldn’t wait to see them all. It even turns into Wind Waker at one point and, in case you’re wondering, that’s A-OK in my book. Any game that does that is doing something right, I tell ya. Oh, hold on, here’s another battle.

*insert battle here*

So, why is Mario gallivanting all across the kingdom in the first place? Well, it’s because, once again, someone has kidnapped Princess Peach. And no, it wasn’t Bowser this time. It’s an all-new origami character named King Ollie. He scoops up Peach along with her castle and off they go to the top of a volcano. Not only does he do that but he also turns Bowser’s minions into origami soldiers who in turn have it out for Mario.

Mario, using his new 1,000-fold arms technique, rescues another mysterious origami character named Olivia in the castle’s basement (before it takes off for the mountain, of course) and she joins him on his quest to stop King Ollie. As it turns out, she’s his brother and she wants to stop him from changing the whole world into origami as well. So, off they go to stop King Ollie’s nefarious plot.

The story was filled with simple story beats but, for my money, The Origami King is not really about its story per se. It’s more about the character moments and ridiculous scenarios both Mario and Olivia find themselves in throughout the tale. Although it wasn’t the most riveting story ever told, it does have a rather bittersweet ending. As I said, the game is more about the journey itself and not the destination. Before I get into that, though, here’s another battle.

*insert battle here*

No, the game’s charm comes from the overabundance of humor and gags that are present in nearly every moment. There were so many times where I literally laughed out loud at the antics happening onscreen. The dialogue, characters, and cutscenes were so dang funny. Nothing was off limits and nothing is spared from The Origami King’s humor. Work ethics, game design, the Mario games themselves, poor Luigi, and even religion are all lampooned with absolute glee throughout this adventure.

Similar to my sentiments about moving on to new areas, I couldn’t wait to laugh at whatever came next in the game. It helped that I could never guess what was going to happen. It appears that no gag, no joke, and no scenario was considered too outlandish for the development team. A few jokes do fall flat but I can forgive the game for that fault sine it’s hard to be consistently funny for more than fifteen hours in a row (it probably took me closer to twenty hours to finish my journey). I wholeheartedly applaud the development team’s efforts here. I cannot talk enough about how funny this game is. I needed a good laugh and The Origami King gave me plenty of them.

The Origami King is filled with so many laughs that I almost wish I had recorded my whole entire playthrough. This actually exposed one of my biggest problems with the game: and that is the save system. You can only have one save file per profile at a time. The game autosaves at certain points but there are also what I’m going to call Save Blocks where you can manually save the game should you want to.

My problem with this system is that I would see something funny while I wasn’t recording and I couldn’t go back to record it since the save had been overwritten. I had to make use of the Switch’s record feature multiple times. In case you didn’t know, that built-in recording function has its limits but it did help me record some good footage whenever I needed it. I wish The Origami King had a save system more akin to, say, an RPG where I could have multiple save files at the same time. This is a nitpick of mine but I felt I should share it all with you. Oh look, another battle.

*insert yet another battle here*

I suppose I should talk about what you’ll actually be doing while playing the game. The main thrust of the game involves you guiding Mario through the levels while looking for the ends of the five streamers that have been wrapped around Peach’s castle. As I said, you’ll be exploring several different locations filled with new characters and secrets. The secrets come in two varieties: collectible treasures in the form of statues and Toads.

The statues are scattered all around the levels. They are usually found in treasure chests (as would be expected). These figures can be of the characters in the game or just statues of normal items found in-game. I made sure to find as many of these as I could but I never went out of my way to get them. The Toads, on the other hand, were a different story. I made every possible effort to collect every single one I came across.

The Toads are my favorite collectible, by far, in the whole game. I stated in my Biased Mario Kart 64 review that Toad was my favorite Nintendo character and the Toads in Paper Mario: The Origami King cement that fact even further. The Toads are hidden all over the place in The Origami King. They can be bugs, flowers, and even eggs. To rescue them, you usually have to hit them with Mario’s hammer and they resume their normal shape. They’re my favorite because they always have a one-liner to say before running off to resume their normal lives (which for them entails returning to work, the poor bastards). I thought I would get tired of the one-liners from every Toad I saved but they never got old. They were just too damn funny.

There are also places on the map where it looks like the texture packs are missing. These not-so-bottomless holes can be filled in using confetti. Confetti can be collected from trees, flowers, and other objects in the world. Enemies always shoot out a shower of confetti once defeated but we’ll talk about that a little later. The confetti shoots out of these objects whenever Mario takes a swing at them with his trusty hammer. The holes weren’t the most exciting things to fill-in but I still did it anyway. Once filled, these holes will yield a bounty of coins. The most exciting reward, at least from my perspective, from filling in the holes was that it unlocks the soundtracks for particular areas in the Musée Champignon.

The Musée Champignon is located in Toad Town and, as its name suggests, it houses all of the collectibles you have, uh, collected on your journey. You can view the shapes of the Toads you rescued, you can see the different statues you found, and you can even purchase concept art using Toad points gained from finding Toads. As I alluded to earlier, my favorite part of the museum was the soundtrack section. Paper Mario: The Origami King has an awesome soundtrack if I do say so myself.

I know you can (and probably do) listen to the soundtrack on a certain website which will remain nameless because I don’t want to make Nintendo angry with me but I liked this feature in the museum. I won’t go through the whole list but my favorite tracks in the game were “Red Streamer Battle,” “Toad Town in Trouble,” the soundtrack of the Musée Champignon itself, “Exploring Shangri-Spa” and, my favorite, “Thrills at Night.” I should make a video sometime about the soundtracks in video games since they always make playing a game such an enjoyable experience. I just have to figure out what to say in it. One thing I will say now is that if you’re making a game, and it doesn’t have a good soundtrack, you might as well stay home. Luckily for us all, Paper Mario: The Origami King has a fantastic soundtrack.

Now, the Musée Champignon holds something else within its walls that is arguably more useful than the collectibles. In its basement, you’ll find six pipes which connect Toad Town with all of the different areas in the game. This is my second problem with the game itself. I found the fast travel system to be too inconvenient. The pipes were probably used since they are such an important part of the Mario universe. I understand that but I would have preferred it if I could simply open up the map, pick a place, and then fast travel to that location. The pipes were, in my view, always located in an out-of-the-way section of each area. I always found myself walking a great distance just to teleport back to Toad Town. I feel like a better system of fast travel could have been designed.

And now we come to the biggest point of contention in The Origami King: its battle system. No, we’re not going to sit quietly through another battle! The Origami King has, as I’m sure you’ve seen, ring-based battles. The goal of each battle is to line enemies up in a row or put them in a group of four. If done successfully, Mario’s attacks will increase in power. While attacking, you can press the “A” button which, when timed correctly, will also increase Mario’s attack strength. This can also be used to reduce the damage from enemy attacks.

There is a time limit for each round in a battle and you can only make a set number of moves for each round with three moves being the maximum amount. If you can’t figure out the correct enemy configuration to receive the attack bonus, you can spend coins to increase the time limit or you can pay the Toads in the audience to solve the puzzle for you. If you need even more help, a few companions join Mario on his adventure at certain points in the story and they can help defeat enemies as well. Oh, in certain battles, Olivia can transform into bosses Mario defeated earlier on in the adventure. Her attacks, while transformed of course, do more damage than Mario can do and this is helpful in shortening the length of the battles.

I must say that, although this battle system is both innovative and novel, it does wear thin after a while. There were times when I tried to skip battles entirely. I was overjoyed when Mario became so strong that he could simply smash enemies with his hammer before the combat could even begin. It was especially frustrating whenever I fought two or more battles in a row and the enemies were in the same starting configuration. It just felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again with very little variation which, and let’s be fair here, is what most games are. With The Origami King, however, it felt like I was doing that far more than usual while engaged in battle.

The boss battles shake up the formula the most. Instead of Mario being at the center of the rings, the boss would take that position and you would have to navigate Mario into attack position. In these battles, you have to figure out what the boss’ weaken is. If you’re as dumb as me and can’t figure out the boss’ weakness yourself, the game is considerate enough to drop hint envelopes on the rings. The boss battles were a hit and miss affair for me. I enjoyed a few of them since they were so creative (like playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” with one boss for instance) while others were a slog to get through. Additionally, I found some to be kind of difficult while others were a walk in the park. Despite the disparity between the different boss battles, I did really enjoy them.

The thing that bothers me the most about The Origami King’s battle system is that it could have featured normal adventure game-like battles. What’s weird is that the game kind of does have normal battles. In a few instances, Mario doesn’t go up against foes in standard ring-style fashion. In a few battles against larger paper mâché enemies, you must use Mario’s hammer to defeat these larger enemies while dodging their attacks. I really liked these battles a lot and would have preferred if this was used for all battles. As I said, I thought that the ring battles were creative but not for the whole fifteen hour-plus runtime of Paper Mario: The Origami King.

In Conclusion:

Mario’s latest adventure is a hilarious and fun romp through a paper themed Mushroom Kingdom. Its constant humor, levels, all the Toads, and the soundtrack made it highly enjoyable. The only drawbacks are its save system, the fast travel pipes, and the ring-based battles that become old by the end of the adventure. Despite these faults, I really, really enjoyed my time with The Origami King. Even now, as I sit here writing this, I have a big smile on my face just thinking about the game. I do not regret one little bit that Target was out of copies of Ghost of Tsushima and, consequently, I got to play through Paper Mario: The Origami King instead. It was a rip-roaring good time and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Mario and all his friends whether they be paper or otherwise.

Pros:

  • Beautiful visual style
  • Ever-present humor
  • The Toads!
  • Great soundtrack

Cons:

  • Save system with only one file
  • Fast travel pipes
  • Ring battles feel stale by the end

With all that being said, I take no pleasure in what I’m about to say next. Although I enjoyed my time with the game immensely, the battle system takes up a large portion of the game and I have to take that into consideration when giving Paper Mario: The Origami King a final score. Thus, I have to give Paper Mario: The Origami King a 7/1…hold on, I changed my mind. I give it an 8/10. No! An 8.5/10 and I don’t care if this ruins the sanctity of my review score system (as if I have a system, hah!). Ok, seriously, I have to stop now because if I don’t, the final score will end up a 10/10. That’s how much I enjoyed Paper Mario: The Origami King. Anyways, thanks for listening. Goodbye!

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