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Paper Mario: The Origami King [Thoughts/Review]

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The last Paper Mario I bought and played was Super Paper Mario. Let's just say Sticker Star felt like an absolute slap in the face and a slap in the face that was Super Paper Mario. Let me at least just talk about the fandom prior. You'll see thousands and thousands of people want the TTYD type one back and pretty much exactly that. People make it sound like it's the greatest RPG ever made. I guess I'm the weird one who liked the N64 one more. The setting really is what sells me on that game and the bosses really still stick out in my head. I also played that game when I was like 6. I'll also put it out there that TTYD is a horrible example to follow since I do think it really went too far. It's a great game but definitely not something I'd say suited for a little kid mascot. There's also a whole bunch of other nonsensical arguments that I'll cover as well. I just want to clear this up because people are basically demanding something without really meeting more in the middle. And believe me, I have so much to talk about with this game.


I'll give the tl;dr version first. While there is a lot I really liked about the game, I'd have to score it a 6.5/10 or maybe a 7. 65% of the game is really good but the 35% is all kinds of degrees of bad. There's basically two polar opposites in this game making it hard to truly give a good score. If this is the improvement from Color Splash, I really don't want to even consider touching that game. And as a warning the first two Paper Mario games are some of my absolute favorites so of course I'm going to bring them up, but more to explain this whole split.


There's a lot to unfold here, pun not intended. I'll start off with the simplest positive. The music is pretty good. It's very smoothing and while not as memorable to me as the first two games I can definitely say it really helps hype up the battles. The game really gives off Sunshine music vibes which honestly is probably the one thing that keeps my sanity when battling which we'll get into. The graphics are also very crisp and most areas look very pretty and are quite the enjoyment to walk around and explore. There are some areas where I felt they did a bit too much. Peach's castle they tried polishing it a bit too much which feels off. But I must say I do appreciate the heavy nod of recreating two of the most iconic backgrounds from the original N64 game. Any vet will immediately recognize those two.


Now let's jump into the story and characters. So the overall storyline is what you'd expect or well should expect from this series. Someone is trying to take over the mushroom kingdom/world. I'm just thankful it isn't Bowser for the 4th time now. I'll be putting this all in spoilers as I will be covering a lot of big surprises in this game but I can honestly say that I liked it almost as much as the N64 one and I could see it argued that it was done better than that. It actually kind of shocked me how good the writing was at points which it felt like the TTYD writers were put in charge. This alone is what really made the game worth playing. So let me just get into it here. And reminder that this is going to spoil a majority of the game:



I think everyone will agree that the start of the game through the first chapter is kind of really bad in terms of writing. You have a bit of Bowser humor and a hilarious musical number but nothing interesting really happens. The Colored Pencils boss really doesn't even make up for it. Some stuff was kind of interesting but I wasn't really hooked. Chapter 2 is where things actually start to get interesting in which you meet your second partner, Bobby. I think the dynamic between Olivia and Bobby works so well as Olivia is more of a child being exposed to the world while Bobby doesn't remember anything and everything feels like a fresh experience. The two have different personalities but it's pretty great. Especially all the effort just to have one Bob-omb step on a switch.


And then you end the chapter which what has to be my favorite character in the game: Rubber Band. His personality absolutely stole the show and honestly is only one of the two bosses I felt had a good design and personality. And you see how Bobby felt a little left out not participating. Chapter 3 then happens and you'd figure Bobby's story would end after he recovers his amnesia but he wants to continue traveling. And I will give IS credit for having the main villain come in and come to stop Mario from ruining his plans. Every other main villain just kind of stood back and waited for the finale. I think what really hits home is the whole time you have to follow Bobby for a way to save Olivia and I had a feeling what was coming and hoped I was wrong. IS had the balls to kill off a party member as Bobby sacrifices himself to save Olivia. At first, I hated how he went out in such an anticlimatic way but it honestly made sense. Bobby's life was always going to be short. All his friends died. He just wanted to do one last piece of good before leaving this world. And the whole segment afterwards really just sold it. You wouldn't expect scenes like that in a Sticker Star successor.


And that's something that really sold Origami King for me: the partners. They really knew how to make a colorful world with generics as they did what mattered: gave them personality and dialogue. I think Kamek really showed what they can do with the tools they have as the older games did seem a little stiff compared to how dynamic the movements are in this game. I really like Kamek in this game as he feels like a good replacement for Kammy Koopa. He takes the same role but really comes in with his own spin. Definitely should keep the Bower, Kamek, and Bowser Jr trio the way they are.


I think what really hits home is that this game doesn't play any "Gotchas" like the other ones have. It leaves a rather bittersweet ending when you connect the pretty blatant dots. I do think Olly makes for a surprised and welcomed main antagonist. He has motives and really kind of explains all the things that seem nonsensical and out of place. 


Something I'd really like for them to explain is the timeline. The first three games very likely take place in the same universe which is often why it is referred to as the Paper Mario Trilogy. Interesting enough there are references to the older games but not really anything to confirm such as a name drop of older characters which would've honestly been kind of nice of Kolorado or Frankly had a mention which actually would have made sense in this game. But we'll just have to assume the originals are permanently discontinued with 0 sign of coming back. But I feel there is a good mix here with the humor and storytelling. The game is a humorous adventure and ended up surprising me how much I liked it.


Now for exploration. I haven't played Color Splash or Sticker Star but the connected world actually felt more connected than the first two games. Everything really flowed quite well leading from one point to the next without really any need to backtrack. Toad Town/Rogue Port were the central hubs for those games but Origami King does have its own. You can quite literally beat the game with only visiting this game's Toad Town twice. The second time is only for about 5 minutes at the most. There is stuff to do after each chapter but not that much. I'd say 90% of the content can be done and completed with almost no backtracking. Which actually really helps make exploring fun. You wander around looking for hidden objects to complete a map. My biggest complaint is the confetti system. After chapter 1, it's a pretty pointless system for padding. I would've liked to see a much more clever use of it.


There is a major thing about exploration I don't understand. I have no idea who this game was made for. It has quite a number of really clever puzzles which require quite a bit of problem solving. A lot of them I felt like you'd have to be 10-12 to really figure out since they aren't super blatant. Which is really funny as this game has mechanics that make you feel like you're stupid. There's a flame puzzle where you have to jump on tiles in a specific order. Each time you fail they make it easier which you have no option to turn off. I actually failed a few times because I screwed up the jumps. So the game provided a handicap. They do this for everything that may be a challenge.....except for a couple things that are really quite challenging. I leaned I hate Jeopardy. I really feel they should remove some of that hand holding because people will fail a few times and it's okay. That really did piss me off a bit.


Now to rip the band-aid off on why I wouldn't want to replay this game: the combat. The combat isn't so bad that the game is unplayable. In reality, there's a number of good things it's done. There's three types of battles in this game: normal enemies, bosses, and paper machete. I'll start with the normal enemy battles. You'll see people spazz out about the no experience system. I don't have an issue with that. Experience is the easiest form to show progression. We'll get into the what I would've wanted after talking about this mess. Random battles are pretty much you solve the puzzle and win. There are only two types of enemies in the entire game that cannot be one shot. And these enemies you have a partner who can one shot them. It's actually counter productive to not one shot them as you gain less profits. And even better is the timer. If you can't figure it out on time, the most efficient solution is to cheat and have the game solve it not by paying for more time. In fact, the timer mechanic just makes the combat even worse and even more reason to avoid battles.


I'm not here to say it's absolute trash. I didn't hate these battles. I just dreaded hard puzzles because half the time I just would end up having to take an L and suffer damage. Which isn't that big of a deal since recovering HP is abuseable due to an accessory that recovers some health at the start of the battle. But let's remove all of that for a minute. Enemies actually have pretty unique and interesting attacks. Not as big of a variety as the original two but definitely will see quite some interesting attacks such as an enemy sacrificing another enemy by chucking them to do more damage. Would enemy battles be that interesting? In my opinion not really as they are very limited. You really only have three actions in battle: jump, hammer, and item with the last being the least useful in most scenarios. There are definitely ways to make it challenging as all Paper Mario games are rather easy, but the question is if it'd be fun. I'm more on the side of no but who knows.


Then we have boss battles. Basically you have 3 moves on a game board to plan out and take an action. The first few bosses are pretty basic especially the first one who does nothing to the board. These fights get pretty crazy from clearing sets of the board to a burning pit of doom. I'll admit this part of the game is so much more interesting as there's a bunch of choices you have to make. My main gripe is for the lategame bosses where you'll never want to do an attack action making more of them puzzle type fights and not strategy. Which is invalidated by either A) being so confusing nobody would figure it out or B) you pick up the hint invalidating the whole puzzle gimmick in the first place. I'll admit I had to kind of rely on them since it's pretty hard to really know how to win these fights. I liked a lot of these bosses (especially ones who weren't Mr. Green Streamer guard) but I just see a lot of wasted potential due to how in-depth it's made. But they are very enjoyable and make up for the lackluster combat.


The there's paper machete battles. There's the normal ones which honestly aren't that exciting. Just hit the weak spot to expose them and wack them 3 times to win. They have some variety but not really all that fun. There are a couple of unique ones which ho boy those are actual bosses. They are pretty easy but I definitely can say they didn't bore me. It has more of a focus of dodging attacks and then making sure you're within range to do damage. I definitely would say I had more fun with those than anything Super Paper Mario threw at me. They moved faster and you had to approach them in different ways. In other words, they all didn't feel the same.


If you have been reading this whole thing, you probably understand why I give it the rating I did. It's not a predecessor that is holding itself back but more like itself being its own issue. It just feels like the combat and gameplay are the real problem. I had fun and got almost all collectibles and toads in the game only missing a single one which is the Bowser one. I'm not doing the trophies though. I don't have the memory or reflexes like I used to. I think it's a game worth playing but I feel like everyone can find enjoyment, but want it to be something else due to lacking in some parts. Really makes me want to replay the first two games again.


Now I'm pretty sure everyone is going to say it's completely impossible to both do this new style and satisfy the old fans. You have a lot of people saying to go back to the old style. There is a way and it has to do with both this system and a game called Radiant Historia. All they have to do is two things: split currency and reverse the combat. So take what we have here and turn it from a ring into a chessboard. The difference here is that you have mario and up to two other party members who have various abilities to move enemies around. And lining them up boosts damage but more importantly you can attack more of them at once leading to easier KOs and a better multiplier for beating the battle. Let's say you earn red coins at the end. And those red coins are used at shops to buy power ups such as more HP or maybe even new equipment/abilities. I'd love for them to bring back the FP and badge system, but the current system of breakable weapons is fine. It'd solve the two biggest problems I had: lack of combat variety and lack of linear growth.


I'm glad I played this game, but I'm also glad I'm done. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be trying the Masterquest mod for the original and suffer.

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