Paper Mario: The Origami King is the latest installment in the Paper Mario franchise, which has changed drastically over the last few years. What was once a celebrated RPG series has now switched to focus on action-adventure elements. While there are still role-playing parts in the title, they now take a back seat.
To be frank, the series has a lot of work to do when it comes to winning fans back. The last few outings have been fairly disappointing, so Nintendo has to get it right this time. Fortunately, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a great step in the right direction to re-establishing the franchise.
A great story is not something that people traditionally associate with Mario games. The narrative in this series usually just serves as a sort of structure to build the gameplay around and provide a setting. At first glance, Paper Mario: The Origami King might seem like it follows this concept. The titular king has created an army of soldiers and is determined to turn the entire Mushroom Kingdom into origami. Mario, and by extension the player, have to do their best to stop the villain in his tracks and rescue Princess Peach.
While the overall plot is a bit on the thin side, the writing is certainly not. Paper Mario: The Origami King is witty and surprisingly deep. You’ll often come across great jokes and even some humorous remarks about the gaming industry as a whole. A couple of the best scenes are even a bit more adult-orientated, meaning younger kids might not get the reference. It’s unusual to genuinely have funny moments that make you laugh in games but this title manages it consistently. Playing through Paper Mario: The Origami King, which can last quite a long time, never feels stale because of this. The writing keeps everything chugging along and gives
the action a sense of purpose.
Yet, the best part of the story is without a doubt the characters. The plot becomes irrelevant for the most part but the different characters you meet are always worth exploring. It doesn’t matter whether they are new introductions to the franchise or long-established individuals that fans will be familiar with. In either case, each interaction is likely to leave some sort of impression on you. There’s even the odd emotional moment, with Paper Mario: The Origami King constantly giving you insight into the various characters.
Players who have played previous entries in the Paper Mario series are likely to find a few surprises here. Although you can still upgrade your weapons and equipment, this feels more like a traditional action-adventure game. There’s no experience system and the developers have watered down most of the RPG elements. Real-time battles also pop up occasionally, even if the vast majority of combat is still turn-based.
Fighting a battle in Paper Mario: The Origami King is also more puzzle-based than it has been in the past. At the start of combat, you have to quickly sort your opponents, grouping them together. The ultimate goal is to make your attacks as efficient and powerful as possible. Getting it right takes skill but is essential to being successful. Otherwise, Mario will just take too much damage before you can defeat your enemies. A good variety of items also adds to the depth of the combat, giving you additional options.
New game mechanics are introduced to Paper Mario: The Origami King at regular intervals. This is obviously to make up for the fact that you can no longer level up and gain extra abilities. Instead, the game adds extra skills and features as you progress to different areas. Despite being a far more linear experience, it does work well and keeps the gameplay feeling balanced. The new mechanics also come along at just the right moments, preventing the combat from ever becoming stale.
Like most Nintendo titles, Paper Mario: The Origami King looks and sounds great. All of the visuals are incredibly polished. It is easy for the beautiful environments and colorful characters to impress in every moment. Although it might look exclusively like a children’s game due to the vibrant palette, it is suitable for all ages. The sheer amount of detail and effort needed to create such an impressive world is obvious to see. Especially when it comes to the handcrafted models.
Exploring the world is therefore a great motivator, with the game pushing you to move forward to discover each area. After all, the different sections are all unique, and just seeing them on screen is a delight. It doesn’t matter whether you are playing on your TV or in handheld mode, it simply looks gorgeous. The sounds are equally as good when it comes to the presentation. The music might not be quite as spectacular as the soundtrack in series such as The Legend of Zelda. However, it does the job well and the sound effects are all very fitting and complement the on-screen action well.
Ultimately, Paper Mario: The Origami King feels like one of the best entries in the series. While it does ditch some of the features fans enjoy the most from the franchise, it still manages to shine. In particular, the story and presentation are exceptional and should keep you entertained throughout the entire experience. Meanwhile, the gameplay remains engaging and fun for the whole campaign. Getting so much right, Paper Mario: The Origami King is yet another must-buy for the Nintendo Switch.