By Isaac Espinosa
Prepare to fold yourself into a new and extravagant origami adventure! Paper Mario: The Origami King, is the latest installment in the “Paper Mario” series. Developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo to the Nintendo Switch, this amazing adventure finds Mario navigating the paper world as he tries to put a stop to the plans of King Olly. With the help of your new companion, Olly’s benevolent sister Olivia, the journey becomes even more wonderful and exciting!
The story is a simple one, but effective. Mario and Luigi were invited by Princess Peach to an origami festival in Toad Town, but when they arrived, they found the entire area deserted. The Bros decide to head toward Peach’s castle to see if she knows what happened to the now desolate town. Instead of being greeted by the loving and lively Princess Peach, Mario is introduced to a Peach that has been folded into origami! This eerie and warped version of the Princess sends Mario to the castle dungeons, where he runs into an imprisoned Olivia and… Bowser?! After freeing the both of them, Mario and the gang encounter King Olly. The evil Origami King reveals his intention: to fold the entire paper world into his image. Then he wraps Peach’s entire castle with colorful streamers and uses them to steal the whole thing! With King Olly already in control of many Folder Soldiers, it’s up to Mario and Olivia to travel the world and put a stop to Olly’s plans.
One of the best things about Paper Mario: The Origami King is its world building. Each of the six worlds within the game feels different, which keeps you interested throughout. Mario and Olivia partake in some thrilling shenanigans, like exploring the vast Scorching Sandpaper Desert to help put the SUN back in place, and investigating the intricacies of a ninja theme park named Shogun Studios. Setting these small goals for each new area the duo visits makes them feel like parts of a larger story that connects the worlds together. The game’s visuals and soundtrack are amazing, too, and that helps the world building tremendously due to how each area looks so unique, and has a beautiful piece of music to bring the player deeper into it. The previously mentioned Scorching Sandpaper Desert, in particular, has an compelling but eerie violin piece to accompany the vast and wide area.
But the best part of Origami King is that it has so much personality. It’s filled with intense, hilarious, and even somber moments, all of which keeps you invested in the fate of the game’s cast of colorful characters. Olivia is pure and innocent about the world, and her enthusiasm and energy make every new thing you experience with her all the more unforgettable. However, when things get grim, you can witness her struggle to rebound from the impact as Mario encourages her onward. There’s a depth to her character that we haven’t seen since the original “Paper Mario” games, and it gives the game a darker, more meaningful tone. You’ll also encounter some awesome allies that add their own quirky personalities to the mix. There’s Bobby, a klutzy but adorable Bom-omb who’s lost his memory, a Toad Professor fascinated by ancient history, and even Bowser’s loyal minions, like his son Bowser Jr., and Kamek, the trusty magician. Sure, there isn’t much variety in their physical designs, but the amount of witty dialogue that they bring to the story more than makes up for it.
While I wish I had only good things to say about Origami King, it definitely has its fair share of flaws. For example, while the combat system is a pretty neat concept, its execution is a mixed bag. Essentially, you have to line up the enemies in a certain pattern in the arena, so that you can not only gain a power boost to your attack, but also possibly take out multiple enemies at once. While this definitely takes some getting used to, it won’t take long before you start to see which lineup is best for each battle.
Another problem with the combat lies in the fact that, much like the two previous “Paper Mario” games, Sticker Star and Color Splash, you gain no experience from battling. Sure, battling regular enemies is fun and will net you some coins if you do really well, but it can also get annoying after a while because the enemies can seem completely jumbled up. At some points in the game, I found myself avoiding most enemies just so I could continue with the story.
Despite my problems with the combat, I still think that Paper Mario: The Origami King is a great game. It’s a beautiful and emotional adventure all the way through, and I feel that the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. While it isn’t entirely a return to how original the first “Paper Mario” trilogy was, Origami King has me looking forward to a bright future for the beloved series.
Bronx native Isaac Espinosa is a senior intern at the New York Videogame Critics Circle. Recently, Isaac was named the Circle’s first assistant mentor.