At long last it’s time to check out the latest Paper Mario adventure. This was always going to be an emotional ride right from the start but I don’t think very many could have ever guessed just how emotional. I nearly got this game day 1 but the gameplay style turned me off from doing that. After playing through the game I can safely say that the gameplay is not very fun but ultimately the game still manages to be a good adventure. It easily has the best Mario soundtrack I’ve ever seen and I would go a step further to say one of the best Nintendo soundtracks out there.
The game starts off quite suddenly as Mario and Luigi head over to Peach’s castle only to find out that she has already been turned. The powerful King Olly has taken her down for the count and she has now joined the side of Origami. Mario and Luigi are tossed out as Olly seals the castle away and then ties down the world. Mario will now have to take down each of the streamers in order to save Peach. Fortunately he will have the help of Olly’s sister Olivia. Will they be able to save the day or are they getting into a situation that’s far above their respective abilities?
Well, the game doesn’t quite manage to match up to the sinister atmosphere that the first cutscene had. Then again, I wouldn’t expect it to. It was a really effective way to start the game up since if even Peach could be turned then that truly meant that nobody was safe. Peach is usually seen as the most pure of heart so you can see why this would be greatly concerning to all parties involved. From there we go onto the normal adventure but you won’t see Olly again until you start to get near the end of the game.
The Paper Mario games have always had pretty fun dialogue. I may give Mario & Luigi the slight edge but it’s close and this game does not disappoint. It has a lot of fun dialogue throughout the game and certainly a lot of puns to go along with that. the story will keep you engaged well enough as you’re going through it. The supporting characters aren’t even bad. For example, I liked Bobby a lot. He’s a bob omb who really means well and just wants some good friends. It takes him a while to get going but once he does, there’s just no stopping him. He adds a fun element to the whole adventure and I was glad to have him around. It’s a shame that he couldn’t have appeared longer.
Olivia’s not quite as interesting. She tends to panic a lot and doesn’t really adapt to the situation in the same way. It is probably the fate of being the main heroine the whole time though. After a certain point of appearing for such a long time, you’re bound to start faltering at some point. She can transform and fight though which puts her above some of the other sidekicks at least in a combat perspective.
There’s not much to say about Mario since he doesn’t talk here but Luigi gets his own sub plot about trying to find the key to Peach’s castle. You feel bad for him because you know from the start that this is doomed to be a gag so he won’t be helpful for a while. At least his misadventures do end up helping in other ways so it balances out. While it’s not a high bar, this probably puts him as looking better than in most games which is really crazy when you think about it.
Bowser’s role is rather small though which is too bad. The scenes that he does get here are great and true show stoppers. The whole time it’ll remind you why you wanted him to appear so much in the first place. He’s made for these kind of moments and it shows. Without Bowser things would not have gone well for the heroes. Kamek and Bowser Jr also show up with satisfying roles so fans of all 3 should certainly be pleased here. That about wraps it up for the characters aside from Olly.
So for King Olly, I like the idea behind the character but I don’t think the execution is on point. Perhaps the opening cutscene set the bar too high but he just never gets back up to that level of hype. By the end you start to almost feel sorry for him which is rarely a good thing for a villain. No, this did not end up going over very well for the guy at all. It would have been cool if Bowser betrayed him and became the main villain for a minute there although I understand why that did not happen.
So the story is fun. It lasts for quite a while at 20+ hours and there is really a lot to do here. There’s also some replay value as you try to save all of the toads and get the collectibles although I’m not sure if there’s any secret ending or any kind of prize that would really make the journey worth it. Hopefully though because it’d be a shame if there was no prize at the end of the tunnel or anything like that.
For the gameplay though, this one is quite unique. You have to spin some wheels with a limited amount of moves to get the enemies in position and then you attack. There are no level ups in the game so there’s no point in fighting except when you have to. The wheel makes each match take longer than it should and it’s always sad when you can’t win in one turn because your attack power is not high enough. The worst part is you can’t exactly increase your attack power aside from finding new health power ups so that’s that.
Not having a level up system is always a mistake in an RPG if you ask me. The ability to grow stronger by beating minions is part of the whole point of the genre. When you take that away, it’s like you’re taking the heart of the adventure away as well. It’s just not right and it certainly doesn’t suit the game. Because of that, every minion encounter just feels annoying because you couldn’t get away fast enough. The wheel also never feels fun so you’re constantly wondering why it is even here.
At least there’s no mysteries during the boss fights like in Color Splash or Sticker Star where you’d have to backtrack to get specific items. You never have to completely run away from a fight here which is a very good thing. That would have absolutely been annoying otherwise. I don’t like to have to backtrack unless there’s a good reason for it. So the gameplay does hold the game back to an extent.
The graphics look really solid here. With the paper style the game may not end up trying to look quite as impressive as the average big budget game but it’s still all very clear. You certainly won’t think this is an older game. The real highlight is the soundtrack like I said earlier though. Listen to any theme in the game and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how good it is. The boss fights all pop out at you and it’s like you’re in a whole new world. The themes are heavy rock and get you into the zone. It even makes up for the bosses having the most uninspired designs and names imaginable because they at least sound hype thanks to the music. The game should be really grateful for such excellent tunes.
Overall, The Origami King is a fun installment in the Paper Mario series. I may not have been a big fan in some areas but it’s definitely an improvement over the last two games. I’d like the series to go a little more all out though like how it used to be with the first 3 titles. There’s no reason why your villains should just be ordinary appliance or why you need gimmicks with the gameplay. Give us a normal RPG gameplay style with a solid story and you’ll have a smash hit guaranteed. Maybe Nintendo doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the series without a gimmick but they really should since people would buy this regardless. If you like Paper Mario then you’ll have fun with this one. It’s still worth a purchase and it gives you a lot of value for your purchase. Now it’s just the long wait until the next one.