Nintendo switch users signed up for exactly this; a new way to play classic Nintendo games. While large franchise games have launched and been ported to the system, the giants of the realm are newer adaptations of Nintendo classics like Mario Odyssey which feels like a callback to Mario 64, Mario Kart and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Next to drop is Paper Mario: The Origami King, the next update to a classic Mario game. Like most of the games thus far, it lives up to itself.
Paper Mario: The Origami King has a lot to live up to with the Paper Mario legacy and the successful updates to classic games that have landed on the switch thus far, and I am elated to report that it doesn’t disappoint. The game will feel familiar to Mario fans and is fresh enough to stand on its own. The gameplay is as seamless as you’ve come to expect from Mario games with excellent story and world building, new characters and quirks, and a list of new mechanics including a novel battle style.
Paper Mario and Luigi start their journey arriving at Peach’s castle noticing many of their beloved friends have been folded into 3D “folded soldiers.” Soon, they meet Mario’s companion, Olivia, an origami princess whose brother, King Olly, has taken over the land and relocated the castle in the distance at the end of some streamers. With Olivia, and some other friends along the way, Mario must visit worlds to rescue captured toads, repair the paper land, fight off origami folded soldiers, tackle some bosses and storm the castle.
The game plays out in a way you’d expect a Mario or Paper Mario game to, worlds upon worlds accessible through pipes only open as you excel through them, with visits to home base for upgrades and to rest up. As Mario learns new skills and gains new access, revisiting worlds becomes fun for cleanup, such that the main story line isn’t the only goal. In a love letter to completionists, there are four categories of easter eggs; rescued toads, treasures, holes, and ? boxes all noted in your map view with completeness percentages. For those of us who wouldn’t leave a Mario Odyssey world without every moon, this is a pleasure of an addition to the gameplay that makes parading around the worlds more fun than just barrelling towards the boss battles.
The exciting change this edition brings is the new fight mechanic. Mario will run into various types of folded soldiers and bosses that he must fight using a new ring technique. Better to show than tell, the mechanic involves two types of “ring moves” to place tour enemies in the best formations to strike them with weapons. Enemies are spread across concentric circles and you can toggle between moving the circles clockwise/ counter clockwise or shuffling the characters up and down rows. Ring moves are limited, and you’re rewarded for the best lineups. Weapons vary in strength, ability, and strike radius, so the object is to best lineup the enemies and select the best weapons to beat them in the fewest turns to take the least amount of damage. For the boss battles, the mechanics are the same with different goals. Bosses are in the middle of the circles, and the circles are marked with arrows, strike zones, and other items. You must line up the circles so that Mario follows the arrows to strike the boss at the closest possible range. It’s fun and it works. Though a new mechanic altogether, it is reminiscent of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle in how you’re approaching increasingly difficult matches with a mathematical problem-solving fight mechanic.
Most Mario games have some sort of assistant character, like maybe your talking hat. This time, you’ll be carrying along origami Olivia who will help you make your way through the worlds. She does what you’d expect and is a helpful hint machine you can press X to access when you’re stuck. She doesn’t always have useful information, but at the very least, will keep you on track. The game has a lot of options for help and hints that can be toggled on and off in a way I truly appreciate. Coins are easy to come by but are incredibly valuable as they can be used for weapons upgrades, accessories to help point out difficult to find easter eggs, and to pay toads for help and health during battles. The accessories are a great mechanic as they’re not able to all remain on at the same time, so you are able to toggle between easter egg hunting hint machines if you feel stuck, without feeling like you’re turning on a cheat or safe mode. The coin spending options generally are a great way to drop in game difficulty toggles so you can easily flow between making things easier or more difficult without major settings changes in a way that lets the game be adjustable to any players’ chosen difficulty without ever handing anything to you. While there will no doubt be lists published of all the hidden locations, it’s fun to know that the game built in methods to seek those things for you In easy to toggle ways for those returning to areas to complete their collections. There are also “save” boxes everywhere and between stages of layered boss battle games which allows you to not feel full blown frustration if there’s an area that’s difficult to beat. Again, a gift for the short-fused amongst us who choose to just try the stage again without wanting to be booted back to the beginning of a long layered battle.
The paper gags are incredibly fun from having paper characters folded into origami, paper “macho” enemies, stationary based bosses and confetti. The game is clever and fun, from the music, to the staging, to the way the world is built. The best thing is how the entire paper world comes together to fight the origami. Villains are given backstories, voices and motivations. You’ll pet a chain chomper, befriend a bob-omb and hang out with the shy guys. It’s a really fun peak into bigger stories for what have otherwise been foot soldier like baddies.
If there’s a complaint to be made it’s that the game talks too much. There is a lot of exposition, every saved toad has something to say, and Olivia loves to yammer. It’s enough to sometimes feel like it’s an interruption to gameplay flow when you’re en route to the next mission and have to keep halting to rescue chit-chatty toads. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be hammering that A button more than you’ll want to admit.
The controller is used well as you’d expect from a tentpole Mario game on a Nintendo system. The buttons are intuitive, and the joycon moves, while there, can be toggled on and off and are never time sensitive, which helps avoid the frustration of lining them up perfectly. The one kink is that in the rotation of circles, the joystick will sometimes change relative directions, making “right and left” incompatible with “clockwise and counter clockwise” in a way that can throw you off.
Paper Mario: The Origami King came in hot to a system that’s boasted excellent new adaptations of flagship games. It’s impossible to ignore the high bar Nintendo sets with these releases and the quality we come to expect from them. This one absolutely delivers on being fresh and new, living up to the quality we expect and is an exciting addition to the switch roster for those of us looking for the next great game to commit to. We have come to expect only the best from Mario RPG’s and this one still manages to blow through expectations and leave confetti flying.