If you have been a Paper Mario fan since the N64 or Gamecube days, I take pity on you, because it’s been tough. For those that don’t know, after the release of Super Paper Mario for the Wii, Nintendo shifted directions with the series. The 3DS and Wii U Paper Mario games lacked many fan favorite core elements of the first few entries, such as an XP system and most notably a deep story with original characters. This caused great unrest within the Paper Mario community, and it showed in the sales numbers. Although the 3DS entry Paper Mario Sticker Star sold fine, the Wii U title, a direct sequel to the 3DS game, Paper Mario Color Splash, was a commercial failure. Although the exact sale number is a bit up in the air, with some sources claiming it to be 186,000 and others over 800,000 either number still puts it at the lowest the series has ever seen.
Despite the downhill trend that the games have taken Nintendo hasn’t given up yet. Earlier this year they randomly dropped a trailer on YouTube revealing a new Paper Mario that would be available just about a month after the announcement. That day has long since passed and as 2020 was coming to a close I decided to give the game a shot.
Were they able to bring the series back to its former glory? What can the higher sales numbers tell us? And what might a Catholic or Christian want to consider before taking a stab at it? This is Catoons’ review of Paper Mario: The Origami King.
My favorite thing about the Paper Mario games is the dialogue. While most games featuring text boxes tend to make me despise them, mashing through the words as fast as I can, Paper Mario does a great job at preventing this. I almost never skipped through the text and would often re-read it once or twice, taking a moment to stop and laugh at one of the many jokes they slipped in or just to appreciate the great writing. I cannot recall a single character that speaks who does not bring some sort of humor, even if they are the serious type. It did not feel like it hurt the experience one bit and I still felt like a true hero while stomping origami all the way through.
Wait, stomping origami? Yes, if it wasn’t obvious from the title, that is the main enemy in this game. Mario finally has an original nemesis again: King Olly. He is an impatient fellow, out to take over the world by folding all paper life into mind-controlled “folded soldiers” who have no purpose other than serving the King. These are the enemies you fight throughout, and for those who were hoping for original enemies I am sorry to say they are all (aside from two enemies plus bosses) generic mario characters simply folded into origami. However, if that is your cup of tea, great!
Once again the battle system has been changed, now having you turn rings to line up your enemies before you make a move. Different attacks hit different lineups of enemies. For example, if you want to use a fire flower you should set the baddies in a straight line, but if you would rather opt for a hammer attack they should be put into a close group of 4 instead. In boss battles, you instead turn the ring to line up tiles mario uses to get close and attack the boss with. While it was some fun, the battles lacked a strong sense of progression for me since they did not reward any XP and aside from the two weakest ones, all items you use to attack break after a few uses. Even though battles reward coins which are used to buy items you find plenty of both those things in the overworld anyway. I think I could have easily beat the game without buying items at all and was left with much more than I needed by the end. I have to agree that the old battle system from 2001 with XP and level ups still seems superior to what Nintendo is doing here in 2020. Disappointing to say the least.
When it comes to morality, I would take note to parents there is a slight bit more at play here than what the usual Mario game entails. Some jokes are for the older kind (not 18+ or anything but probably a bit complicated or much for a real young kid). There is also one part in the early game which includes Koopa Troopas engaging in worship of a false god (Koopas confirmed pagan?!). The game makes it pretty clear that it is only paryoding obviously false religion and not any of the real-life ones, but some, especially children, might interpret it as all religion in general. Either way, I gotta admit, getting to eventually hammer down an image of a false god as Mario was fun. Now to quickly list the last things: Mario uses special powers by standing on magic circles, places incense on an altar for the sun, and does other similar things throughout the game. All of this is relatively fake-looking and cartoony, however.
Final thoughts: The game is probably worth playing if you are really into action-adventure or puzzle games. I don’t think it is going to go down as one of Nintendo’s legendary titles but it is in my opinion worth the $60, being a funny, beautiful, and long experience (it took me almost 30 hours to beat while taking my time.) The characters are better than they have been in a while but are still a long shot from the first 3 entries. Pleasurable experience overall.
Violence: Typical slapstick cartoony stuff. No blood. There are some occasions of paper characters getting ripped/holes punched in them.
Magic/Occult: Mario uses magic to fight, presence of worship of false deities
Other: Some jokes/themes may be a bit much for really young children