I used to be a big fan of the Paper Mario series. Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door are still two of my all-time favorite games. I even enjoyed Super Paper Mario and its more action-oriented play-style. It’s been 13 years since Super Paper Mario, and Nintendo has yet to make to make a Paper Mario game that’s even close to that good. Paper Mario: Sticker Star was stripped of everything that made the series fun, and Paper Mario: Color Splash MADE THE EXACT SAME MISTAKE! No cool combat system; no fun progression of power; just consumable cards and a borderline pointless paint system. It even retained the bland writing and characters of Sticker Star and went even further by making virtually every side character a plain ol’ Toad. Oh, how fun… This brings us to what should be the exciting announcement of Paper Mario: The Origami King. It should be, but the Sticker Star/Color Splash vibes are already flowing.
If I sound horribly jaded, it’s because I am. I’ve spent over a decade waiting for a good entry in what used to be one of my favorite series, and I’ve been massively disappointed twice now. So please keep in mind that I’m not really willing to give Paper Mario: The Origami King the benefit of the doubt. With that said, why does this reveal worry me? Well there are a couple of reasons.
The first reason is Nintendo’s track record when it comes to games with gimmicky art direction: it’s absolutely terrible. Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Yoshi’s Crafted World, Paper Mario: Color Splash, and Paper Mario: Sticker Star were all games that all made the exact same mistake: they put style over substance. All of them were beautiful to look at, real works of art. However, they all wound up being bland and boring games in the end. There was nothing interesting about them other than the art style. No fun writing; No interesting combat or level design, and no evolving gameplay.
The sole exception to this is The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake/remaster, but I’d argue that it doesn’t count since the only thing that Nintendo changed about the game were the visuals and a half-baked dungeon designer mini-game. Paper Mario: The Origami King looks like it too is going to be all about its visual presentation, so I can’t help but feel like it’s already got a strike against it.
The second reason I’m not confident about this is that, once again, there were no interesting new characters shown. Most the characters shown in the trailer were the generic Mushroom Kingdom residents we’ve been seeing for decades now. Where’s all the creativity we saw in Super Paper Mario or Paper Mario: TTYD? Where are the roguish pirate types or weird 2D people? Where are the actual ghosts and aliens? Seeing mostly generic character has me feeling worried is all. Now, the Origami King and his origami forces have the potential to be something quite interesting indeed. They were actually downright unsettling in this trailer, but I really hope they won’t be the only interesting characters in the game.
As for the combat, we only got a glimpse of it but again there’s already hints of problems. The biggest one is that “Shiny Boots” graphic shown during the combat clip. Seeing that brings back memories of the awful consumable attacks seen in the last two games. I hope it’s not the case here, but it seems likely. Despite years of fan complaints, Nintendo has stubbornly stuck with that awful system, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if they brought it back yet again. However, there is that ring mechanic too, which could be a saving-grace since it appears to introduce a puzzle element to the battles. Hopefully it doesn’t require the Ring-Con accessory to play.
There is indeed potential present in Paper Mario: The Origami King. The enemies are unsettling, the locales at least look interesting and there’s at least a chance (however unlikely) that Nintendo is finally ditching consumable-based combat. Its shadow is still present though, as is that of every other Nintendo game that’s featured a handicraft aesthetic. Honestly, I would be overjoyed to hear that Paper Mario: The Origami King was actually good and finally offered a real step forward for the series. I’m not gonna hold my breath though. Not this time.