The newest Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Origami King, is finally here, and this time I decided to jump-in right away. I’ve been waiting since Super Paper Mario for the series to get good again, and the pre-release media for this game was encouraging. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve got enough for some first impressions. So how is it so far? It’s…okay.
I can tell you right now that Paper Mario: The Origami King is definitely not the successor to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door that so many of us have been waiting for. This game goes lighter on the RPG elements, with no leveling system and a less-impactful set of badge-like accessories. The writing leans hard on the game’s papercraft aesthetic, and the characters/enemies are quite a bit less imaginative than their predecessors. The game is still quirky and is trying really hard to be funny, but it’s a very different feel from what came before. Rather than genuinely charming, it all comes across as forced. It can still be funny at times, but it hasn’t yet been able to overcome that forced-feeling for the most part.
There is good to be found here though. The battle system has potential; each battle presents players with a small sliding-panel puzzle that challenges them to line up their enemies. Do it right and you’ll both get a damage bonus and fewer enemies attacking as a result. If Paper Mario: The Origami King commits to these puzzles and keeps making them trickier as the game wears on, then there’s definitely potential for something interesting here. My only concern with it right now is that it won’t grow. Mario gets plenty of powerful weapons/items in this game, so the battles will likely never become interesting if they don’t become appropriately complex. To be sure, battles in the early Paper Mario games were never terribly hard, but the later ones still required players to carefully consider their attacks and the order they’re carried out in. I’m just hoping to see more of that here.
As for the world and story, I think prospects are good. The world is beautiful; Nintendo has, at the very least, done a great job with the paper aesthetic. There’s also secrets and other things to find in it, which makes it worth exploring. It’s light exploration, but it’s about the same as what we got in the first two games, so it’s enough. I’m also finding myself intrigued by the story. I want to know more about the so-called “Origami King” and what his aim in all this is. The creepy, cultish vibe coming from the origami enemies is also interesting. I want to know what’s made them that way. So there’s definitely a story hook here, which is a relief to see. Now I just need to meet a few more unique and interesting characters. So we’ll see.
At the moment, Paper Mario: The Origami King isn’t wow-ing me, but it’s not boring me either. The scaled-back RPG features and forced comedy are disappointing, but there’s at least potential in everything else. I don’t yet know if that potential will actually be realized, but I’m hopeful. So yeah, I can’t quite recommend the game yet, but I can say that Paper Mario fans should at least keep it on their radar for now.
Have you player Paper Mario: The Origami King? What do you think? What’s holding you back?
Lede image from the Paper Mario: The Origami King Nintendo eShop page