The Origami Sting (Paper Mario: The Origami King Impressions)

“Somehow… Palpatine returned.”

And somehow… Nintendo made something as wonderful as Paper Mario not fun anymore.

Yes, I hate to admit it, but Paper Mario: The Origami King is little more than validation for my (and everyone else’s) skepticisms. Just like Sticker Star, just like Color Splash, Origami King is a gimmicky endeavor that continues the series’ awkward mixture of being utterly shallow and overly thought out at the same time.

Yes, there are good moments, but those are found solely in the exploratory elements (finding lost Toads, combing for all the secret items in an area, etc.). But once you begin the battle system, it all goes to hell.

Nintendo and Intelligent Systems once again decided the original Paper Mario formula – a simplified RPG system that retained depth and strategy based on individual enemies and Mario’s moves – is too complex. So instead of an RPG battle system with action commands, they went the much “simpler” route of starting battles off with a bizarre ring system, where you have to solve the puzzle that is the enemy layout in order to align them in such a way as to make your moves more effective, all within a short time limit.

Thankfully, your moves are no longer completely consumable like in Sticker Star or Color Splash, but aside from Mario’s standard boots and hammer, you do have to keep buying weapons repeatedly since they break after a while (because weapons breaking is all the rage in games these days for some reason). The fights themselves are already tedious, made all the more so because you don’t even gain experience points or anything of the sort after a battle, so there’s no leveling up. All you get for completing battles are coins (with more rewarded for how well you line up enemies, taking no damage, and so on). And what do you need coins for? To buy more weapons!

Good lord, what incentive is the player supposed to have in regards to these battles? Fight battles to get coins to buy weapons to use in battles to get coins to buy weapons… Geez! What’s the point?!

As purposeless as the regular battles are, they pale, pale in comparison to the boss fights. Good heavens, the boss battles of Origami King are bad. Just straight-up bad. How bad? Bad enough that – every time the game starts to win me over with it’s exploration and adventure elements – the boss fights make me not even want bother with that, because I know it will all culminate with a tedious, obnoxious, boring as all hell boss fight. They make me not care.

“Bosses will repeatedly change up the formula of battles, without letting the player know how that change effects things until they make a mistake. Yay, that’s always fun, right?”

What makes the boss fights so bad? Well, on top of following the general format of the already pointless battles, the bosses will add additional puzzle elements to the fights that are more cumbersome than clever. More often than not, figuring out how to solve these puzzles requires blatant trial-and-error, as opposed to problem solving skills. The game leaves the boss strategies unexplained until you try the obvious and fail while doing it. And if you don’t follow these fights exactly as the game wants you, the bosses will just heal and the whole thing starts over.

I hate this. I flat-out hate this. It’s not fun. Not at all. I thought Color Splash’s boss fights were annoying with how they were literally unbeatable unless you used specific items at specific times, but I’ll take Color Splash’s boss fights over Origami King’s any day.

Of course, another downward spiral that Origami King obnoxiously indulges in is its lack of character (both figuratively and literally). Though the game has its charms, it follows the bizarre trait the series has been cursed with from Sticker Star onwards of not having any original characters. Every Toad is simply named “X-Toad” (that is, when they even have “names.”).  And the first “partner” character who joins Mario is a Bob-omb named (wait for it)… Bob-omb!

Does this Bob-omb have any defining character traits or features? No, it’s a Bob-omb, plain and simple. And he jokes about once having a friend who was also named Bob-omb (Haha! Get it? They’re all named Bob-omb!). Well, at least you actually get partners in this one, which is more than you can say for Sticker Star and Color Splash, right?

But wait, do you even get partners here? The Bob-omb joins you in battle very infrequently (he conveniently chooses to stay outside dungeons to take naps), and when he can be bothered to help Mario out, he automatically attacks with a single move (which is simply bumping into an enemy), and half the time he trips while doing it, making it a complete waste.

“Get it? His name is Bob-omb, and he IS a Bob-omb! It’s totally a clever gag and not a side effect of creative limitation or anything.”

I actually found this to be kind of passive-aggressive on Nintendo/Intelligent System’s part. It’s like they’re saying “Oh, fans liked the old Paper Marios and want partners back? Okay, we’ll give them partners, but there’ll be nothing that stands out about them, they’ll automatically attack with the most basic move, which won’t even work half the time, and they’ll only join Mario in battle on occasion! Lol!” It’s like the game is literally making fun of the classic Paper Marios.

I have to ask: who is this game made for? It presents itself as being more approachable to kids than past entries, but its battle system is more convoluted than ever. I can’t imagine kids would have very much patience for it. It wants to be a puzzle adventure game, but felt the need to incorporate a turn-based battle system that slows the puzzle/adventure down considerably. It includes said RPG-style battle system, despite its utter disdain for anything resembling an RPG. And it certainly isn’t made for Paper Mario fans, as it continues to gut everything that once made the series so great.

I know I probably sound like an entitled fan. And I’m sorry for that. But Paper Mario is a bizarre, unique case where it seems like its developers actively refuse to listen to criticisms, and blatantly ignore fans’ wishes. They continue to work on a series by making games that feel like they want nothing to do with that series. It is a baffling disconnect if ever there were one in gaming.

I’m about halfway through Paper Mario: The Origami King, and I would love to review it. Normally, I like to beat a game before reviewing it, but to be honest, I’m not sure I want to push myself through the whole game. Would it be wrong to review a game without defeating its final boss? That might be the only way I can review it, because honestly getting through the game’s story is feeling more like a chore as I go on.

I know some people would balk at me to have an open mind. But I did go into Origami King with an open mind, the same way I did Sticker Star and Color Splash. In the case of Color Splash, I actually ended up having some fun and being charmed by it, despite its many flaws. But Origami King is feeling more Sticker Star than Color Splash to me. It’s tedious, monotonous, gimmicky, the battle system is pointless, the characters lack personality and charm, and those boss fights are just… NOPE!

I want to review Origami King properly, I really do. But do I have to beat it? Do I really have to? I feel like I’m deep enough in the game already to give a more detailed analysis of it (not that it would require delving very deep in this case). I feel like beating the final boss would just be a formality at this point.

You know what the worst part of all this is? I am not only a fan of Super Mario, but I have a particular fondness for Mario RPGs. That’s why – no matter how far previous Paper Marios may have fallen – I still gave subsequent entries their fair shot, simply because Paper Mario is part of that Mario RPG lineage. I felt obligated to give any game with Paper Mario in the title a go. Not even Sticker Star derailed that hope in me for the next entry. But Origami King has been such a disheartening experience, that I don’t even want to get my hopes up that the next Paper Mario will even be good, let alone go back to what made the series so special to begin with. Origami King has crushed my enthusiasm for the series, and that’s not something that happens to me lightly.

At least we have Bug Fables now…

Author: themancalledscott

Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining, the man called Scott is an ancient sorcerer from a long-forgotten realm. He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. Or, you know, he could just be some guy who loves video games, animations and cinema who just wanted to write about such things.

10 thoughts on “The Origami Sting (Paper Mario: The Origami King Impressions)”

  1. Wow… I’m amazed. You sir just saved me a lot of money. Here I was thinking that I totally missed out by not preordering the game by trying to be financially conservative. I just got done writing about how grocery stores. Like the produce at the beginning of all grocery stores you get distracted by the colorful genetically modified fruit. It looks just soo perfect right? Paper Mario on a console system, let alone the switch! Man that’s great I could take this anywhere, bur given how far you are already in the game tells me this is not a very long game full of excitement and adventure.

    As for the automatic combat by friends seems like an excuse to making the game easy so everyone can say they got to play the whole game and not get stuck. I’m writing this reply at 1:28 AM PST just mind-blown.

    I can identify with wanting to support Nintendo in what they choose to.do. Especially with Mario games I can just see footage of myself going through time with Mario. When I was a wee lad Mario was Super Mario 64 during the first devastating years of conflict with the Middle East following 9/11 there was Super Mario Sunshine. During the Housing Crisis we got Super Mario Galaxy to fill our eyes with hot tears, our hearts with wonder. Oddessy was a gem as I was struggling in college wondering where to go with my career… Where is Mario now Scott? We need Mario and he just wasn’t there. We didn’t even need to have a Paper Mario game but just some kind of Mario game that was fun. But your right, we DO have Bug Fable. At least you do and have convinced me to buy it.

    You know what got me the most though? As silly as this sounds I wanted Bob-omb to be my friend and loyal companion. The character had such a charm to start out with in the opening trailer. I spend my time listening to you on a fancy car ride through the mountains and travel with you down rivers and waterfalls and yet leave me to die in a dungeon.

    Anyways good job again. There is certainly content I did not reply to

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    1. Sorry I got tired and didn’t finish the post. There is certainly content you noted that I did not address but I think this review was really good and useful to me personally. Deciding to buy a game is a big decision for me so I appreciate you being blunt about the nature of these new Paper Mario games. I look forward to next post.

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    1. I don’t know, it really just makes me want to give up on the series. Again, I want to do a full review, but I’m finding it harder and harder to find the motivation to continue playing.

      People often deride Paper Mario critics as simply not being able to accept change, but that’s not it. It’s that these changes are either just removing depth, or are flat-out bad game design choices. It’s terrible what they’ve done to the series. And based on recent interviews, it seems they’re dead set on heading in this direction absolutely no one wants. It’s disheartening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah. I actually just finished writing my review a couple of hours ago (it should go up in ten days or so), and that is what I wrote: that change is necessary, but that it isn’t all that good when it attacks the essence of the franchise. It’s what has happened to Paper Mario, sadly.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s terrible change. Ans with Alpha Dream going belly-up (after two lackluster M&L sequels), it seems Mario RPG fans such as myself are being left high and dry by Nintendo.

        What’s your stance on requiring to beat the game before I review it?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, the whole Alpha Dream deal is bad news for Mario RPG fans. Not that the last two M&L games were great (as you mentioned, they were lackluster), but there was talent in that company. We went from having two lines of Mario RPGs to having none.

        As for reviewing the game, I finish them before writing the reviews, but if you have played a good batch of the quest I think your opinion on the game should be pretty solid by now. So I say do it in case you don’t feel like continuing.

        The last chapter is not all that great, save for the conclusion of the storyline which was sweet, but the game does not get better than chapters 2, 3, and 4 as far as I am concerned.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, believe me, I beat games before I review them (exceptions being games that don’t need to be ‘beat’ IE Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, or those really broken retro games that I’m convinced are unbeatable, like Bill & Ted on NES). Normally, I feel I have to beat a game before I can properly review it. But I don’t know, Origami King is an exception where I feel I’m deep enough into it and already feel so strongly about it, that I don’t even know if playing through the rest is necessary…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have feedback as a reader.^^
    I think it depends on what your review’s focus is on. I think if a game is fun you will at least get some notion of it pretty quickly in. If it is REALLY dull and you have already played halfway through the game and it has been bad, then it’s not a game I am intrested in playing.

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