Paper Mario Sticker Star 3: But it’s actually kind of fun
It’s been twenty years since the original Paper Mario was released for the Nintendo 64, and the franchise has spanned five sequels since. It’s been a pretty up and down road for our paper thin friend, as the first two (or three to some people) games have gone down as some of the most beloved games ever. Unfortunately, (as I briefly explained in my Bug Fables review) the last two titles in the series, Sticker Star and Color Splash have lost the series many fans. Those titles stripped almost everything the first two games built up, mainly the RPG elements the series was known for. Now with the recent release of The Origami King has series developer Intelligent Systems finally patched the paper cuts that have scarred our paper plumber this past decade? Well yes and no, let’s get into it.
Paper Mario: The Origami King Release date: 2020 Developer: Intelligent Systems Publisher: Nintendo Platforms: Switch Genre: Turn based action/adventure
Paper Mario: The Origami King starts out like many of Mario’s various predecessors. Mario and Luigi are invited to a festival (an origami festival this time since this is you know PAPER Mario) at Princess Peach’s castle, but when the two arrive the entirety of Toad town is abandoned (you can probably see where this is heading). Mario heads into the castle to investigate, and there he meets a well rather different looking Peach who has been folded into origami. After a creepy bit of dialogue in which she asks Mario to fold himself, and be reborn like her Mario refuses, and then falls through the floor into the Castle’s underground lair. Seriously, this is some creepy stuff
He then finds out that an evil origami king named Olly is kidnapping and transforming all the citizens of the mushroom kingdom (including Bowser and his minions) into origami in a twisted rampage. After finding Olly’s sister Olivia (who rejects her brother’s twisted ways), Mario, Bowser, and a shy guy narrowly escape the castle before they become origami as well. The castle is also lifted up into the sky onto a volcano, and is wrapped in five giant streamers trapping Peach and others inside. Mario and Olivia then team up, and go on a journey to destroy the root of the five streamers in order to re enter Peach’s castle and defeat Olly.
As I’ve said before in my Bug Fables review, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is the series Magnum Opus, and many fans have been clamoring to that return to form of gameplay. Unfortunately, The Origami King is no TTYD2, but it’s also no Sticker Star or Color Splash. Yes, the headliner for this review does say Sticker Star 3, but while OK does step in it’s footsteps it does it’s own thing as well. Let’s begin with the world and characters before moving onto the (gulp) combat.
In PM:TOK you’ll have to explore five different worlds as well as the hub village Toad town in order to track down the five streamers, and bring peace to the mushroom kingdom. Besides battling enemies, this includes rescuing poor origami stricken toads, filling in holes (made by Olly’s minions) in the overworld with confetti, and collecting treasures. The five worlds you explore are large regions that you will scour from beginning to end which is a departure (and a welcome one) from Color splash’s mission based world map. Yay no more mission based levels
These worlds are very fun to explore and very rewarding. Finding and returning toads back to normal will allow them to return to Toad town (which can prove to be pretty helpful), and the more you save the more they will help you in combat (which I’ll elaborate on in a bit). Repairing the holes will net you coins, and let you proceed in certain areas of the world. Finally, finding treasures will.. well they will help you get that sweet 100% at the end of the game. These all mix together to make a very satisfying collectathon that not even the first couple games have, and might be the best part of the game.
You’ll also do other kinds of adventuring in these worlds in order to progress the story. One world will have you travelling around a desert solving puzzles in order to open a temple where a streamer can be found. Another world has a Zelda: Windwaker like approach that will have you sailing around a great sea discovering islands and whatnot. There are a lot of diverse little things that the game will have you do making for an adventure that rarely gets boring. It’s not as fleshed out as say TTYD, but it’s a huge step up from Color Splash. You even get to visit this really cool ninja village
These worlds are also complemented pretty well by the characters that inhabit them. I say pretty well because unfortunately the Paper Mario series doesn’t do unique characters like they used to. Instead, we now just get basic Mario character designs (like Koopas or sniffits), and they aren’t as charming are set apart like the ones in for instance TTYD are. Luckily, what is lost with design is almost entirely made up with writing. The dialogue in this game is hilarious. Characters (like toads when you save them for instance) are constantly cracking jokes, quoting memes, and are just a constant joy to interact with. The writing for some of Bowser’s minions (who are on your side this time around) are especially great. Olivia who you journey with throughout the whole game is also well written, and does most of the talking for Mario because Yknow he is a silent one. Besides Olivia you’ll also get partners who will journey with you from time to time. They add a good bit of depth to the adventure, like the bob-omb Bobby who lost his memory, and are a great addition to TOK, especially after Sticker star removed them from the series. Some will help out in other ways too like one who helps you dig stuff out in the desert, and they all help out in battle sometimes. Speaking of which it’s time to discuss the battling. Haha, you know because we really don’t see that everyday…. *cries*
The reason I said gulp when I mentioned battling earlier is because it’s been the key issue with the series since Super Paper Mario did away with the normal RPG system the first two games were known for. We’ve never gone back and Origami King is no exception. But instead of the one time use card system that Sticker star and Color splash used, TOK changes things up. Now whenever you get into a battle Mario is put into the center of this ring, and you have to line enemies up in a puzzle before attacking them. Line them up correctly, and you get an attack boost that almost certainly means a one turn win. Fail to line them up, and you get no boost plus your gona get a hurting once your turn is over. In order to line enemies up you can rotate four different sections of the ring, or slide sections of the ring back and forth. Get em Mario
You also have to keep in mind what kind of attack your going to use. You can attack with boots which will hit enemies in a long four man row, or use a hammer attack which hits four enemies as long as their lined up like those goombas in the picture above. You can also use one time items you receive like fire flowers and Pow blocks to defeat enemies as well. Your boots and hammer attacks don’t go away, but later on in the game you will get better versions of those attacks that have about a five to seven use durability to them (come on Nintendo still with the durability mechanics?). You are also timed when solving a puzzle so you can’t dillydally, and if you are running out of time you can use coins to buy more of it. This is where Toads come in too. You can pay the audience coins, and they will help by solving some of the puzzle, or give you an item or health. If you pay them enough they might give you all three! You also gain access to certain accessories which can be equiped to boost some stats such as health and time. Overall, this combat system is actually kind of fun. It’s not boring like Color Splash’s is, and some of the ring puzzles are actually pretty tricky, and satisfying to figure out. Certain parts of the game just hand you a crap ton of coins so sometimes you can kinda just cheat your way to victory which might bother some people, but I didn’t mind it as I was not very good at the puzzles most of the time… Your companions will help you fight sometimes as well which can be a big help, although they aren’t as involved as they could be which is a shame. Forget it just POW these bastards
Unfortunately, despite all this praise the combat still isn’t as deep as it could be. It’s nothing like the original Paper Marios, or Bug fables, which have more interesting mechanics like badges, or a real party, or action commands that aren’t just pushing A, and there is still no exp. This lack of progression is the games biggest downfall. Simply put, for the most part you can get through this game by just avoiding battles. Coins and Confetti are earned for winning these battles, but both things can be easily obtained from just exploring the overworld. Even health itself is upgraded through overworld exploration. This makes exploring well worth it, but I mean it’s mind boggling why they couldn’t tie one of these things exclusively to battling. It’s like they did everything they could to make sure you wouldn’t have an incentive to fight. A lot of these battles are scripted I’ll admit, but the majority are optional.
Standard combat isn’t all though, there are also plenty of boss fights, and these are really fun. They are all scripted too so don’t worry. The twist with boss battles is that this time the bosses are in the middle, and Mario has to rotate and slide the arena in order to create a path so he can get to the boss. These fights aren’t easy and can get pretty intense as you have you make sure that you land on icons that allow you to use attacks, or get to an opponents weak point. These battles will keep you on your toes, and are a pretty big highlight of the game. These bosses pack a punch too. Don’t ask me why Mario is fighting a bunch of crayons…
Before wrapping up I’d like to quickly go over the games music and visuals. There has been much debate about wether or not the whole paper look to the newer Paper Mario games is a good or bad thing. Well. I think its a really good thing for the most part. The whole game is crafted out of paper like materials, and it shines on the switch. They went a little too far with having the bosses made out of materials like tape and such (which is a little funny honestly), which I admit does hurt the seriousness of the story a bit, but visually its all beautiful.
The music absolutely kicks butt. The composer from the original games returns, and he doesn’t miss a beat. The battle themes slap, the overworld themes are catchy, and themes like Toad town are memorable. The OST is fantastic and there isn’t much to say besides that.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is no true Paper Mario 3. It struggles in areas the originals excelled. The combat isn’t very deep, and lacks any sort of exclusive progression. The character designs can become a little repetitive and well flat. The story is light hearted and simple, and the worlds aren’t as fleshed out as you’d might expect in an RPG (and well I guess there is a reason why they call it and action game only haha). Fortunately, if you can look past those smudges what you’ll find is an entertaining adventure worth diving into. It’s got charming characters, a fantastic overworld to explore, a funny cast of characters, fun puzzles to solve and more. I’ll always want a return to form for the series, but The Origami King is definitely a step up from Sticker Star and Color Splash. Also well luckily, more games like Bug Fables are starting to come up out of the woodwork so the spirit of the old games will always live on even if the new is here to stay.
JOYS: Fun adventure with lots to explore- Great writing- Game will make you laugh- Beautiful visuals- fantastic soundtrack- and the combat isn’t as annoying as Color Splash
CONS: But the combat is still not deep enough- No exp or any progression for combat- Still stale with character designs- Story and world aren’t as fleshed out as they could be
REVIEW SCORE: 8.25 out of 10
Review by Andrew Wright