It’s been a decent amount of time since I wrote, so here I am. Saturday I finally got the opportunity to finish Paper Mario. Without any further ado, let me dive in.
It would be remiss of me to not give an overall synopsis of the story. Paper Mario: The Origami King starts off with Mario and Luigi driving to Toad Town for an Origami Festival. Upon arrival, they find it’s strangely empty. They drive up to the castle and notice that’s also strangely empty (while being locked in). When they get to the main hall, they see an origami Princess Peach who acts funny and asks Mario some deep philosophical questions about being folded. Mario then falls in a trap door where he witnesses Goombas being turned into origami. He rescues Olivia (the villain’s sister) and a folded up Bowser prior to going up to the castles spires. There, he finds out that the person responsible is King Olly (Olivia’s brother) who has a desire to make the world into his image: Origami. King Olly uses magic to lift the castle high onto a volcano and wrap it into streamers. Mario and company are thrown off the castle but somehow survive. Mario and Olivia’s goal is to now unwrap the streamers and rescue Peach while defeating Olivia’s brother. Along the way, they fight with various companions and unlock the elements of nature to aid them in their battles.
The first thing I have to talk about is the combat on this game. With most RPGs (which is what Paper Mario is) you usually get experience points which make you stronger and allows you access to more moves, better items, etc…However, as you fight enemies in Paper Mario, the only thing you get is coins and confetti (which are used to repair the Bottomless holes wrought by King Olly). Now as a relatively experienced gamer, I find that experience points are the best way to keep me and others engaged in a story. We all have a desire to see our characters go from weak to strong, access special moves, and do new things. But with the way things are in this installation of Paper Mario, you can pretty much do the same things at the end of the game (Jump, Hammer, use Item) that you can do at the beginning of the game. There’s no sense of accomplishment as you grow stronger, in other words.
Another thing with the combat that I disliked was the fact that time sensitive geometry was involved. I majored in a liberal arts major for two reasons: to understand people better and to avoid math. I don’t need to get stressed out trying to arrange enemies in the perfect rows and columns within 30–45 seconds for me to attack. Just line them up like a regular RPG and let me get to work. As I got to the end of the game, I just used the ‘cheer’ function (you pay money to the Toads in the audience and they do the puzzle for you) to breeze through the battles. The tedious combat has made me take several long breaks that I likely would not have if it were a conventional RPG. It’s one of the main reasons why this game isn’t a masterpiece like Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door.
The story itself was absolutely masterful when looked at as a whole. I loved the integration of the paper cutouts we’ve grown to love and the origami. It was fun to see Mario team up with Bowser and his minions for the final battle, and I loved the fact that characters actually died and weren’t brought back. You don’t see that often in the Nintendo universe. The overall artwork in the game was absolutely beautiful and when accompanied by the music score, it truly made for a wonderful game.
Now, even though the overall story was good, the minute parts of the story seemed to drag on for a bit. Paper Mario is known for its witty humor and having subtle adult jokes that get past the radar. The beginning and end of this game was masterful in that regards. But the middle of the game, it seemed as though the writers went too extreme in opposite direction and made it more childish than usual.
If you know me, you know that I like my video games to reflect society in some way and have me think about how society is similar to the actions of the game or major lessons that can be taken away that I can personally apply to my day to day life. This game didn’t really have that. For most of the game, it was just ‘let’s get rid of the streamers and save the princess’. I suppose I expect more than most from a Nintendo game, but it wasn’t even mitigated by good humor. It was just…cliches and geometry.
Overall, I would give this game a 7/10. The overall premise is good and the art behind this game (music and visual renderings) are absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, the tedious and unrewarding combat drives people away from what is obviously a magnificent game.