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25th Jul 2020 | 820 views
Paper Mario: The Origami King accomplishes what a Paper Mario game should set out to do, tell stories and realize ideas that aren’t possible on a traditional Mario platformer, while is not a return to form in the sense of gameplay mechanics from 64 and TTYD, it is a return to greatness in the series best entry since Super Paper Mario.
The writing of TOK and the series overall is separated in two main components, its story and humor, the humor is something that has been going on an upwards trend in quality, this being the best yet in the series, is smart and sharp, relying mostly on its world to create humorous remarks like the usual meta dialogue and situations the series would get.
The story is back to being bolder and interesting, after 64’s excellent retelling of the usual Mario vs Bowser template, the series had to create new villains and stories to be compelling enough for new entries, something that for the most part Sticker Star and Color Splash didn’t really felt like doing.
Now we are back to having a completely new villain in the form of Olly and interesting set pieces that take advantage of the adventure/RPG/whatever this series is genre, again, ideas that aren’t done in the mainline games.
The set-up is simple but presented really well, with that creepy and ominous introduction to the origami army of Olly, the beautiful and whimsical prologue in the forest and the amazing sense of adventure that the rest of the game presents, is all a joy to experience, characters such as Olivia, the Bob-omb, Kamek, Bowser, among others, get some of the best characterization and characters arcs to ever be done in the series, the Bob-omb especially is one of the best if not the best partner ever.
The gameplay is for the most part pretty good, the world is very well designed, every part of it feels organic and with a great flow to it, some of the best realized locations in the series, from the lively and well-structured return of Toad Town, the landscapes of Autumn Mountain and the vast yet tightly designed Eternal Ocean, small details like seeing a future objective on the form of other streamers on your way to the current one helps bringing the world to life, every part of it is also filled to brim with stuff to do, be it hidden pathways to treasure chest, finding Toads, filling patches with confetti, fishing at some points, some mini games, there is no shortage of stuff to do in the world of TOK.
Exploration is rewarded with useful things for the sake of completion and progression, for example a lot of health upgrades can only be found through optional objectives, be it from specific Toads and the like, this conditions you to take the time to go around the area worth it, the game is also good at keeping track of everything you do and give you a check-mark of 100% in every section, adding to the feeling of reward and accomplishment.
Another important aspect for progression are coins, which are also rewarded from exploration and in higher quantities from battles, it may seem somewhat excessive, the amount of coins you get from the initial hours, but is off set to an extent by the accessories and items to further upgrade yourself being expensive, among other uses of coins like in the battle system, it feels like a promising exchange from the traditional XP system, it just needs to tie the coins a lot more to elements like some basic stats and even more equipment, but also give them in less quantities for a higher sense of challenge and meaningful player choice in how to spend their coins.
The battle system is a new take in turn based combat, essentially making every fight a puzzle, you spin a slide rings to align enemies either in a line or a 2x2 shape, this will give you extra attack power upon doing it successfully, the game is really good at easing you in this system with its initial fights where you would only get punished for failing the puzzle arrangement, if you succeed you basically won’t take any damage, this changes as the game introduces enemies with more health in the later parts of the first chapter. To attack you have a basic Jump and Hammer attack but can use stronger ones as you equip them as items, these items have a degradation system, you can buy plenty of them and some stronger ones can be found through the world, so is recommended that you use them as you please and maybe save the more powerful ones for tougher enemies and boss fights. There is also another items such as fire flowers and raccoon tails that are also very useful. The system itself is very engaging with more complicated set ups for lining up foes as you go along, part of what makes it so good is the timer, you have a time limit to line up your enemies, from the outside 30 to 60 seconds may seem like a lot, but once you are into the game and figuring out how to best line up opponents, it can get stressful, there is also some help to work around the timer and puzzle solving.
As a fan of capitalism this is a cool feature, you can spend coins to increase your timer and if you save enough toads, they actually help by throwing around stuff at enemies to damage them, heal you and make the puzzles easier depending on how much money you give them, another aspect that makes your money useful. Is a cool risk versus reward system that would be even more tight and exciting if the game would ask you for more money in order to get that help, an element that could be further explored if they stick to this battle system and mechanics.
The enemies themselves are pretty standard, the only real difference among them is the ones that are spiky or airborne that you need to think about who to line up for a hammer attack or a jump, there isn’t much in the way of status afflictions such as paralysis or sleep with the basic enemies, which is a shame given that some of these have had variations in the past that can inflict those properties, it doesn’t take much away from the engagement of the puzzle solving, but is a missed opportunity to create more interesting battle situations.
Boss fights are a nice change of pace, given their bigger size, they take center stage and now your objective is to slide and spin a path for Mario to reach the boss, this gives a lot more interesting combat scenarios, such as fire attacks leaving leftovers on the ring that can burn Mario or ice patches that can freeze him, stuff that would have been cool in the normal fights as well. The rings are now filled with arrows to move Mario around, power ups to double his attack power and even allow you to attack twice. They are a big improvement over the boss fights in SS and CS, because while they are puzzles, you don’t need outside items and can’t get stuck in a battle you can’t win because you used a special item at the wrong time. There are also some contextual actions you can pull off in boss fights with the folded arms ability.
The folded arms are a new main mechanic for some puzzle solving and boss battles, giving Mario the ability to manipulate certain parts of the environment with over-sized arms and also laying the smack on a boss with a simple QTE like mechanic, is contextual and doesn’t overstay its welcome in its use, so is another good addition overall.
The level design is also excellent, I mentioned already the densely areas packed with stuff to find but also the more traditional dungeons have a good amount of care into them, something most modern RPGs don’t do, they are not too lengthy but not too short, all filled with a decent amount of traversal through platforming, puzzle solving, and a distinct theme and presentation to set them apart.
Presentation wise, this is among the best looking games of the system, mostly thanks to the incredible art direction, every area looks so different yet cohesive to the world of TOK, all with a distinct color palette to them to set a mood and with an incredible attention to detail with its aesthetic.
Some of the negatives is that the character design isn’t as great as it could be, especially for some of the later hubs, it would have been cooler to find a new species for inhabitants rather than just Toads, Snif City is one of the few that manage to reach that level of personality with it, but is clear that the rest of the game needed more effort in that regard, The Legion of Stationary, while I’m perfectly fine with fighting the office tools as the main bosses, which is also nicely tied to the narrative, could have used some more uniqueness to their designs, add some more fluff to them visually, if just for the sake of making them more unique. Overall while disappointing, the excellent writing makes personality come through despite the simple character design.
The music is perfect, you won’t find a more consistently amazing soundtrack that delivers in both quantity and quality, over 200 tracks of pure bliss and diversity of genres, most of them used for a single screen or cut scene but still leave a big impact on you, a lot of it tied through distinctive motifs across the adventure, making it not only incredibly varied but also tightly connected. The best part of it is that most of it doesn’t feel like it comes from a Mario game, that part of the bold and more interesting aspects of Paper Mario shine through in every track. Up there as one of the single greatest scores in a video game and the definitive Mario soundtrack.
Origami King is a special game, a well written tale, with an amazing world, competent battle system, a score from the gods and a ton of heart, only held back by some presentation and progression issues, is one of the best adventures of best plumber.
heavenmercenary01 posted 26/07/2020, 12:33
It was a very good game. An Exp system would have made the game perfect and fights more relevant. But the game isn't THAT based on fights, the story is the center of everything. And the story is really very well written. Hope this opus sells well.
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