Paper Mario: The Origami King review: Beautiful but flawed

Nintendo /
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Return to the world of all things paper with Paper Mario: The Origami King.

Title: Paper Mario: The Origami King
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 17, 2020

A new game in the “Paper Mario” series was destined to have backlash in the Paper Mario and Nintendo fanbases, no matter what. Paper Mario fans seemed to be unhappy with anything that was not a shot for shot remake of Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door (or at least a return to that world) and Nintendo fans would rather see the series move forward into new territory rather than retell a story that has already been told. From there, we are all stuck in our houses, so every flaw and less than ideal detail would have a huge number of eyes on it and millions of Twitter fingers ready to tear it apart.

Therefore, it was no surprise that when Nintendo randomly announced Paper Mario: The Origami King one morning in June, the internet was immediately alight with both excitement and instant hate. A game that looked beautiful and had a darker tone excited people who just wanted to play a fun video game because, if we are being honest, quarantine has seen us play so much Animal Crossing that we see Timmy and Tommy in our sleep. Paper Mario fans seemed to remain pessimistic about the title and refused to get aboard the hype train.

Now that Paper Mario: The Origami King is finally out, we finally get to dive in and determine whether Paper Mario fans were right in their early hesitation.

Paper Mario: The Origami King review
Nintendo /

Sights and Sounds

The sights and sounds are the least controversial and easiest piece of the game to talk about, so starting there makes sense. Because, SHOCKER, Nintendo made a video game that looks beautiful and sounds wonderful.

Paper Mario: The Origami King is full of wonderful, vibrant colors that pop off the screen that makes for beautiful visuals that both fun and easy to look at. The variety of color is almost immediately obvious, and clearly communicates the feelings and themes of each locale. Ally characters are colored in bright ways that make their already great designs pop, while enemies use dull and dark colors to give them a shadowy and sinister presence.

Speaking of designs, legitimate love and attention go into all of the character designs. The soft and friendly designs of all of the allies make the safe areas in the game feel friendly and inviting, and when in dangerous areas, their peril is clearly communicated through their design. The toads may be pretty similar, but they still manage to be unique: this one is red and flawless, this one has some weird creases due to be crumpled up, this one has scars on his blue head, and this one is yellow and wears glasses.

Where the character design really shines is in the enemy design. Most of the enemies in the game are made of origami, and each crease and fold is clear and purposeful. Especially the mini-bosses and origami-based bosses, the amount of research and effort that goes into making each design as elaborate and complex as possible.

Sound-wise, Paper Mario: The Origami King is full of beautiful music and the sound mixing is wonderful (with a few exceptions). The music numbers can get a little repetitive and boring (especially the battle theme) and they definitely are not the type of songs you blast in the car (Persona 5 Royal‘s soundtrack stays on loop, only interrupted occasionally by the Hamilton cast recording) but they keep the energy up and give the environments life.

Thankfully those environments are fun to explore and often the music does not have to carry the attention of the players.