Over vacation I wanted to get a Nintendo Switch game so I could have some fun exploring a new world and enjoy a nice story. Instead, I got “Paper Mario, Origami King.” Over the years I’ve played games I just didn’t have time to finish, or got bored with before I got to the end, but never before have I rage quit a game and thought, “Good riddance.” Origami King threw me over the edge, and it’s a shame because there is so much that’s fun about this game.
The very good
The most frustrating bit about Origami King is I want to love it, because there is much Nintendo did great I can’t believe I don’t. Here’s some of the great aspects.
Origami King’s world is huge, and it’s all interconnected which only adds to the expansive feel. There are also two parts which are so large they need vehicles to traverse, a desert and ocean, and the ocean may have been my favorite part of the entire game 1–it felt like a condensed version of Wind Waker and a so much fun to explore.
Aside from it’s size, the paper world is beautiful. I played Origami King on my Switch Lite so my wife could play Animal Crossing on the TV, but even on the smaller screen the visuals were impressive. Exploring the different areas took me back to how I felt when I first played Super Mario 64. I often didn’t care about getting to a goal because I wanted to see what was “over there.” It’s a great looking world with plenty to discover and unlock. Nintendo spent a lot of time on the environment, and it shows.
Origami King boasts some terrific writing, and it shines through it’s colorful characters. It would be nice if Mario’s companions became actual characters in the party, more on that later, but each character’s voice and mannerisms is well-done and may be among the best Nintendo has ever produced. One character’s story arc was so moving I needed to pause and put the game down so I could come to grips with what I just saw. That isn’t an exaggeration.
The bosses are also the best. I want these characters to pop up again, somehow.
The characters are thrown into an nice story, which includes many different side trails that keep it from being linear. There are the normal “hey, we’ll do a side quest now to pad run time” bits which are bound to pop up in any game like this, but for the most part I found the tale enjoyable. Mario and companions visit a theme park, unlock some ancient history, and even solve a mystery. It’s good stuff even it if is occasionally marred by a fetch quest or two.
The very bad
For all its many strong points, I don’t like this game. And here’s why.
I got used to the puzzle board combat, and figured out that the purpose of generic battles is simply to give you cash to help out in boss battles, but it was still annoying. There’s nothing organic about the combat. It’s just, “let’s make battles like this because it’s totally different.” And it is totally different, it’s just a pain. I found myself fighting the controls more than trying to solve the puzzles, and even after hours of game play I’d still forget to commit a move before switching functions–something which resets the move. This would be a minor annoyance if there wasn’t a timer, but when the seconds are ticking down it becomes an extreme annoyance. More frustrating is the lack of party building. Companion NPC’s will join the fight at random interval as if to say, “Yah, we’re still here,” but they can’t be activated by the player.
Maybe if there were actual experience points which gave me a sense of progression I’d tolerate the battle system more than I do, but the way it’s set up I find myself rolling my eyes and sighing every time another battle is hoisted upon me. Even worse, some battles are done action RPG style and tend to be more fun than the stupid spinning board mechanic. And, if we’re not building a party, why include both turn based and action RPG combat in the first place? It makes no sense to me.
The boss battles reverse the puzzle mechanic, with Mario on the outside trying to run in. At first I thought this was worse than the ordinary battles, but I ended up flipping my opinion. That mechanic was a bit more interesting to me, but I still found myself turning off my Switch and thinking, “Eh, I’ll finish this later.” Let me be clear, I put my Switch to sleep and walked away during a boss battle and wasn’t bothered one bit. The game just doesn’t beg to be played, and the combat mechanic is a big part of that.
All games like this will have padding so the developers feel players are getting their money’s worth from the purchase price. But Origami King ratchets this up to another gear and for me, was what broke the game.
“Shy Guys Finish Last” was the final straw.
Imagine being on yet another fetch quest, but not caring all that much because the environment was beautiful and the characters were fun. But just when you think you’ve arrived at the end you’re forced to play a game show. That’s “Shy Guys Finish Last.”
Not only are you forced to play the game, unable to advance for no other reason than to pad run time, but to beat each mini-game in the game show you are forced to use the infuriating spinning wheel puzzle mechanic.
For me, that was end. The first time I hit it I played one round and turned it off. I figured I’d let it sit for a few days and try again later. I waited almost two weeks, tried two rounds of the game show 2 and thought, “You know what? I don’t want to finish this game. The Origami King wins, let everyone be folded.”
If “Shy Guys Finish Last” was a silly side game which gave you some great prize which was desirable to have but not necessary to finish the game, that would be fine. I’d skip it, along with a lot of other players, and enjoy the rest of the story. But when it’s a mandatory road block, and forces the use of a tedious mechanic because gimmicks gotta be used, it’s inexcusable.
This game is beautiful, well written, and has some very good characters with some excellent story arcs. It is, however, undermined by a toxic need for novelty and roadblocked by it’s desire to pad run time. If you want to explore the world, which is a nice experience, pick it up used after the price drops. But, for me, the built-in frustration makes it not worth paying full price.
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