Let’s get this out of the way first. The latest “Paper Mario” isn’t a role-playing game. It’s a puzzle adventure game. It doesn’t resemble “Final Fantasy.” It’s a Toad joke book.
Seriously, the best part of “Paper Mario: The Origami King” for Nintendo Switch is finding hundreds of mushroom-headed Toad folk around the map. Once you unearth them, they’re always ready with a quip or pun about their current situation, or just a fun non sequitur dreamed up by the talented English translators at Nintendo.
The worst part? Well, it really depends on whether you wanted a Mario RPG adventure. If you did, that’s the worst part, and old school “Paper Mario” fans are begrudgingly used to it. I am one of them.
Mario has a long role-playing history. It started with the seminal Super Nintendo release “Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars,” made by “Final Fantasy” designers back in 1996. It was one of the first times those developers experimented with traditional role-playing battle mechanics. It was focused on more engaged action (with timed button presses) and an easier difficulty to wean in players new to the genre.
“Super Mario RPG” never returned. Instead, it turned into the “Paper Mario” series by Nintendo studio Intelligent Systems. It was modeled off the traditional foundations in “Super Mario RPG,” and its Nintendo 64 and GameCube sequels are now considered classics in the genre. Then with its next three sequels, they started changing up the battle system, removing experience points and levels, and messing with form. The idea is to introduce the series to new audiences.
So in 2020 we have “The Origami King.” Its newest battle innovation comes in the form of a spinning board. Each battle has you trying to align enemies in a straight line or grouped up together to attack with a stomp or a hammer. That’s it. There’s no leveling system or improving anything besides learning a few of the similar “spin” combinations to ensure a win. The only real metric for success is the amount of coins you have, which can go toward better shoes or hammers (that eventually break), or to help you win fights faster.
The game can be very relaxing, and for you, that relaxation might not morph into monotony like it did for me. I highly recommend watching YouTube videos of the gameplay. See if it clicks for you.