Rumors have been swirling for months that a new Paper Mario title was headed to Nintendo Switch this year, partly because of Super Mario’s 35th birthday. Finally those rumors have turned into truth as Nintendo announced Paper Mario: The Origami King for release on July 17. Although details are limited, here is what we know based on the trailer and all of the game’s official web sites (Japan, North America and Europe)
The game begins with Mario and Luigi receiving an invitation from Princess Peach for an origami festival in Mushroom Kingdom. When Mario and Luigi arrive, King Olly (King Ori in the Japanese version) from the Origami Kingdom has transformed Princess Peach into an origami figure. He then reveals his plan to do the same for the Mushroom Kingdom and launches multiple strands of colored tape to encase Peach’s castle. With the help of King Olly’s younger sister, Olivia, Mario must once again save the kingdom from peril.
Paper Mario games have never been built on deep and complex plots. This is standard fare for a Mario game. Princess Peach is in trouble; Mario must save her and by default, Mushroom Kingdom. While it is disappointing that the story is jaded, I doubt that many players care. For many players (myself included), the Paper Mario series is about the puns and breaking the fourth wall, like what Deadpool would be like if it were G rated.
The Art Style
The Paper Mario art style has always been colorful and crisp with cel-shaded animations. The newest entry doesn’t shy away from that. A number of the graphical assets have at least a connection with previous Paper Mario games. However, in the newest Paper Mario game, the traditional art style is intertwined with origami models. Easily identified characters such as goombas, shy guys, and ninjis are shown in their origami forms. Nintendo has gone to great lengths to make the models look like folded paper rather than a drawing of origami. The origami has a three dimensional look to it with very precise shadows and shading for those areas that have thicker folds and pieces that aren’t completely flush to the rest of the figure. Could this idea of origami have come from a scrapped Yoshi or Kirby game since those series frequently work with new art styles? Although origami is the focus of the game story-wise, it appears that the majority of the game will still be in the traditional Paper Mario art style. I hope the response to this game is so positive that we get a spinoff game: Origami Mario. I would enjoy playing a game where the origami art style is more prominent.
The Battle System
The Paper Mario battle system has had a rough time of late. As Paper Mario moved to 3DS and Wii U, the battle system changed drastically from the initial games’ series of equipping badges for attack abilities and the use of partner attacks. This definitely turned off fans of the series. Given the negative feedback of the battle systems of the most recent entries in the series, Nintendo has changed things up a bit for Origami King. Mario will still have his jump and hammer attacks, but the attacks will be based around ring puzzles. Based on translation of the Japanese web site, battles are described as “puzzle x action” in 360 degrees. The rings must be rotated to line up the enemies for an attack, but there is a time limit for each attack as shown in the clip below.
There has been no official word from Nintendo, but it appears that the timed button presses during combat are still present. In the clip above, it appears that Mario’s animations slow down slightly as he hits each goomba’s head and there is the traditional Mario dismount when getting perfect timing on an attack of multiple characters.
One thing that is still unknown is if partners are part of the battle system. There is no sight of a partner in the clip above, but given the simplicity of the ring puzzle and the stadium seating around the ring, this could be a tutorial battle encountered very early in the game. Nintendo likes slowly leaking details after the initial reveal, so it is possible we get answers regarding partner attacks in the next month.
Even if Mario must fight alone, he will be able to recruit travel companions according to the European web site. The North American web site mentions teaming up with Bowser and Toads while the video clip from the Japanese web site (above) provides a glimpse of Mario running around with a Bob-omb. The companions definitely have a big role in the story as the Japanese web site also mentions various emotions players should expect such as laughter, crying and saying good bye. Apparently, these companions will be around long enough for us to develop feelings for them. I welcome any game that gives me a story powerful enough to elicit these emotions.
Nintendo has cast a spotlight on Mario’s ability to extend his arms to interact with the environment. Named 1000-fold arms, Mario must stand on a magical circles (or mahojin according to the Japanese web site) to perform this action. It appears that these areas contain puzzles that require the 1000-fold arms to solve. Based on screenshots, it appears that control of the arms is done through the dual analog sticks and grabbing objects is achieved by using ZL and ZR for the left and right arms respectively. Given Nintendo’s favoritism for motion controls, this would be a great place to add in that option with each joycon controlling an arm while pointing at the screen. It would still allow players to use ZL and ZR as well to grasp things.
This is the only transformation shown in the trailer and screenshots, but the European web site mentions that Olivia’s paper folding powers will allow Mario use transformations other than the 1000-fold arms. This should make Paper Mario fans excited as transformations have been missing from the series since Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door for Gamecube.
Open World Exploration
As the Paper Mario series has progressed, Nintendo has slowly expanded from 2D levels to 3D levels. In Paper Mario: Color Splash for Wii U, the levels had a 3D layout, but each level was confined to a small area. It looks as if Nintendo is pushing things a bit more as some locations in The Origami King appear to be large open world areas. In the trailer, we can see an open area traveled by car around the purple dunes near Shy Guy Bazaar. As shown in the screenshot above, there looks to be a Wind Waker type area requiring Mario to pilot a boat through the seas. The area looks quite large and based on the on-screen controls, the area is a large enough area that a sea chart is available. Is the “Dive” action similar to the crane on board the King of Red Lions in Wind Waker? Hopefully Nintendo will divulge additional information about these areas before the game launches.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is a nice surprise from Nintendo despite the rumors over the past months. Given the path the Paper Mario series has taken over the past couple of iterations, it seems that Nintendo is working to move the series back toward its roots. The ring-based battle system has the potential to divide the fan base, but it appears to be more engaging than collecting stickers and cards like the past two Paper Mario games. There is still plenty of time before launch for Nintendo to describe more about the battle system and detail more of the other features that have been mentioned and demonstrated during the recent announcement.