Duty premise: I like Paper Mario all. I also loved the less acclaimed, like Color Splash, and I was sure I would appreciate it Paper Mario: The Origami King, the newest member of the family. The specter of old glories such as The Millennial Portal has completely ruined the experience for a group of players, who demand a certain type of work capable of holding the comparison with the classic titles. It is like entering a pastry shop and being able to afford to refuse delicious desserts because there is better, some exotic pastarella that fits more in our ideal tastes. I am sure that I will attract several dislikes by writing these lines, since many are convinced that the quality has actually decreased over the years and that it is a real waste for such a promising series. But the point is another: they are all enjoyable and fun titles and I find it a pity to deny dozens of hours of fun for a principle, however shareable perhaps, based on what a game could have been - or should have been -. Having clarified my (uncomfortable) point of view, let's go back to Paper Mario: The Origami King, title that kidnapped me, folded and trapped in a world as adorable as it is disturbing.
Fold the world into a new form, so as to make it in its image and likeness. The villain of Paper Mario: The Origami King goes beyond the ambition to become king or to marry the beautiful Princess Peach: he wants to be the real god of that universe, transforming the creatures he meets into origami and subjecting them to his will. This disturbing subtext dyes the whole setting, enriching it with elements that seem almost out of place in a title of the saga. Faceless toads, ships infested with monsters and above all big origami enemies without control follow one another during the game hours and the way they are integrated into the world of mushrooms is fantastic. The rest of the setting, in fact, is the colorful and playful good old world we know, enriched by new and unexpected locations as is the tradition of the Paper Mario saga. The characters we meet are also known faces, with the exception of the new antagonist and his sister, but not for this they sin in personality, quite the opposite: they are amusing and irreverent as ever. The various colored Toads are hidden in the areas we explore, stuck in trunks or walls or folded in origami, and by releasing them gradually we allow them to return to their usual activities. So after our passage the world is populated by Toad restaurateurs, park guards, nudists or captains. The enemies are also the classics of the saga, but in this case many of them reinvent themselves as our allies: the palpable threat of the new origami tyrant brings together all the inhabitants of the kingdom in a single army, creating counterintuitive and bizarre collaborations. I've always dreamed of fighting alongside Kamek, he has aces up his sleeve.
The error of some old titles in the saga was to start slowly, introducing curious elements and various peculiarities only after a few hours. Paper Mario: The Origami King instead starts with a bang and from the first area he makes us explore Toad farms and makes us watch the dancing trees. The structure of the game allows you to dare, inserting very different areas and settings between them without altering the credibility of the story. Mario and his assistant are called to free the castle of Peach from the tapes that surround it, following them one by one and finding the point where they attach to the ground. Each tape is intuitively protected by an enemy boss, but the areas also force us to confront other beasts originally friendly and corrupted by the origami king, called Cartomagni. These creatures are able to give us power over the elements, which in some areas of the game is necessary to continue or to find secrets and gifts. The power of the Cartomagni is the only additional ability that is obtained gradually while playing, as Mario does not acquire upgrades, and this makes the backtracking in the various areas visited previously almost null.
The dual boss system in each area immediately made me think of The Legend of Zelda. As in the saga of the hero of Hyrule, also here it is necessary to complete a sanctuary to obtain a new power to be used later to face the enemy who presides over that region. The feeling became more intense when we arrived in the ocean area, which is in all respects a tribute to Wind Waker: the calls are undeniable and very, very welcome. The exploration of the mini dungeons requires the solution of small environmental puzzles which are never too complex, as well as the search for hidden Toads and the numerous secret passages. A mustachioed and papery Zelda, nobody will take this idea from my mind.
The fighting system was a cross and a delight for me. During my first hours of playing in Paper Mario: The Origami King I hated with all of myself the presence of the circular grid, on which we are asked to orient the enemies to line them up and hit them with a single attack. It is possible to rotate a ring or a column and in a limited number of moves and time it is necessary to find the right shape, which also gives an attack bonus. In essence: or the puzzle is solved, or the battle continues necessarily for more than one turn, which can be very annoying if you are in a hurry or if you want to save moves. This system also makes it marginal to perform jumps and attacks with the right timing, since the extra damage that is obtained with a movement performed in the ideal moment cannot compensate for any errors in the disposition of the enemies, not allowing to recover the further turn necessary to win. There are ways to sweeten the pill. Continuing the story you get the opportunity to buy extra time to stack opponents or pay the Toad spectators of our battles, who jump off the stands and turn the grid for us, or throw hearts and objects at us. It also unlocks the potential to self-solve puzzles early in the battle, but I haven't thought for a moment to activate it: I will also be denied to put origami in line, but I do not intend to distort a fundamental element of the gameplay, it would be almost immoral. The rare times that I have succeeded in the venture, the satisfaction has been remarkable, I admit it somewhat reluctantly.
Boss fights are great: with only one enemy on the screen, the matter changes completely. We no longer have to align origami, but create a path by moving arrows, objects and action boxes on the board, planning a turn that includes the possibility of healing, attacking from a certain distance or activating abilities. This mechanic is not only fun, it is also well thought out and allows for numerous variables depending on the abilities of the enemy monster. Burned, frozen, frozen boxes…. anything is possible and each battle requires a different strategy, which is pleasant to decipher and never too difficult to understand. Furthermore, on these occasions the time available to us to decide how to place the boxes is greater and this reduces the tension, which in normal battles I found frankly excessive: it is not the type of game in which I want to be afraid of the timer that runs inexorably. Paper Mario: The Origami King also offers a good variety of weapons to equip, which are represented by more or less sbrilluccicanti upgrades of the shoes and the basic hammer. The default weapons are always available, while the brightest ones must be bought and equipped and tend to wear out and break within a few fights. A good compromise, more acceptable than the consumable stickers of the previous titles, which however makes it even more annoying to waste shifts and unnecessarily wear out our purchases.
The strength of Paper Mario: The Origami King is, as I imagined, the attention paid to detail. The individual areas are full of secrets (and nonsense), the characters are witty, the soundtrack adapts to each area with elegance, the collectibles are hidden in every corner. The game includes a real museum that fills up during our adventure, thanks to the secrets unlocked or collected around. We talk about the number of Toads found, but also about the treasures found, the trophies won, the stitched tears and the prey caught in the fishing minigame. So much and such variety would appeal to every player and even I, who am not a natural completist, delighted in research, helped by "radar" accessories that reveal the secrets in the area. Everything is orchestrated following the notes of a story that reaches unexpected peaks for a title of the saga, even moving. That's all you could ask for from a Paper Mario and I wouldn't want anything more. I might have wanted a different battle system, also because of my personal ineptitude in the management of time and the game grid, but the one chosen for the game still tries to innovate the series with a certain originality, so I don't feel like demolishing it without appeal. The gem that I loved are the references to Color Splash, which we have probably noticed in four cats. That title does not deserve to end up on the back burner and mentioning it in the new chapter is an unexpected gift. There is a lot, a lot of good in Paper Mario: The Origami King and without hesitation I recommend it to all owners of Nintendo Switch.