A new Paper Mario game is on its way at last and with it returns the mix of excitement and dread that accompanied Paper Mario: Color Splash back on the Wii U. Will Paper Mario: The Origami King be good or will fans be disappointed yet again? There was both bad and good shown in the announcement trailer, so it could easily go either way at the moment. The game doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be good of course, but having at least some of the following features would go a long way towards making Paper Mario: The Origami King into the kind of sequel many of the series’ fans have been yearning for.
More Story, Fewer Paper Puns
There’s no need to pretend that the first three Paper Mario games were storytelling powerhouses. Their plots were standard compared to those found in other RPGs. Even so, the stories told in Paper Mario, Paper Mario: TTYD and even Super Paper Mario felt like worthwhile undertakings. They had entertaining twists, silly sub-stories and even some heavy themes in the case of Super Paper Mario. Comedy was in the game of course, but it was more of a background element than a prime focal point.
This hasn’t been the case in the most recent games, which have been much more interested in just making jokes about the fact that everything is paper. This trend cannot be allowed to continue if Nintendo wants Paper Mario: The Origami King to stack up favorably alongside its predecessors. People cherish interesting stories and emotional moments, not piles of cheap paper jokes.
Companions were an important part of the first two games’ success. It’s not so much that they had a huge impact on the plot itself, but they all had at least a couple of interesting things to say over the course of the games. Some companions even had fully-realized backstories which elevated them above just being an extra attack during battle. Paper Mario’s Goombario, Lackilester and Kooper all provided a new perspective on the traditional Mario baddies, while Paper Mario: TTYD’s Admiral Bobbery’s history was downright heartbreaking. Each of these characters stood out as unique and interesting among their fellow Koopas, Goombas and Bob-ombs.
It was a mistake to drop these sorts of characters from Super Paper Mario and onward, so bringing them back in Paper Mario: The Origami King would go a long way towards getting the series back on track. Palling around with generic Goombas and Toads doesn’t have the same kind of impact.
To its credit, it looks like Paper Mario: The Origami King will be taking its players to exotic-looking locations. The thing is though, these places will never be anything more than “kinda interesting” unless there’s a fun scenario to go with them. It’s the situation that makes a place interesting, not its aesthetics. Tubba Blubba’s Castle and The Excess Express aren’t memorable because of their designs; they’re remembered because one place is the home of an invincible giant and the other is the scene of a goofy mystery starring the world’s most inept penguin detective. Not every location has to have a cool story of course, even the original games didn’t do that much. It would just be a shame if none of the new locales are given a chance to shine.
A good combat system can go a long way in any video game. It can even compensate for an underwhelming story and characters if it’s good enough. While none of the Paper Mario games possessed a battle system capable of carrying a game on its own, the systems used in the first two games were at least capable of keeping the player involved. Unlike the systems seen in Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Paper Mario: Color Splash, these actually asked players to do more than spam items. There were actual risks and rewards involved, requiring players to actually think about how they wanted to play out each encounter. Thankfully, it actually looks like Paper Mario: The Origami King’s system will require something similar.
Fans have only gotten a couple of glimpses at the combat so far, but it’s looking good. Paper Mario: The Origami King appears to be employing a new, ring-based system wherein players have to quickly arrange enemies in a way that both maximizes their attack and minimizes enemy effectiveness. There’s a risk of it feeling too gimmicky over the course of the whole game, but the fact there’s a puzzle element to it is encouraging nevertheless. As long as cards/stickers aren’t involved, there’s a good chance that it’ll turn out just fine.
Paper Mario: The Origami King doesn’t need to hit all of these points to be a successful sequel. Honestly, even having just one of these would constitute a noticeable improvement over the last two games. If it does somehow manage to fulfill all of these requests, though, Paper Mario: The Origami King could very well be the return to form fans have spent the last twelve years waiting for. It wouldn’t automatically be better than the first two games, but it would at least carry the same. That’s what’s most important.