Folded Follies

Paper Mario: The Origami King – When this first came out, there was a lot of talk about how it wasn’t being billed as a role-playing game. As with its two predecessors, you don’t get experience points from fighting battles, the story isn’t particularly complex,and it’s actually about paper instead of just using it as a mechanic. In this interview with producer Kensuke Tanabe, the writer says, “Compared to the halcyon days of Nintendo 64 and Gamecube’s The Thousand Year Door, the Paper Mario series has increasingly distanced itself from its RPG roots, instead favouring a more adventure-focused approach in its modern games, over the complex levelling and experience point mathematics craved by many veteran fans.” That seems a little misleading in a way. While SOMEBODY has to do math for RPGs, that’s usually the programmers rather than the players, unless you count fairly simple math like determining what attack does more damage. One thing I like about RPGs is that, if something is too hard, you can build up your strength and abilities and try again. Without some kind of experience system, even a simplified one like other Mario RPGs have used, fighting non-boss enemies serves no real purpose other than to get them out of the way temporarily. Okay, you get coins, but they’re rather plentiful in this game anyway.

Battles are fought on a circular field, and you’re supposed to manipulate it to line up enemies into patterns that make it easier to fight them. If you do it correctly, you can often take out your adversaries before they can attack. If they do get a turn, however, they can do a fair amount of damage. You always have access to basic jump and hammer attacks, and you can get upgrades for them, but they’ll eventually break.

The interview also quotes Tanabe as saying, “Since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe. That means that if we aren’t using Mario characters for bosses, we need to create original characters with designs that don’t involve the Mario universe at all, like we’ve done with Olly and the stationery bosses.” This is a bit confusing, but I guess he means how earlier Paper Mario games used individual members of established species, like Goombas and Koopas, as partners and bosses. I’m not sure why Nintendo wouldn’t want to continue with this, but even if that was an actual company mandate, couldn’t they still use already established individual characters from other games? Tanabe also states, “In Super Paper Mario, the elaborate story led the game away from the Mario universe,” not a direct contradiction but seemingly contrary in spirit. I’ve seen numerous indications that Shigeru Miyamoto isn’t too keen on involved stories or characterizations in Mario games, which is kind of a shame. I haven’t played SPM yet, although I do own it. From what I’ve heard, it might be even less of an RPG than the later Paper titles, but it has a much more involved story.

The day of kisses in the month of hugs?
This game’s plot is that, when Mario and Luigi arrive at Peach’s castle for the Origami Festival, they find that King Olly has folded up the Princess and many of Bowser’s minions.

What better medium to discuss the dangers of cults than a Mario game?
Some are now on his side, while others are folded into other forms to get them out of the way. Bowser himself has been both folded and stapled. Mario finds Olly’s sister Olivia, his main companion for the adventure, who is able to help the plumber manipulate the landscape.

The two of them follow the streamers wrapped around the castle, which lead to different locations in the Mushroom Kingdom guarded by living stationery. The boss fights add other puzzle elements, where you have to determine their weaknesses and establish appropriate attack patterns. The Vellumentals, mystical beings with elemental powers, can grant new abilities to Olivia, but they’ve been folded up as well, so you have to defeat them first.

I beat the Earth and Water Vellumentals, the latter of whom was quite complicated to fight, as well as the Colored Pencils on Overlook Mountain.

For Autumn Mountain, where the second streamer leads, Mario is joined by a Bob-omb simply named Bob-omb (Bowser’s minions apparently aren’t all that creative with names, perhaps a reference to the rule against modifying Mario characters?), although Olivia calls him Bobby. He’s lost his memory, and I understand from spoilers I’ve seen that his story is rather tragic.

I’ve also read that the usual bad guys, including Kamek, will later help out against Olly. Most recently, I’ve reached the Eddy River, which involves a boat-rowing mini-game where you have to navigate around obstacles. I’ve tried a few times and haven’t managed to get through, but I suppose I’ll keep trying. One thing I liked about Sticker Star that’s still in place here is that you can change the environment, including filling in holes and rescuing folded Toads. There’s also a lot of humor, and some quite attractive locations.

Early on, there’s some information on how at least some of the animated objects in the world work, as wood from talking trees apparently retains its consciousness when it’s made into other things.

I guess you could argue that, in the paper world, everything is made of wood.

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