It’s Super Mario’s 35th anniversary. Adding onto the series’ legacy, Paper Mario: The Origami King is the newest Mario RPG heading for the Switch. Announced without previous hype or marketing—and due for release quite soon—here’s what we know so far about Mario’s newest paper adventure.
An Origami Plot
Unlike Mario’s previous paper-thin adventures, Origami King is headed toward more “dimensional” pastures. As the name suggests, Origami—the Japanese art of folding paper into shapes and figures—plays a central role in the game’s art design and story.
For those unfamiliar with Mario RPG titles, platforming takes a backseat. Jumping and breaking bricks is always there, but the overarching story, characters, and combat play a larger role to the core Mario RPG experience.
King Olly of the Origami Kingdom has invaded the Mushroom Kingdom, turning its denizens and crown princess into folded paper subjects. Few were spared, not even the usually cunning King Koopa, who was rescued mid-Origami folding process, turning the mighty shelled tyrant into a small sliver of folded paper.
King Olly’s plans go beyond the mushroom kingdom. He’s bent on world domination, one paper fold at a time. The only thing standing in his way is a plucky two-dimensional plumber with a knack for ruining villains’ days. Just ask Bowser.
With the help of King Olly’s sister, Olivia, Mario embarks on another grand adventure to save the princess, the Mushroom Kingdom, and the world with a bunch of new gimmicks and tools at his disposal.
Aside from acting as a plot device, the Origami angle allows for interesting visual storytelling. Previous Paper Mario games had consistent art design across all characters, allies, enemies, and background extras. In this game, there is a clear distinction between the bad and good guys.
Classic two-dimensional paper characters seem to be working with Mario to restore the kingdom as trailer footage suggests. Anyone breaking out of this 2D mold behaved antagonistically toward Mario and Co., having been warped—or folded—by King Olly.
A giant Origami goomba was seen chowing down on houses, Origami Shy-Guys were on prison duty, and Origami Koopa-Troopas were directly taking Mario on in Origami King’s new ring combat system.
Olivia is the only friendly Origami character known thus far.
The flat paper allies include a laidback Bomb-omb, a Blue Toad, the wizard Kamek, Bowser Jr., and supposedly Luigi, who has not made an appearance in any footage. Countless other Paper NPCs aid Mario on his quest, including shopkeeping Shy-Guys and miscellaneous Koopa-Troopas. Oh, and Bowser’s there too. Kind of.
Unlike typical, turn-based RPG combat, Origami King skirts along the lines of “puzzles meet combat”.
From the short glimpse in the trailer, enemies are lined and layered in rings against Mario. Players have to re-order the angles of said rings to maximize damage and combo potential. Trailer footage showed Mario facing off against goombas and koopa-troopas, and when his enemies were lined up perfectly, his damage output multiplied.
Once the rings have been organized, Mario picks his weapon of choice and proceeds to go to town on any unlucky foes standing in his way—or his stomps.
Interestingly, there were some variations across trailer footage for the game. The now deleted Chinese trailer featured a battle partner for Mario, an explorer garb-wearing Toad who appeared in the original trailer. Rather than cheering Mario on from the backlines like other characters, the Toad was in the ring alongside him with a less than happy expression on his face.
This hints at companions aiding Mario in combat, though, it doesn’t reveal to what extent partners impact battles.
One curiosity stems from why the Chinese trailer was inexplicably deleted for such a core game mechanic. Perhaps the footage spoiled the game’s story. The verdict is still up in the air. What is confirmed is that characters will partake in the battles.
New Dimension Means New Abilities
New Mario adventures are laden with fresh gimmicks and power-ups. Super Mario Galaxy’s planet-hopping adventures added new power-up mushrooms into Mario’s arsenal. Super Mario Odyssey utilized Mario’s hat, Cappy, for impressive parkour and wacky transformations that would make Super Mario 64 blush.
Origami King will definitely use its realm of paper-folding art to breathe power into Mario. One of the first revealed abilities is the 1,000-Folds Arms ability. Presumably a power bestowed by Olivia, it replaces Mario’s stubby paper arms with elongated, accordion-like ones that can stretch well beyond his body’s length. The trailer explicitly showed its capacity to peel and pull away at the paper landscape and is reported to be able to do more in-game, though it has yet to be seen.
This may be one of many new powers Mario gains in this adventure. Origami as an art form is a medium where the artist’s imagination is the limit. Mere paper can be given new life by folding it into any shape. The trailer showed a plethora of Origami enemies, ships, and creatures. How that translates into Mario’s growing arsenal will be exciting to see.
What is also exciting is that Samus Aran and Donkey Kong make guest appearances as hats.
What bearing this has on the Nintendo Multiverse and Metroid 4 is not yet known. Hopefully it doesn’t mean anymore Metroid 4 delays.
Paper Mario: The Origami King releases for the Nintendo Switch on July 17th, 2020.