The series started going away from its RPG roots in the Wii era with the release of Super Paper Mario. One of the things that really stood out about The Thousand Year Door though was the partner system. These partners that Mario picked up over his adventure were directly impactful to the game world and story. You were stuck behind a cracked wall until you got the bomb-omb partner. You were given a Yoshi egg and got to nurture, hatch, and even name the Yoshi that joined your party. All on top of the backdrop of the adventure.
Super Paper Mario gutted the battle and partner systems. Instead of partners being an integral part of the story, they acted like talking items that let you do the things that partners did. Combined with no turn based battling meant that a lot of the reason I played the game vanished. I played Super Paper Mario once and probably will never replay it again.
Sticker Star was worse. It did bring back the battle system, but the core of it was severely gutted. One of the core attack mechanics for Paper Mario games is that you have basic jump and hammer attacks, and everything builds out from there. Sticker Star made these basic attacks into single-use consumable items that you can (and will) run out of. Fighting enemies becomes pointless. Exploration in the overworld became pointless because enemies started blocking away the paths I thought were interesting.
Color Splash was also a thing, but I never played it so I can’t say anything more than what I have picked up from reviews. It had the same basic faults.
Origami King brings back unlimited basic attacks, but it also gutted most of the interesting parts of the story. You do have some itenerant partners, but a lot of the magic came from them being a core part of your adventure from the beginning. This is not the case. There are some more emotionally powerful moments (namely Bobby’s sacrifice), but they are one-offs that don’t really happen more than once. Also a lot of toads. Like dear god there are so many toads everywhere.
The battle system is also kind of a pain that adds up over time. The core idea is that the battles take place in a stadium and Mario is center stage. There’s rings that enemies stand on top of and there’s a puzzle solving element to lining them up and getting action/damage bonuses. If you solve the puzzle, you can usually clear out all of the enemies in a single turn. If you don’t want to solve the puzzle, there’s always capitalism! Pay the toads you’ve saved up to 999 coins and they’ll solve the whole puzzle for you, heal you and sometimes give you an item too.
Overall I didn’t end up liking the battle system and found it annoying to the point I’d pay my way out of solving the puzzles most of the time.
A lot of the characters are really samey too, it’s almost like the people making the game weren’t allowed to really create any new and unique characters inside the world or any new kinds of characters at all. Turns out this was exactly the case (I still don’t know how they got away with the Vellumentals).
Kensuke Tanabe: 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.
Oh yeah, the bosses in Origami King are stationary. They have some of the most unique personalities (like a disco dancing hole punch) but it can get kind of surreal in a way that pulls you out of flow. The boss battles are fought by making Mario make his way to the center of the stadium using arrows on the rings. These also get annoying.
There are a few moments where you don’t fight bosses directly, but instead you have to survive bullet hell sequences where you need to jump away from attacks and hammer the boss to death. Those were fun, but still this wasn’t really a Paper Mario thing to do.
Overall, if I had never played a Paper Mario game before, I’d probably think this was a very good if not excellent game. This game had paper and Mario, but to me it was not really a Paper Mario game. I can’t recommend it to people that liked the early games in the series.
6/10, was a functional game with tight controls and didn’t crash