Mario & Bowser console Olivia, “Paper Mario: The Origami King” (2020)
If you’re familiar with the Paper Mario series, you may also be familiar with the reputation that the series has developed in recent years. Many of the series’ more dedicated fans will assert that the newer entries brought in absolutely none of what the earlier games had to offer, mainly regarding the variety in character designs that seem to be more and more removed in the modern entries. Overall, there are a lot of points of comparison in this debate, but I’d like to give my own personal analysis of the way the newer games show strength in their character writing, creating rich and likable characters despite the design aspect being more streamlined.
In the earliest games, you start the game as the famous Mario, and as you continue your adventure, you encounter many friendly faces along the way who join your party. These party members help you fight battles and solve puzzles during your adventure, and each character also has their own unique design and personality to set them apart from the rest of the cast. The larger variety of characters gives a great sense of contrast among them, increasing the likelihood that anyone playing will like at least a few of them. I personally found these characters very enjoyable to have around when I first met them, but throughout the course of the game, I found that I was given fewer opportunities to see their unique charms. Because you can only have one active partner at a time, it creates a lot of distance between the player and whatever partners they don’t frequently use over time. In addition, it creates a dynamic where rarely utilized characters would end up missing many story beats, really only making each character’s debut scenes an appropriate point to give said character any depth or growth. While I found the characters very enjoyable in the moment, I felt that the way they were set up left a lot of missed potential for them to be all that compelling in the bigger picture.
In some of the more recent titles, the party system has been completely disbanded, and in its place, Mario now carries out his adventures with just one extra party member. This one party member serves as more of a navigator, helping to introduce each game’s unique mechanics, such as Color Splash’s Huey introducing paint mechanics and Origami King’s Olivia introducing you to origami transformations. Somewhat different from the older games’ party members, these new ones join you right from the start, and they’ll be seen by your side until the bitter end. This choice is admittedly a high risk move due to the character appeal majorly falling onto the shoulders of just one, meaning you may very well be stuck with a character you don’t like. However, it also creates an opportunity that the earlier games never had. Since this character is present throughout the full game, it means that they experience all the same joys and hardships as the player, having the course of the entire game to develop and grow as characters. They can now hold much more story importance than before due to not getting benched in favor of other party members. My experiences with these games were largely enhanced by the fact that I was getting many opportunities to bond with these characters and watch them grow. Because of this, the stakes felt much higher once I started to reach the climax of each story, and I felt much more emotional and fulfilled once it was time for things to wrap up.
After finishing all the various games in this series, I can recall enjoyable moments with almost all of the characters I shared my journeys with. Overall I feel that I formed more attachment to the modern characters over the classic party members due to the more involved story importance and stronger character writing they were given. I realize that many long-time fans of the series may be cautious about trying the new ones for being so different, but I’m personally glad that I was able to have these great experiences because I didn’t judge these books by their paperback cover.
Mario & Bowser console Olivia, “Paper Mario: The Origami King” (2020), Mario Party Legacy,
“Origami Castle - Paper Mario: The Origami King Walkthrough”, video, accessed 9
November 2022 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRaL1bNjuQo>