How many years have I been doing this now. I don’t even know, I’m pretty sure I was doing this entry per day thing leading up till the end of the year since before I started this version of my blog. But then I go and keep adding more and more to it and packing what is already my busiest time of the year with even more work. I’m nuts.
As I touched upon in yesterday’s post; 2020 has been something of a different year for all of us. And while compiling together the list of video games I played in 2020, I came to a realisation. While COVID has turned many people’s lives upside down, mine hasn’t changed all that much. Which I suppose is something of a blessing.
Working in the retail industry, I haven’t stopped working once all year. And while I have secretly been cursing my family and friends who had weeks or months off to watch movies and play video games, in reality, I should really be thankful that I’ve been able to work and bring in the money to support myself when others haven’t been as lucky.
That realisation I was talking about… sorry I got distracted. I realised that 2020 might be my least video game playing year… well, ever. Which is to say that it’s probably the year I spent the least amount of time playing games, as well as the year I picked up the fewest new games. While a lot of interesting stuff got delayed and pushed back, there were still plenty of big releases that I just didn’t bother touching. So seeing the list of new games I played in 2020, I realised I was going to struggle to make a list of games I played that purely came out in 2020.
I thought about delaying this whole list until I had caught up. There are games like Miles Morelas and Cyberpunk that I want to play, but came out too late in the year for me to get my hands on before I started writing this list. But in the end I decided to not throw my months-long plans out of the window and just make the best of what I have.
So, for 2020, this top ten list is going to be the ten games I enjoyed my time with the most in 2020. Obviously, that means there are going to be some games on here that aren’t from 2020. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be listing something like Sonic Mania because I’ve been playing that a lot.
But the nature of video game development has changed these past few years and while some games on this list might be older, they’re still relevant. Live games and constant updates keep games fresh and relevant for years after their release. So while there might be some older games on here, I feel like its justified because they’re still getting relevant attention in the year of 2020.
Anyway, enough rambling, let’s get into this list.
#10: Paper Mario: The Origami King
Played on Nintendo Switch | Released 17th July | Developed by Intelligent Systems
The Mario RPG games are some of the best-written games Nintendo produce. Obviously, a lot of the credit goes to the localisation teams in that regard, but that shouldn’t take away from just how much charm this game has. Like every other Paper Mario game since The Thousand Year Door, I fell short of actually finishing it, but that shouldn’t take away from how much this game had smiling like a dumbass in the hours I did spend with it.
Paper Mario is a series that has become acutely aware of its own aesthetic and has started using that to the absolute upmost in its story, it’s mechanics and its design. In this adventure, the paper Mushroom Kingdom has been invaded by origami people, who have started folding, bending and creasing the denizens into malicious slightly more three-dimensional versions of themselves.
There has been some pushback against these games since The Thousand Year Door on Gamecube. People loved that game because it was filled to the brim with originality and a solid, traditional turn-based combat system. In the games since, the developers have constantly tried to push the envelope and try new things with the combat, not usually to a warm reception.
And that might be the biggest failing of The Origami King. The combat is laid out more like a puzzle than the traditional, turn based affair that most fans actually want. Within a radial grid, the player must align enemies into lines or clusters so to optimally damage them using the various combat abilities at Mario’s disposal. The problem with this being that after doing dozens and dozens of these encounters, the game never really mixes things up.
By the time I was half way through the game I was very tired of doing these puzzles. While the game does change it up during boss encounters to great effect, but these are few and far between. The game’s base combat becomes tiresome and ends up feeling like it gets in the way of the aspect of the game you really want to keep up with: e.g. the story and the writing.
Because that truly is where this game shines the brightest. The set pieces and situations Mario finds himself in as he progresses through this bizarre, paper-based world are delightful and the main reason I continued to forge forward even after the combat has become an exhausting grind. Honestly, had this game had a more traditional combat system, one more aligned with Thousand Year Door or the Mario & Luigi RPG series, then I think I would have happily seen it through to the end.
For as innovative and creative as Nintendo continue to be in the development of both their hardware and their software, I feel like sometimes they should just throw their audience a bone and go back to basics. Especially with how close they’ve gotten with the last few Paper Matio games, only to fall away at the last minute.
I do want to get back to this game, but with so many other games I’m already behind on, I feel like Paper Mario and the Origami king is doomed to sit there half finished for the rest of time. Right next to Luigi’s Mansion 3.
Maybe I’m wrong in blaming Covid, and I just don’t have the time to play games anymore… This game is bright and charming though, and has a great soundtrack. It’s a shame it’s not going to get more attention. The Mario RPGs always woefully underappreciated.