'Paper Mario: The Origami King' Has Exposed My Broken Brain

Can I be honest for a second? A little vulnerable? [deep breath] I don’t know how to explain this in a way that doesn’t sound incredibly weird, but folks, shapes have never made any sense to me. They make my brain hurt in a way that is, at times, legitimately shameful! It’s one of those things where you realize that your brain just does not work in a certain way, and when you watch other people interact with shapes in a normal way, all I can do is quietly curse. This all goes a long way towards explaining why I had problems playing The Witness.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jgxdyy/paper-mario-the-origami-king-has-exposed-my-broken-brain
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I do wonder if the loss of the Mario & Luigi series is putting pressure on Paper Mario to ratchet up the RPG elements? I might be off base here given that I’ve only played up to Super Paper Mario, but I kinda liked the eclectic direction they were going for there while M&L held it down with stats and gear. But like I said, my knowledge of the series ends with the Wii so maybe I’m talking out of ignorance here.

My biggest problem with the Sticker Star-Color Splash-(now) Origami King approach to battles is that since there’s no experience or leveling system, the battles are meaningless. They’re a pointless obstacle to be avoided as much as possible. The effort-to-reward ratio is unbalanced. In a decent RPG, the battles are cromulently engaging affairs that you engage with that reward character progression for clearing them. In a standard action game with minimal character progression, battles with enemies are an expression of the action mechanics and should feel good to engage with on a mechanical level, or else you’d just avoid them (since they give no reward in themselves, other than serving as an obstacle in a level). They’re also a lot faster than a typical RPG random battle.

Modern era Paper Mario games seem to live in a no man’s land between these two poles. The battles take a long time since they require going to a separate battlefield screen, but they provide no meaningful reward for completing them. I can’t speak to how fun Origami King’s geometry battles are but certainly Sticker Star’s and Color Splash’s battles are not particularly fun to engage in on a mechanical or tactical level and I avoided them at all costs.

As for the common admonishment to play the M&L series for my Mario RPG fix, I think they’re different in gamefeel. The action commands in M&L never felt as good as in TTYD to me. Same with the writing. I don’t think it’s a good substitute.

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My brain works (or doesn’t, in this case) like Patrick’s. Can’t really hold shapes in my head, so manipulating a mental version of a game board to predict outcomes turns down the line is very challenging, and not in a fun way.

I’ll give this a miss. The only Paper Mario I ever played is Thousand Year Door, which I loved every minute of, so it’s a bit of a shame.

I read about a condition called aphantasia, which is the inability to visualize anything at all, to the point where it’s hard to wrap your head around the whole ‘pictures in your head’ concept. I can visualize, sort of, but much that I read rang true. I can’t picture any given member of my family, including my wife and children. I’ll know them when I see them, fortunately, since visual familiarity seems to be a separate system. Being able to draw things seems like actual wizardry to me. Can’t make my hand do the shapes if I don’t really know the shapes.

Meat brains are fun things.

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I can make basic pictures of things in my head, but trying to conjure complex scenes without visual aid is very difficult for me. Reading books has always been tough since I constantly lose track of what’s going on.

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I have aphantasia also. I’m doing relatively well at the combat, but maybe I’d be doing better if I could visualise better, not sure.

Also, for the record, I think it must have been slightly past where Patrick was at, but after the second world or so, they do add a permanent (free) toggle to make the combat system easier. Not sure why it wasn’t just in there at the start, but that’s Nintendo for you.