Yesterday, the trailer for the latest installment of Paper Mario dropped out of nowhere, and it is a wondrous and sorta trippy sight to behold.
It's called Paper Mario: Origami King and if you don't have time to watch, or just enjoy the humble art that is a person describing video game trailers with the written word, then allow me to tell you that it rocks ... er papers. The trailer features paper Mario standing in a 3D world as he is approached by an origami Princess Peach. We know shit has gone wrong, because bad guy music is playing, and when she asks "Will you crease yourself and be reborn, like me" you can almost feel Mario's existential terror as he processes what the hell it means to be "creased." Later we see him interact with origami and papier-mache characters on his quest to presumably rescue his girlfriend from the mind-bending powers of origami.
It's some real Invasion of the Body Snatchers shit in the middle of a Paper Mario game, and once again, we are all left amazed at how after 30+ years, the Mario franchise can continue to keep innovating like this. Call of Duty will, year after year, crank out a new version of the same core game. Rockstar Games has moved from making Grand Theft Auto to "What if Grand Theft Auto, but with horses?" And this isn't meant to be a knock, as both CoD and Rockstar are great at what they do, but it's just to illustrate how refreshing it is to see Paper Mario dip into different genres like horror, while the rest of the industry can feel so constricted.
But maybe that says more about the nature of the Mario I.P. than anything else. As a developer, you can experiment and make a pseudo-horror RPG about origami because the brand of Mario is so strong that people will buy it anyway. But imagine this exact same game if it were made by an indie developer and Mario was never invented. Good luck getting your RPG about an Italian plumber fighting origami to sell.
So we can forgive Rockstar and Infinity Ward if they're hesitant to do a spinoff game where Niko Bellic and his friends compete against Soap MacTavish and his squad in the Olympics. Although we would buy the crap out of that game, it might not do well with casual gamers who just want to brace the warm, comforting bosom of their favorite Italian plumber. Ah well. Paper Mario Origami King looks great and at least there's one franchise that's allowed to get weird.
Dan is on Twitter and will talk about life with you in lieu of getting a therapist and he also hosts The Bachelor Zone Podcast, where you can hear him give a sports-style breakdown of all things happening on The Bachelor.Top Image: Nintendo