I'm Still Not Over the Bob-omb Thing

Damn, Nintendo.
Damn, Nintendo.
Image: Nintendo

It’s been weeks since I finished Paper Mario: The Origami King. I’ve since moved on to another replay of Fallout 4, this time delving into the moral dilemma that is playing as a raider in the Nuka-World storyline. But nothing that Fallout 4 (or most other games) makes me experience can compare to the emotional overload that was the storyline in a silly kids game about folding paper.

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Paper Mario: The Origami King is Nintendo’s latest turn-based combat video game that has Mario the Plumber doing his two-dimensional thing in a world that is not paper friendly. It’s harmless fun, full of great Nintendo in-jokes and nods to the ridiculousness of our everyday three-dimensional lives (at one point you fight a tape dispenser that’s clearly a parody of Donald Trump). But all the bright colors, fun-loving characters, and repeat visits to Shogun Studios do is lull you into a state of complacency, so The Origami King can pull the rug out from under you.

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Illustration for article titled Im Still Not Over the Bob-omb Thing
Illustration: Jim Cooke

After fighting the first big boss (a set of colored pencils), Mario and his origami princess companion Olivia take a cable car up to Autumn Mountain. There, they meet a Bob-omb with amnesia, who lost his fuse sometime before the events of the game and is heading up the mountain in hopes of restoring his memories. He decides to join the team—oddly, Mario says nothing despite his being fully aware what a Bob-omb is—and Olivia calls him Bobby because for some reason she can’t remember his name.

Bobby quickly becomes a beloved part of the team, helping Mario fight rows of normal enemies while being too lazy to take out the bosses, and conveniently falling asleep at other times. He slowly starts to get some of his memories back, largely thanks to seeing a fireworks show at Shogun Studios, but they don’t change who he is at his heart. He’s funny, charming, and adorable. You want to give him the biggest hug, possible incendiary explosion be damned. But there’s always something dark lurking underneath the surface. What happened to this Bob-omb? Why did he lose his fuse, and how can he get it back? And why does it feel like we don’t want to know the answers?

On the way to the desert level is where everything turns into a Shakespearean tragedy. Olivia gets stuck underneath a giant boulder, something that would require a massive explosion to remove. Bobby moves into frame, squints his eyes toward an unknown horizon, and says he knows what he has to do to save Olivia. It’s not the first time he acted as if he was going to blow himself up, although it was a fakeout before. But still, you’re thinking: “Oh no. Bobby don’t.” But then he takes you on a side quest to a cruise ship where he says the tool to help Olivia can be found, and for a moment you think everything is going to be okay.

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It is not going to be okay.

This is where we learn Bobby’s tragic backstory, which came the crap out of nowhere and left me in a puddle of tears and depression. It turns out Bobby was part of Princess Peach’s security force on her cruise ship. They were attacked by an origami Gooper Blooper (giant sea squid), and most of his Bob-omb friends died. Bobby was flung into the ocean, losing his fuse in the process. It could not be recovered, but something else could: The fuse of Bobby’s dead friend, which he had kept for years inside a lockbox to preserve his memory. Upon returning us to the present, Bobby promptly puts on the fuse of his dead friend and blows himself up.

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He fucking dies, you guys.

Mario and Olivia mourn his death, with Olivia so distraught she cannot go on. Bobby actually comes back as a ghost just so he can remind Mario of the best way to cheer Olivia up... about the fact that he fucking died. After that, gone forever—just in case you were wondering if this whole thing would turn around for a happy ending. Nope.

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Here’s the whole scene if you want to watch it, but be warned it will break your soul.

My husband walked in on me as I was watching this scene take place, and let me tell you: I was weeping. I’m not talking about wiping a single tear from my eye as I sit on the couch in silence, I’m talking full blown tears streaming down my face. I bawled as I watched one of the franchise’s thousands of Bob-ombs—usually a foil for Mario’s quest—sacrifice himself for his dearest friend, one that could not bother to remember his real name. This is a game where you fight staplers and rubber bands, why the hell did you do this to me, Nintendo?!

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It’s been weeks and I’m still not over it. There were plenty of other memorable moments in The Origami King. The terrifying hole puncher incident in the Toad temple, Princess Peach’s unsettling origami form, or the final scene between Olivia and her evil brother, King Olly. But none of them will ever compare to Bobby, a character death I might never recover from... in a video game where you can drive a shoe car and hang out at a tuna can mariachi party.

It shows how video games with great storytellers can make us truly connect with their characters—because we’re not just watching them, we’re living a small portion of our lives with them. It’s a reminder of how great the medium can be if it can make me mourn the death of a character whose brethren I slaughtered en masse in a later mission on Bowser’s ship (a scene that still makes me feel guilty as hell).

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But also, The Origami King was supposed to be my escape, Nintendo—not my reminder of how awful everything is and that we’re doomed to die. This is my fun time, dammit. Don’t make me sad during my fun time!

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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Beth, I hope you blog on your new Fallout 4 play-through...