The best thing about the Paper Mario franchise is its willingness to take a peek into the internal lives of characters that are usually just gunk at the bottom of Mario’s boots. For today’s VG Chat, Ari and Ash discuss the best character of Paper Mario: The Origami King, a little Bob-omb with a dream, Bobby.
Bobby is an amnesiac Bob-omb Mario and Olivia encounter on their way to Autumn Mountain. He joins up in hopes that travelling with the party will jump-start his memory. Eventually, through the explosion of some fireworks, Bobby remembers who he is and how he lost his memory. Soon after, in a moment of heroic valour, he sacrifices his very life to save Olivia’s. It is fair to say that left us with some feelings.
Bobby always had a witty remark at the ready. Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku
Ari Notis: There’s really only one thing to discuss: Let’s talk about Bobby the Bob-Omb. How bad does your heart hurt?
Ash Parrish: Ari, it hurts SO BAD. I’m not a video game crier. It’s very rare to get me to tear up playing a game. But when Bobby was talking to Mario about how Bob-ombs gotta make an impact... A couple of thug tears slipped.
Ari: Yes, that line! “This is what every Bob-Omb hopes for – a chance to change something for the better. To make an impact.” And then he has that pun, right, where he calls the adventure a blast? I think it’s the first and only dad joke in this game that didn’t make me groan.
Ash: You know what made me really lose it though? The quest to find his fuse. Which turned out not to be his fuse but the fuse of a fallen comrade. Like how much can you hurt me Nintendo. One thing about the Paper Mario series that Kohler (RIP to a legend) touched on in his review was that this series gives us a chance to see the otherwise invisible and silent internal lives of all these “minions” Mario has stomped for 30 years now.
Ari: RIP, indeed. But yes, Origami King, in particular, really gives a voice to the voiceless. Some previous Paper Mario games had these really distinct character designs. Origami King….not so much (as we’ve all heard, in very loud terms, from various corners of the internet). Do you think Bobby’s generic character design heightened or dampened the tragedy here?
Ash: Heightened. Absolutely. He’s a Bob-omb right? He looks and feels no different than the fifty ‘leven Bob-ombs you’ve encountered as Mario over the years. That’s what lends such great strength to his character, that he has this wealth of a life with friends and desires despite being such a rote, run-of-the-mill, Mario baddie. I’ll know I’ll never think of them the same way and hesitate to kick them whenever I play a regular Mario game again.
Ari: Oh, yeah, I’m already feeling the side effects. My friends and I play a Smash game mode in which we only use explosives, including Bob-Ombs. And this week I couldn’t bring myself to throw any Bob-Ombs, so I ended up losing every time! (And that’s the only reason I lost btw. I would’ve handily won otherwise. Obviously. No need to press that…) But yeah, it’s so fascinating to see the inside lives of all the rank-and-file Mario goons. You mentioned earlier that quest that Bobby drags Mario on to find the fuse. Can we talk about that for a second?
Ash: If I’m remembering correctly, he goes on a cruise with his other bomb friends and brings with him the fuse of one of his exploded buddies, a sort of memento like, “See, Charles, I told you I was gonna do it. Just wish you woulda been here to see it?”
Ari: Yes! And then there’s that giant blooper (which, side note, is that the same blooper from Super Mario Sunshine?) who ruins the cruise and kills all of Bobby’s friends while he sits there unable to do a thing. So Bobby, in addition to telling Mario, “Hey, just trust me, I have this thing that will totally save Olivia,” also secretly pulls Mario on a quest of revenge – and then successfully enacts that revenge! Is that the most satisfying Mario storyline…ever?
A boy and his Mario, saving the day. Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku
Ash: OH SHIT! I didn’t even think of it like that. Absolutely baller.
Ari: So baller. And it’s all precipitated by a long case of amnesia, which is cured after he hears fireworks. Then it all comes back to him in a flash, and he knows exactly the sacrifice he needs to make – without hesitation. Ash, I think Bobby is the real hero of this game.
Ash: He is. It’s a Nintendo game, and Mario at that, but I wish we got to spend more time with Olivia and her grief. I mean, it could be used to say to kids playing, “Hey, it’s okay to be sad, get better, but be sad again.”
Ari: Yeah, she kinda just moves on, doesn’t she?
Ash: She gets one minute of sadness, Mario puts on a goofy hat, then she realises, “Oh Bobby wouldn’t want me to be sad.” And I guess that’s fair. It’s in her character to be the “oooh shiny” kind of person, especially given what we know about her origin (which I just hit and HO MAN THAT WAS A LOT).
Olivia puts on a master class in moving on. Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku
Ari: That’s true – she really is irrepressibly cheerful, which I guess is baked into her character. (“A LOT” is correct, but let’s save that for future sad-blogging.) But still! Olivia is more or less the player’s cipher, since Mario never speaks and rarely emotes. Her moving on so quickly kind of cheapens Bobby’s sacrifice a little. So, yeah, I really like that idea you posed – that tragedy and trauma can come in waves. And if you learn that lesson through a chipper little cartoon explosive, hey, that’s cool.
Ash: Now, I know we both are very near, but haven’t yet finished the game, so there may be time yet for us to find out what really happens in the end. But were you afraid, like I was, that Nintendo, being ever Nintendo, would cheapen this moment by immediately revoking it?
Ari: I was. Very much so. Not that I didn’t want to see Bobby again! But just that bringing him back would’ve felt so emotionally manipulative. And then that FAKEOUT?
Ash: From as much as we can tell so far, I’m glad they haven’t. You called it Nintendo’s “Ned Stark moment.”
Ari: It’s like that, right? Bobby’s dead! He’s dead and he’s not coming back. (Sorry, Ned Stark truthers.) It’s a bold, bold move. What’d you feel seeing his ghost in the aftermath?
Ash: Afeared, for one, that it wasn’t going to be a ghost and just be him back. But I’m glad they put him in. Mario seems like an emotionless chud and needed guidance on how to get things back on track.
Ari: And was able to get it from the game’s true hero. Beautiful. You’ve told me before that you would go to war for Olivia. As much as you’re in pain – I’m right there with you – do you think Bobby’s sacrifice was worth it?
Ash: If Bobby is the hero, Olivia is the star, right? He did what he did for her, not the world, but for her explicitly. That she’s able to continue on, meet her creator, and continue to make joyful memories. Yeah, it was worth it.