Super Mario Odyssey
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Hours Played: 14+ (With many more to come)
“Super Mario Odyssey” is a game that needs little introduction. Yet, there lies so many interesting ideas under the hood that simply calling it a Mario game is doing the title a disservice. Similar to this year’s release of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” Nintendo has again proven with “Super Mario Odyssey” that they are open to creative, fresh ideas, while providing an expansive open world and retaining the top-notch gameplay that the company is known for.
As soon as players hit the start button, a cinematic of Mario facing off against Bowser begins to play. The plot setup is hardly anything special, but this time around, Bowser isn’t just intent on kidnapping Princess Peach – he wants to marry her. Much to Mario’s dismay, Bowser escapes with the Princess by his side. Players will soon team up with the aptly-named Cappy, a ghost in the shape of a top hat, that takes on the form of Mario’s iconic hat and rests on the plumber’s head. This allows Mario to toss his hat like a disc to stun enemies, jump on the airborne hat to reach new heights, and even throw the hat at certain enemies that can be ‘captured’ as the game calls it. The ‘capture’ mechanic offers a wide variety of gameplay possibilities in “Super Mario Odyssey” as Cappy possesses an enemy or item and gives Mario full control of it. For example, throwing Cappy at a frog will turn Mario into that frog, complete with hilarious ‘ribbit’ sounds uttered by Mario while in that form. Another example of the capture mechanic involves capturing a Tyrannosaurus Rex, modeled in a similar way to how we view T-Rex’s in real life. This examples rests on the more bizarre end of the capture spectrum, and I adored every second of controlling the monstrous beast. The game oozes creativity and fun ideas, and it’s obvious the developers had a blast creating these bizarre new moves for Mario’s latest adventure.
With the wonderful new capture ability on display, one has to ask “what about the classic platforming gameplay that Mario is known for?” I’m happy to report that despite these exhaustive new options at Mario’s disposal, controlling the mustachioed plumber is, at its basic level, still as satisfying as ever. Players can expect the usual run, jump, long jump, and ground pound moves from previous 3D Mario games, but the inclusion of Cappy and hat-throwing introduces a wealth of new options to aid Mario’s locomotion. As mentioned earlier, Mario can throw Cappy forward, keep him spinning in the air, and then jump on the hat, propelling him further than he could normally reach. The ability to throw Cappy in a large, fast-moving circle around Mario is also available, and proves extremely useful for taking out surrounding foes. These aren’t the only new moves that Cappy provides, but they are the two that I found most useful, with most of them feeling satisfying to pull off. Unfortunately, a couple of extra abilities are locked behind the game’s infrequent motion controls. For an unknown reason, Nintendo felt the need to implement minor motion controls in “Super Mario Odyssey” which means performing the motion controls while playing in handheld mode is awkward and unreliable.Their use is infrequent, but it’s still worth pointing out, as the Switch controller offers more than enough buttons to which these motion-controlled abilities could instead be mapped to. It’s a problem that the game has created for itself, and it’s the only true blemish on an otherwise fantastic game.
Utilizing the new movement options at their disposal, Mario and Cappy make their way in pursuit of Bowser using the Odyssey, a ship that allows them to travel anywhere they please. The ship is powered by ‘Moons’, a new collectible that is scattered across the game world. There are literally hundreds of these moons to collect in “Super Mario Odyssey” and discovering each one is a joy. Many are hidden behind simple puzzles in tucked-away corners of the map, some are acquired by reaching difficult-to-reach areas, and others are relegated to rewards upon finishing a boss fight. Each one is as fun to unlock as the last, and just like in the latest Zelda game, exploring every nook and cranny of the game world may offer unexpected rewards. Nearly every in-game object can be interacted with, making each environment feel alive.
The most famous among the new levels in “Super Mario Odyssey” is the “Metro City Kingdom” home to “New Donk City”, a cityscape in the sky where regular people walk around, doing their everyday tasks, as Mario leaps around along sidewalks and atop buildings. At first glance, this environment feels extremely out of place. No other Mario game has integrated realistic-looking people alongside the whimsical nature of Mario and his jumping antics; yet somehow, the pairing in this game works wonderfully, thanks to Nintendo’s endless fountain of humor they incorporate into their games. Items such as coins populate the area for collecting, used for costumes that Mario can don during his adventure, and street signs reference previous Nintendo games. This kingdom provided the most enjoyment in all of my hours of playing, with some incredible music playing, to boot. The same can be said for the other kingdoms that the game offers; each one offers something different from the rest, and help make Mario’s journey feel like a true odyssey across the globe.
Without offering spoilers, I will say that the final battle in this game is an incredible way to end the adventure. There is a wealth of post-credits content to go through, including a not-so-discreet nostalgia trip, but the way these nods to the past are incorporated into the game’s story works flawlessly. In some ways, “Super Mario Odyssey” is a celebration of all things Mario. Plenty of references to his past adventures can be spotted, some more easily than others, and the game features the similar yet improved platforming gameplay that we’ve come to know and love. However, there are enough odd additions to the adventure that give it an identity wholly unique from previous 3D Mario games. The end credits of “Super Mario Odyssey” can be reached relatively quickly, perhaps within 8 or 9 hours, if not sooner, but the adventure continues well past that point. Over 800 moons are available to collect, and you can bet I’ll be on the case to collect the rest of them. This game had me smiling nearly the entire way through, and it provided exactly what I expected, and more. If you own a Nintendo Switch, chances are you already own this game or plan to play it. If you don’t own a Switch yet, “Super Mario Odyssey” is another great reason to pick one up for the holidays.
Hey folks! If it wasn’t obvious already, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the latest Mario game. I’ll be tackling Wolfenstein 2 next, and I’d like to write my thoughts on that game as well, once it’s finished. Have a great week, everyone.