This is real.
It should come as no surprise that I’m reviewing Super Mario Odyssey.
Wait, it does? I mean, sure… I know I’m a confessed Xbox fanatic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a good time with the others. Did you see my reviews of Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn after all? I love those games!
But what about Nintendo? Well, I needed to get that under control.
So here we are with a review of one of 2017’s biggest releases. It’s true that I’m lagging behind the curve of reviews, but screw it. I want to express my feelings; so damned be this post’s statistics!
If I had to impress only one thing on readers regarding the gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey, it’d be that Nintendo did a fantastic job of melding multiple perspectives into their newest Mario-centric title. The near-seamless transition from 3D to 2.5D to 2D, and any combination of those perspectives honestly blew me away. The first time I jumped into a green pipe and saw Mario transform from his Odyssey 3D self to his old Super Mario Brothers 2D visage, I grinned ear-to-ear. However, Nintendo didn’t stop at making Mario the only one capable of making this transformation (seen above, a Bullet Bill comes out of the stonework).
This is the level of attention to detail and outside the box thinking that I’ve learned to expect from Nintendo. They easily could have just made throwback levels to appease fans of the old series titles, but they went a step further. Each 2D level element is built with a specific goal in mind that forces the player to shift their thought processes, and those sections aren’t limited to flat areas either. 2D sections often wrap around corners of buildings and feature hidden areas of their own.
Those hidden areas, along with other less obvious things to discover, form the cornerstone of what makes Super Mario Odyssey something completely different. The core goal of each level is to collect Power Moons to allow Mario to advance to the next area, but while there are obvious ways to gain Power Moons, like completing main objectives and doing side activities, there are less obvious means of finding them as well.
I won’t go into any extremely specific examples, because the joy of finding these on your own is paramount, but I feel it’s safe to say that Nintendo created a game that encourages experimentation. Like catfishing Goombas for example. Was that specific? I couldn’t resist that one!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a core Mario title without including tight controls and a myriad of fun ways to get stuff done. Even just getting around each level is a blast when you can jump, dive, roll, bounce, and yes… capture.
Or should I say, CAPture? Yes, I’m going with that. Just like many of the other core Mario games, there are dozens of friends and foes to interact with, but this time around, defeating them with butt stomps and FLUDD units isn’t the only way. Mario’s new companion, Cappy, is available at (almost) all times to capture other beings and temporarily slave them to Mario’s will.
That sounded dark… Rest assured, the
ghost possession capturing is temporary and (probably) doesn’t have any negative side effects. Except for some minor confusion perhaps.
The potential moral dilemmas aside, capturing friendlies and enemies (and occasionally inanimate objects) plays a major role in the player’s ability to complete various challenges and puzzles, and the mechanic is implemented rather beautifully. That isn’t to say that capturing makes up the whole game, as there are a number of oldies but goodies you’ll be employing to get the job done, like the aforementioned butt stomping! It’s extremely nice that Nintendo has kept around the old methods instead of throwing everything out with this new game.
That isn’t to say that there are frustrations I’ve had with Super Mario Odyssey. The biggest issue I’ve found has been with the sometimes poor camera controls. While it makes sense for your perspective to be limited in certain settings, like during the 2.5D level segments, it can be pretty annoying to not have better control of your view during some of the more difficult segments. That isn’t even taking into consideration the lack of suitable control you have when trying to aim a tank cannon either, which is not only controlled by the analog stick, but also the Switch’s motion controls.
I did spend my time playing Super Mario Odyssey strictly using the twin Joy-Con setup, though the option exists to use a Pro controller or in handheld mode. I have no experience with using the Pro controller, as I don’t have one, but I can confirm that the twin Joy-Con setup works perfectly well, with occasional issues regarding the motion controls. Those motion control issues are compounded when attempting to play in handheld mode, as you’re then swinging around your screen as well as the controllers, but you can always just disconnect the screen from the controllers as long as you have something to set the Switch screen on.
Even with that frustration in mind, it’s really difficult to be upset long when it’s so damn adorable.
Super Mario Odyssey follows in the footsteps of previous Mario games, sticking with the colorful and cute design, with modern flair. Super Mario Odyssey looks fantastic on the Nintendo Switch, which is good considering that it’s an exclusive for the console/handheld. I’d be hard-pressed to find any issues with Super Mario Odyssey‘s graphics, which is impressive, to say the least, considering that the Switch isn’t exactly a powerhouse of a console.
But Nintendo did what they do best. They made something that will easily stand the test of time, and the soundtrack does wonders to help with that.
The music of Super Mario Odyssey is fantastic. My personal favorite, right now, would have to be while roaming about in the Metro Kingdom, which sports a jazzy tune to go along with Mario’s parkour. While the Metro Kingdom’s music is my favorite, I’ve come to love the other tunes as well.
The demastering of the tracks really made me smile too. When you shove Mario through a green pipe into a 2D section, it not only changes him and any enemies into their 8-bit versions, but the music changes as well. Nintendo certainly didn’t need to make 8-bit versions of the soundtrack for those 2D sections, but they did, and it’s wonderful.
While this isn’t the most original series in gaming, with dozens of game releases out over the last 20+ years or so, Nintendo, yet again, found a way to make this entry different from the rest of the pack. With Cappy in tow, Mario has more than his standard set of skills to pull from. Being able to capture goombas, frogs, gourd-monsters, bullet Bills, cheep cheeps, octopuses, and the occasional human turns what would otherwise be a pretty standard affair into something vastly more complicated and fun.
Nintendo doesn’t spell it all out for you either, despite what it feels like to the contrary when Cappy constantly goes over controls with Mario when traveling to a new area.
Seriously, Cappy… I get it. I know how to do a long jump.
What I was getting at is that Nintendo makes solving puzzles using Mario’s capture ability feel like actual accomplishment. It feels satisfying to find the solution every time.
STORY AND MULTIPLAYER
The story in Super Mario Odyssey is – not to talk poorly of it – pretty shallow. Bowser kidnaps Peach to force her to marry him, and Mario comes to the rescue. Except this time around, Bowser wins. His downfall is that he decided to also kidnap Cappy’s sister to be a part of the wedding, which convinces Cappy to assist Mario.
So after Mario brushes the dirt off his shoulders from a fall that surely would’ve killed any other person, he sets off to save his beloved.
Of course, Bowser did a little wedding planning on his way to the venue, swiping up everything from a dress to a ring (who waits until right before the wedding to buy the ring? Really, Bowser?). Mario follows in Bowser’s wake, trying to track him down so he can free Peach. Along the way, Bowser left his minions behind to stall Mario’s progress, whom are all some form of horrific rabbit-creature… One of which I swear looks like it’s supposed to be a leprechaun.
Let’s face it though, the story isn’t the strong point of Super Mario Odyssey, it’s the characters, humor, and the tight gameplay.
Speaking of which, there’s an interesting option for those that want a little cooperative gameplay. Two players can take hold of one Joy-Con controller each, with player one controlling Mario, and the other handling Cappy. It makes for an interesting experience, considering that the player controlling Cappy can stay free of Mario as long as they want, zipping around the immediate vicinity of Mario to capture and knock out to their heart’s content. Playing cooperatively does make things a little more complicated for Mario though, so coordination is definitely required.
What Super Mario Odyssey lacks in compelling story, it makes up for with personality. It’s a joy to play, appealing to both my inner child and my adult mind. Playing Super Mario Odyssey has consistently brought a smile to my face, whether I’m just collecting Power Moons or just trying to master that damned jump rope challenge…
I got the reward for 30 successful jumps, but I haven’t managed 100.
There’s just so much humor in the game, as well as characters that just make me smile. It’s hard to pin down what it is that makes this so enthralling, but it is.
Has Nintendo discovered the formula to pure fun?
So where does that leave us? It’s simple, just like Super Mario Odyssey; the newest entry in the Mario franchise is marvellous to play, and well worth the price. Furthermore, where games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Quantum Break, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End were great, yet not systems-sellers in my book, Super Mario Odyssey is exactly that.
I knew the moment that I played the demo, that I needed to play the rest of it. So I made a plea to a special someone, who promptly caved (because I’m adorable, I think) and she conspired with another to make my dream of owning a Nintendo Switch and Super Mario Odyssey come true. So, not only is this a review of Super Mario Odyssey – which is an excellent game that almost everyone should play – but also a thank you to my wife Jennifer and my mother who got me this amazing birthday gift.
If you own a Switch, but not Super Mario Odyssey (how does this hypothetical person exist?), then you need to remedy that. If you don’t own a Switch however, you should look into fixing that ASAP.
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