Title: Super Mario Odyssey
Release Date: 10/27/17
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Time Played: 13 hours
It’s time to embark on a grand adventure via Nintendo’s latest masterpiece of a console, the Nintendo Switch. While still fairly new, it has already started to see quite a bit of acclaim with titles released for it including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2, but we are here to talk about their newest title to which many of us have been looking forward. If you guessed Super Mario Illiad, you were close, but it is in fact Super Mario Odyssey, the latest addition to the adventures of everybody’s favorite italian plumber.
Concept and Execution:
Super Mario Odyssey acts as a return to the more open-world 3d platformers such as Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy. Players are able to visit various worlds throughout your adventure and completing missions to collect in this game power moons rather than stars, while trying to save your beloved Princess Peach. It definitely feels similar to the previous titles while also having it’s own unique charm, as well as some pretty big shoes to fill, and I feel that it has succeeded in many ways, and we shall get to that more later.
The story starts off fairly standard with Bowser invading the mushroom kingdom to kidnap the princess. The difference is that–unlike most games–he openly reveals what he plans to do with Peach: he plans to marry her, the fiend. It also starts off differently in that we immediately see that Mario has been weakened by the tuxedo-clad villain who, after having studied under Odd Job and Kung Lao, defeats Mario with a toss of his top hat. This sends the heroic handyman flying to a faraway land with his own trademark red hat in tatters. Upon awaking in a destroyed kingdom, The goomba stomper is greeted by a ghost/hat-like entity known as Cappy, who teams up with Mario by turning into a copy of his hat with various new powers so that they may work together to defeat Bowser and his minions.
The journey truly feels like one of a kind Mario’s ship the Odyssey almost feels like a callback to either the Comet Observatory or Starship Mario from the galaxy titles, with the environments unique designs calling to mind the beauty of the designs from Mario Sunshine, and combining this with the classic gameplay of Mario 64. Overall it almost feels like they tried to take the best parts of previous titles while adding new mechanics that I will go into more detail about, and it all combines really well, despite the typical story setup that we are accustomed to by this point.
Concept Score: 23/25
Mechanics and Gameplay:
The basic game mechanics are the same as the other 3d Mario games, having several different types of jumping abilities for different situations. Your main abilities come from your partner Cappy,
with Mario being able to throw him to act as a weapon, collect coins, and even hold him in place to act as a temporary platform. The most prominent new mechanic comes from Cappy’s ability to
capture certain enemies and creatures, allowing Mario to possess and take control of them using their different abilities to uncover secrets and access new areas, while acting as a replacement for the more traditional power ups seen in previous titles. Each of the creatures captured have their own abilities used for different situations and control very well. One issue though is the reliance on motion controls, more specifically shaking the joycon, to use some of these abilities or even to use some abilities with Cappy. This forces you to play with the Joycon controllers detached and separate in each hand, and this effectively eliminates the ability to play this game as a handheld with the controllers attached to the side of the console.
The game feels more linear than other titles in that upon first arriving in a world you will have a primary objective that must be completed, following a straight path and unlocking smaller areas along the way. Upon defeating the main boss for a world you can move on in your ship, the Odyssey, provided you have enough moons to power it. Otherwise, you can stay and collect moons that you may have missed or that may have recently opened up. This is unique in this game, as most past Mario games in this category would have players enter a world, select a mission, and immediately leave the world upon completing the task, whereas Mario Odyssey allows for the ability to collect moons in any order for the most part and does not force the player to leave , while also allowing players to continue immediately upon collection, which allows it to feel more fast paced and flow together more easily than previous titles.
A lot of the moons are hidden in secret areas, and it is worth noting that typically the secret areas will contain a moon that is the obvious goal, and then another secret moon either hidden or obtained by completing a separate task. This may seem like either repetitive or lazy design, but it is easily forgiven as most of the secondary moons are very well hidden and require strong observation or clever use of powers from captured creatures. Other features include the ability to roll continuously allowing you to channel your inner Zelda speedrunner and cover distances more quickly, and the ability to find hidden items including power moons by ground pounding in spots where the joycon controllers vibrate..
As you adventure around collecting coins and power moons you will also come across special purple coins with different designs based on their specific world. These special coins (as well as the standard gold coins) can be used in shops. Gold coins buy items that can be found in most worlds, including temporary health upgrades, power moons (yes, really), and somewhat generic outfits available in most worlds and do not feel as unique as outfits that match the themes of the different kingdoms. While the gold coins are essentially unlimited, the purple coins are limited to a supply. Only so many can be obtained in each world with the coins being found in specific locations typically in groups of ranging on average from three to five. These can also be used at the shop. However, they are used to buy items unique to the current world, including outfits themed around the setting or its denizens. Some of the costumes may be required to obtain certain power moons. To cap it off, you are also capable of purchasing accessories and souvenirs that are displayed in and around the Odyssey. It’s a really interesting idea to have a standard global currency in the form of the coins that we’re all familiar with, and then a local currency that only is usable in the world its from. This gives the economy a touch of realism, but the fact that local coins are limited can be a bit frustrating as sometimes there can be a small cluster of them hidden in obscure areas that can be difficult to find, or may require ridiculous methods to obtain–such as having to hang off the edge of the entire kingdom in order to shimmy along and collect a few coins.
Overall, the returning mechanics can make it easy for veterans of these games to jump into, but also being easy enough to perform and understand for newcomers. It allows for fast gameplay that only really slows down based on the player’s understanding of how and when to use abilities, or if they decide to roam the worlds looking for all the available moons. The fast-paced nature, in a way, makes it feel less rewarding to collect power moons because unlike previous installments that showed a fairly long (and admittedly sometimes tedious) animation of mario triumphantly obtaining his reward, it merely shows a small animation of mario collecting the moon as well as the name of the mission and the date of collection, only lasting a few seconds overall, before returning to gameplay as if nothing happened almost removing the sense of accomplishment for any moons not obtained from bosses.
Mechanics score: 23/25
The atmosphere of Odyssey is by far the game’s strongest point. Each kingdom that you travel to is totally layered with varying levels of detail depending on the world’s theme. More complex worlds such as the cascade kingdom have more details on the landscape and are more vibrantly colored, containing bright plants and rushing waterfalls passing into the river that runs through the middle of the stage. Areas such as the sand kingdom tend to look a bit more colorless and monotone, however this is not necessarily a bad thing as the designs typically match areas that they are inspired by; one wouldn’t expect to see much color in a desert. Most kingdoms have a town or small settlement with native from the area, and in some cases these settings may contrast the overall world in a way that can make it feel more alive.The game also has a decent soundtrack and it especially brings some towns to life, but it can feel quiet at time. The music is not as noticeable in some instances, since it’s occasionally drowned out by the sound of wandering enemies, or even Mario’s jumping noises. In situations where the music is meant to be quiet, there tends to be more ambient noises to complete the effect of being in areas such as tombs or caves. This effect works to help the game feel more immersive, but it can still make the environment a little dull.
The enemies in the game tend to be different from area to area, and there are also classic enemies that may have accessories to help them fit in more. While it is amusing to see goombas in sombreros, it does feel a little lazy in design as a lot of enemies old and new have no difference outside of an accessory to help them fit in with current world’s environment. Beyond the enemies, if there is a specific theme to a town or settlement there will be citizens dressed to match the themes and some of these ideas are quite unique including the designs of characters themselves. My personal favorites are the people in the sand kingdom that resemble living Day of the Dead sugar skulls, complete with sombreros, ponchos, and maracas. They are constantly ready for a fiesta after their kingdom has been saved by the plunger-slinging hero in his cowboy outfit (only 45 sand kingdom coins, comes with hat and outfit, ORDER NOW!). Creative designs like these help to breathe life into the experience, as it again ties into the different cultures of the real world. Overall the good tends to outweigh the bad for the music, and the visuals make every flaw with the with the overall atmosphere more worth it.
Atmosphere score: 24/25
As a whole, Mario Odyssey feels like it isn’t trying to attract any particular type of audience, as it can be jumped straight into if you’re a seasoned Mario player and it’s simple enough for casual players who aren’t as familiar with Mario games. There are plenty of collectibles to satisfy completionists, but if you’re somebody who prefers to race through a game as quick as you can it can become a bit tedious, due to it being required to obtain a fair amount of power moons throughout each world in order to progress.
Otherwise, the game manages to stay entertaining throughout its runtime with each world’s unique visuals and the constant barrage of new abilities obtained through capturing different creatures. However, there isn’t a lot of room to experiment with these abilities as they are usually put in specific areas with specific objectives in mind. Most of the enjoyment comes from the slick platforming, gorgeous visuals, and complex exploration–trying to find the secrets within the secrets. The game doesn’t offer too much replay value, unless you want to mess around and see what it would look like with Mario venturing like an anime cosplayer at a western comic book convention, witnessing when astronaut Mario meets a T-Rex, Samurai Mario wandering the desert, or even just adventure with Mario in his underwear (Hey, I’m not judging). Thanks to Super Mario Odyssey, the possibilities are limitless, and each one is thoroughly entertaining.
Entertainment Value Score: 23/25