Warning: This review contains minor spoilers for Super Mario Odyssey.
Super Mario Odyssey is the latest Mario title for the Nintendo Switch and it takes influences from 3D platforming games like Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. This installment aims to give a special experience to newcomers while giving nostalgic euphoria to Mario veterans. The game’s visual pitch delivers high expectations but whether or not those expectations are met is entirely up to the player.
Orbit, jump, throw, possess
Within Super Mario Odyssey, the player encounters a ghost-like companion named Cappy soon after the game’s exposition. After Cappy initially offers his help, he rarely leaves Mario’s side and offers powers that are given to the player for liberal usage. Players can use Cappy as a projectile, jump on him as a platform or throw him against enemies or NPCs to possess and gain control of their bodies. With Mario’s basic physics and controls up to par, Odyssey feels like a worthy successor to Super Mario 64.
The possession technique serves as the central thrust of the game. Each world that Mario enters offers at least one or two enemies to take control of which include classic Mario enemies like Goombas and Hammer Bros. Each possession has a specific usage that can be used to solve puzzles, fight enemies or complete specific challenges like fighting bosses or doing races. This mechanic is incredibly ambitious and pays off by encouraging a sense of curiosity and experimentation. In my personal playthrough, I raced to progress through each level because of my unending craving to possess new creatures.
Cappy’s platform ability also serves as a fantastic tool to get to farther distances and make farther jumps. In some cases during the game, the player must abandon Cappy in order to complete challenges. The difference between having Cappy at hand and being alone is much starker than imagined at times and these moments highlight Cappy as a warm welcome addition to the Mario universe. (Nintendo, please let him come to a new Smash Bros. game.)
The only minor downside to Mario’s basic mechanics is the motion controls that are used to execute certain actions, like the homing attack, which can hinder the experience at times.
Moons for days
To say that there are a ton of moons (Odyssey’s currency, similar to Super Mario Galaxy’s stars) in Super Mario Odyssey would be a massive understatement. There are hundreds of moons to collect within the game and by the time I finished the game’s story, I had only collected roughly 170 moons with many left yet to find. Many of these moons are incredibly fun to collect with excellent challenges provided. Some challenges include traveling across ice, using possession techniques to travel across ginormous chasms or are simply well hidden within the levels that may have you coming back later for a second glance. The greatest part about collecting these moons is that unlike the 3D Mario games that have come before, the collected objective doesn’t forcefully eject the player only to simply re-enter the world. Once a player has collected a moon within a world, they can keep exploring the same world like in Banjo Kazooie.
Even though many of the moons are fun to collect, others are a bit uninspired within their collection. A prime example of this is that within each and every clothing shop within the game, the player has the option to buy a moon for a considerably cheap price of 100 coins. Though this makes sense for the first clothing store to introduce the store’s role of cosmetics within the game, it’s unnecessary. I feel as though many of these moons could have made for additional moon challenges. Others may also feel a bit less thrilling because of the obvious nature of how they can appear. Thankfully, the well thought-out challenges outweigh the uninspired ones.
On a final note, the bosses within the game offer multiple moons for their defeat. Initially, these bosses are silly and enlightening. However, after some time spent in the story, it would be nice to not have to rematch many of these bosses for a second time. The move sets of these bosses change slightly on the second encounter, but it doesn’t feel like a drastically different fight than the first encounter.
Calm, yet also celebratory
The level design within the game is the defining factor of what makes Super Mario Odyssey fantastic. Each level has its own themes that help flavor the challenges that come with gathering moons. One level leads the player into a forest with a splash of an industrial presence, while in another level the player may explore a small, uncharted island. Challenges seen in these worlds are reflected through the worlds’ enemies and NPCs with the possession technique, and they will often be able to deal with the world’s specific hazards and problems.
My personal favorite level is New Donk City, the most frequently presented level throughout Nintendo’s marketing. This level has fewer enemies than the normal Mario level yet it has its own sense of charm in jumping up the large buildings and participating in challenges that reflect portions of human culture. Though I was hoping for the level to be bigger than what Nintendo provided, I always wanted to come back to New Donk City for the fascinating platforming and environment.
On an additional note to these worlds, the art and music reflect these well-made levels with excellence. At times it’s difficult not to gawk at the serene nature of the skyboxes and stay to visit at the moments that call for celebration or deeply valued nostalgia. An additional point that deserves praise is that after the player completes the main story, a musical Toad will be located in each previously visited world so that the player can select their favorite music in the game as they search for more moons which can make the gameplay more enjoyable with a variety of tonality.
With all of the moons available for collection, Super Mario Odyssey has enough content to keep the player busy for a couple dozen hours at least. Bowser has brought his best personality to this installment with his fighting style, dialogue and his motivational goal in marrying Princess Peach. Despite some moons being less ambitious in their design and some returning bosses lackluster, Super Mario Odyssey is a worthy addition to any Switch owner’s library whether they are a Mario veteran or a newcomer to the franchise. The levels are fantastic and inquire on player experimentation while the aesthetics of the environment do a swell job in selling a delightful experience to the newest generation of gamers.
Featured image from The Daily Dot
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