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The first games I ever owned and played were Hyper Zone and Super Mario World, both for the Super Nintendo. That was the first and last console my parents ever bought for me. I was two years old when I first got the console and I didn’t actually beat the games until several years later. Super Mario World is one of my favorite games of all time and I wouldn’t get to try any of the sequels until much later in life when I started buying my own systems. Over the years, the Mario series has seen success in both 2D and 3D but I think the 3D titles are a bigger deal. Each new 3D Mario game brings with it new things to collect, new worlds to explore, and a new gimmick. Mario 64 was the game that brought the series into 3D. Mario Sunshine was all about F.L.U.D.D. Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2 were more linear experiences but placed a big focus on gravity. And Mario 3D World is really an outcast since we kind of saw it all before in 3D Land for the 3DS. While I love the game, to me, it felt more like a bigger and better version of 3D Land. Developed and published by Nintendo, Super Mario Odyssey was released for the Switch in October, 2017. This new 3D entry employs a sandbox style of play, similar to Mario 64, with plenty of secrets to uncover, things to collect, worlds to explore, and, of course, a new gimmick.
The one thing that really hasn’t changed all that much is the plot. Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach and Mario sets out to rescue her. The only real difference about the plot here is that Bowser plans to marry Peach. So it’s the same plot we’ve all seen before with a slightly different coat of paint. After the opening cut scene, Mario meets up with Cappy in the Cap Kingdom and Cappy informs him that the kingdom has been under attack by Bowser and Bowser kidnapped his little sister. There’s no real voice acting but characters will make grunting noises, with some characters throwing in an actual word or two here and there, accompanied by text. NPC’s are scattered throughout the Kingdoms, you’ll see some familiar faces, but they don’t really advance the plot. There’s a few cut scenes spread throughout and it’s not hard to tell what’s going on. The plot is simple, silly, cartoon-y, and I don’t think anybody plays this series for the storylines. You play Mario games for the gameplay, and Odyssey is no exception.
When it comes to the controls, Super Mario Odyssey allows the use of the split Joy-Cons, the Joy-Con Grip, handheld mode, and the Pro Controller. I play most Switch games using the Pro Controller but for this game, I primarily used the Joy-Cons and I would highly suggest you do the same. And that’s because there are some actions you can’t really perform, or perform easily, with any other control scheme. This game does utilize motion controls, all of which involve flicking or waggling, which can easily be done with the split Joy-Cons. I can’t say the same for the other control schemes. As of this review, many of the actions requiring motion can be a real pain to perform with anything but the Joy-Cons and that’s very disappointing. Luckily, most of the actions requiring motion are not actually required to complete the game but they will make things easier. Basically, the game is more than playable with each control scheme but if you decide to not use the Joy-Cons, you’ll probably have hard time performing many actions that make navigation easier. With that said, I did find myself fumbling with the controls quite often. The same button combination is used to perform a ground pound, quick swim, and dive. The big problem here is that they’re all tied to the same button that executes the ground pound. It can be annoying dying or failing an objective because you executed the ground pound rather than the move you were attempting. Now Odyssey does utilize the HD Rumble and does so very well. If you’re riding a scooter, it actually feels like you’re holding onto the handle bars. And you’ll need to use the HD Rumble to feel around for the correct spot of a Power Moon or other items hiding under the ground.
Most of Mario’s basic moves return from prior games. He can run, crouch, jump, long jump, wall jump, perform a backflip, somersault, ground pound, swim, climb, travel through pipes, and he can even roll. So what’s the gimmick here? Cappy. Bowser stomps and destroys Mario’s original cap but when Mario teams up with Cappy, Cappy becomes his new cap. You can throw Cappy, like a weapon, to kill enemies and destroy objects. You can also use him to open specific doors, collect items from a distance, you can throw him and use him as a platform to jump off of, and most importantly, you can throw Cappy at specific enemies and creatures to capture them. When you capture creatures you get to play as them and they all have unique abilities that you must utilize to fully explore the kingdoms. You can release a captured creature at any time with the press of a button. You can capture Goombas and jump on top of others to create stack and they also don’t slip when walking on ice. A Tropical Wiggler can stretch itself out, great for collecting hard to reach items. You may find yourself capturing Cheep Cheep’s quite often since they can swim underwater without the need for air. Capture a Bullet Bill to travel long distances but beware that it will explode after a certain amount of time. My favorite creature has to be the T-Rex even though it doesn’t appear often. It stomps around and will destroy anything its path. Most creatures can be held onto for as long as you like but some creatures can only be used for a limited time before they’re released automatically.
To put it bluntly, this game is a collectathon. Super Mario Odyssey is all about collecting Power Moons. You need to collect the Moons to power up the Odyssey which lets Mario and Cappy travel to different Kingdoms. Tons of Power Moons are hidden throughout each kingdom, sometimes you’ll need to help an NPC out to be rewarded with one, maybe you need to complete or win a mini-game, and sometimes it’s just as simple as planting seeds which will grow over time and eventually reveal a Moon. Moons are scattered all over the place and some players may see this as excessive. Some are really easy to obtain and don’t feel worth the effort in the end and others you have to work for. Some Moons are hidden underground, maybe in an alcove out of sight, and sometimes items likes rocks or blocks will reveal Power Moons when broken. Most Power Moons can be found just by exploring. However, one minor gripe I have is that several kingdoms require completing the same objectives to acquire Power Moons. For example, you’ll have to plant seeds in pots and wait for the plants to grow in multiple kingdoms. A lot of the kingdoms contain Moons in areas that require you to wear specific clothing items before you can enter. It’s just that they become expected every time I traveled to a new kingdom. I’d prefer each Moon being hidden in a unique location or as a reward from a unique objective. Now I really don’t like mini-games in my platformers, at least not a lot. Odyssey doesn’t have a huge variety and there aren’t that many on your first run through the game but there is a couple of racing mini-games which I am not a big fan of. And more mini-games do appear in the post game, unfortunately. You can view your mini-game rankings on the Ranking Board to compare them against friends or players around the world if you’re into that kind of thing. Defeating bosses rewards you with Multi Moons and also unlocks more of their respective kingdoms to explore, which grants you access to even more Moons. Some areas let you transform into 8-bit Mario, and these small side scrolling sections are a nice nod to the classic Mario games. Some of the Moons are really well hidden and you may not be able to collect them all in each Kingdom on your first run through the game. After you beat the game for the first time, more Moons are revealed and there’s even new areas to explore. You’ll even have the opportunity to face previous bosses again for a rematch which will be more difficult than their original battles.
Odyssey contains plenty of Kingdoms, some are bigger than others, and each one is like a small open world and you’re given plenty of freedom to explore. You can acquire Moons in any order you wish and you can easily spend hours in each kingdom just trying to collect everything. Power Moons won’t be the only things you’re after. Coins make a return and when you die, you lose some coins. There are no lives. You start with three hit points, you can acquire three more by finding a Life-Up heart and a standard Heart restores one hit point. Every Kingdom has its own unique coins to collect and both standard and unique coins are forms of currency which can be spent in the shops. Most kingdoms have a shop with two vendors, one takes standard coins, and the other takes the kingdom’s unique coins. You spend standard coins to buy items like clothing, Life-Up hearts, and even Power Moons. You spend the unique coins to buy clothing that Mario may be required to wear to be granted access to specific areas within the kingdoms. You can also buy souvenirs and stickers for the Odyssey. After you beat the game, more items become available in the shops. Coins no longer serve the purpose of increasing your score but, instead, provide a new way to customize Mario’s appearance, even the Odyssey, itself, which does not affect gameplay but is somewhat refreshing. You can change Mario’s clothes from any of the closets found in the shops or in the Odyssey. Coins can also be spent on other things like the Hint Toad, to ride Jaxi, and even to play the Slots game in select kingdoms.
Some kingdoms are clearly large, others may feel a bit smaller, but all of them ended up being larger than they first seem. And that’s because of secret areas. After defeating a kingdom’s boss, the kingdom itself opens up. New paths become available, there may be new NPC’s to interact with, there may even be new enemies that appear. When you first fire the game up, you have the option to play in Assist Mode where arrows point you to your objective and you’ll even bounce back from a fall. But if you play normally, which I would recommend, you will see that the game does not hold your hand. You can access the Action Guide from the pause menu to learn about the controls, capture actions, and other stuff. You can read Travel Tips from signs scattered throughout the kingdoms, you may come across hint art that provides hints to locations of Power Moons, you can also talk to a bird named Talkatoo that provides Power Moon hints, but Odyssey is far from a linear experience or scripted sequence of events. The kingdoms are open, allowing you to explore at your leisure, uncover tons of secrets, find new areas, and the game offers an excellent feeling of accomplishment when you do acquire that hidden Power Moon you may have been trying to find for days. You’ll come across paintings that warp you to other kingdoms, usually to a location housing a Power Moon not normally accessible within that kingdom by normal means. You can bring up the map for a kingdom at any time during gameplay and warp to any checkpoint flags you found. The warping mechanic is basically a fast-travel system and is a very welcome addition. If you want to travel to the other side of the kingdom to look for something, as long as you found the checkpoint flag, you won’t need to backtrack far unless you choose to. Even if you did want to backtrack, travelling doesn’t always require you to traverse on foot. In the Sand Kingdom you can ride Jaxi, some kind of jaguar statue that can run really fast. Some kingdoms even let you ride a scooter. There’s also Power Lines you can use to quickly zip across the environments. The size of the kingdoms and amount of Moons may seem overwhelming at first but the game will help you out if you let it. After completing a specific objective within a kingdom, you’ll notice a Hint Toad who provides you hints to the locations of Power Moons at the cost of some coins and the Uncle Amiibo machine, both located near the Odyssey. Yes, the game utilizes amiibos but you don’t need them to beat the game. However, they are helpful. Using specific amiibos during gameplay may provide you benefits like a Life-Up heart, or invincibility for example, but if you interact with the Uncle Amiibo machine, you can send out amiibos to find Power Moons. After five minutes you can interact with the Uncle Amiibo machine again to reveal hints to the locations of the Power Moons the amiibos found. And some amiibos also unlock outfits. I am not a fan of gameplay content locked behind figures and luckily, that’s not the case in Odyssey. Any unlocked content is only cosmetic, but the amiibo hints are a nice addition.
The kingdoms all vary in theme, making each one feel unique. There’s a Sand Kingdom, Seaside Kingdom, you’ve got your Snow Kingdom, and my favorite, the Metro Kingdom. The Metro Kingdom contains New Donk City, which is an urban environment that somewhat resembles New York, and also contains nods to the Donkey Kong series. The art style here kind of clashes with Mario’s overall cartoon-y style and I think it’s pretty cool. The city is more realistic looking compared to the other locations, making Mario really stand out and I just think it’s refreshing. And all of the kingdoms manage to capture that classic Mario charm. My least favorite kingdom has to be the Snowy Kingdom. It’s definitely one of the smaller ones and just seems to lack in detail compared to the others. It’s just kind of bland and disappointing overall which is a shame because I like snow-themed environments. Classic Mario enemies return including Goombas, Spiny, Chain Chomp, Piranha Plant, Hammer Bro, and even several new enemy types like Pokio, Uproot, and Gushen, among others. Thanks to the capture mechanic, many enemies do serve an actual purpose as opposed to being obstacles like in prior games. Besides Bowser, there’s a good amount of bosses to battle. The Broodals are a bunch of rabbits and also Bowser’s wedding planners. On your first run through the game, you’ll fight a few bosses multiple times, usually the Broodals, but most kingdoms have a unique boss. All of the bosses have attack patterns that are easy to memorize and, actually, the game, itself, may feel a bit on the easy side, at least in the beginning. As you progress through the kingdoms, things become more difficult but there’s nothing that ever felt impossible. The post game is another story. Odyssey isn’t difficult in a “hard to accomplish” sense, the challenge is more or less trying to find all of the Power Moons. Finding all of those and acquiring all of the unique coins will require you to utilize all of the skills at your disposal. That’s not to say all navigation is a cakewalk. The platforming late in the game is noticeably harder than anything you faced before and some of the post game stuff will really put your platforming skills to the test. You’ll need to explore every nook and cranny of each kingdom to uncover everything, and that’s easier said than done. In addition to enemies and other obstacles, sometimes you’ll have to avoid environmental hazards like lava, falling debris, and even quicksand. There’s definitely some to challenges to overcome when it comes to navigation but none of them felt daunting or became super frustrating in my experience.
Super Mario Odyssey is a gorgeous game. The cartoon-y visuals are bright and full of vibrant colors, smooth animations, and excellent lighting. Things like Mario’s hair, the fabric of his clothes, and even foliage are extremely well detailed and there’s just tons of little things that are somewhat impressive like Mario’s clothes will actually appear wet when he enters and exits water. 8-bit Mario’s appearance will reflect whatever clothes Mario is wearing. You can see Mario leave behind footprints in sand or snow. If Mario doesn’t move for a while he’ll fall asleep and birds may land on him. Little critters populate the environments like seagulls in the Seaside Kingdom, pigeons in the Metro Kingdom, and lizards in the Sand Kingdom. The backgrounds are also eye catching. From the beautiful mountain vista of the Wooded Kingdom to the dense urban background of the Metro Kingdom, this game offers a beautiful visual presentation. You can enter the snapshot mode during gameplay, position the camera, apply different filters, and take a picture to share on social media. The sound effects are pretty standard for a Mario game which is expected, but at least they sound good. Actually, the sounds of swimming sound excellent and are kind of soothing to listen to. Also expected is an excellent soundtrack and Mario Odyssey delivers. There’s plenty of catchy new songs, including ones with lyrics. There’s a mix of orchestrated, some rock, I think I heard some electronic here and there, jazz, and even remixed versions of classic Mario tunes. As for the technical aspects, I did notice a few hitches in the frame rate but it was very rare and never affected the gameplay. The camera can sometimes be a problem, often positioning itself in spots where objects obstruct your view, or it makes it difficult to judge depth perception. But the camera works fine more often than not.
Super Mario World is my favorite 2D Mario title. Mario 64 is my favorite 3D Mario title but I’ve been waiting for a new 3D Mario game to possibly take the top spot. You may be asking if Super Mario Odyssey is the game to do it. Is this the game that finally surpasses Super Mario 64, the greatest 3D platformer of all time? I can honestly say I don’t know. I just can’t decide. Obviously this is all subjective anyway so this may mean nothing to you but Odyssey is definitely one of the best 3D Mario titles ever released. Mario 64 was revolutionary and that kind of stardom is hard to replicate, especially because of the jump from 2D to 3D. For me, Galaxy and Galaxy 2 were right below Mario 64 for a while but I knew they would be easy to surpass due to their linear structure. I just prefer the more open-ended nature of Mario 64 and Odyssey. I had a lot of fun with Super Mario Odyssey and it proves that Nintendo is still the master of 3D platformers. It’s one of those games where I would tell myself “just ten more minutes” but I would end up playing for at least two more hours. There are so many Moons to collect, areas to explore, and it’s the sense of discovery and the feeling of accomplishment that kept me going. There’s tons of nods to previous games which should make any fan of the series grin and the entire experience is just pure fun from beginning to end. I think Odyssey is the true successor to Mario 64. It’s like Mario 64 multiplied by ten. With that said, the amount of Moons may be overwhelming to some and if you prefer a more linear platforming experience compared to the open-ended collectathon style, you may be disappointed. You may even get burnt out after collecting a few hundred Moons. Another thing I’d like to point out is that while every star in Mario 64 required you to complete a specific objective, usually requiring a mix of both platforming and exploring, not every Power Moon in Odyssey is like that. Some are just out in the open waiting to be picked up, not requiring much effort. Whether that’s good or bad all depends on what you want from this type of game. For me, personally, Odyssey contains everything I want in a 3D platformer without being tedious. I have the freedom to explore large environments, there’s plenty of things to collect, the platforming is enjoyable, and the gameplay, overall, is solid.
In the end, I would highly recommend Super Mario Odyssey to fans of the Mario series and to those that enjoy platformers. Specifically collectathon platformers. It retains everything that makes a Mario game great, refines other aspects, and introduces a cool new gimmick that’s fun to utilize, giving you more options than you know what to do with. The issues with the control schemes I can only hope get patched out but it’s not like the split Joy-Cons are horrible, at least for me. They actually work really well here and I was very comfortable using them. Once you get the controls down, you’re in for an awesome experience from start to finish. There’s even a two player mode where one player is Mario and the other is Cappy so you can even share the fun with another person if you want. There’s plenty of content to unlock, items to collect, and secrets to find. This is definitely one of my favorite 3D platformers of all time.