Cosplaying Across The Cosmos
Played on: Nintendo Switch
What I’ve Played:
- 33 Hours spent
- 534 Moons collected
- 48/52 enemy types Captured
- 80/82 Songs collected
From the earliest reveals to the latest trailers, everything we were shown of Super Mario Odyssey promised freedom, variety, and the ability to perform new and daring acrobatic feats. Among a host of refinements to the physics, level design, and gameplay challenges established in previous 3D Mario titles, Nintendo has also introduced a ground-breaking mechanic never before seen in any Mario game - the slightly creepy ability to possess and play as Mario’s foes by capturing them with a ghostly friend. But does the new mechanic prove to be more than just a gimmick? And more importantly, does Odyssey live up to Mario’s lofty legacy? Read on and see.
What’s Old Is New Again
The tale as old as time begins in media res as we catch up with Bowser and Mario mid-fight, with the recently-abducted Princess Peach crying out for help. The Koopa King knocks Mario out of the sky and into the depths of the spooky Cap Kingdom, home to a race of floating ghost-hats. One of them, Cappy, asks Mario to team up to save his sister, Tiara, whom Bowser abducted for his royal wedding. They’ll also need to defeat the pesky Broodals, rabbit wedding planners who’ve been hired to stop the uninvited guests. And just like that, this latest adventure begins.
As it turns out, Bowser offended the wrong duo, because Mario and Cappy have the potential to pull off wild stunts that Mario alone could never accomplish. During any jump, Mario can aim and toss Cappy, hold him in place, and then dive towards him. This allows players to get to hard-to-reach spots, but mastering these maneuvers with precision control will rightfully take a bit of getting used to. Cappy can also be thrown up, down, or in a spiral via imprecise motion controls. But one thing’s for sure - Nintendo absolutely nailed the feel of Mario’s movements. Speed-runners will have a ton of fun squeezing and stretching the physics of Super Mario Odyssey to pull off incredible shortcuts.
Fresh, Fun, and Frantic Footwork
Most of the main Kingdoms are just the right size, with hidden nooks and very little wasted space. Under the leadership of director Kenta Motokura and producer Yoshiaki Koizumi, Nintendo has drawn elements from 2D and 3D Mario games - precise platforming, races against the clock, vanishing platforms, acrobatics, 2D/3D wall segments ala A Link Between Worlds, etc. - and mixed them up with unique challenges made possible by the capturing mechanic.
Similarly to “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, most trials are delivered in short bursts to facilitate quick play on the go, but they’re just as much fun to binge. There are challenges in each of the Kingdoms, as well as many individual trial rooms that range vastly in what they demand of the player. In addition to both 3D and 2D platforming gauntlets, you’ll encounter tricky rooms where Mario must endure without Cappy’s help, as well as various mini-games and even racing challenges.
The creatures you end up possessing are easy to control, and work well with the mindful level design. You can even become a fireball and leap in and out of lava pools. Captured creatures respawn quickly, so if you accidentally lose them, no sweat. All in all, the mechanic is a step up from the transformation suits in the Super Mario Galaxy and 3D World games.
I’d expect seasoned players to put in anywhere between 9-11 hours to finish the main game, 20-23 hours to get 500 Moons and finish the big challenges in the hidden worlds, 40+ hours to rack up the over 800 main Moons, and even longer to purchase up to the grand total of 999 Moons. If that sounds like a lot of Moons, don’t worry - many are easily acquired or hiding in plain sight. Others take skill and patience. If you really don’t know where to look, hints can be given or purchased.
As for replay value, there’s quite a bit of post-game content, and the developers truly saved the best for last, with the most challenging gauntlet in any 3D Mario title unlocking at 500 Moons. There are a few repeated challenges in the post-game, but nothing tedious, and there’s a surprising amount of variety to be discovered even in the most tucked-away corners.
Great presentation with a focus on accessibility
I really liked how Super Mario Odyssey respects the player’s time. With a few exceptions, most challenges are easy to get to; the ability to quick warp to checkpoints makes traveling to find the next Moon or those hidden purple coins rather painless. There are also many hidden Moons, but if you enter one of the small trial areas where you’ve already gotten all the Moons, Cappy will helpfully inform you there’s nothing left to do there.
There are also two different types of shops, with one only accepting coins specific to each world. So if you’re aiming for certain outfits, or stickers/souvenirs for the Odyssey, you’ve got to put in the time in that particular world. It’s a cool system that rewards exploration with appealing in-game content.
Graphically, Super Mario Odyssey looks better in motion than it does in screenshots. Many of the Kingdoms are quite stunning, but some textures suffer when inspected up-close. In fact, the entirety of Super Mario Odyssey is less than 6GB in size, though you wouldn’t know it from the amount of content. The game also loads quickly and runs smoothly, with only a bit of slowdown in very rare, technically taxing situations.
The soundtrack is quite strong. Although some levels have bland compositions, you can pick and choose your music on the fly, so there’s no shortage of decent tunes to enliven your sessions of running, jumping, and possessing.
Difficulty Not Guaranteed, and Motion-Control Blues
Though there’s no question as to the creativity and variety of gameplay challenges, I feel that series veterans who’ve aced every 3D Mario title will take to this one like a Cheep Cheep to water. Odyssey is so polished, I didn’t feel seriously challenged until I reached the post-game content. Of course, your mileage may vary.
I also took issue with the forced use of Joy-Con motion controls to do certain specific actions, like to make Cappy spin up or down (the game doesn’t tell you, but you can spin-toss by rotating the stick and flinging Cappy). The main problem is that it’s about 50-50 as to whether the Joy-Con will properly register the awkward input for a spin attack. I wish they allowed players to map these motions to the unused face buttons. Even the Pro Controller wouldn’t interpret my attempts consistently.
Also, there’s a bit of an annoying delay from when you first tilt the stick to when Mario begins running. It’s not terrible, but it feels unnecessary.
Mario’s Reign Remains Unchallenged
If there was ever any doubt that Super Mario Odyssey would be anything less than the gold star of Nintendo’s recent gaming Renaissance, then let me lay those fears to rest, because I consider this to be one of the most joyous, polished, and inventive games in the entire Super Mario series. Even with literally hundreds of Moons, Super Mario Odyssey is so full of unique ideas and challenges, it rarely repeats itself. I found myself addicted to the sense of anticipation and excitement I’d feel every time I entered a warp pipe or hat-door.
Rare is the game that’s packed with memorable moments, leaves me with a goofy smile on my face, satisfies my thirst for new gaming experiences, and features a great amount of replay value. Super Mario Odyssey should be a huge success, and with good reason. I can only hope that we will see some high-quality DLC down the line with even more challenging content.
10 / 10
- Fantastic physics and mechanics combined with intricate level design that pushes players’ creativity and abilities
- The ‘capture’ mechanic makes for fun and unique gameplay experiences
- Nostalgia for older Mario fans, yet accessible to younger audiences as well
- Unlockable outfits, stickers, and collectibles as well as post-game bonuses add replayability
- Runs smoothly with very little slowdown. Lightning-quick loading times.
- Easy navigation between Kingdoms and within them, thanks to the ability to warp to any checkpoint.
- Certain cap throws can only be performed with motion controls
- Most of the difficulty is in the post-game content (200 Moons and beyond)
- Some textures look disappointingly outdated