YAHOO! WA-HAAAA! The latest title in the 35+ year old Mario franchise is here. Super Mario Odyssey both acknowledges and innovates the formulas of its past entries to create a game that has been recognized by many media outlets as a masterpiece, or quite close. After my 15+ hours with the game so far, I think it’s time to weigh in.
**This review will not contain any spoilers, by my definition. That is: no major plot points, and nothing that was not discussed or shown by Nintendo prior to release.**
Like almost all previous Mario titles, you’re trying to rescue Princess Peach by defeating Bowser. What Daphne is to Mystery, Inc., Princess Peach is to the Mushroom Kingdom. This time around, Bowser has more than just Bowser Jr. and some punk lackeys like Goombas up his sleeve, however. This time, Bowser has brought just about the entire arsenal of baddies from the franchise’s history, a whole new menu of dastardly foes, and the Broodals. To Mario’s advantage, a magical hat named Cappy is along for the ride and has an ability that I refuse to grasp the science behind; the ability to transport Mario into other beings and allow him to take control of its wearer. Super Mario Odyssey allows you to traverse over 15 worlds in and open-world fashion. The game does not have a central hub world, and you do have to use your ship, The Odyssey, to travel between the game’s numerous and gorgeous worlds. That being said, almost all of the worlds are expansive enough that it’s easy to completely forget about the game’s lack of seamless travel. Needless to say, any gripes that appear in this review will likely sound minuscule in comparison to the title’s strengths.
Along with fellow Peer, Mojave, we impatiently waited outside of a local Best Buy, playing Mario Kart 8, and counting down the moments until the clock struck midnight and we were able to get Super Mario Odyssey in our hands. After an evening of excitement, comes exhaustion, so I was not really able to get lost in the game until later that day. Being a father as well as a gamer, I had to watch the kids, Stingray and Turtle, get their hands on the game before I was able to really get too far into it. In one of the few cases I can recall, I was actually awestruck just by watching this game being played. I couldn’t stop watching. Watching the gorgeous visuals and gameplay mechanics that seemed equal parts fluid and user-friendly had me reeled in. If you didn’t know, this game has a 2 player mode where one player can control Mario and the other can manually control Cappy. Not only that, but it is incredibly fun. Watching the kids take control of the T Rex with Cappy for the first time looked even more exciting than it had when watching the trailers. Fast forward a couple hours and the kids are asleep. It’s time. My first actual play time with Super Mario Odyssey kept me awake late into the night. I’m over 4 hours in by the time I power off the Switch and I was still enjoying my time on the first major world you travel to. The diversity of gameplay mechanics within this game are impressive, to say the least. Nintendo took mechanics, looks, and feels that the franchise has established over its storied history and beautifully blended them into this game. Since Cappy allows you to control so many of the game’s characters, I felt nostalgia, at times, that brought me back to Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario 64, and even the original Super Mario Bros. This game pays homage to its predecessors in the greatest ways possible, confirming that it hasn’t lost sight of where it came from, while also being aware and properly adapting to what’s expected of a game in this day and age.
The amount of time you spend on each of the game’s worlds can be really as limited or expansive as you’d like it to be. The Odyssey requires Power Moons (this game’s version of Stars) to initially advance to the next world. Power moons can be obtained through defeating bosses, finding hidden locations, and through a seemingly endless list of other means. That being said, the amount of Power Moons required to get The Odyssey up and running to the next location are minimal, in comparison, to the amount of Power Moons available on a given world. That first major world I mentioned above? When I finally advanced to the following world, I felt like I had obtained most of the moons available. However, upon checking the stats for that world after completing the game, I haven’t even found 1/3 of them. And, that’s just one world! The options are seemingly endless with this game. In many cases, I watched my kids get Power Moons and reach places I didn’t even recognize.
This game is a visual spectacle. Every world has its own style and generally stays within its own respective color palette. Even the darker, gloomier worlds are beautiful in their own right; perfectly capturing the mood in the aesthetic. Even when the game is not-docked and running on the Switch in portable fashion, the gameplay is smooth. The visuals are designed to adapt to the Switch’s portability, much like the critically-acclaimed Breath of the Wild that launched with the Switch. There was never a moment where I noticed any drop in the frame rate, and aside from some minor gripes with the camera (that were all easily fixable due to the adjustable-camera), there isn’t anything that comes to mind as a complaint against this games look. Those small gripes were few, and generally happened when Mario was navigating within a tight space. Sometimes, the camera would jump to be positioned with an obstacle right in front of it. This never resulted in a death for me, personally, and again was easily fixable.
Super Mario Odyssey has a solid soundtrack, and incredible sound effects, overall. I feel like this entry had the least memorable soundtrack, with many of the worlds having music tracks that, while fitting, didn’t really stand out. That’s not to say the soundtrack is bad. It’s solid and there aren’t any tracks that I thought felt like they shouldn’t have made the cut, but there aren’t too many, if any, tracks that you’ll find yourself whistling in public like the classic themes. The sound effects, however, are a different story. Every sound effect throughout the game hits the nail right on the head. The sound effects are top notch, like they have been pretty much since Mario’s inception. When you land on an enemy, the sound accompanies the accomplishment of defeating them. When you drop from a far height, the landing sound paired with Mario’s visual reaction are comedically on point. This sounds exactly like what you would expect a current-gen Mario title to sound like. Quick backtrack to the soundtrack, the track that is featured in the commercials and whatnot is, in fact, in the game and it is both the best song in the game and plays over one of the best moments in Odyssey. Come to think of it, I think it’s one of the greatest moments in Mario history.
I could go on talking about Super Mario Odyssey for as many hours as I’ve played it, and not run out of things to discuss. This game is easily a top tier Mario game, standing above all others besides Super Mario 64. I have seen huge debates about which game reigns supreme. I have to say, I personally think that Super Mario Odyssey, much like SM64, is one of the finest games I’ve played in my 20+ years of gaming. This game is easily a top contender for Game of the Year in 2017, and although we’re early on in the Nintendo Switch’s life cycle, it wouldn’t surprise me if this game stood as the best game the console has to offer. Super Mario Odyssey is visually marvelous, audibly impressive, minimally flawed and accessible to the majority. My 5-year-old loves it just as much as myself, and naturally our interests in games are vastly different. Gaming, like most mediums, does not have anything that is truly perfect, but if I had to set an obtainable expectation, Super Mario Odyssey would certainly meet it.