Here we go…
Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch
What else can be said of Super Mario Odyssey (SMO) that hasn’t already been said about cute baby animals, a cup of hot cocoa on a snowy day, and unexpectedly finding $10 in your back pocket. It’s adorable, heartwarming, comforting, and just an absolute joy to play. Super Mario Odyssey sees the series return to the collect-a-thon/3D platformer genre that it, itself pioneered, and once again, Mario is setting the flag up high for others to follow.
Let’s start with Cappy, by far the most game-changing aspect of Super Mario Odyssey. The existence of this living hat is what sets SMO apart from other recent 3D Mario games, and it completely transforms the way Mario is played. Platforming is still a major part of the game, but it’s equally driven by utilizing the enemies/objects that Mario can control with Cappy which grants him new powers in addition to playing as regular ol’ Mario.
At first, my fear was that this would be a gimmick that would get old by the end of the game, and I’d prefer to just stick to the classic gameplay that I’m comfortable with. However, each kingdom offers something new to control that enhances the gameplay in that world. Such as chubby Woodpecker-like birds that can allow Mario to propel up walls or Wiggler-like caterpillar enemies that can allow Mario to get super long and stretchy and reach far away platforms. Some are admittedly more interesting to control than others though, and this unevenness is something that will rear its head again when it comes to the game’s worlds. Still, despite this very small gripe, Cappy adds a ton of value to Super Mario Odyssey. As a purist who still adores Super Mario 64’s unsullied gimmick-free platforming, I was shocked with how much I enjoyed using Cappy.
Super Mario Odyssey’s content is driven through a new story angle where Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach (that’s not the new part hang on), to marry her on a faraway kingdom, and Mario has to adventure through brand new kingdoms outside of the traditional Mushroom Kingdom to catch them. That’s why in promotional materials you see Mario in bizarre looking worlds that resemble New York City for example (New Donk City).
This, too, is another brave step forward that Nintendo nailed for the most part. The best kingdoms are among the best worlds ever crafted in the genre, with an enhanced narrative not seen all that often in Mario games. The ending to New Donk City’s (Metro Kingdom’s) story sequence comes to mind as one of the most memorable and touching moments in a Mario game ever.
There are a TON of Moons (think Stars) to collect in Super Mario Odyssey and the vast majority of the Kingdoms in the game feature an excellent mix of easy Moons to get you through the story and more challenging ones that reward a skilled/thoughtful player with total completion on their mind. Speaking of difficulty, Super Mario Odyssey strikes a perfect chord. Playing through the game’s linear story has just enough challenging moments to not get boring for veterans, but for younger/inexperienced players, it isn’t too intimidating especially when you factor in hints from a Toad that can be bought with easily obtainable Yellow Coins, as well as the game’s assist mode. Without spoiling what happens, the veterans that breeze through the game’s campaign will have plenty more challenging activities to take on if they want to see all the secrets SMO has to offer with their own eyes. This makes up for the times where I felt that campaign was a little too linear for my liking, as I was stuck in worlds that just weren’t as fun to be in as others.
Kingdoms like Seaside and Luncheon (at least to me) were some standouts that I couldn’t get enough of. However, there are a few that you will come across on your journey that felt undercooked compared to the high points. I’ll admit that it’s a little nitpicky since even the “worst” worlds are better than a lot of games’ best, but it’s not always smooth sailing for Super Mario Odyssey. Once you complete the game, fully repair the Odyssey, and begin a new adventure of exploring every nook and cranny you can, some of the other worlds open up a bit more, which alleviates a lot of the linearity and unevenness issues the game has during the initial playthrough.
Trying to top some of the legendary 3D Mario games of years ago is a nearly impossible task. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is the grandest and best Mario adventure to date. That said, the addition of Cappy makes Super Mario Odyssey stand out on its own and is certainly the freshest Mario game we’ve seen in years in terms of both gameplay and narrative. So even with some blemishes, Super Mario Odyssey has established itself as an iconic 3D platformer of this current generation that should not be skipped by any Nintendo Switch owners.
Score: 5/5 – Exemplary
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