I’ve spent my entire life playing virtually every Mario title known to man, so you can understand my level of excitement and anticipation for Super Mario Odyssey. However, part of me still wondered if Super Mario Odyssey would be able push the genre further and evolve upon itself. I can happily report that it does that with ease.
Super Mario Odyssey begins with the usual and expected cut scenes involving some form of kidnapping by Bowser and his minions. Yes, Princess Peach has once again been captured and is off to get married against her will and hopefully Mario can save the day. It’s an all too familiar story, but one that really isn’t important to the game at all. What is important to Super Mario Odyssey is of course exploring the vast and glorious worlds and progressing towards the final boss battles which have always been the tried and trusted formula of Mario titles and I am completely fine with that.
Your game continues after the cut scenes and introductions in a world that’s rather dark and gloomy called Cap Kingdom. It is here that you meet Cappy who is also in a similar position to that of Mario, with his sister Tiara who has also been captured by Bowser. Together you team up to take on Bowser and save your loved ones, however not in the way you would assume this to be. Cappy doesn’t just sit in your pocket and tag along for the journey, oh no, Cappy becomes an extremely integral part of the game that is considered one of the biggest changes to the Mario formula. Cappy replaces Mario’s hat which can be thrown towards enemies. In fact, Mario’s cap can be used to take out your enemies, or perhaps take control of your enemies or just used as an extra platform to jump on, the choices vary.
Early on as you discover how Cappy can aid your adventure and the first instance of this is when you use your cap to take over the mind of a frog. Mario essentially becomes the frog and inherits his capabilities and can jump extremely high and of course just as far. In fact almost every enemy type can be controlled with Mario’s cap, from Bullet Bill to a Caterpillar, T-Rex and more. There is no limit as to what you can try which makes Super Mario Odyssey extremely fun and dynamic also. Each enemy you consume offers varying move sets ranging from excessive jumps, to swimming under the sea or perhaps floating in the air and or charging through mountain rocks with T-Rex. There is just so much to explore here which is great and an extremely valuable new addition to the formula.
Your goal of course in Super Mario Odyssey aside from saving Princess Peach and Tiara, is to travel the world. However the only way to travel requires the use of Power Moons which must be collected in order to power up the Odyssey and these are of course scattered around each world with some easily visible to others near impossible to find. However that’s the beauty with a game like Super Mario Odyssey is the ability to just do the bare minimum to proceed or go all out in search of every single power moon should you dare.
One of the new dynamics that I absolutely fell in love with was the nod to games from the past, especially Super Mario Brothers the original. At certain parts of various levels you have the ability to enter a warp pipe which then transitions you onto a wall in 2D style. From there you can explore that particular area and collect your coins and ultimately a power moon for your efforts. It’s absolutely fantastic as to the way this has been implemented and these short 8-bit trips down memory lane wound up being one of the things I enjoyed the most which must be commended as a great addition to the gameplay mechanic.
There are a host of worlds to explore in Super Mario Odyssey some 16 or so, not to mention there would no doubt be additional worlds that are rewarded to you depending on how many power moons you have collected, but I won’t spoil that here. However, it’s definitely worth trying to find all of those power moons and many of these will be extremely challenging and rewarding also. Many of the worlds you visit are as you’d expect, from the snowy mountains to the sunny desert sands, the lush forests and beautiful beaches, it’s all here. However one world I would never have expected the franchise to attempt to tackle was of course New Donk City, aka to that of GTA V so to speak, Mario was amongst the people. Initially I was a little wary of such a change to the formula, however after completing this particular level it almost went down as one of my most favourite thus far, it was really that good.
As you progress through each world in Super Mario Odyssey you will collect the standard mushroom kingdom issued gold coins which can be used in the main shops on each level to buy various items, including health and power moons to boot. Also, unique to each level is a bright purple coin, although each are shaped differently and are essentially a secondary form of currency that can only be earnt and spent in that particular level only. I purchased a new outfit, sporty bathers and of course a Famicom hat to boot, there’s quite a lot to choose from and makes the coin collecting fun.
Each of the worlds boss fights in all honesty felt rather simple and suffer from the same 3 hits and you’re out policy which doesn’t make the boss fights feel like much of a challenge at all. I would have liked to see the difficulty here increased with some more thought put into the boss fights as you never once really feel threatened or worried in the slightest. However that’s about the only negative that I can fault here with Super Mario Odyssey.
Graphics and Sound
Super Mario Odyssey is absolutely wonderful whether you are playing on a TV screen or in handheld mode, the colours are vibrant and the game runs silky smooth at 60fps in either mode. However, I personally played the majority of the game in docked mode and on my TV screen. The reason for this was I just couldn’t appreciate the vast depth of the world and its size on such a small screen, it deserves more than that, and you just can’t see the fine details when in handheld mode. The sound also is as you would hope and expect, absolutely brilliant. During New Donk City you’ll hear the Super Mario Odyssey jingle which just fits so perfectly well that will have you running, jumping and singing along.
I’ve waited a long time for a sandbox style Mario game since the days of Mario 64 that could truly impress as well as push the boundaries forward in terms of gameplay. But that wait is over with Super Mario Odyssey which manages to once again reset that bar in terms of quality, game design and innovation. Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute gem to play and is indeed a definitive reason to own a Nintendo Switch. This is Mario at his best and you don’t want to miss that!