Overall score 100

I’ve been excited for Super Mario Odyssey once it was properly unveiled at the Nintendo Switch Presentation earlier this year. A return to the open 3D formula that was last seen in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine was more than enough to get me excited. All that excitement just grew once more of the game was shown at E3 and we saw the new abilities Mario gained with his new cap friend. As more info of the game was shared, it started to become more clear that this game had the potential to be something special. Part of me was kind of worried though. There was a lot of build up leading to this release, and I feared that somehow it might not live up to that heavy expectation. Whenever Nintendo releases a new Mario platformer, it can be quite the big event. Super Mario Odyssey is no different, but it also felt more so this time around since the Nintendo Switch just released and was doing surprisingly well, and also a new Zelda game that wowed many was also released not too long ago. Once I started up Super Mario Odyssey though, all those doubts were laid to rest and all I felt from then on was just pure joy.

THE GOOD: If you loved the style of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, then you’re going to enjoy what Super Mario Odyssey brings to the table. Once I was able to take control of Mario, it all felt very familiar. The triple jump was there, the long jump was there, things you remember doing in Super Mario 64 were there. The more I played though, I also begun to realize just how much was also added. This is by far the best Mario in terms of movement. Lots of moves are immediately available for Mario to pull off from the start. Most of it is not even formally introduced to you either, as the tutorials in the game are fairly small and you just jump right into things. There is a way to view the basic moves that Mario is capable of and once you become familiar with it, you can begin to see just how advanced in movement you can get with Mario.

The range of movement also leads to a huge part of what makes Super Mario Odyssey great. That part being how open everything is in this game. Power Moons are the equivalent of Stars or Shines in this game and the worlds you visit are full of them. They range from fairly easy ones, as they’re just laying there out in the open. To some more difficult ones that are tucked away in their own challenge room or well hidden that it takes some extra thinking to uncover. The beauty of it all is how they’re laid out too. For many of these moons, there’s more than one way to get them. Some you may even find by accident. You can see a moon in the distance and how you get there is up to you. This also applies to just getting around in general. You can see the clear path forward, but you’re not limited to go that way. By using the wide range of movements available to Mario, there are so many possibilities out there.

That only becomes much more open once you apply the capture ability that Mario is capable of. Thanks to Mario’s new hat friend, he has the ability to capture an enemy and make use of their abilities. From familiar enemies like the Goomba, to new ones like a frog or a walking onion-like creature. Some of these enemies can then be used to help you further explore a level, like how the frog can offer you a much higher jump than just regular Mario. The levels that feature these enemies are also built so well around them that these new abilities that you gain can be pretty crucial to your progression. There’s not too huge of a reliant on them though, as you’re still playing a lot of the game as Mario.

Back to the topic of Power Moons. The huge kicker to it all is that once you collect a moon, you don’t exit the world you’re in. Things continue to go from there. So you’re truly collecting these moons in a world and not just constantly going through them from a level select screen. This really opens up the game as there’s no slow down and you’re just constantly moving forward. There are main objectives present in a level, in which completing them will change parts of the world. So there’s still some of that dynamic level design that was seen in previous 3D Mario titles. Since there are a lot of moons to find in this game, having no big interruptions between your discoveries just leads to constant satisfaction. It really helps the game flow better.

There’s also the story which only added to my overall enjoyment of the game. Kind of surprising since the Mario games aren’t too well known for their story. It’s the usual stuff too, Bowser kidnaps Peach and this time he’s planning a wedding for the two of them. Mario tries to intervene but loses in the process. That’s where he meets up with Cappy, who is also pursuing Bowser in order to save his sister. The two team up and Cappy becomes Mario’s new hat on his journey. You would normally think that the rest will play out as it usually does. You save Peach and it’s a happy ending. For the most part, it can certainly feel that way. However, the game goes places that will surprise any long time Mario fan and you can’t help but feel lots of emotions towards it. I felt confused on some parts, surprised with others, sad at times, and happiness in a lot of them. It can be quite the journey, and I was just blown away by what was presented. Should also mention that there’s a minimum requirement needed to progress the game too, so if you just want to see the story play out, you can certainly focus on getting the moons needed or you can just try to get as many you would like. Also, there is plenty of stuff that will become unlocked after you finish the story, which gives you plenty to do.

The game also looks and runs great on the Nintendo Switch. I mostly played in docked mode and the game ran perfectly the whole time, aside from some minor slowdowns in a couple areas. The worlds you’re exploring all look great and are just full of color and life. The big highlight for me though is the music. It can be pleasant in some areas to very catchy in others. It’s all nicely orchestrated too and fits in well with the worlds you’re in. There are also a couple spots where the music will surprise you and you can’t help but feel lots of joy during these segments. Those moments are made quite memorable thanks to the music that accompanied them. Nintendo continues to take full advantage of what their system is capable of, and Super Mario Odyssey is just another example of the high quality and care Nintendo puts into their games.

Lots of other things to mention too. Like the retro-inspired segments that have you playing 8-bit Mario in 2D alongside the walls of levels were quite a treat to discover. The many costumes that you can unlock by collecting coins, which reference things from Mario’s history, were also neat. There’s also the fact that coins are actually important this time, since they are not only a form a currency, but you will lose 10 coins instead of a life whenever Mario falls off or takes too much damage. Then there’s the photo mode so can capture your favorite moments at any time or of just whatever you find interesting. There’s just lots of things to experience and lots of small details to discover, that the game becomes more and more of a treat as you continue to play.

There is also a 2-player mode in the game. It’s a co-op mode similar to the style seen in Super Mario Galaxy. One player will be Mario and the other will take control of Cappy. I don’t have much experience with this mode, but from what I’ve seen it’s not too bad. For most regular players out there, it probably won’t be anything too special. Certainly would’ve been nice to have a true co-op mode like the past 2D Mario games, where each player had full control of a character like Mario or Luigi. So this mode will be overlooked by most, but I’ve heard from many that it’s a decent mode if you’re like a dad wanting to play with their kid.

THE BAD: For as great as everything is, there are still a couple negatives. The first of which is the motion controls. Motion is present in the joy-cons, and it’s no surprise that Nintendo will find some way to utilize it in a game. Super Mario Odyssey is no different as several of Mario’s moves are tied to motion. Shake the controller and Mario can throw Cappy. Shake it while Mario is crouched and he’ll do a roll. Shake the controls upward and Mario will throw Cappy above him, or shake them to the side to have Cappy be thrown around Mario instead. This also applies to the things Mario can capture too, like the frog has a higher jump when the controller is shaken instead of having a button pressed. I’ve played the entire game with detached joy-cons and the motion stuff worked just fine for me with no trouble. However, when playing in handheld with the joy-cons attached to the system, motion can feel awkward. It can also feel that way with a pro controller. There are even those out there that aren’t into motion at all. Luckily, the abilities that are possible with motion aren’t entirely needed and you can still get through the game without performing any motion controls ever. The minor problem though is that some of the abilities that are tied to motion are actually quite useful to have. So you can’t help but feel like you’re missing out on some things by not using the motion. Some of the moves can be performed in alternate ways with sticks and buttons, but they never match the simplicity of waving the controller. This could’ve easily been remedied with an alternate option to have motion stuff be tied to a button, especially since a couple of the buttons already on the controller are just mirrored on others, like jump being mapped to the A and B button. Once again, nothing too major and you can still enjoy the game just fine without using motion, but some better alternatives would have been nice.

Next up is one that will vary from player to player. That’s with the overall difficulty of the game. Like I said, there are a lot of moons to collect in this game. Over 800 to find if you’re looking to get them all. As you’re collecting them all, you will certainly find many of them just laying there with not much challenge to get, even some that are repetitions of others. Like each world has a moon tied to a certain costume, a moon you buy from the shop, and several moons where you simply ground pound on a shiny spot. Looking at them all, it can seem disappointing. However, as someone who has found every moon in the game, the journey through it all and exploring the world to find them, was just a lot of fun and satisfying. Sure, I would have liked some extra challenge with a lot of the moons and even for some boss fights, but I still felt the challenge to be at a good level. Rarely have I felt frustrated at the game or that a death was unfair. I would even argue that much of the challenge comes from that sense of discovery and thinking on how to get certain moons that allude you. Also, after completing the main storyline of the game, a bunch of new challenges will show up and those levels will certainly test you. It is disappointing that the harder items are tied to after-story stuff, but those aiming to see everything there is in the game, will certainly be challenged. Like I said though, for some it may be easier than they would like, while others would just be having too much fun to even care.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: It’s been a few days since I’ve fully completed Super Mario Odyssey. I’ve collected all the moons, and completed all there is that can be completed. Not sure how long it took me to do so, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it. Even now, I still can’t stop thinking about that game. It even surprised me and created a moment I would never forget from a video game. It was just a simple scrolling of the credits, but the entire ending segment of the story just brought a lot of joy out of me. Then once the credits appeared, I couldn’t help but be in tears due to extreme happiness. Needless to say, I just want to experience more of this video game.

Super Mario Odyssey is something special and if you’ve longed for another Mario 64 experience, then this is what you’ve been waiting for. It scratches that itch by giving you something familiar, yet hitting you with plenty of new things and surprises that it becomes its own fresh experience. If you own a Nintendo Switch, you need to play this game. If you enjoy video games, Super Mario Odyssey is definitely worth checking out in any way you can. It’s just simple joy in its purest form and easily one of the best videos games I’ve ever played.

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