Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) Review
Nintendo calls Super Mario Odyssey the return of the sandbox Mario, but Odyssey goes one further. Odyssey is a return to form for Mario after a few years of, still great, but iterative games. Not since the Galaxy games have I felt Mario has been at the top of his game. While each game since has looked great, and played like a great Mario game, but it’s been a process to play. You knew what you were going to get with the New Super Mario Bros. games, and with 3D Land and 3D World it was the same. Odyssey is the first time in more than a decade that a Mario game has surprised me, wowed me and made me just want to spend my entire life in Mario’s world.
Odyssey harks back to the sandbox era Mario games, of which surprisingly there have only been two: Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. 64 is unequivocally one of the best games of all time and Sunshine divided fans but is loved by many now. So how do you top one of the best games of all time, and its “sequel”?
Super Mario Odyssey begins right in the thick of it; Bowser’s kidnapped Peach to be his bride and Mario’s hat has been destroyed. Not lost – destroyed entirely. Mario meets Cappy, a resident of the Cap Kingdom who teams up with Mario to take down Bowser, who is on a warpath across the globe trying to steal different items for his wedding. See what the price of weddings will do to people? I’m telling you…
Cappy isn’t just there to adorn Mario’s head either, he’s an integral part of the story and gameplay. Cappy can be used as a weapon, a platform to jump off and, more importantly, to possess and capture enemies, objects and items in the world to help Mario traverse the game’s various Kingdoms. The first thing you’ll capture is a frog which can jump high, followed by Chain Chomps to smash through walls, Moe-Eyes which can see invisible platforms, a big T-Rex for general butt-kicking and way more. Capturing isn’t just for moving around, as there are whole puzzles built around the single ability of some folk you can capture – you’ll need to capture as much as you can to find all the collectables each Kingdom has to offer.
Don’t stress though, Odyssey isn’t short – not at all. Once you finish a Kingdom story section, take a look at the lists of things to collect on the map – you’ll find that you’ll have only collected less than 20% of what the world has to offer. The amount of content in this game is immense, and it’s not just there to pad out gameplay. You’ll want to collect it all and explore these worlds.
Aside from all the capturing fun, Mario has his whole lineup of moves that you know and love, plus some new moves like a combat roll. Mario’s the most nimble he’s ever been, and the game feels a lot faster and less rigid than we’ve had in recent history.
Cappy is the main driver through the game’s story as well; he’ll push you along to try and get as many moons as possible in order to move through the worlds. Moons power everything in this world, including the titular Odyssey which has seen better days. You’ll need X number of moons to move on in each Kingdom, but unlike stars or shines, there are moons literally everywhere. Because you’re not starting a level and getting to a designated endpoint, you’ll come across moons all over the world. And you can collect them in really any order you want, aside from the “story” ones. When you reach a new kingdom there’s a section of story first and after that more Moons open up – you’ll be amazed just how quickly the moons rack up. The game moves at a tremendous pace. If you listen Cappy and just keep moving through the story, it’s possible to blow through it quicker than you like.
Don’t stress though, Odyssey isn’t short – not at all. Once you finish a Kingdom story section, take a look at the lists of things to collect on the map – you’ll find that you’ll have only collected less than 20% of what the world has to offer. The amount of content in this game is immense, and it’s not just there to pad out gameplay. You’ll want to collect it all and explore these worlds. Overall, the game’s difficulty won’t punish most Mario players, as the checkpoint system is generous and Nintendo have done away with the lives system. When you die, you’ll lose coins, but I’d be shocked if you ever reach zero. People always ask about post-game content in Mario games; most of the game will be “post-game” for a lot of people, there’s simply just so much do to – and there’s quite a bit I don’t want to talk about either, you need to see it for yourself.
Upon booting the game you’ll be recommended to play using the split Joy-Con method. In doing so, you have a greater control over Cappy’s more advanced moves. You’re not disadvantaged too much without the motion controls, because playing in handheld mode or with the Pro Controller is still great. However, Nintendo is right – there is more control over Cappy with the Joy-Con setup. Advanced players and speedrunners will no doubt want to play this way, but in my experience it really didn’t matter too much not using them. If you really hate motion controls you can turn them off completely. Odyssey has a bunch of different control options, unfortunately it doesn’t have full button remapping. Super Mario Odyssey is two player, but only one person can control Mario, while the second player controls Cappy. Admittedly, it’s better than the second player being relegated to pointing at the screen to collect items *cough* Galaxy *cough*.
Odyssey’s art direction is some of the greatest we’ve seen in not only a Mario game, but a Nintendo game overall.
Odyssey doesn’t just play great, it looks it too. Many people call the Switch underpowered, but when you play this game, you’re not going to even think about it because it just looks so good and runs terrific, in both handheld mode and when it’s docked. Odyssey’s art direction is some of the greatest we’ve seen in not only a Mario game, but a Nintendo game overall. Each world has a completely thought-out design, where the characters in them match their environment, plus there’s more effort put into how the Kingdoms each feel and come alive more than some in past games have at all.
The Kingdoms you’ve seen so far are just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s not just all cute and cuddly, New Donk City is something completely out of the blue and there’s a later kingdom that looks *from* some other game completely. Mario, Peach and Bowser, as well as rest of the characters, are animated more superbly than they’ve ever been. This is not just in cutscenes too, but in the way Mario reacts to the world and the situations he is in – this could be a standalone cartoon. The game’s soundtrack is up there as well, although there are a couple of tracks that feel a bit repetitive, but the rest of the game is sublime and there’ll be some new tracks here that will take their place up there with Mario’s classics.
Aside the from the main game, there are a number of distractions that you’re going to lose time to as well. Odyssey’s photo mode is something I wish I had in Breath of the Wild when it released. Including a range of crazy and artistic filters to edit your artwork, you can take all sorts of photos – even vertical photos for phone wallpapers! The photos are all taken in real time, so if you haven’t got Mario posing how you want, just flick back to the game instantly and then try again with your filters. I can’t wait for social media to be flooded with the awesome stuff I’m sure the community will come up with.
Odyssey’s photo mode is something I wish I had in Breath of the Wild when it released. Including a range of crazy and artistic filters to edit your artwork, you can take all sorts of photos – even vertical photos for phone wallpapers!
Other addtions include support for nearly every amiibo ever. You’ll want to meet Uncle amiibo who will unlock some zany costumes – seriously try every amiibo! If you don’t talk to Uncle amiibo you can still use the amiibo anytime by pressing right on the D-Pad. Some amiibo will give coins, others hearts, but it can be handy in a fight if you need a pick-me-up. Some Kingdoms also host mini-games, featuring their own online leaderboards as well. There are a number of high scores set already for that jump rope game that are just never going to be topped.
It would have been easy for Nintendo to fall back on a lot of nostalgia in Odyssey as well, but they haven’t, and the pockets of nostaliga that do exist are hidden away aside from few huge set pieces. I’m not going to spoil it, but if you’re a fan of Mario (who isn’t really), then you’ll feel the heartstrings being pulled here, at some stage of the game.
Nintendo has managed, not once, but twice now in 2017 to take one of their beloved franchises, give it a breath of fresh air while still retaining the core of what made the series great in the first time. Super Mario Odyssey is a wonder and shows everyone why Mario is still king.
- Super Mario 64 all grown up
- Brilliantly presented in all facets
- Cappy is great addition to the Mario universe
- Will be easy for some
- Switch fan spins up something fierce docked