Nintendo Switch Review: Super Mario Odyssey
It has been a remarkable year for the Nintendo Switch since its launch in March 2017, and Super Mario Odyssey is one highly anticipated game that gamers were looking forward to. Nintendo has been going through a renaissance following the dismal performance of the Wii U. Mario games are always a significant milestone as there is often only one released per console.
Story and Gameplay
A little unspectacular in how Mario games go, but once again *drumroll* Bowser has captured Princess Peach. But this time around, he is planning to force Peach to marry him on the Moon, and the Mario needs to travel the world visiting different kingdoms to stop the wedding! In order to get to the Moon, Mario encounters Cappy, who is similarly trying to rescue his sister Tiara from Bowser. Princess Peach and Tiara, get it? Heh.
Cappy is a hat with special powers, he seems to have a body that somewhat resembles a Boo, but he allies himself with Mario. By default, Cappy appears in the form of Mario's hat, but later on he can take different forms of caps that can be purchased from the Crazy Cap stores, along with different outfits for Mario. There are a few missions that require special caps and outfits, but for the most part they are just for aesthetics, that allow you to dress up Mario the way you like, or to fit the theme of a level.
Cappy's main function is to be thrown as a projectile, which lets him "capture" some enemies, allies and objects. Capturing something gives Mario a special ability, and is needed to complete certain tasks in the game. As you play and explore, you will find yourself throwing Cappy at almost everything to see what you can capture, and there are often surprises!
Super Mario Odyssey has been described by the developers as a "sandbox style" game, similar to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. SMO is indeed a game with wide open worlds, and the game mechanics are quite close to Super Mario Galaxy, but it is far less linear. Each kingdom that you will encounter is unique and has different themes. For example, there is the bustling and busy New Donk City in Metro Kingdom with yellow taxis and the dinosaur themed Cascade Kingdom. There is no real concept of an overworld like in Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy, but most kingdoms have a lot of open space where you can roam around and perfect Mario and Cappy's moves.
One of the main goals is to collect Power Moons to power up the Odyssey, which is the hat-shaped ship that flies Mario and Cappy around the world. Power Moons are all over the place, some are just out in the open, hidden in the ground, from enemies, from mini-games, to traditional platforming challenges. The gamer is empowered as there is often is no specific order to collect moons, it's flexible and you can play the way you like to play. Once you become immersed into the game you will naturally gain a sense of curiosity to check corners, and climb up walls to find moons. For the most part, kingdoms are very large vast areas, but many moons are much shorter side quests that can be consumed in shorter gameplay sessions.
There are numerous sections in the game that feature 2D segments where Mario entirely turns 2D and resembles his look from the Super Mario Bros. from the NES. Mario enters these areas from a 2D blocky pipe which is a nice touch. These areas are a nice little throwback that bring out nostalgic feelings. Interestingly, the 2D segments are the only place you encounter Koopa Troopas as enemies, as in the rest of the game, Koopas only appear as NPCs hosting mini games.
The concept of coins has also changed. There are now two currencies, regular yellow coins, and purple region coins - that are often in harder to find places. Region coins are only valid in a given kingdom and can be spent on caps and outfits at the regional Crazy Cap store. Yellow coins can be spent at any "regular" Crazy Cap store. Also, there are no longer "lives" in the game, instead when Mario dies he loses 10 yellow coins and reappears at a nearby hidden checkpoint. This is a welcome change, as the concept of lives is essentially meaningless in modern age video games.
The controls in Super Mario Odyssey are fairly similar to the SM64/SMS/SMG games. There are the typical familiar moves such as long jump, wall jump, double/triple jump and ground pound. Thankfully, Mario runs by default using the main analog control stick, unlike the Super Mario 3D Land/World games which required a run button. The camera controls are smooth with the second control stick, and overall the camera is far less of a hindrance compared to past 3D Mario platformers.
The main new mechanic in Super Mario Odyssey is the ability to throw Cappy, this can be done by pressing the Y button, or using motion control. The Switch controllers aren't perfect, but still have a much higher sensitivity compared to what was found on the Wii and Wii U. It's possible to throw Cappy left, right, up or down by simply doing a motion. A second motion while Cappy is thrown will "flick" Cappy to the nearest object, such as an enemy, in case the throw was not spot on.
Super Mario Odyssey supports both Joy-cons and the Switch Pro Controller. Both feature the Switch's much touted HD rumble, where the controller has different levels of vibration during the game. These vibrations are frequently used as hints during your exploration. When using Joy-cons it's best to play in the split mode, however the Pro Controller is far more comfortable for longer play sessions.
Super Mario Odyssey delivers outstanding graphics on the modest Nintendo Switch console. The game is very vibrant and colourful, and there is a great amount of detail in both the textures and the kingdoms that Mario explores. For the most part, the game runs at a smooth 60 FPS in both portable and docked modes, allowing the player excellent precision during play. One flaw is that there are a few areas in the game where there is notable slow down when there are a lot of objects on the screen at a given time.
There are great tunes can be found in the Super Mario Odyssey, and the background music is memorable and suits the theme of each kingdom, but it doesn't match the orchestral sets found in Super Mario Galaxy. Of course, there are many remixed Mario tunes as well, and they surely would bring back great memories. As there is no voice acting, each character that you can talk to in the game seems makes its own unique "sound", which is a nice touch. The theme song "Jump Up, Super Star" is a great track and aligns with the upbeat mood of the game.
Gameplay (cont'd) and Replay Value
The main mission in Super Mario Odyssey offers a fair challenge, but by no means it is very difficult, especially for those who have played 3D Mario games in the past. But even new gamers can easily pick up the skills as there are a lot of hints, in-game tips and tutorials to help you along your way.
We are probably used to 120 stars/shines from the other Mario platformers, but in Super Mario Odyssey there are hundreds of power moons to collect. The quantity of moons may sound very tedious and overwhelming, but going through the game, it's a pleasure and not a chore. Only a small percentage of moons are required, but Mario fans would definitely want to go for more than the basics, as all the kingdoms have significant depth to explore.
There is also a co-op mode where one player controls Mario and the other controls Cappy. While it is great in that it allows 2 players to play simultaneously, the game is a little awkward with this scheme. Mario moves normally, however Cappy essentially is free roam, which can help with some tasks and mini games. Super Mario 3D World provided a much more enjoyable co-op mode, however the style of game was totally different, and Super Mario Odyssey doesn't quite offer that type of experience - it is far better suited as a one player exploration game.
One nice extra is the ability to take snapshots during Mario's adventure. It's possible to freeze frame the picture, adjust the camera and also add filters in order to make a postcard-esque image. Since the Switch has a built in screenshot button, it allows for easy sharing of pictures to social media. Just like how in real life, people send postcards from places they visit, here you can make postcards of where you visit in the game.
Super Mario Odyssey is an outstanding game, one of the best video games ever created, there is so much to see, so much to do, and there is all sorts of creativity packed throughout the game that will give a "wow" factor, not only that, it's super fun to play, and as such it's a must-have game for any Nintendo Switch owner.