The Simple Magic of Super Mario Odyssey

The Simple Magic of Super Mario Odyssey

Rejoice once again, Nintendo fans, because the year is 2017 and there are two Nintendo games which are legitimate candidates to be selected as game of the year. The release of the Nintendo Switch back in March was graced with the majesty of Link’s newest adventure in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While that game shook the industry with all kinds of accolades, it wasn’t long before many started labeling it a possible game of the year. But now it is November and we have another game which might steal that away from Link, Zelda, and Calamity Ganon: Super Mario Odyssey.

When you’re talking Mario games, you’re talking quality. Even when discussing the plumber’s less-than-stellar outings (I’m looking at you, New Super Mario Bros. Wii.), the games are still on the better side of the spectrum. However, when you talk of Mario’s greatest outings you start bringing up all time classics, including Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES, Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii (among others).

So where does the Switch’s Super Mario Odyssey fit in this echelon of greatness?

As it turns out, pretty damn close to the top.

Odyssey is much like previous Mario games, specifically previous 3D Mario games. Not being limited to solely moving left to right, Mario’s movement is much like it was in Super Mario 64, allowing for full three dimensional movement in a fully 3D space. The previous game in the series, the Wii U’s Super Mario 3D World, allowed for full 3D movement, but you were always limited to the confines of whatever stage you were playing. Super Mario Odyssey throws you into a world and you are free to go and explore anywhere you want. The open world roaming allows for all kinds of adventuring, not that different from the Switch’s other heavy hitter Breath of the Wild.

Also coming back to the 3D style of game is Mario’s impressive repertoire of jumps and movements. Triple jumps, long jumps, side flips, back flips, and diving are your basics this time around. If you’ve played a previous 3D Mario game you know what you’re getting in to here. With decades of experience behind them, Nintendo has refined how 3D platforming should be handled, and Odyssey capitalizes on everything that makes the genre excellent.

On the surface Odyssey is akin to these past, cherished games. But beneath the surface Odyssey makes a name for itself. At the forefront of these changes are Cappy, Mario’s new sidekick who takes on the form of the plumber’s hat (yet another connection to the Zelda franchise in The Minish Cap). Cappy allows you to jump inside and control a wide variety of things, which act as this game’s powerups. Flick Cappy at a Goomba and now you’re running around as the series staple enemy. Some enemies give you access to their unique abilities like the Fire Bros. use of Fire Flower powers, or a tank’s ability to shoot destructive shells to devastate the environment. Other objects you can take control of are used more for exploration, like a set of binoculars which let you peer through most of the entire level, and a power line which allows you to quickly move from one area to another. These takeovers are integral to Odyssey’s core gameplay. Thankfully they are fun (for the most part) and exciting to use.

Remember when Bowser kidnapped Peach in {insert Mario game here} and you had to collect a set number of Stars/Shine Sprites in order to battle the dastardly Koopa and free the princess? Yeah, the same thing has somehow happened again in Super Mario Odyssey. Instead of Stars though, you get to collect… wait for it… MOONS! And hot damn do you collect Moons. The game has somewhere near 900 total Moons (I’ve only collected a few hundreds as of this writing), shooting miles past any previous game’s collection goals. That being said, most of the Moons are incredibly easy to obtain. Sometimes you can find a Moon by doing basic Mario stuff, like ground pounding a shining spot on a hill. Every zone you’re in is completely open to be explored as you see fit, and unlike other games when you collect a Moon you aren’t kicked out of the stage and forced to reenter to get the next Moon. No, you can collect as many Moons as you’d like before turning them in and journeying onward. In general it’s more of the same you’ve come to expect from a 3D Mario game, but not all that challenging.

Which brings me to the only criticism I have for this game.

It’s pretty easy.

Taking away the Moons which are gimmies, the challenge from Odyssey comes from the sheer magnitude of stuff to collect. There are hundreds of Moons, dozens of fun outfits to unlock, and plenty of corners of every world to explore. None of it, though, is that hard. If you have any sort of prior Mario skills you’ll breeze right through most of what the game has to offer. Granted, there are much more difficult Moons to collect later on, but for the alumni of the franchise Odyssey will be a cakewalk.

And it’s hard to get mad at Nintendo for this. Afterall, who doesn’t like cake?! Especially when it is this polished and fun. In the dozen or so hours I’ve put in to the game, I was never NOT having fun. Sure, Moons are easy to collect, but I had a smile on my face each time I got one. Yeah, it’s the same story for the most part, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. And this is the right choice for Nintendo: those of us who grew up on Mario games will be full of nostalgia playing Odyssey, while new gamers can experience the magic that is Mario’s simple yet fantastic concepts.

Think of it this way: do you remember the first time you played a Mario game? Which game was it? Is there any Mario game since then you enjoyed as much? Why did you enjoy it?

I would venture to guess it’s because you saw elements in the new game that you enjoyed from the older game. This is the entire basis of Nintendo’s philosophy with Mario games: expand on the gamers’ memories of Mario by making what they want and simultaneously creating a new starting point for the next generation. It’s essentially the Call of Duty model, but actually loved by gamers.

What do you think about Super Mario Odyssey? I am in love with the adventure and can’t wait to start picking up the last few (hundred) Moons. Here’s hoping they add more costumes in a future update, perhaps cameo costumes unlocked with amiibo!


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I've been writing about video games for years and playing them even longer. You'll find me playing all types of games, old and new. Mega Man III is greater than Mega Man II.

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