After years of waiting and months of hype and teasers, Nintendo has finally released Super Mario Odyssey, the latest in its line of Mario 3D platformers. After a weekend with the game, I can confirm that this title to totally worth the asking price (and more). The game is a groundbreaking title that pushes the boundaries of what a platformer can be in the modern era, and has a nice sliding scale of challenges that can satisfy both new and old Mario players.
Let’s dive into the specifics:
- I’ve started to worry recently about the difficulty levels of games, and how recent titles (Cuphead is a great example) skew so far towards towards the hard side that they close themselves off to new and inexperienced players. Nintendo, in contrast, has always tried to strike a balance between challenge and accessibility, and Super Mario Odyssey is a textbook example of this. The game certainly has some harder challenges that cater to veterans and completionists, but it also includes enough options (Assist Mode, some very easy-to-find Power Moons, Talkatoo and Uncle Amiibo, etc.) to allow any player to enjoy it regardless of their skill level. In-game deaths are a minor hassle with minimal state loss (although sometimes you respawn a long way from where you died), and the Action Guide guide gives people a quick way to see how to execute more-advanced maneuvers. (The random, unskippable tips offered while traveling between world are a bit much to me, but other players probably appreciate them.) In short, Super Mario Odyssey is as hard as you want it to be, and thus is appropriate for nearly ever type of gamer.
- After the last few titles I’ve played, I think it’s time to officially put to rest the notion that the Switch can’t delivery grade-A graphics. Odyssey looks AMAZING, with environments that pop with color and detail. The frame rate has been rock-solid thus far, and the NPC design (for both friends and foes) is more inspired than usual. The music also deserves props for how well is sets the atmosphere of each area.
- Most of the controls you know and love from past 3D Mario games have returned, and I’ve found the controls to be sufficiently tight and responsive. My only complaint here centers around the motion controls: They’re only really available (or only useful) in certain controller schemes, which makes playing Odyssey in handheld mode a bit of a pain. I found myself having to quickly shift to tabletop mode if I wanted to perform spin attacks and high jumps (along with other actions that I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers), which was more than a little awkward.
- The big new addition here is the capture ability, which allows Mario to possess NPCs and various other objects in order to use their unique abilities. This mechanic, in a word, is awesome: By allowing Mario to fly as a Paragoomba or wreak massive havoc as a T-rex, it opens up the levels to an unimaginable level of exploration. (While the game falls short of the climb-everything openness seen in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it comes pretty darn close.) There are also a bunch of new hat-throwing attacks and abilities, which feel so natural that you’re surprised they’ve never been added to a game before. In short, the game makes controlling Mario easy and fun.
- Nintendo seems to have a knack for including cool features that people didn’t know they needed beforehand. Who would have though dressing up Mario in different costumes or making instant memes through Snapshot Mode would be so much fun?
- I haven’t explored the amiibo functionality that much, but what I’ve seen is pretty cool: Not only can you get hints about where to search for hidden Power Moons, but certain amiibo will also give you classic costumes to wear! (Three words: Super Luigi Odyssey.) It’s a nice touch that further justifies all the money I spent on “Nintendolls”…
In short, Super Mario Odyssey is a fun, engrossing adventure for all ages that is worth every penny of its asking price. If you like platformers, you will absolutely love this game. Furthermore, if you don’t own a Switch, it’s time to consider getting one, because the lineup (Zelda, Splatoon, Mario, etc.) is getting too good to ignore.