It’s been a while since we’ve had a full 3D Mario adventure. While Super Mario 3D World on Wii U was great fun for what it was trying to be, many Nintendo fans were still clamoring for a full 3D adventure in the same vein as games like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. Well, the wait is over because Super Mario Odyssey is here, bringing back that 3D Platforming Collectathon goodness fans have been wanting.
Story and Presentation
Mario games have never been known for their deep and sophisticated story lines, and it’s really no different here. It’s the same general song and dance as Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach for the 86 millionth time and Mario must once again save her. It’s really what we all expect at this point, however, Bowser’s plan is a bit different than usual. This time around, Bowser actually plans on marrying Peach. Yes, after all these years, he’s finally ready to tie the knot (unless you count Super Paper Mario).
His big plan involves traveling to different kingdoms and stealing each of their precious treasures, which are all wedding related items like a ring, bouquet and wedding cake. He’s also getting help from his wedding planners, The Broodals, who’re ready to stop anyone who gets in the way of the wedding. That person getting in the way is, of course, our hero Mario. With the help of his new pal Cappy, whose sister Tiara was also kidnapped by Bowser, he and Mario journey across kingdoms in their airship The Odyssey to put a stop to Bowser’s plans.
While for the most part, it’s a pretty basic Mario story we’re all familiar with, I found myself a lot more invested than usual. There’s just something about the idea of Bowser actually marrying Peach that feels more grandiose than past games’ circumstances, hell, even more so than saving the galaxy believe it or not. Peach getting kidnapped usually just feels like an excuse to go on another adventure and she’s typically the last thing on my mind when playing. Odyssey actually managed to make me feel really invested in saving her unlike any other Mario game before it. The way events are presented as you see Bowser’s wedding plans getting closer and closer to being complete works exceptionally well.
Presentation doesn’t end with story, as this game’s overall look is amazing. This is definitely the best looking Mario game to date with an excellent use of vibrant colors and lighting, more detailed textures on Mario, fluid and bouncy character animations and wonderfully creative environments. The game also runs at 60fps both in TV and Handheld mode.
There’s a large variety of colorful characters in Odyssey, both old and new. From hat spirits to mechanical watering cans, it’s great to see the developers still have plenty of new ideas for Mario characters, be it friend or foe. This also goes for the kingdoms in Odyssey. I’m sure some have gotten tired of the usual grass worlds, sand worlds, cloud worlds, etc in Mario. Well Odyssey says “Hey, why not mix it up? How about a prehistoric kingdom? A polygonal food kingdom? A city kingdom?” Even kingdoms that are based on old ideas have new and interesting twists to them. For example, we’ve all seen beach worlds before, but not one where the water is a carbonated beverage that fizzes every time you jump in. It’s these new ideas along with the overall bright and fun atmosphere in Odyssey that left a permanent smile on my face the entire play through.
Gameplay and Structure
As mentioned before, Odyssey is a return to the full 3D Platforming Collectathon adventures of games like Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy. You’ll be taken to different kingdoms each with a number of new MacGuffins to collect. In past games you were tasked with collecting Stars and Shine Sprites, but in Odyssey, it’s Power Moons. Power Moons power The Odyssey and a certain number of them are needed before going to the next kingdom.
There are WAY more Power Moons this time around than there ever where in past games. 120? Try well over 800, and they can be obtained in many different ways. Some Moons might just be hiding around a corner somewhere, some might be a reward for completing a platforming or obstacle challenge, some for helping someone out, or some for beating a boss or completing a story based event. The more event based Moons are the ones most reminiscent of Star and Shine Sprite missions in past games.
The sheer amount of Moons is one reason this game is structured a bit differently from past games as well. In past games, you’d go to a world and select the Star or Shine Sprite mission to complete it. However in Odyssey, you’re simply dropped into the kingdom and you start collecting Moons in any order at your own pace. When playing through the initial game, you will be encouraged to go for whatever event based Moon they have for you, but you’re still usually free to ignore it for now and collect other Moons you come across in the kingdom. Unlike past games, once you get a Moon, you aren’t booted out of the world and forced to re-enter. Once you get a Moon, you can just keep going and going. After all, with just how many Moons there are, it’d be beyond annoying if you were kicked out every single time. It’s a great modernization of the collectathon formula, but it does have one down side. Because you can’t select Moons to complete like past games, once you complete an event based Moon, you can’t redo it in quite the same way again on that save file. Luckily, boss fights themselves (which are linked to many event based Moons) can be re-fought after the first time. Good thing too, because Odyssey has some pretty great (albeit fairly easy) boss fights.
Now this new structure in MacGuffin collecting just makes it all the more addicting to scour each kingdom for every Moon. On my initial play through, I couldn’t help myself from going off the main path to look for Moons because I thought I saw something suspicious in the distance. Before moving onto the next kingdom, I’d keep collecting more and more Moons until they started getting really hard to find. In many ways, it felt similar to that adventurous and curious spirit I felt when playing Breath of the Wild, just on a smaller scale. While it probably won’t take you very long to beat the main game, finding every Moon is a whole new beast to tackle that’ll add a LOT more hours to your playtime. Even with how thorough I thought I was in every kingdom, after beating the game and seeing how many more Moons I had left to collect, I realized I wasn’t even close to being finished.
But collecting Moons wouldn’t be fun if playing Mario wasn’t as well, right? Well I’m happy to say that controlling Mario feels great. He’s just as responsive and acrobatic as ever. He has his classic moves that originated form 64 along with some new tricks, like Rolling. Now Mario can harness his inner Sonic rolling around at the speed of sound as he builds up momentum and speed going down hills and slopes (unfortunately you can’t kill enemies this way). His main way of attacking this time around is by throwing his cap. He can even keep the cap held in place and jump on it afterwards to reach higher areas or get across gaps.
The biggest new feature in Odyssey is the CAPture ability (I see what they did there). With the help of Cappy, Mario can now possess…er, I mean Capture different enemies and objects. Once Captured, you have full control over whatever it is. There are many different things to Capture and Mario can use their abilities to get past otherwise impassable obstacles or just mess around with them. After all, there’s just something so fun about walking around the kingdom as a Goomba with a hat and mustache while scaring people. Another addition is Mario’s ability to go all retro 8-bit whenever he enters a special blocky pipe. It puts Mario flat on a particular surface where he must go through a usually brief 2D platforming section. They’re neat little moments that really remind me of A Link Between Worlds, though with less freedom on when and where you can do it.
Also, since you’ll be traveling to many different kingdoms with their own environments and culture, why not dress for the occasion? Yes, in Odyssey, you can use coins and special kingdom currency to buy and dress Mario in different outfits. Some are themed after that specific kingdom while others can be callbacks to outfits Mario has worn in the past. For once in a mainline Mario game, you can actually use those coins to buy stuff. Dying in Odyssey will take away 10 coins each time, however you can recover the money so easily it’s hardly a punishment. The only true punishment for dying is simply having to start over from the last checkpoint, which more often than not isn’t too big a deal (unless it’s a particularly long obstacle course with no checkpoint).
Super Mario Odyssey is exactly what we needed from Mario on the Switch. A big new adventure that’s just pure fun. With many interesting environments to see, the fun new Capture ability, fun and inventive challenges and a TON of things to collect, it’s an addicting new entry that you’ll have trouble putting down. Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute system seller that should be in any Switch owner’s library.
An incredibly fun new adventure with wonderful environments, fun challenges, and plenty to collect. Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute system seller that should be in any Switch owner's library.