When I first put Super Mario Odyssey into my Switch, I was skeptical. I had played Super Mario Sunshine this past summer, and was unimpressed. The game was very unresponsive and many levels were poorly designed. When I heardthat Super Mario Odyssey was like the “classics” Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, I had a feeling that I would have to give it a not-so-great review. Good thing for me, Super Mario Odyssey fixed all the problems that Super Mario Sunshine flopped on.
A Step Above its Predecessors
Super Mario Sunshine was different because of its water jetpack. Used to attack enemies, fly high in the sky, and activate levers, the jetpack was clearly pushed as a crucial addition to Mario’s person. But the unresponsive controls, the slow movement speed, and the ability to skip some sections- there were many shines that I skipped my way to- killed all of my interest in the device.
The “gimmick” of Super Mario Odyssey is Cappy, Mario’s hat with eyes. But Cappy is more than just a gimmick. Whether you’re controlling Cappy via split joy-con, using the surprisingly responsive motion controls, or just pressing the Y button, Cappy is what sets Super Mario Odyssey above and beyond the previous Super Mario games. Unlike the jet nozzle from Super Mario Sunshine, Cappy’s many different types of movements all feel fluid and precise. The surrounding levels are built around this newfound movement style of Mario’s.
Each level has a well-crafted theme, be it the woods, an ocean, a desert, or New Donk City, the Mario equivalent of New York. Every level is clearly distinct and separate from each other, creating the sense of going on a new adventure with each passing world. The worlds feel fleshed out, and I went out of my way may times just to check if there was any hidden surprise waiting me for walking around that corner (and there usually was).
The design of the worlds isn’t the only thing special about them. Each world has a load of fresh, interesting activities to do. In one world, I was racing in a time trial versus Koopas; in another, I was racing an RC car on a track. Activities like this are scattered around the world and add a sense of charm that other open world adventure games lack. The game’s diversity is something to marvel. The game has many 2D sections that hearken back to the original Super Mario Bros., just as Breath of the Wild reminded so many of us of the original Legend of Zelda. The six years spent working on this game after the completion of Super Mario Galaxy 2 led to the most expansive and intriguing Mario title to date.
An Adventure to Behold
The game itself runs at a beautiful 60 frames per second. Going back and playing Zelda at 30 frames per second just doesn’t feel right anymore. The worlds all look fabulous. And the cartoonish graphics perfectly hide the image quality, even when 720p on handheld mode.
A controversial move made with this latest installment of Mario is the near elimination of lives. With each death only resulting in a loss of 10 coins, it’s clear that the lead designers of the game wanted to move past the lives system of previous Mario games. The negligible penalty for death caused me to take more risks, discover more things about the world, and find surprises that I never would have.
With Super Mario 64, we got stars. With Super Mario Sunshine, we got Shines. And now, we get… moons. But instead of being only for objectives, moons are much more common. Kick a rock, moon. Stomp the ground, moon. These little challenges to get an abundant reward like moons reminds me a lot of the Korok Seeds from Breath of the Wild. Completionists will have even more of a blast with this game than all the other previous sandbox Mario titles. Because the game is very open in each of its levels, it is packed to the brim with moons.
And that’s what makes Super Mario Odyssey special; it’s not an open world game. Sure, you can go anywhere you want within the world, but the game directs you on where to go. There are still objectives for each world, and the worlds are kept separate. But that only accentuates the game even more. The worlds get to be their own little adventure, with its own little discoveries to unfold. Not every game can be, or should be, Breath of the Wild. And Mario benefits from not being that.
It’s not every day that I get to experience a game as good as Super Mario Odyssey. The game screams quality from the top to the bottom. Every single moment of this game felt amazing, the kind of game that future titles in a variety of genres look to for inspiration. This game alone is worth picking up a Nintendo Switch right now, if you haven’t already.