It’s been a bloody good year for Nintendo, and I for one couldn’t be happier for them. Whilst I initial said the switch wouldn’t sell tremendously well, it looks like I may be being proven wholeheartedly wrong, which is a bloody good thing, as it means we get fantastic gems like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, all in the space of one year. The fact I’m comparing Super Mario Odyssey to easily my favourite game of 2017 in the same sentence show’s how fantastic it really is: Nintendo have made an absolutely stunning platformer, one I’ve gone back to so many times since completing it that I’ve put over 40 hours into it.
So, what is Super Mario Odyssey about? Well, as per always Peach is kidnapped (along with her new tiara hat that is sentient), with Mario being blasted out of the sky upon trying to rescue the Princess from her captor, Bowser. upon landing in a new, Tim Burton-esque world called hat land, marries happens upon a hat ghost that’s inhabited his fallen hat, and proceeds to use this new hat creature asap, finding he can use it to attack enemies, or even control other creatures. This random new mechanic is explained away within a millisecond, and is never explained much further, carrying on Nintendo’s long held trope of not really explaining much, but using it to death all the same.
Regardless of how weak the actual story is (there’s a couple of cutscenes along the way, with a lacklustre amount of narrative), the actual gameplay is what most (if not all) players are here for, and it has to be said that Super Mario Odyssey has some of the freshest platforming in the last few years. Not only does the new hat mechanic add so much to the way Mario navigates the world, it also changes the way the levels/ world is laid out.
You see, in Super Mario Odyssey you are taken to individual worlds that have multiple moons strewn throughout. These moons help power your craft for you to move onto the next world, but there’s nothing stopping you spending hours in one location picking up as many moons as possible. In fact, in the desert kingdom I done just that, spending the first 3-4 hours of the game gathering 80% of the moons available (around 70) before even heading onto the next world, meaning I was already way ahead of what the game anticipated.
This freedom is present throughout the whole game, and ties in perfectly to the structure of how Mario now plays. Throughout your first play through of the main levels you’re basically collecting brand new moons and progressing every couple of minutes. Everything’s so close together and (apparently) so easy to get that you start to feel Super Mario Odyssey is a little bit too easy. But continue to play the same levels, and you’ll notice the easy moons were purely there for the beginners of platformers, and to get you used to the mechanics of Mario.
As you start to accumulate 500+ moons (once you’ve completed the main story once), you notice that each moon is a challenge in themselves, some requiring knowledge about the world and it’s mechanics, with others requiring player skill in regards to controlling Mario. Regardless of whether you’re jumping across skyscrapers in a city, or running through time trials at breakneck pace, you consistently feel like you’re learning more and being pushed further than ever before. It’s an enthralling experience, and one that genuinely has you enticed well after the final moments of the campaign.
Graphically, as per Nintendo tradition the game is an absolute stunner to look at. It’s weird to say, especially given the limited power of the portable games console, but my god does the Nintendo Switch manage to deliver on some cinematic levels of quality! Trees, textures, enemies, everything in fact looks and animates delightfully, resulting in one of the most pixar-esque games to have come out of Nintendo for quite a while. I say that often, but it really is true – Nintendo’s graphical fidelity is as if you’re watching a pre-rendered movie in real time, and it’s an absolute delight to behold.
Level variation goes through the traditional standard formula of ice level, desert level, dark level etc, but unlike traditional platformers where your characters handling changes slightly based on the terrain, Super Mario Odyssey introduces new ai to control, as well as new environmental puzzles to master. Take for example the water level, where Mario still has an oxygen level. Using the new hate controlling mechanic, you’re able to take over fish, that can of course swim indefinitely. This new way of traversing the levels makes each one a delight to rediscover, especially when you’re hunting for ever more elaborate moons.
Whilst on the topic of levels, the only level I disliked was a food themed level. Whilst many reviewers have praised it for it’s platforming (which admittedly, is pretty good), I couldn’t stand the actual levels’ aesthetics. You see, instead of there being food strewn all over the place (like, burgers, chicken etc.), you instead get a bunch of abstract shapes and colours that are meant to represent food. Some say it’s because Nintendo were worried about advertising food to kids, so chucked all the textures out, which I find more believable than the half-assed attempt at a style we got in the end.
Musically, being a Nintendo game Super Mario Odyssey is fantastic. Everything from the new voiced jump man song, to the perfectly suited themed songs for each level will have you jiggling around well after you’ve completed the game and walked away for a while. Even as I write this sentence a few songs and swimming around my mind, wanting me to find remixes of those songs on Soundcloud. It’s genuinely fantastic, and Nintendo should be impressed with that they’ve managed to accomplish here.
So overall, Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute delight to behold, and one that’ll keep you hooked and entertained for hours. Between it, and Zelda, I feel completely justified in spending £300 on my Switch at the start of the year, and would even argue it’s worth people going out of there way just to purchase the new console for these games alone. Super Mario Odyssey manages to perfect some of the series’ tropes, and even introduces (and disregards with relative ease) so many new mechanics that’s any one could have been a game unto themselves. If you like platformers, you owe it to yourself to own Super Mario Odyssey – it’s the pinnacle of what a platformer can be.