When it comes the main franchise, the Mario games have always at least attempted something new. Super Mario 64 took Mario from 2D to 3D, Super Mario Sunshine added the F.L.U.D.D. (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device) providing new movement options, while Super Mario 3D World added four player multiplayer. Now Super Mario Odyssey has tried something different again, by taking Mario out of the Mushroom Kingdom (as well as letting him be a T-Rex).
Super Mario Odyssey starts in a very traditional way, the princess has been kidnapped by Bowser. So not much has changed there, but within ten minutes you get your first new feature, Cappy, a hat that can change forms into various hats that Mario can wear. Mario can also throw him to grab items, hit enemies or use him as a jumpable platform. It’s quite amazing how the simple addition of “hat throwing” has managed to change the range of movement Mario has; from the ability to change direction easy in mid air to the now quite silly distance that Mario can cover make with a long jump and a subsequent bounce off Cappy. While there is no run button anymore (it’s back to the analog stick controlling that) you get used to rolling around or long jumping to get around quickly.
The second ability Cappy gives you is capturing (or possession as Nintendo don’t want you to call it). Mario can now capture enemies and random objects with the hat and gain control of them, from Goombas to a massive T-Rex you can stomp around with. This means Mario has a lot of abilities that can be used for both movement or combat, and is used in various fights and set pieces to good effect.
This time around, Mario can also change costumes, most of them based on games from his past. They only affect the gameplay by restricting where you can explore as certain costumes to get into certain rooms, so you can just change into costumes as you see fit. Alternatively, have Mario run around in only a hat and his underpants if that is your thing.
The fact that you are outside of the Mushroom Kingdom means the level design is a bit different, reverting back to the big explorable worlds of 64/Sunshine but with a bit of a twist. You no longer get kicked out of the level when getting the Power Moon – this game’s equivalent of stars/shines (though it might take you back to the start of the level) – and there are a lot more of them. The number of moons per level varies but it’s a lot (even more in the post-game) meaning there is a plenty to do and thankfully you don’t have to do it all to get to the end of the main game. However, there is still a bit of level structure like with the previous games, certain “story” moons unlock new areas of the level, meaning you can access more places. This is good as it helps direct you when there are many moons to collect. You only need about twenty moons per level to progress and going through the objectives will get you most of them. But other than that, you can explore to your hearts content.
The level design is also encourages you to explore since each level has a surprisingly amount of verticality (even for a Mario title) as well as its own flavour and look. From the city of the Metro Kingdom to the waterfalls of the Cascade Kingdom (and a lot more I won’t mention), this is probably the most varied Mario game to date. It is also a game full of surprises. For example, while the final boss was a bit weak, the second half of that fight was the most fun I’ve had in a Mario game in a long while (and the final section of said fight was an awesome gaming moment that is certainly ranks up there as one of my best of the year). Super Mario Odyssey is however a little easier than some of it predecessors. It might be because of a not-so-steep learning curve since there is so much to do that you get plenty of practice in by the time you reach the end of the main story, but the post-game is where the real challenge lies. The final “bonus” mission is long and tough, but the reward for completing it is surprisingly heartwarming.
Controls-wise, Odyssey does well overall. With the introduction of the capture mechanics, there are more controls than you’d expect from a Mario game, but the game is good at putting up tooltips for each one and there is a nice guide to show all the moves (even the more advanced ones). However, the elephant in the room is the motion controls where some moves are only possible with the motion controls and it has caused a bit of a stir online. However what hasn’t been shared as much as that said moves… are completely optional. I went through the game never actually using the two you can’t do without motion controls (upwards throw, instead you jump and throw, or the homing throw which is just not needed) and only needed the homing throw for some post game stuff because I was a bit rubbish.
Overall this is a fantastic game, a good addition to both Nintendo and the Switch’s library. This will be a game people are talking about for years to come due the exemplary gameplay (and due to the final part of the ending, I can see that causing a few debates … and rule 34). This is the basically the second to last major game of the Switch’s launch year, capping what has been a fantastic year to date.