by Emma Kostopolus, Video Game Columnist
The highly-anticipated newest installment in the Mario franchise is finally here, and it has blown away all preconceived expectations, stunning fans with its ambitious delivery. “Super Mario Odyssey” is a powerhouse platformer that takes cues from other ambitious Nintendo Switch titles like “Breath of the Wild” and opens the game-world up for rewarding exploration.
Right from the start, “Odyssey” differentiates itself from other titles in the Mario series with some innovative new gameplay mechanics. Mario encounters a new ally in a talking hat named Cappy, who joins Mario on his adventures and acts as Mario’s primary attack. Throwing Cappy at enemies either kills the enemy outright or allows Mario to possess the enemy and move around the world in their body, with their abilities. Mario can possess anything from a standard Goomba to a tank to even a full-size T.Rex, and the possession mechanic both makes combat more fun and exciting and opens doors for new ways to solve puzzles, since each enemy brings with it new moves.
While the game is still a collect-a-thon, focused on Mario acquiring Power Moons to let his ship hop from world to world, Nintendo has also taken their tried and true formula back to the drawing board. There are still missions within each of the worlds with objectives, bosses, and a small cut scene at the end where Mario triumphantly celebrates getting the moon. But there are also Power Moons scattered all over each world, and rather than keep you on a single path, exploration through these open worlds is encouraged. Some of the goofiest and most fun objectives happen just wandering around the landscape, and some exploration is even required to advance to the next world. Most of the moons are fairly easy to find, but doesn’t negate how rewarding exploration in this game really is.
Aesthetically speaking, the game is breathtaking. Each world has a unique look and feel to it, but all of them are marked by Nintendo’s signature polish. The colors are bright, the assets are beautiful, and the soundtrack is peppy and fun. But Nintendo didn’t stop there. One of the best new parts of the game is you can now use in-game currency to buy Mario different outfits so he can match the world he’s currently exploring. Playing dress-up is entirely optional, but it adds another layer of fun to the already beautiful set of visuals the game has going for it.
The one potential downside to the game lies in its control scheme. “Odyssey” utilizes motion controls, much like “Super Mario Galaxy” did before it. If you’re a fan of motion controls, then never fear, because this game does them as well as any game I’ve ever seen. The controls are easy to learn, not overbearing, and at times they feel almost natural. The controls themselves, in short, are not the issue. The issue lies in if you prefer to play the game in its handheld mode, or with the joy-cons in their controller-shaped holder, rather than one joy-con in each hand. When you play in handheld mode, you are unable to access the motion controls, which means some of Mario and Cappy’s moves (like the spin attack) are barred from use and the moves cannot be triggered. This doesn’t break the game, by any means, but it means handheld gaming feels less complete than playing the game in console mode.
All in all, “Super Mario Odyssey” is a wonderful addition to an already really strong franchise. The game’s emphasis on exploration and innovative gameplay showcase what the good people at Nintendo can really do with their platform, even if it might not be as powerful as its competitors. The game is a new release and as such retailing for $60, but for the hours of fun you’ll have, it’s well worth the price.