Reviews

Super Mario Odyssey Review

My candidate for best game of the year


The Mario series is known as home to some of the videogame world’s greatest and most influential platformers ever. Its legacy shows not just in the current state of Nintendo, but even outside the company, across platformers everywhere. But far from being a thing of the past, Mario lives on. And the new Super Mario Odyssey is something sure to be talked about and played for years to come.

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The basic premise of Super Mario Odyssey is familiar. Bowser has kidnapped Peach once more, though with his intentions of marriage more fully realized now. He’s hired a group of evil wedding planners to assist him with the ceremony this time around. The Broodals; not to be confused with Rabbids; work to obtain what Bowser needs, by stealing from and harassing the residents of Kingdoms across the world. As Mario, it is up to the player to stop the Broodals and Bowser’s wedding plans.

Of course, this time around, Mario has a partner. Cappy is a hat-like ghost that replaces Mario’s cap, and who joins Mario with the intention of rescuing his sister, Tiara.

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It is Cappy’s addition that is itself responsible for many of Odyssey’s new mechanics. The gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey focuses on the “capture” ability granted by Cappy, which allows Mario to control certain creatures and objects. Mario can throw his hat (now Cappy) at certain targets and have it ‘possess’ them, the takeover represented by Mario’s hat on the target’s head.

Fans of the series might recognize the mechanics of Mario’s own platforming, but the capture ability adds something entirely new. Though none of Mario’s iconic “power-ups” make an appearance in Odyssey, each major capture is like a power-up in some way.

Though none are clear upgrades of Mario’s original form, captures work in a way that is better than power-ups. In Super Mario World, for example, there is no reason not to be Fire Mario over regular Mario. The Fire Flower is a power-up; Fire Mario jumps the same as regular Mario, he just gains the ability to shoot fireballs.

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In Super Mario Odyssey, captures are a little more nuanced. Like power-ups, captures grant Mario new abilities. The Lava Bubble lets Mario swim through boiling-hot liquid unharmed. The Gushen lets him spray water and fly above the sea. But unlike Fire Mario, these are not strict upgrades. The Lava Bubble bursts upon contacting ground. And the Gushen, though one of the better captures, still isn’t as agile as Mario himself.

Captures are best in specific situations, with certain objectives in mind. Progress requires a continuous shifting from one form to another, meaning gameplay is very adaptable. And with well over a dozen unique captures, the transition keeps things exciting.

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But captures aren’t all there is to Super Mario Odyssey. Each capture feels pretty great, but none comes close to capturing how great it feels to just play as Mario. Odyssey introduces the most agile iteration of Mario yet. He has all of his moves from Galaxy and Mario 64, albeit the punch or the spin attack, but the spin is closely represented with the cap throw. Beyond possessing enemies, the cap throw allows Mario to reach previously inaccessible areas, as bouncing off the cap provides an additional leap with a jump.

Beyond the general fun of the increased mobility, it helps that Nintendo seems to recognize the new capabilities. The cap throw is used in a few complicated combos to cover large distances, and there are treasures hidden in areas accessible only by these combos. It’s a nice nod to player skill, even though most of the game’s boss fights are themselves too easy.

Furthermore on the subject of difficulty, 100-percent completion should be a lengthy feat for any player. Though Power Moons appear more frequently than Power Stars or Shine Sprites, there are more present than almost any other Mario title. At 999 total, even collecting an impressive 30 in one’s first visit to a Kingdom might seem small.

In Super Mario Galaxy, 999 stars would have likely been tedious. This is because levels are based around specific stars, with the selection of a star determining the layout of a level. In Super Mario Odyssey, the Kingdoms remain virtually the same throughout and getting a Power Moon doesn’t require one to restart the level. This means Power Moons can be obtained fast and placed in more innocuous areas, like buried at the top of a hill.

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Alongside the new Power Moon mechanics, the removal of the lives system is instrumental in keeping gameplay moving. Instead of being forced to restart the level (e.g. Super Mario 64) or face the threat of a game over (e.g. Super Mario Galaxy), the player only loses 10 coins and is placed at the previous checkpoint.

Coins can also be used to purchase in-game items, including Power Moons, costumes and even Life-Up Hearts. Odyssey is the first Mario title (beyond Mario Party) to make coins more than their cliché ‘100-coins-for-an-extra-life’ feature. Here, for the first time ever, they can be used to obtain collectibles, progress in the game and even make things a little easier for players.

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The costumes were one of my favorite features of Super Mario Odyssey. There’s a good number obtainable through standard Coins, but there’s a great many obtainable only in certain regions with specific Regional Coins. Obtaining all the costumes and other collectibles will require finding all of these as well, a secondary objective to finding all the Power Moons.

With Power Moons, Coins and Regional Coins to collect, Super Mario Odyssey is a collect-a-thon’s dream. None of the collecting feels tedious, even 300 Moons in, across 17 Kingdoms, and there are hints to help should one need them. But generally, the thought, “I wonder if there’s a Moon over there?” leads to the player finding one.

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Overall Score: 9.7 (97%)

Summary: Super Mario Odyssey is a wonderful addition to the Mario franchise. It’s bigger and better than any other Mario title we’ve played before. If you like Mario and/or you like platformers, then you are bound to love this game. Super Mario Odyssey is an amazing experience and it is sure to define the platformer genre for many years to come.

Pros:

  • Loads of content; 999 collectible Power Moons and hundreds of Regional Coins
  • Features the most agile iteration of Mario yet
  • Captures are fantastic and add an entirely new way to play
  • Most Kingdoms are quite expansive and each feels original and unique
  • Transition between captures, Kingdoms and 2D/3D feels seamless
  • New lives system streamlines play significantly

Cons:

  • Most boss battles are fairly easy
  • Returning to some areas within a Kingdom can be tedious

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