Though I’m about a year late, I am thrilled to have finally gotten the opportunity to play Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo’s newest and most innovative console yet. Though I had a rather unhappy history with Mario’s first 3D outing on the N64, Super Mario 64, that doesn’t mean that I don’t prefer playing as the famous mustached plumber in a more open setting, the very reason I enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine far more than the average person. I had high hopes for Odyssey due to the game’s awesome trailers, and now that I have played the game for myself, I can easily say it’s one of the best, if not the best, Mario game of all time!
Super Mario Odyssey is quite similar to Super Mario 64 in that you get to platform your way through large worlds in search of moons (rather than stars). Unlike Super Mario 64, there is no hub world to connect all the worlds, and you simply visit the various kingdoms by flying to them on the Odyssey. Though I know many people, including myself, really wanted a hub world like Mario 64, it didn’t end up mattering much once I started the game and was quickly lost within the majesty of it.
From there, Odyssey starts to differ from its predecessor in all the right ways. For one thing, each kingdom has way more moons to collect, sometimes as much as 80 or 90. While this may sound a bit tedious, many of the moons are really easy to find, so there’s a pretty good balance between more difficult and lengthy challenges and short, easy ones. Sometimes finding a moon is as easy as ground pounding the right spot on the ground, meaning you’ll be finding new things pretty much everywhere you turn!
Another simple thing that is actually a really big deal for me is the fact that you don’t leave the world whenever you get a moon. In Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, getting a star or shine sprite, respectively, would take you back to the hub, forcing you to repeatedly enter and leave a world countless times before you can complete it. In Odyssey, exploration is so much more fun when you can get a moon, then…just keep looking for more.
After that, that is where the main similarities end. One of the biggest and best new features about Odyssey is the ability to capture enemies with your hat and control them. This is actually a very natural addition to the Mario series, considering Mario’s past power ups, like getting a cape to fly, a fire flower to shoot fireballs, etc. Except controlling enemies is much more fun. You can fly around as a Bullet Bill (even the big ones!). You can create a tower of Goombas. You can swim infinitely underwater without having to worry about air using a Cheep Cheep. And there are countless other examples, some of which I don’t want to spoil….
The added feature of allowing you to dress up Mario is a whole lot of fun, too. It sounds silly, but actually getting to spend those coins on something is really fun rather than simply collecting them for extra lives. Most places you visit also have their own currency that you can spend on clothes, stickers to adorn your ship, and other souvenirs for decorating the Odyssey’s interior. Simple, unnecessary, but pretty entertaining. The most expensive outfit is 9999 coins and is quite startling indeed….
Oh, and there are no more extra lives. If you die, you simply lose ten coins. I like that. I like that a lot.
My biggest…okay, probably my only complaint about this game are the controls. Honestly, it’s not even the game’s fault, really. It’s the Switch’s. The Switch’s controllers are so tiny. If you connect them to that…I don’t know, controller base thingy, you can play the game in a more normal fashion, but then you lose the ability to spin your hat, throw it upwards or downwards, and use certain enemy abilities. As far as I can tell, anyway. And though I believe it is possible to beat the game without motion controls, it doesn’t seem to be possible to get 100% without them.
What all this amounts to is the most amazing Mario game I have ever played. You may or may not be familiar with the fact that I’ve had a rather rocky relationship with the series. While I do enjoy playing Mario games, on the most part, and own most of the main entries, I never considered myself a big Mario fan until Odyssey. This game was so fantastic in so many ways that I couldn’t help but really fall in love with the series for the first time in my many, many years of playing it. It was just packed with so much fun and charm, with such creative and interesting locations to explore.
Aside from this being the first Mario game I truly enjoyed from start to finish, it was also a first in many other ways. For one thing, I have never before played a Mario game and thought, wow, that was really cool. Not until I got to control one of the huge Bullet Bills and was left speechless at the sheer awesomeness of the moment. It was one of the first times I ever laughed out loud playing a Mario game, mainly when you smack the big rabbit lady in the face with her own Chain Chomp pet. Or when you punch the boss of the Sand Kingdom in the face with his own fist. Yeah, hitting bad guys in the face is always hilarious.
It was the first time I ever felt emotional when playing a Mario game. The New Donk City festival celebrating Mario’s first game, the original Donkey Kong arcade, was amazing enough, even for someone who despised that game when I was forced to complete it in order to beat Donkey Kong 64. But hearing the Mario series’ first song with vocals for the second time at Culmina Crater, I felt so motivated to complete this final challenge, all the while relishing in how bittersweet my last day with the game was going to be.
In short, Super Mario Odyssey was an amazing experience and the perfect start to my time with Nintendo’s Switch. I imagine this was a momentous game for all Mario fans out there, so please share your thoughts and favorite moments with the game in the comments below, dear readers! Oh, and who else beat Culmina Crater?