Review – Super Mario Odyssey
Mario is, without a doubt, the biggest franchise in gaming history. I don’t think I need to explain the obvious, do I? That being said, I don’t remember the last time I’ve actually had fun with a mainline Mario game. I was probably the only guy out there who didn’t enjoy Galaxy that much, and also didn’t like any of the main Wii U titles, considering them a generic throwback to the simpler days without bringing anything new to the table. Come to think of it, excluding the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series, the last Mario I truly enjoyed was Sunshine, waaaaaaaaay back in the glorious Gamecube days. Being the massive open world 3D platforming fan that I am, I was truly, madly, deeply looking forward to Super Mario Odyssey, the glorious return to the open world style that made 64 and Sunshine timeless classics. After countless months waiting for it, I can gladly say, this game is as good as you can imagine. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Super Mario Odyssey. I don’t even know where to begin.
Playing Odyssey feels like playing the ultimate version of Super Mario 64. It feels like 64 in many important aspects, but it manages to surpass it in all of those aspects at the same time. The controls are basically the same as they were back in 1996: triple jump, backward somersault, ground pound, wall jump, they’re all here and are executed the same way as they were with the N64’s controller. It’s not all “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” though, as there are lots of tweaks and improvements, such as being able to move around when hanging from a ledge, rolling around Sonic-style in order to cover distances in less time, and the game’s main new addition: possessing creatures with your har, The Exorcist-style. You can possess a lot of different characters, from your typical Goombas to a freaking T-Rex, and each one of them has a different moveset and functionality within its specific world. Speaking of worlds…
Oh dear goodness, this game features some of the best designed levels I’ve seen in a 3D platformer. Levels are simply immense and varied, managing to run away from the typical Mario clichés, such as an introductory grass level, fire level, and so on. Yes, there are your typical water and ice levels, but there are also dinosaur lands, food volcanoes, a Tim Burton-esque village populated by floating hats, Japanese castles, and the game’s pride and joy, New Donk City, which is essentially New York, even including folks using the expressions “fuggedaboutit.” The size and scope of those levels is something not even Rare would be able to do back in the day, as, for instance, New Donk City alone features nearly two thirds of the amount of collectibles than Super Mario 64 in its entirety. There’s a lot to do in order to grab your precious Moons (this game’s Power Stars), from simply ground pounding a sparkling patch of soil, to talking to a certain character wearing a certain outfit, to completing some really challenging platforming segments just like your typical Super Mario Sunshine challenge levels. Nintendo did a great job including challenges from all ranges of difficulty, allowing for both casual and hardcore players to have a lot of fun and a lot to do without compromising either side. There are more than EIGHT HUNDRED MOONS, so good luck if you’re aiming for a 100% completion rate!
Another point I need to praise is the boss battles. Those were never the best aspects of a Mario game, but Nintendo really managed to outdo itself this time around. Yes, the battles still follow the typical “do something three times” pattern, but they are more varied and creative, usually requiring a bit of strategy. In later stages, you can even revisit these boss battles with a higher difficulty setting, and that will be a true test of skill.
It’s time to talk about the game’s artistic department: it’s just amazing. We all know the Switch isn’t exactly a powerhouse, but that didn’t stop Nintendo from delivering a truly gorgeous game with lots of color, great lighting effects and superb animations. Mario shivers when in a cold setting, complains about the heat when near a volcano, and so on. Nearly every single character is animated to perfection, a true testament of how much detail Nintendo can cram into a game without requiring a lot of space to do so, given the game’s astonishing small 5GB size. The soundtrack is also phenomenal, with some of the best compositions ever put into a Mario game. I don’t think I need to describe how amazing “Jump Up Superstar” is, by the way, do I?
Some of you might want to ask me if I think the game is perfect. Well, it isn’t, no game is. Super Mario Odyssey features some issues, none of them being massive game breakers by any means, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
Regarding the artistic department, besides some (very occasional) wonky textures and the game’s quite disappointing HUD design (very white, very basic, very safe, just like in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), there’s a small issue regarding some of the characters in the game, most notably the humans who populate New Donk City. Simply put, they really didn’t fit within the game’s cartoonish world, being too realistic in shape and size, while featuring some very robotic animations and a very simplistic finishing. Regarding the game’s sound design, while the soundtrack is flawless beyond imagination, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit annoyed with the game’s, let’s say, “voice acting.” There aren’t voices per se, with characters just mumbling around, but instead of being the charming noises you’ll find in games like Yooka-Laylee or Banjo-Kazooie, everybody does noises akin to a Minion from Despicable Me, which gets tiresome pretty quickly.
Finally, there is a small issue regarding motion controls. Yes, Super Mario Odyssey features motion controls, but fear not, they are actually responsive and fun to use. You can also turn them off at any given time. The problem here is that the game was clearly meant to be played on dock mode, as clearly stated every single time the game is booted up. That makes some of the motion control patterns really impractical when playing on portable mode, such as having to shake your entire Switch system in order to perform a spin attack, for instance.
That being said, all small issues aside, I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the game. I loved every single minute of my experience, and 300 Moons in, I still feel no will to stop playing it.
Super Mario Odyssey is great. It’s fantastic. A near perfect work of art. It’s one of the most entertaining games I’ve played in years, and possibly the best platformer I’ve ever played. I truly feel bad for any other game coming out in the next week or two, as I simply can’t stop playing this beauty. It is a fantastic statement to how great of a game developer Nintendo is, even if it can be very annoying in other departments. It’s proof colorful platformers are far from being a dead genre. It is also proof that, 36 years later, Mario is still alive and kicking, truly the king of video gaming. This game is mandatory for everyone. If you have a Switch, stop reading this and go buy it. If you don’t have a Switch, this game is the reason for you to get one. Let’s all Do The Odyssey together, folks!