Super Mario Odyssey
Mario Odyssey is one of Nintendo’s biggest releases this year, which is why we sent not one, but two editors to play the game and explain what they thought of Mario’s newest platforming adventure.
Ben Reeves: The show has really just begun, but Mario Odyssey already feels like a good contender for Game of the Show, in my book. Obviously there is a lot we could talk about, from the “sandbox” environments to the new hat mechanics, but first, I’d love to get your first impression after playing the game. What were your big takeaways after setting down the controller?
Kyle Hilliard: It’s tough to call out one thing that stood out, but an easy one would be the reassurance that the game felt great. You can still butt-stomp; you can still back-flip; you can still long-jump; and it all feels fluid. The one adjustment I had to make was losing the extra half-jump gained from spinning that you had in Super Mario Galaxy, But even that is accounted for somewhat with a forgiving ledge grab. You can use motion controls to throw your hat and use different physical motions to toss your hat in different ways, but thankfully you don’t have to use motion controls and the game is fully compatible with the Pro Controller.
It did not take long to feel like I was fully in control of Mario, making huge leaps to grab slightly out of reach coins or hitting that enemy – it was great. The biggest change though is how Mario uses his hat, which we should definitely talk about next. And by we, I mean you.
Ben: Yeah, the motion controls felt fine, but I’m sure I’ll turn them off immediately. When I first saw the Mario Odyssey reveal back in January, I was a little wary of the eyes on the hat, but those have grown on me. This week, we learned Mario’s hat is now a companion creature named Cappy. He looks a bit like a ghost, and he allows Mario to possess other creatures and objects. I really wanted to become a dinosaur like in the trailer, but we didn’t get to play the prehistoric level. However, I did enjoy becoming a bullet bill and flying around the level. You can’t turn into anything you want, but I’m sure it will be fun to run around each level for the first time, throwing your hat at every creature and item to discover what you can and can’t take over. What was the strangest thing you became, Kyle?
Kyle: The strangest thing I became actually had nothing to do with my hat. It was when I entered the pipe and suddenly turned into 8-bit mario and the game suddenly turned into a classic 2D Mario platformer. That ability was shown in the trailer, but it was still pretty surprising to actually do myself, which from what we understand is one of the game’s core concepts.
Before getting to actually play, director Yoshiaki Koizumi and producer Kenta Motokura spoke in-depth about the game and highlighted surprise and emotional resonance as being the game’s key themes. It’s not uncommon for Japanese developers to try to encapsulate the direction of a game using a few key words, and it was interesting to hear what words Koizumi and Motokura had used to focus Super Mario Odyssey’s development. Was there anything else that stood out to you from their prologue to our hands-on – other than Motokura's amazing dance moves when he was talking about the original song written for the game?
Ben Reeves: Motokura did show off his moves for a bit, which was fun. I think he just wanted to highlight that Super Mario Odyssey has an original song with lyrics, which is a first for the series.
One of the most interesting things he said while on stage, however, had to do with the game’s sandbox environments. In fact, Motokura clarified that the word for “sandbox” in Japan actually refers to those miniature Japanese zen gardens. The point of that miniature style is to create vistas full of interesting elements but on a small scale. That’s what they’re trying to do with all of Super Mario Odyssey’s levels – create very dense environments full of interesting things to discover. I like that. I don’t think we mentioned it yet, but in this game you’re collecting moons (guess Mario is tired of collecting stars), and there are far more moons on each level than in any previous Mario game. They didn’t give us an exact number, but I tried to count them, and I estimate that there were close to 50 collectible moons on one of the levels we played.
Kyle: You also don’t get kicked out of a level when you collect a moon, which is what has happened in previous games. You can just keep moving through the level collecting moons and just marveling at the density of fun activities to do. We also found some interesting secrets, like Captain Toad from Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. He gave us a moon for finding him.
One final thing to mention is the game’s story, which admittedly is usually just in place to serve as nothing more than a flimsy premise to go jump around fun platformer levels. That appears to be the case here – which is totally fine, by the way – but it looks like Bowser is trying to marry Peach, and Mario has to stop the wedding. The extra wrinkle here, though, is that there is some weird context behind how Mario can invade enemies and objects to control them. They showed a clip of him entering some strange purple floating dimension…it’s very strange.
One truly final thing to mention, actually, is that I speak for both of us when I say that October 27 feels very far away. I definitely want to explore this world more.
Ben: You’re right, Kyle, it’s right around the corner. Switch owners should be very excited; it's great to finally have another big, single-player focused Mario title on the horizon.