Super Mario Odyssey
Over the years, Nintendo has shown it isn't afraid to redefine what makes a Super Mario game. From Mario's ever-expanding power-up arsenal in the 2D games to the more extravagant 3D adventures like Galaxy and 3D World, we've seen the definition of what makes for a Super Mario game molded to fit new gameplay ideas. However, with Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo is stretching the gameplay of the core series further than what we saw with games like Sunshine, while keeping the D.N.A. of the series intact. I recently played through three new Kingdoms of Super Mario Odyssey to see how Nintendo is revolutionizing the series in unprecedented ways.
In Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo alters certain conventions fans have grown accustomed to. Things like the lives system are done away with, while the seemingly countless coins Mario snatches up suddenly have value beyond giving you a better score. With your coins, you buy new outfits that Mario can equip to not only change up Mario's look, but also give him access to certain areas. In a previous play session, I needed to fit a certain look in order to access the mariachi club in Sand Kingdom, so I bought a sombrero and a poncho and they let me in. These themes carried over in my latest session with Super Mario Odyssey as I checked out Cap Kingdom, the food-themed Luncheon Kingdom, and the beachy Seaside Kingdom.
After the opening cutscene where Bowser defeats Mario and takes Princess Peach away on his airship, Mario awakens in a dreary, colorless landscape populated by ghost-like hat creatures. One of these characters is named Cappy. Mario's sudden return to consciousness scares Cappy and he runs off. After a brief chase through the hilly landscape, Mario catches up to the horrified headgear. Cappy reveals that Bowser not only attacked Bonneton in the Cap Kingdom (destroying all of their ships in the process) but Mario's rival also stole away Cappy's sister. Cappy suggests the two join forces to take down Bowser and rescue the two hostages. Cappy combines with Mario's iconic cap, which was shredded in the aftermath of the earlier confrontation, to grant Mario new hat-based powers. Mario can throw his cap like a boomerang, use it as a trampoline to jump higher, and even pluck pegs out of the ground to open up new areas. The most important new mechanic Cappy's fusion with Mario's hat introduces, however, is the ability to "capture" creatures and unlock new abilities for Mario.
The first creature you capture is a frog, which allows you to jump comically high. However, the creatures you can possess only get more unique from there. Over the course of my playthrough, I captured everything from Goombas to fireballs. My favorite targets were found in Seaside Kingdom, as I grabbed control of a squid that can jet across the surface of the water and upward to reach new areas, as well as a cheep cheep, which let Mario breathe underwater and have more complete control in his swimming. The strangest thing I captured during my time with Super Mario Odyssey was a giant slab of meat in Luncheon Kingdom, which I then made flop around in some salt to bait a giant bird to take me up to its nest where I could jump out and collect a bundle of three power moons.
Power moons are the main objective of the game, similar to stars in Super Mario 64. Using these moons, Mario powers his hat-shaped ship, The Odyssey, to reach new Kingdoms. Power moons can be found throughout the entire world, often where you least expect them. Sometimes they're out in the open and yours for the taking, while other objectives are a bit more abstract in how you acquire them.
With power moons, gold coins, Kingdom-specific purple coins, and more scattered throughout each area, exploration is paramount in Super Mario Odyssey. While I completed the main objectives in each Kingdom and claimed those rewards, I also found several other power moons along the way. For example, in Luncheon Kingdom, I found multiple power moons by doing everything from smashing a nearby box to finding a secret entrance and capturing a fireball to swim through boiling stew that required me to jump from puddle to puddle in difficult "platforming" sequences.
Though Luncheon Kingdom delivered the most surprises, my favorite Kingdom I explored was Seaside. Not only did this area give me the most fun creatures to capture with the aforementioned squids and cheep cheeps, but the underwater depths seem to house untold secrets. I also enjoyed tossing Cappy at an exotic flower growing in the region, which attached a rocket to the back of Mario's cap, allowing him to temporarily sprint across the water's surface. After completing the main objective of collecting four power moons to open up the region's famous fountains and knock an octopus who has been slurping up the Kingdom's carbonated water off of his pedestal.
Unfortunately, now the octopus is angry. Fortunately, this boss battle ends up being the most fun part of my time with Odyssey. The octopus is content with staying in the water, so Mario can't take him on as-is. Instead, I capture a nearby squid, which is much more well equipped to take on the behemoth. The action intensifies the longer the battle goes on, with the spiked seashells he leaves in the water eventually giving way to spiral shells he shoots like missiles. The intense confrontation was fun to play and left me wanting more as my play session came to a close.
I was initially skeptical of the direction of the game, but each time I play Super Mario Odyssey, I'm more on board with the new, bizarre concepts at play. Capturing opens up so many new ideas for gameplay and world design, and the distinct areas I've explored to this point have kept me engaged even beyond the time I've had to play in them. I've left my previous demos with Odyssey wondering what secrets I missed and how else the game will surprise me when it finally comes out, and this time was no different.
Super Mario Odyssey hits Switch on October 27. To see a highlight reel of my time with Super Mario Odyssey, head to our video feature.