Super Mario Odyssey (NWS) Review

It has been just a few weeks since Super Mario Odyssey landed in stores and I had the special opportunity [link] to purchase a copy at the Nintendo New York store. Even though I have already completed the game’s story, all the collectibles and post-game unlockable content has kept me happily playing this massive title.

If you own a Switch and do not yet have a copy of Mario Odyssey, just go get one; its an amazing game and nothing I will say will sway you away from that prospect. If you do decide to continue reading, which I highly appreciate, rest assured that I will be keeping things spoiler free. If you are burnt out on spoiler free articles and are looking for information on post-story content, keep en eye on the blog for our post-story guide coming out in the next couple of weeks.

Without further ado, HERE WE GO!

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The game features the most animated and “living” Mario we have ever seen.

Beginning

Let’s begin with how Odyssey kicks things off. Yes, this is the classic and well-treaded Bowser kidnaps Peach, and Mario must come to her rescue. But, where most games begin on a passive note with Mario finding out that Peach has been taken or witnessing the act of her being taken, Odyssey begins at a peak moment where Mario and Bowser are already fighting on an airship above the clouds of Mushroom Kingdom. It is exciting and immediately showcases how fluid and “alive” Odyssey’s graphics and animation are. Bowser, who usually comes through as a big dumb brute, looks much more menacing and serious this time. Furthermore, something about this tone and the hint of his plan to marry Peach feels different than any previous attempt before. Anyways, as expected (because the game just started), Bowser beats Mario off the airship and unto a mysterious new land, where our mustachioed hero’s latest adventure begins.

A Living World

And it is an amazing journey that takes Mario through very colorful and well inhabited iterations of the scenery that we have grown used to from Mario games: woods, plains, deserts, icy mountains, lakes and seas, amongst others. One primary difference from previous adventures is that these kingdoms are sprawling with local inhabitants and each has its own individual lore as well as a meaningful tie in to the overarching story of the game. This makes Mario’s adventure this time around not feel as lonely as it usually does and it also serves as a good source of collectibles as several of these NPC’s will provide Mario with tasks and hints in order to obtain Power Moons.

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These inhabitants are also just as different and unique as the kingdoms they are part of. My standout favorites had to be the watering robots within the Wooded Kingdom for the quirky way in which they move and, most of all, how they talk. I was very surprised considering this kingdom was the area I found least exciting when trailers of the game started launching. But, if robots are not your thing, there are plenty more like the Dia de los Muertos inspired skeleton inhabitants of the Sand Kingdom with their festive colors and bouncy animations, or the humanoid forks (yes, the eating utensil) that inhabit the food themed Luncheon Kingdom. They wear chef hats; its great!

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A World With Cappy

Beyond the diversity of scenery and inhabitants, each kingdom in Mario Odyssey comes with its own unique flavor of mechanics and platforming. These are achieved by the addition of Cappy, Mario’s new companion, and how areas are built around his Capture mechanic.

Cappy, if you have been living under a rock for the last six months, is a ghost looking creature that transforms into Mario’s hat and accompanies him on their quest. Mario can throw Cappy forward as a nice ranged attack. After being thrown, Cappy can hover in place allowing Mario to jump off him for added jumping distance; like a quick portable platform. But, the most notorious use of Cappy is when Mario throws him at most enemies and more than a few inanimate objects: Mario becomes the target, granting him full control and any special abilities possessed by the creature or object.

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It is hard to convey how huge this is and how well it is implemented within the game. Each kingdom has unique monsters, some with unique traversal abilities which Mario needs to use in order to navigate parts of each area and during some of the platforming challenges. A fine example is the Luncheon Kingdom with its large areas covered in pink hot lava. The classic fire balls that just move up and down (usually only serving as an obstacle and nuisance) can now be captured, allowing Mario the ability to swim and jump across the lava without being burned to a crisp.

This new ability of changing Mario’s platforming and traversal abilities just by capturing certain enemies allowed the developers greater level design options overall and they delivered! Every kingdom is noticeably different in how they play and feel. It is the feature that truly makes Mario Odyssey stand out from all its predecessors.

And, seriously, it is immensely fun to finally be able to control some longstanding series staples like Goombas, Koopas and Bullet Bills!

So Much To Do

Because fun factor is only good for as long as there are objectives to complete, Mario Odyssey is jam packed with them; mainly in the form of Power Moons. These are what Stars were in Super Mario 64 and Shines in Super Mario Sunshine. Like Stars and Shines, Power Moons can be found by completing tasks, solving puzzles or overcoming platforming segments. On top of those, there are also plenty of Moons littered across each kingdom, much like Korok Seeds in Breath of the Wild, to reward players that explore and maintain a keen eye on their surroundings. Even on most of the game’s bite sized platforming challenges that contain a Power Moon at the end, players should get into the habit of looking around since an extra Moon is usually hidden somewhere off the main path.

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Every Power Moon in the game has a unique name and gets a celebratory shot.

Now then, what are all these Moons for? Over the game’s initial play through, players need to collect a minimum amount of Moons on each Kingdom before the Odyssey (hat shaped airship Mario and Cappy use to travel around) has enough power to fly to the next Kingdom. Players that follow the game’s story objectives will have very little trouble meeting each kingdom’s initial quota.

After finishing the story though, players will want to go back through the kingdoms to collect any remaining Power Moons since a good amount of additional content can be unlocked by reaching certain numbers of Moons. Although the game will not tell players where each Moon is physically located, a progress tracker showing which Moons have been collected and how many remain can be accessed for each Kingdom. There are a lot of Power Moons in Mario Odyssey so completists will have their work cut out for them.

As if those were not enough, each kingdom has a set number of purple coins to collect scattered all over. Some of them can be easy to find while others will take some exploration. These coins can then be used to buy kingdom specific outfits and souvenirs for the Odyssey. My favorite are the stickers that get placed all around the outside of the ship. After a few kingdoms, it truly makes the Odyssey look like its traveled across the world; like a well stamped passport.

Challenging For Those Who Look

The way Super Mario Odyssey was designed is pretty brilliant. Players that only stick to each kingdom’s initial story objectives will probably feel the game is a tad bit easy as the story only really gets challenging towards the last two or three kingdoms. But, the moment players start to venture out and explore each kingdom, they will be surprised by the wide array of challenges and their varying difficulties, including a good amount that leans towards the “harder” end of the spectrum. Pretty much, there is content here for players of all skill levels and quite a few JoyCon throw inducing moments.

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Picture mode can be entered at any time during gameplay and allows for some cool shots and effects.

Just Plain Joyful

Not enough can be said about how much fun Super Mario Odyssey is to play. Even if you were to not get a single Power Moon and gain no progress EVER within the game’s story, the simple act of running around is an utter joy. The controls are responsive. All the animations and transitions are smooth. This is, by far, the most “living” Mario I️ have ever seen. Throw the aforementioned new Cappy mechanics into the mix and you end up with the most mobile and agile Mario ever!

Beyond the controls and animations, the settings, characters and themes in the game do it just as much credit. A lot of love and care went into putting this game together and it is noticeable at every corner. Short of starting to list examples which would not do the game justice, there is not much I can say. Super Mario Odyssey is the game Mario fans have been waiting on for years, bringing back those feelings of freedom and awe that Super Mario 64 awoke for the first time and taking them to new heights. There is truly nothing to dislike here!

Like I said at the start, if you own a Switch and somehow still do not have your own copy of Mario Odyssey, start figuring out how to remedy that. If you do not own a Switch, it might be time to track one down. With Zelda: Breath of the Wild and now Super Mario Odyssey, there is so much good gameplay to be had. And, it really looks like Nintendo is just getting started.

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Did I mention this is a gorgeous looking game?

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