Developer: Nintendo EPD
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action & Platformer
Release Date: 27th of October, 2017 (Worldwide)
If you are reading this, than it can only mean one thing, I managed to escape the Odyssey long enough, to write my Super Mario Odyssey review!
Now since this review did not go out the same time as the first wave of reviews did, it does of course mean that this review was both posted after the game released, so arguably you could say it comes a little late, but not really. Not every owns a Switch and/or picked up Odyssey this month, so this review is for them! The gamers who are on the fence and it’s also going to a bit of a blunt interview too as it is actually going to be penned in such a way that it is actually going to call Super Mario Odyssey out on its faults, as opposed to being like almost every other review that would have you believing Super Mario Odyssey is the perfect game!
Now I don’t want you thinking I hate Super Mario Odyssey as that is not the case, as I do have a lot of love for it and you will see that for yourself as you read through the review, but for starters, all its comparisons to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and statements from media outlets deeming it far superior are unjustified. Yes, Super Mario Odyssey is a stellar title and just downright incredible, but it is not superior to Breath of the Wild. I have seen the offered “comparisons” and I’m sorry but the two are not the same. Odyssey, as great as it is and how well implemented all the ideas are, Odyssey is not the next evolutionary stage of a 3D Mario game.
In all my blunt honesty, it is more of a collage made up of everything that was great in the other 3D games. Breath of the Wild on the other hand, it was a Zelda game that done away with almost every convention and made into something entirely new. Sure there was the DNA of earlier titles and characters imprinted into it, but Breath of the Wild built on top of that. It took those strands and mutated them, until they grew and evolved into the perfect representation of what Zelda 1 would have been like if was made in present day. Whereas with Odyssey, it has not evolved at all and is just same old 3D Mario that we know, given a better lick of paint, smoother gameplay and then sold to the world as the greatest 3D Mario ever, when it’s not. Odyssey, believe it or not, is over-hyped. Yes, it is a fantastic game and many will fall in love with it, but honestly it is actually more of a game for fans of the series as opposed to new fans and while I would like to see it be a game that expands the Mario fanbase, the rational side of my brain dictates otherwise.
With all the Easter eggs and secrets this game has to offer, the only way to properly appreciate them, is to be a fan and to know what it is that they are referencing to, because if you don’t then you will be missing out on at least a third of the game’s relevance and no matter what way you cut it, that’s a whole of action and lore to be missing out on, so yes, while some new players can love this game, Odyssey, no matter what people say about it, it is a game for the fans first and foremost. Also, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is not Breath of the Wild, only this time I’m referring to its size and scale. Super Mario Odyssey will suck you in, it will completely immerse you at times and delight you, but not to the scale that Breath of the Wild did and if you followed the musings of journalists who would have you believe the game is huge, it isn’t.
Odyssey is nowhere near as big as Breath of the Wild and even though there are 17 Kingdoms in total with well over 800 Power Moons to collect, half of those Kingdoms aren’t just small, but tightly compacted small, so if you were expecting Odyssey to be a Mario game you can invest at least 100 hours into, it’s more like 45-75 hours depending on how you play and the first 15 of them being more than enough to blitz through the game’s main story and defeat Bowser, which is a must if you wish to unlock the Mushroom Kingdom and the 2 other Kingdoms that can be unlocked in the post-game. So long paragraph short, Odyssey is not as big as you were lead to believe, but that’s a good thing. It is more than big enough for you to get your money worth, but small enough you can make some major headway with every gaming session and not have to spend too long in a single area that you can grow a tad bored of its theme, like I did with the Luncheon Kingdom. It was cool and colourful at first and my stomach actually growled at one point while I was there, but due to its sheer size, it soon became one of the Kingdoms I wasn’t particularly fond of!
Before I even say what I’m going to say next, if you feel up until now, I have been harsh on Odyssey, you’re not going to like this next bit, because I’m going to be a tad more so. Odyssey is not quite the amazingly “Open” Mario game the world has been led to believe it is, at first. Yes, it is a sandbox game and yes, Mario can go wherever he pleases and do what he wants, but that’s provided you do so in the Kingdom you’re restricted too. See with Odyssey, while there are many Kingdoms to explore and fall in love with, like the Metro Kingdom, (New Donk City,) during the initial playthrough, Odyssey is a linear affair as you’re literally forced to go out and get enough Power Moons to be able to advance to the next area. That’s not so much a bad thing, but even if you tried to stay and look for more, even after you have got enough, you can not complete a Kingdom in a single playthrough as not all Power Moons are available in each Kingdom, until you beat Bowser in the Moon Kingdom and get awarded with the game’s credits.
Now I don’t know about you, but to me that doesn’t really sound open world to me and scream sandbox, as the game literally dictates to you to only take the Power Moons you need and come back for the rest later, which actually makers Odyssey a lot like it’s previous 3D offerings. But the good news is, if you are willing to look past that and just focus on the game’s main campaign, the sooner you blitz through it, the sooner Odyssey can become the game we were told it is! Not only is there post-game content with added new challenges, surprises and a royal departure of sorts, but Odyssey for the first time in the game, because the Open Mario game we believe it to be and that is when Odyssey truly comes into its own and it’s worlds become even more so spectacular then they already are, provided they are the smaller ones. With the smaller Kingdoms, you’re not there for that long that you don’t actually get to have a good look round, but with the likes of the Luncheon, you almost see too much of it that it’s more a case of “Huh, I didn’t see that before,” as opposed to “Ooooooh! I like.” But all that aside, the good news is Odyssey takes the Banjo & Kazooie approach in the sense that collecting a single Power Moon will not kick you out of a level and overall the game delivers not just a bucket load of fun, but a whole lorry load!
So as a summarisation to all that I have said so far, Odyssey is a great family fun game that players will love, but if you have not played it yet, for the love of God, lower your expectations a bit. It will blow you away, but not if you have your expectations raised too high, because a few of us at Miketendo64 were tremendously excited about the game and then when we dipped our toes and the rest of us into this incredible experience, while we were in awe for a good few hours, during some of the hours that followed, we were a bit underwhelmed. We had raised the bar too high and for that Odyssey was not able to complete able to dazzle us like we hoped it would, but once we adjusted our expectations, threw out everything we knew about it and finished the game’s main campaign, Odyssey was able to win us over and now that I’ve got all of the above out of my system, now we can properly go over all that is Super Mario Odyssey.
In terms of story, in case it is not obvious, once again Super Mario Odyssey is a retelling of the tale about a Plumber, a Princess and a Bowser who kidnaps the Princess and the Plumber begins a lengthy pursuit to track down the beastie and save the ruling monarch of the Mushroom Kingdom! Only this time around Mario’s desire to save Peach is even more so as the Plumber failed to save her during a Bowser attack right at the beginning of the game and now that the big bad Mario foe has her in his possession, he refuses to let go over her and has decided that after all these years, it was time for him and her to tie the knot and no, Mario is not invited to the wedding!
By the time Mario is able to wake up and his hat is in absolute tatters from where it went into one of the propellers on Bowser’s airship, he finds himself in the company of a ghost-like being wearing a top hat, who then introduces himself as Cappy. Like Mario, Cappy has also had someone dear to him taken by Bowser, only his kidnapped companion is his sister Tiara, who is now acting as a tiara for Princess Peach, due to Bowser’s influence. Desperate to save the both of them, Mario and Cappy join forces, with Cappy taking on the guise of Mario’s hat and get the Odyssey underway by taking on the Cap Kingdom, in an effort to make it over into another Kingdom, where an old airship can be given the purpose of serving them. (They would have tried to use any of the airships available in the Cap Kingdom, only they are all destroyed or damaged from when Bowser invaded and took Tiara.)
Regardless of the different take on the story though, it is still the classic Mario, Bowser & Peach, players have encountered so if you have played a Mario game before, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to what to expect, with a prime example being knowing full well that every time you feel like you’re close to an end or catching up to Bowser that even more awaits! But the music in which drives Odyssey is more than we’re used to. Mario, like Zelda, Xenoblade and even Final Fantasy (not Nintendo I know, but go with it,) always have such great scores and iconic tunes that go on to make certain games permanently glued to our mind, but for Odyssey the music is more so and I’m not just talking about Jump Up, Super Star! (Pauline’s song is a classic, upbeat and insanely peppy and during one scene in the game as part of a festival when the song plays, it is absolutely perfect as the entwined scene is the ultimate love letter ever, but it’s not the only song in the game as there is another in the game that has lyrics, as well as many that don’t, which makes the various Kingdoms feel alive and pay homage to earlier games!)
Still it’s not just the music that makes Odyssey shine the way it does, the graphics and amount of love invested into the game, play a part in that as well. With 17 Kingdoms to explore, packed with shortcuts and secret pathways between one another in the form of paintings that is a throwback to Mario’s 64 days, each one is wonderfully designed in such a way that not only do they look great thanks to Odyssey’s colourful HD graphics, but they play great too. Only whilst the majority of every character in the game features a great game, with Pauline’s being absolutely superb, but the people who call New Donk City home, not so much. Their faces, whilst being generic are dull and don’t look right and I don’t mean that because they don’t fit in because they’re more real, but they just don’t look right at all. And because we are talking design, the Metro Kingdom is spectacular. As small as it may be in comparison to how big it looked in footage, the Metro Kingdom pops on all levels, the cabs are great for jumping on and the Vespa is the perfect mode of metropolitan transportation!
One Kingdom I did not get at all though was Bowser’s Kingdom. After all these years and all these Mario games that came before Odyssey, there has been nothing quite like Bowser’s Kingdom. Not only does it feature actual humans as seen in the Metro Kingdom but it has a whole Japanese/Samurai anaesthetic going, which explains the Samurai Mario T-shirt Miyamoto wore last year on the Tonight Show, but honestly it was just weird. It did not feel right and it felt a little forced, much like Mario’s battle against a gigantic Dragon more fearsome than Bowser in the Ruined Kingdom. I know Mario has fought his share of gigantic bosses over the years, but a colossal Dragon the size of the one he does fight, is a little too over the top for a Mario game, especially when said game features a realist city and other settings based on real-world locations.
Weirdness, graphics and music aside, which are fantastic, something I have yet to touch on is of course gameplay, the new Snapshot mode and things you can do/expect from Odyssey, so let’s start with the former. Like with any 3D Mario game, the titular Mario can learn jump, triple jump, ground pound, swim, dive (something he hasn’t been able to do since Super Mario Sunshine,) Roll (which he must have stolen from Link since Link doesn’t have a roll in Breath of the Wild) and thanks to Cappy, he can possess! While Cappy can make himself at home on top of Mario’s head, Cappy can be thrown like a boomerang, used as a weapon and possess certain characters/objects, like some of Mario’s old enemies such as Goombas (great for building towers and for sparking a romance,) Bullet Bills (great for flying at high speeds at a set level) and even Bowser (an all-Round great guy, aside from the whole constant Princess kidnapping thing, who just so happens to be great at smashing walls as well.)
Only it’s not just old enemies who can be possessed as even old friends can be forced to wear a Mario hat and grow some facial hair above their lip, as Yoshi is another character you can capture and just like in Super Mario 64, Yoshi can be found on top of Peach’s Castle in the Mushroom Kingdom because yes, the Mushroom Kingdom is of course present and is a whole lot like the 64 game it took influence from, as not only is the layout designed to be mostly the same, but there are plenty of paintings to jump into, Power Moons in the form of Power Stars to collect and from the Crazy Cap store, there is even a Super Mario 64 costume that can be purchased, which when worn actually makes Mario look like he did back in the 90’s. (Square, pointing and damn right Mamma Mia!)
Other things that can be captured though are of course Moe-eyes who not only hum the tunes of other Mario games when they are wearing their sunglasses which can be toggled on and off, but when on, they can see invisible platforms and are great at navigating poisonous swaps. But if you want a character who knows how to smash, maybe the Chargin’ Chuck is more to your liking, only don’t expect to get your hands and hat onto him until you’re in the Moon Kingdom.
Only while capturing is of course a lot of fun, especially when it’s a T-rex that you can go hands on with within the first hour of playing, Cappy does have a couple of other tricks up his sleeve (even though he doesn’t have any,) and they include being able to be thrown a certain distance, and staying there so Mario can use him as a crutch to leap onto and jump again for when attempting to traverse huge distances. But capture is not as perfect as you might think it may be, as its presence replaces the typical Power-ups that Mario is used to collecting after all these years and while it might seem all that important, Power-ups have been with Mario from the beginning and while the capturing is a modern version of that, as each capture does have a skill or a purpose of their own, it doesn’t necessarily mean it feels right.
Aside from capturing, Cappy also makes for a pretty good weapon as he can be thrown and when the Pro Controller is shook, can be used as a homing weapon. Interestingly enough though, I’ve got to say, while the game does support all play styles, Odyssey does not feel right as a handheld game as some Kingdoms can be a tad blurry due to loss of resolution and even though it has the perfect controls you can expect from most Mario games, Odyssey is actually best played with a Joy-Con controller in each hand, disconnected from the Switch as only then are you truly able to take full advantage of Odyssey’s motion controls.
But while you can of course keep all the fun of Odyssey to yourself, you can of course share it with a friend at any time, as a co-op mode is supported and can be activated and deactivated at any time. When activated though, Player 1 will of course take control of Mario, whereas Player 2 assumes the mantel of Cappy and depending on what you have done to them on that given day of playing, they can either be a best friend and help you with everything, or be a total hindrance and beats up everyone who you attempt to talk to, whilst leaving all enemies alive and forcing you do deal with them the only way you can, which is jumping on their heads, as besides Cappy, jumping is Mario’s only form of attack. (I guess he forgot to punch, kick and bring a hammer.)
One thing worth noting about co-op mode though, is the fact that if you do happen to have any amiibo for the game, with some being able to unlock costumes early, as you won’t have to buy them, amiibo can be used to be sent out and search for Power Moons, which is a 5 minute process, only if you are playing in co-op mode, you can’t use amiibo at all, as it is limited only to single player, which is fair enough and all, but a little bit odd..
Now as for level progression and the purpose of each one, whether you do have someone to play with, or you are playing alone, the goal is simple. Upon arriving in the Cascade Kingdom, the goal is to find an airship you can use to pursue Bowser, only upon finding it, Cappy tells you that you’ll need Power Moons to be ring it back to life and use it to progress to the next location. So you set out to find Power Moons with the likes of a Multi Moon (3 Power Moons) being available by beating a giant Broodal (one of Bowser’s new minions/wedding planners that look like Rabbids on steroids.) Only this boss in particular, looks like a mannish Broodal in a dress on a whole lot more steroids. In typical fashion, the boss battle and all the other boss battles are typical Mario in the sense their big, clever, often follow a rule of three and simple, some a little underwhelming. One such battle is the ones against Bowser. I mean really? Mario does ARMS and that’s pretty much it? The final battle, for me, was nowhere near as epic a battle as seen in earlier titles, like Galaxy. But once it is over and once enough Moons are collected, it is time to power up the Odyssey and fly off to the next Kingdom.
You can of course stick around and collect some more Power Moons, but it is actually in your best interest to move on straight away, as each area has a set number of Moons required to be collected within them, just to be able to progress to the next one, so even if you do get 20 in the Cascade Kingdom, they won’t count for anything as you will need to get the required number of Moons from the Sand Kingdom before you can move on once again. Oh and those weird cubes you’re bound to find one of in each Kingdom, don’t even bother with them. Those Moon Rocks can not be used until the post-game events, which is where Odyssey goes from being the easy and fun game it is at the beginning, to a more challenging and even more fun affair afterwards. It is only during this later state can those rocks can be activated and cause more Power Moons to appear in a single Kingdom and just in case it wasn’t obvious, no there is not a hub world!
Still, it’s not just Power Moons that are restricted to certain Kingdoms, there’s regional Purple Coins as well and while the quantity of them can vary depending on the Kingdom you’re on (some only have 50 to collect, whilst others have 100,) collecting them all is in your best interest. Why? Well each Kingdom has a Crazy Cap store and at the Crazy Cap store, both Gold and Purple coins can be sent to buy cool things. With the Purple Coins, you can be new special costumes that can give you access to previously locked and guarded doors, and new stamps, stickers and decorations that can be put to use by doing up the Odyssey inside and outside. With the Gold coins however, you can also buy costume, but you can also buy Power Moons and the more Moons you have, the more special costumes you can unlock.
Only don’t spend all the Gold coins will you? With the 1-up life system completely done away with, those Gold coins are Mario’s form of life, yes we can take normally three hits before he does, as he can temporarily upgrade his life to 6, but every time Mario dies, he is punished by having 10 of his Gold coins taken away from him. Incidentally though, if you happened to have perished by the hands of an enemy on land, or in the water, you can go to that spot and collect them once again. So it pays to pay attention when playing, but with so many available checkpoints in each Kingdom, even if you do die, you won’t have a lot of backtracking to do and if you’re in a hurry to get to a certain area, you can of course warp to the closest checkpoint to hasten your journey, thanks to Cappy.
Now as I am a believer of saving the best for last, it is time to talk about the two really cool things about Super Mario Odyssey and the first is Snapshot Mode! Love taking pictures and I don’t just mean via a screenshot on the Switch! With Super Mario Odyssey, players are giving access to a free-moving camera that allows you take not just take and save screenshots, but apply a filter of your choice, from a huge array of them, to properly capture the occasion and in all honesty, this feature alone is a bit of a game changer. (Who needs Pokémon Snap when Mario Snap has arrived!) While it is easy to go off looking for more Power Moons, it is just as easy and tempting to go off looking for the perfect picture, be it a simple image of Mario taking a nap on a beach with a dog wearing a hat, a picture of Mario beating up Bowser, or just standing on a high spot, looking all mysterious. Whatever you’re trying to do with Odyssey picture-wise, there is a filter for it and every image, even the bad ones, can always come out looking great.
As for the other great thing about Odyssey? How about we just say the game itself? Yes, I did the whole song and dance at the beginning of this review that did put it down, but it is a fun game that gets insanely better post-game that actually rewards you the more you play it. I mean it is Mario at his near finest. It has day of the dead looking characters. It has beautiful locations, a slot game, a picture match game, a Vespa to ride and so much more goodness that is just awaiting anyone and everyone willing to set sail on an Odyssey. There may never be another Mario quite like it, but I hope to hell there is because I need some more of that 2D/3D action. Every time I got to go into a pipe and progress through a level as part of a two dimensional interval, I was simulating. Not only did the 2D look great, but the contrast was breath-taking, as the world outside of it, remained 3D and the two complemented each other perfectly. In fact I liked that gimmick so much, that should Nintendo make a New Super Mario Bros. game for Switch, than that is exactly how I want it to be, because for me that would be the perfect Mario for it would be a true evolution of the original game and I would literally play the hell out of it! How about you? But because all good things and bad things come to an end, and my fingertips are nearly worn away from typing all of this lengthy review that is well over 4000 that is ridiculous, it is time we bring this review to an end, especially since it means I can go back to playing Odyssey!
What Nintendo has been able to do with Odyssey is staggering as they have managed to bring out a game that encompasses some of the greatest aspects of the previous 3D games and even then knock it out of the park. Only while a good home run will clear the park, not every knock out is a winner and while Odyssey has a whole lot going on, is a true Mario adventure and packaged with so much love, although it did win us over in the end like I said before, for 2 of us, the damage was already done. In other words, Super Mario Odyssey is not the perfect game, or even best Mario game, but it is fantastic in almost every degree and it is definitely one of the best 3D games we have seen in a long time!
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*Physical Review Copy Provided by Nintendo