|Release: October 27, 2017|
|Players: 1-2 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating.|
Super Mario Odyssey is the Assassin’s Creed to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Skyrim. Those are silly comparisons, but if we take the fairly common stance of the latter, the former is a good starting point. What does that mean? Well, in Super Mario Odyssey, our titular plumber is facing his biggest adventure yet – a series of massive, open-world style “kingdoms” that offer players sandboxes to run around in, as well as little objectives, hidden secrets, fast-travel points, collectibles, and tons more.
As I made my way up the stairs at Nintendo’s E3 2017 booth, literally walking past Charles Martinet standing next to a Mario mascot, I thought, “this is weird.” But when I was handed a controller and started playing Super Mario Odyssey, I felt right at home. Mario is as responsive and mobile as he’s ever been; he turns on a dime and context-sensitive actions like wall-sliding and edge-grabbing feel fluid and natural. He also has all the same old tricks – long-jumping, triple-jumping, backflipping, and so on and so forth.
Mario, of course, also has Cappy, his googly-eyed sentient hat. Mario can throw Cappy in multiple ways, via button-presses or waggling the Joy-Cons in different ways. There’s the basic throw that can cause Mario to take control over certain enemies and characters, and a stronger, overhead throw that can strike more than one foe at a time. He also has a rolling maneuver, which feels a little awkward to execute at first, but seems like a great tool for covering ground quickly.
In the hands-on demo, I was able to play in two kingdoms, the meme-tastic New Donk City and the awkward “Japan visiting other cultures,” Mexico-themed kingdom with the piñata people and sombreros. I got the feeling, at least in the demo, that the city was more about exploring and collecting items, while the other had several more examples of the different kinds of objectives and insular scenarios you can encounter.
When I first started playing, I was definitely overwhelmed. A pseudo open-world Super Mario game is as wild as it sounds. You can pause the game and look at a map, and it looks just like something you’d see in a Ubisoft game. There are waypoints for little tasks all over the map, complete with little Mario flags acting as fast-travel points and a cute tourism/map motif decorating the far sides of the screen.
Super Mario Odyssey wants you to get distracted. You can be running full speed in one direction, goal in mind, and see a Moon (the Star-like progression collectible) just out of reach. Get that, and in the process you may see something else that piques your curiosity. The levels are colorful and super busy, with tons of moving parts and pieces of the environment you can interact with.
Generally, if I was looking at a thing, and wondering if Mario could latch onto the thing or do something with it, chances are it worked. I scaled a skyscraper, fighting off cute, Nintendo maggots that transformed into flys, jumped across damaged, collapsing scaffolding and eventually came to what appeared to be a dead end. A nearby pole that initially bled into the scenery caught my eye and I was able to climb the rest of the way to a tower-like structure at the top. Sure enough, I was able to carefully scale it and collect the reward at the very top. Then I jumped off. Mario doesn’t take fall damage in Super Mario Odyssey. It’s the most durable dude’s ever been.
I also found tons of interesting little use cases for Cappy, from latching onto power lines to zip up and between buildings, to taking over one of those bizarre, tall humans to steer a remote-control car into an otherwise inaccessible Moon. In the desert world, I was able to take over a Bullet Bill and fly until I exploded back into Mario, crossing long gaps and finding more treasures.
Speaking of treasures, Mario can access Crazy Cap shops in which you can buy various goodies and tools with both normal coins and world-specific currency. You can get new hats and outfits for Mario, Moons, power-ups, and even stickers with which players can decorate their Odyssey, Mario’s rocket ship of sorts.
Super Mario Odyssey is a huge game, in a way The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was and wasn’t. Nintendo’s approach to its core IPs so far has been about scale, although Super Mario Odyssey feels like it still retains its core identity as well. The timed demos almost didn’t play well, purely because it was hard to process my approach with so many options on the table. But it feels amazing to play, and I’m really looking forward to digging into everything Mario and Cappy have to offer later this year.