Super Mario Odyssey

Throughout its tenure developing videogame systems and their accompanying titles, Nintendo has definitely had its share of ups and downs, initially rejuvenating the gaming market after the Great Videogame Crash of 1983 with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a legacy they continued with the Super NES. During the Nintendo 64 era, the Big N lost some of its ground to rival Sony largely due to sticking to the cartridge medium while other companies moved to more flexible compact discs, sort of got back on track with the GameCube, revolutionized the industry again with the Wii that got its own sequel system, and yet again innovated with their latest console, the Nintendo Switch, allowing for portable play on its miniature screen or on a television. Among the launch titles for the system was Super Mario Odyssey, which is very much what a standard Mario game should be.

The story will undoubtedly be familiar to most fans of the sundry Mario series, RPGs / action / adventure / platformers alike, with antagonist Bowser capturing Princess Peach, this time in an attempt to marry her with the help of secondary foes, a group of anthropomorphic rabbit wedding planners known as the Broodals. Mario initially befriends a hat-possessing spirit known as Cappy, with the plumber traveling across various kingdoms to power up a hat-shaped vessel known as the Odyssey with the help of MacGuffin power moons, with occasional branches on how to advance. The narrative certainly isn’t groundbreaking, but fortunately doesn’t detract from the experience.

The structure of Odyssey is mostly methodical, with Mario having the goal in the different themed kingdoms of acquiring enough power moons to provide his ship ample energy to move to the next region. Mario’s ability to throw Cappy onto enemies to “possess” them and use their abilities plays a critical role at times, with the player able to depart the possessed foe’s body any time to resume normal exploration. Boss battles occur occasionally, typically requiring a special strategy and necessitating three critical blows to the foe for victory. Mario has six life points, extendable to nine at times, and when they expire, the player pays a certain amount of coins and resumes gameplay at the last safe point.

Odyssey is not a terribly difficult game, this player only dying once on the final boss battle of the main storyline, with bosses bearing patterns that aren’t too hard to pick up. The game further provides an Assist Mode where blue arrows always point to the next spot necessary to advance the game or another power moon whose location the player can pay fifty coins for if they just want to get the game over with quickly. Ultimately, nothing really leaves room for improvement, the camera keeping a safe distance above the area of gameplay, which is overall fairly easy to pick up even by those such as this reviewer that normally don’t play games of this caliber.

Aside from the lack of an in-game clock, the controls don’t leave too much room for improvement either, with the player for instance able to bring up a map of the current area and transport instantly to flags Mario has reached serving as checkpoints if the need arises to pursue power moons revealed to be near them by the explorer players can pay to reveal one of their locations. Odyssey has further been hailed for its “open-world” gameplay, and while games of this nature sometimes tend to provide poor direction on how to advance, it isn’t too difficult to get lost. In the end, interaction definitely helps the game more than hurts.

Renowned series composer Koji Kondo and a few others provide the soundtrack, which is fairly enjoyable, most tracks fitting the environs in which the game occurs, although there are occasional silent portions. There’s limited voice acting, as well, though aside from coherent utterances such as Princess Peach’s “Mario!”, it consists mostly of audible gibberish, though it isn’t nearly as irritating as that in say, Okami, largely due to the ability to skip through text unlike in most cutscenes of that particular title. The sound effects are further familiar territory for most Mario fans, and on the whole, the audio serves the game well for the most part.

The visuals do, as well, with a style comparable to most computer-graphic animated feature films, Mario and other character models looking believable, alongside the environments, which look superb with only minimal jaggies. Players can further customize Mario’s appearance with different clothes buyable at shops, and while different kingdoms may have familiar enemies, they sometimes bear supplemental clothing and accessories tied to the theme of the kingdom they’re in, for instance, with koopas in the Luncheon Kingdom wearing chef hats. There are also occasional side-scrolling zones with graphics replicating the original Super Mario Bros.. Ultimately, an excellent-looking game.

Finally, there isn’t an in-game tracker of playtime, so this reviewer is unsure of how long it took him to complete the main storyline of the game, and while GameFAQs has an average of 43.5 hours, he is certain it didn’t take him that long, and suggests that perhaps that total is based on 100% completion.

In the end, Super Mario Odyssey is, for the most part, what a Mario game should be, with solid gameplay central to the series, excellent control, a great soundtrack, pretty visuals, and plenty supplemental content to stretch out playing time and get the most out of the title. There are only rare cases where it leaves room for improvement, with the narrative, for instance, being typical fare of the Big N’s storied franchise. This reviewer had originally gotten Odyssey instead of Breath of the Wild due to some sort of misunderstanding when purchasing a Switch, although he definitely counts himself fortunate he got to experience one of the first great titles on the system.

The Good:
+Solid Mario gameplay.
+Excellent control.
+Great soundtrack.
+Pretty graphics.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Story is typical Mario fare.

The Bottom Line:
A must-have for Nintendo Switch owners.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: No game clock.

Overall: 9/10

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