It feels like it’s been so long since a major Nintendo release has come out that I’d almost forgotten how impressive they can be. What was the last new one I played, maybe Super Mario Galaxy 2? Sheeeeeeit, that was almost 10 years ago! Well, if this is any indication, then Nintendo is finally back with a vengeance.
The simplest way to describe Super Mario Odyssey would be to say that it’s kind of a modern day version of Mario 64 (which I still have never finished for some reason. don’t tell anyone!). It certainly has a similar feel to it sometimes, but it also adds a lot of new elements that keep it from feeling like a simple retread.
The most obvious and notable new mechanic being the ability to possess most creatures with your new sentient hat friend, Cappy. This is something that’s been done in a small handful of games before, but never quite like this. The sheer creativity on display in the large and diverse sets of abilities of the various possessed creatures, as well as the application of said abilities in all the many platforming and puzzling sections, is truly impressive. You’re not just Mario, hopping on the heads of angry turtles, you’re also a frog, and a fireball, and a stack of a dozen Goombas, and a centipede that stretches like a cartoonish accordion, and so many more.
Wait, random dark thought: Isn’t it weird how in today’s ultra-critical, ultra-sensitive gaming world, we’re all having a good laugh at a game where the main mechanic has you playing a horribly dated Italian stereotype who is literally forcing himself into the bodies of other sentient beings and doing whatever he wants with their physical selves, often leading to their severe injury or death, like some kind of serial rapist/mass murderer? The morality of it all is actually pretty disturbing when you stop to think about it, but you don’t, because look how happy and cartoony it all is! Kinda fucked up isn’t it?
But enough random pontificating, back to business! Super Mario Odyssey also feels a lot like a love letter to older fans of the series too, with so many references to classic games in the series, even going back as far as Donkey Kong. The best of which take place in the form of some really well-designed original Super Mario Bros.-themed 2D sections that are scattered throughout the game. These aren’t just gratuitous, simple callbacks either, they really went nuts with the creativity here too. 2D levels take place in the strangest places, on the strangest surfaces, and get really surreal in design at times.
Boy, this is a huge game too. I must have spent at least 25 hours just clearing out everything there was to do in the main campaign, and then another 15 or so on the post-game stuff. There are so many kingdoms to explore and just so damn much to do in all of them, with over 800 total power moons to find, and more mini-games and secrets than I can count.
If you can’t tell already, I think this was a pretty great game. It was just a joy to play, feeling almost like some kind of mad, luxurious toy box that seemed to equally entice my inner child and my current old sourpuss self. The gameplay, visual design, and even the music are all what I would call truly premium content. It’s a game that absolutely lives up to all the hype in just about every way.
I only had one complaint, and that was that the level of backtracking and repetition in the post-game content can wear a bit thin. The main campaign itself was just perfect, but then they go a little far sending you back to all the previous locations all over again to do a bunch of tasks that mostly feel way too similar to the ones you’ve already done.
There are also the extra post-game levels, Dark Side of the Moon and Darker Side of the Moon. Man, people are not kidding about how nasty those places are. The game takes a real sadistic turn here all of the sudden. The final challenge involves getting through a viciously difficult series of over a dozen challenge “rooms” with no checkpoints and just your one, sad little life. It’s like it suddenly turned into one of those painful bonus levels in The End Is Nigh out of nowhere. All just so you can get bragging rights and an invisible outfit that you’ll never, ever want to use.
Anyway, other than that, absolutely amazing game. I’d recommend it to literally everyone who likes any video games!