A cap-tivating ride
Super Mario Odyssey
As someone who grew up playing all of the mainline Mario games (including the portable ones), I can confidently say that Super Mario Odyssey is the first 3D open-world sandbox game in the franchise to truly click with me. That’s not to discount the importance of Super Mario 64 in the history of video games. Not only did the N64 entry usher the series into the third dimension, it also recognized the potential of mission-based level design and full analog controls. Six years later, Super Mario Sunshine attempted to shake things up by basing the game around jetpack and water-spray mechanics, but it lacked the polish we’ve come to expect from Nintendo, from clumsy camera and aiming controls, to confusing objectives and uninspiring missions.
From the get-go, it’s clear that Nintendo has taken what worked in the 3D Mario games, deviated ever so slightly from established formula, and created a globe-trotting adventure that marries the best of modern sandbox design with Nintendo’s sensibilities. After a quick run-in with Bowser, which resulted in the lost of his signature cap, Mario gained the ability to ‘capture’ wandering creatures and objects with the help of Cappy, a sentient cap that sits atop our mustachioed hero’s head. In less capable hands, this power-up mechanic would probably get old fast, but we were continually surprised by the corporeal form Mario takes, as well as the abilities gained from these temporal possessions.
While Mario has many moves at his disposal (e.g. butt stomps, dive jumps, and triple jumps), some of the more elusive collectibles can only be reached by way of cap throws and creative thinking. In fact, certain platforming puzzles are made easier with motion controls, and the game made it clear that the preferred way of play is with the Joy-Con controllers detached and on both hands. With that said, a second player can join in as Cappy to roam around and wreak havoc on the enemies.
Speaking of collectibles, there are more than 10 Kingdoms (of varying sizes) in Super Mario Odyssey, each with their own theme, natives, secrets, optional challenges, and Purple Coins – the latter which can only be used in the respective Kingdoms to purchase new hats, outfits, and travel mementos. As there are no 1-Ups or powerup mushrooms, players will instead lose 10 regular coins each time Mario runs out of lives or falls into a bottomless pit. By collecting the prerequisite number of Power Moons, Mario and Cappy can then set sail to the next available destination on the titular hat-shaped airship, Odyssey, or revisit earlier ones as part of their postendgame activities.
CONCLUSION Super Mario Odyssey dances between surprise and familiarity with great success.
Spot the adorable Captain Toad and he’ll gift you with a Power Moon.