I don’t remember the last time I spent over nine months in anticipation of a game. I haven’t been this excited for a videogame (or dare I say, anything?) for a very long time.
The bar was set incredibly high for Super Mario Odyssey. I think we can all agree that Nintendo will deliver an enjoyable experience when it comes to their 3D Mario titles, but doing that alone wouldn’t be enough here. Odyssey was set to be the Switch’s proudest exclusive work—the first game you think of when it comes to games that can only be played on the Switch (especially considering that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can be played on a Wii U). If the game flopped, it would negatively impact the console’s potential to sell as a whole. A lot was on the line for the public image and general well-being of the Switch—Nintendo had to create something outstanding.
(Spoiler alert: They did.)
Part of the pressure was on them, though. They went as hard as they possibly could when it came to the marketing, and their advertisement strategy for the trailers was absolute genius: Keep the audience guessing, and fill it up with as much gameplay as possible.
At the very least, it got people to talk about the game. I’m sure the music video helped, too.
The game was released worldwide on Friday, October 27th, 2017. Nintendo even made a bundle release to sell the Switch, a digital copy of the game, and an Odyssey-themed carrying case all together.
In case you’ve vanished from the gaming scene for about a year (It’s been that long, hasn’t it? The Switch Presentation trailer hit the world on January 12, 2017) and don’t want to watch the two trailers, here’s a short explanation of the premise of the game.
Bowser has taken Peach yet again—this time, to drag her to their wedding, because he forgot about what happened the last time he tried doing that. Here’s the problem: In a fight with Mario, Bowser wins, kicks Mario with the force of a blue shell making a beeline for first place, and flies off.
Mario’s not on his own, though—a top-hat named Cappy has beef with Bowser (who also took his sister, Tiara) as well and decides to help Mario along the adventure. Though, Cappy isn’t just some supporting character that doesn’t affect the game at all; it’s like the game is centered around the proper usage of him as a teammate. You can use him to Capture enemies, grab collectibles, and even assist in moving around!
The game is massive in size and scope. The main collectible of the game, Power Moons, are plentiful and will always leave you with something to do. After all, there are more moons in this game than there are stars and shines in every 3D Mario game before this one combined. The first time you play through a world, you’ll be rewarded with tons of them for exploring, or maybe even just stumble upon them by complete accident. And with levels being packed with moons, you won’t end up leaving the area and having to start over every time you find one, unlike the adventures in the past.
In terms of controls, Mario is in peak shape as far his acrobatics go. If you’ve seen him do a jumping maneuver in the past, you can probably use it here. The triple jumps, side flips, wall kicks, long jumps all here—and performing them successfully feels great with these Joy-Cons.
Assuming that you have played one 3D Mario title in your life, it would probably be easier to talk about the changes rather than explain everything from the ground up. Mario’s dive does not deal damage to enemies and is now used by performing a ground pound, then canceling it to leap forward instead. It’s a quirky control decision (especially considering there are two “throw hat” buttons), but it also has a positive side: said dive also gives you a bit of height and speed. It may allow you to make a jump you barely couldn’t previously.
There’s only two complaints I have, and the first is that there’s no attack button—Mario can’t do his standard two punches and a kick. To be fair, he hasn’t been able to do that since Super Mario 64, so maybe we’re just supposed to forget that it exists—but it would be nice to have for the segments where you’re supposed to play hatless (though, I think there might only be two of those that have any amount of combat). The second complaint is that some actions are locked behind the motion controls, such as attacking while capturing a Cheep Cheep or performing a straight-downwards cap throw. However, very few actions are motion control-locked, and the motion controls themselves work very well.
The game also features “3D Rumble”, a mechanic much easier to experience than to read about in an article. Some collectibles are hidden in the ground, but can be scouted out through the rumbling Joy-Cons. The 3D aspect of it comes from how the rumbling becomes much more intense the closer you are to it, like a dowsing rod.
We all have different music tastes, but next time someone asks what kind of music you’re into, make sure you add “the Super Mario Odyssey soundtrack” to the list of noteworthy mentions. Obviously, music tastes differ from person to person, but it’s rather telling when the game’s soundtrack is so enjoyable that they end up making a music video for the opening before the game is even out.
Somehow, I feel like they had no idea it would catch on as much as it did.
Though, my personal favorite is Steam Gardens, which plays in the Wooded Kingdom. It doesn’t feel like Mario, but it sure feels great.
Nintendo put as much effort into this game as possible to make it a game worth being proud to own and have played, but they also put so much love into the game. You know that feeling you get when you see a detail that isn’t all that meaningful, but it’s nice that it was included? It’s like this game was made of those. And just to name a few:
It’s pretty clear that New Donk City is a tie-in to Donkey Kong, but it goes deeper than that. The steel girders around the level are the same ones from said arcade game, and the streets are even named after Donkey Kong characters.
Mario is very animated in this game and has all sorts of idle motions. If you stand close to something that plays music, he will dance.
Many of Mario’s clothes are actually clothes he has worn in the past. Many people can probably recognize that you can buy his Super Mario Maker outfit, but it goes further than that—much further.
These might be only a few examples, but it’s only a taste of the level of detail that the game contains.
We can’t sing enough praise of this game. Super Mario Odyssey exceeds all of the expectations that we had formed from the already-high bar Nintendo set for themselves. With a familiar story, an incredible soundtrack, tight controls, unique ideas, the amount of love necessary to include all the details and throwbacks to the Mario franchise, and all packed into Nintendo’s ace system exclusive for their newest hardware, not only is Super Mario Odyssey great, but it’s the perfect success story for the company that created it.
While I don’t remember when the last time was I waited nearly a year for something to be released, I cannot tell you the last time I’ve felt this much genuine glee to play a videogame. The anticipation and excitement was one thing, but actually experiencing the game myself was an incredible experience—I feel as though I’ve truly gone on an adventure.
Now that I sit here writing this, I actually realize something that hadn’t occurred to me—the Mario history is quite rich, in a way. Looking at the clothes selection alone goes to show how many wacky things Mario has done over these—what, 30-or-so years? Seeing this history continue to flourish as I continue to grow up myself is such a beautiful thing.
The only thing left now is to see how well the game’s legacy holds up. Will it be as loved (and sell as many copies) as Super Mario Galaxy (whether it be 1 or 2)? Was Odyssey actually a better or worse experience when compared to either of those?
I lied. There’s one more thing left to do now—watch the growth of the beauty that is this game’s speedrunning community. I swear to all of you, it is going to be wild.