As much as the quality of the series remained relatively high, I have to say that by 2017, Mario’s games had started to become a little predictable. Sure, there’d be a new power-up or something like that, but you’d know what you were in for with each new instalment. Standard platforming fun around the Mushroom Kingdom which you’d grown to know so well over the years. There were never any really exciting surprises, but it was nice, comfortable and familiar. This all changed with Super Mario Odyssey.
Yes, once again Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and you have to travel across the lands in order to rescue her, but this time it’s a very different journey. Instead of simply kidnapping Peach, Bowser actually wants to force her to marry him this time and so has steals artifacts from all over the world. As you chase after them and retrieve these items, you head to many corners of the world into which Mario has never ventured before.
But before I get into the worlds that Mario explores, I need to tell you about an important new character: Cappy. Mario’s iconic hat is destroyed in the opening of the game, only for him to then team up with a spirit called Cappy who merges with his old hat. Cappy gives Mario the ability to throw his hat like a boomerang and use his hat in lots of other cool ways – most significantly, he can now throw his hat onto enemies to take control of them.
The ability to ‘capture’ enemies like this, provides a huge amount of variety in gameplay. You can posses a tyrannosaurus rex and go on a rampage, you can possess a Para-Goomba and fly around the stage, you can possess a Cheep-Cheep to explore the ocean without the need for air, you can possess a Bullet Bill and launch yourself into cracked walls to destroy them. There are quite a lot of things you get to possess and it’s really fun to get a feel for playing as all of these different creatures. Later in the game, this is used in some really significant and amazing ways – I’d not like to spoil it, but I was so excited when I first got to these bits…
On top of the new abilities that Cappy brings to the table, you get to explore huge, beautiful worlds quite unlike anything we’ve seen in the series before. There are expansive desserts, open forests, frozen landscapes, beautiful beaches and even a realistic city. It’s not one big open world, but instead you fly between them in a ship called the Odyssey. Each world is filled with Power Moons which you get by completing various tasks and these moons power the Odyssey, so the more you have the further you can fly – opening up more worlds. You can also buy souvenirs along the way to decorate the interior of your ship.
What I like so much about this game is that each world really feels like a ‘world’. You’re not just avoiding enemies and jumping across platforms to reach the end of an obstacle course, you’re exploring locations with a history behind them and interacting with a cast of wacky characters who are just getting on with their lives. It all feels so much more immersive and I love the excitement that exploring these places provides.
My favourite is New Donk City – this is the realistic city I mentioned above. It looks a lot like New York City and is full of references to the Donkey Kong series. There are streets named after Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and even King K. Rool. Most excitingly, Pauline herself is mayor of the city and it’s implied that this city may even be the location of her kidnapping by the original Donkey Kong all those years ago… it’s a real treat for the fans.
And this whole game is full of delightful references for fans of the series. One other new feature is that Mario is now able to change his clothes. There are so many outfits to unlock and just about every one of them is a reference to one of his past adventures. I was particularly excited when I saw that one of his outfits was a reference to the game Qix – you may never have even heard of it, but it nicely highlights how comprehensive they were in choosing the outfits!
In the past, Super Mario 64 DS had been my favourite 3D Mario adventure. I thought that would probably always be the case, because it had nostalgia on its side, but it has finally been dethroned. This is the Mario game I always wanted. It has a lot in common with games like Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie and as I love them enormously, it was no surprise that I loved this too. I think what really says a lot, is that this is a game I can happily play just walking around the levels and doing nothing in particular. Only the best of the best can achieve that.