What ho, readers! This week, in place of the anime review, this reviewer will instead be going back to his roots to review a game. Yes, in times before most of the readers were probably even alive, and the rest old enough to remember probably have chosen other, more important bits of trivia to remember, this reviewer was actually a writer for the site who did video game reviews and editorials. As there are so many games on the market now and so few people to do them for the site, this reviewer is taking a step back from anime for the week to review one of those many games that have recently come out: Super Mario Odyssey. Released on October 27th of this year, and not with the launch of the console as it should have been, Super Mario Odyssey is the sixteenth game in the “Super Mario” series. This means that Mario currently has even Final Fantasy beat for main series iterations. With every new console for Nintendo recently, the only games that have truly been console sellers have been first party titles from Nintendo. Having already had Breath of the Wild at the launch of the system, Nintendo managed to keep the consoles flying off of the shelves with the promise of a new Mario game. The main purpose of this review, beyond covering the game itself as well as possible, is to answer two big questions. Does the game live up to the hype, and is Super Mario Odyssey really worth purchasing a Switch for? To answer these, two specific aspects must be addressed above all others.
Arguably one of the least important elements of a platforming game, especially a Mario game, is going to be the story. Nintendo seems to be embracing this mindset, as the game begins without even trying to give Mario a reason to head to the castle and see Peach, as so many other titles in the franchise seem to do. This time, the game skips over the early fluff and jumps right into the middle of the action, with the first visible scene being Bowser, already with Peach in hand, and Mario already attempting to save her. From here Mario receives a hardy beating, something that is not present in every version of the game, and in a tragic turn of fate, even his oldest ally in all of his battles, his most important brother who never fails to cover him in times of need, bites the dust. Yes, the game begins with the death of Mario’s hat, leaving what should be a balding head in plain view for everyone to see. The heartbreak does not last long, as Mario just so happens to make friends with a sentient hat, who agrees to assist Mario in rescuing the princess, as his own little sister has also been captured, a tiara with eyes that the princess was wearing for some unexplained reason. Cappy, as the hat is called, comes from a kingdom known as the Cap Kingdom. In the universe of Super Mario Odyssey, each world visited is a kingdom, and each is unique in one way or another. It appears that Bowser has decided he is tired of being Peach’s mistress and wants to be the main man in her life. To accomplish this, he plans to get her to marry him. In each kingdom, there is a different item that Bowser plans to use in his huge ceremony, and one has to appreciate the man’s devotion to aesthetics and romance. He is trying harder than Mario ever has to make the princess feel special, giving her a ring that is so big she could use it as a hula hoop, a fancy bouquet of piranha plants, and all sorts of other knick-knacks from every kingdom they visit on the way back to Bowser’s Castle. Once again this game paints Bowser as the villain, but maybe Peach would be happier with the big scaly lout. For the most part, the story from world to world is basically “we have to stop Bowser from collecting [insert item specific to this kingdom]!” “oh no, we were too late to get that item, but we will catch him in the next kingdom!”. This is rinsed and repeated from beginning to the end of the game, with very few deviations between, most of them just being instances that the ship was broken and needed to be “repaired”, which boils down to more moon collecting to fix everything. As stated before, the story is not the most important part of a platformer, so the game can be forgiven for having such a silly premise, and the story itself is relatively enjoyable either way, even if it is a little flimsy. It is nice to see Bowser stepping up his game, and actually trying to accomplish more than just imprisoning the princess. Mario’s ally in this is one of the most fun allies so far, even if he does not contribute much to the actual story, and contributes more to the gameplay. Speaking of gameplay…
While the story is not always necessary for a platformer to be a good game, the thing that is most important is the gameplay. Mario has, for the most part, always been a series that has managed to be easy to pick up, and hard to master with all the nuanced movements the surprisingly agile plumber is capable of. Thankfully, this game continues that trend, with the controls for Super Mario Odyssey feeling quite smooth at all times. There is rarely anything that feels impossible to accomplish. In fact, most every challenge the game presents is quite easily overcome. If there were a downside to the controls, it would be that some of the new mechanics have made the game too easy. Now that Mario always has a projectile weapon, one that never runs out and is nearly always available outside of one or two short circumstances, combat is even more simple than when the only requirement was to jump on enemies. This is made even more simple by the built-in waggle controls that Nintendo seems to be obsessed with. Having trouble aiming the hat? Well, why bother aiming when a simple shake of the Joy-Con will make Cappy home in on the nearest target? In fact, why bother hitting buttons at all, when waggling the stick in any direction will send Cappy flying without any thought? There are some more fun functions that Cappy brings to the table, and this is where the “hard to master” aspect of the gameplay comes into effect. If a player throws Cappy out and holds down the button to do so, Cappy will spin in place. This can be used to deal multiple hits to enemies and objects, and Mario can also take advantage of this by jumping on Cappy for a sort of double jump. With all the movement and jump options Mario already has at his disposal, this one is never really needed, but mastering it can make getting to certain areas in each kingdom significantly easier, and managing to time it just right can even save Mario from a free fall to his death in some situations. The game itself was presented as something of an open world game, but this is not really the case. Sure, in each kingdom Mario has the option to get any moon at any time without returning to a hub and can run around the whole area, at least the places he can reach, as if it was an open world game, but this has been true of Mario games since 64 for the most part, other than having to leap back into a painting between stars. In reality, the kingdoms do not all run together in one large world, and Mario must return to his ship between kingdoms, presenting a map that is reminiscent of games as old as Starfox. The paths between each kingdom are very linear, as is the progression of the game in general. There are moments when the path forks and Mario has to choose between two different kingdoms, but even these choices do not matter. No matter which kingdom Mario chooses, both kingdoms must be completed anyway. The only choice is in which of the two kingdoms to do first. This was mostly to be expected, as putting together a world similar to worlds the likes of games like Skyrim for a Mario game would be an insane feat to manage for something with as much power as the Switch lacks. Even though the game is pretty linear in terms of which kingdoms go where and what goals need be accomplished to open up new areas, the gameplay still manages to satisfy and the kingdoms themselves are quite nice.
While these are the two major aspects of import to a platforming game, there are other smaller aspects that apply a little to determining if the game is worth playing or not. These are aspects that do not ruin the game if they are done poorly but they are certainly contributing factors to a game’s longevity. The music in Mario odyssey is very fitting for each kingdom visited, but this is once again to be expected from a Mario game. Each track fits the world well, and the flow of each special song fits the bosses or challenges, or to festival type situations on each planet. There are small little features of the Switch beyond just the waggle controls that the game tries to force upon users, such as the screenshot function built in. After every collected moon, a screen presents itself with Mario and Cappy, the moon, and the moon’s name in a way that is clearly designed to be a picture. There are also certain moons that use artwork hidden in each level as clues to find, and the game encourages the player to take a picture of it for easier reference while searching. While not too bothersome, it does cut well into play time having to pause after so many moons to see a little picture opportunity. Some moons are ridiculously convoluted in how the player retrieves them, and others are as simple as dropping Mario’s massive plumber hind end onto a sparkly piece of ground. The biggest flaw of the game is probably the challenge factor. While the game is fun, it is also incredibly easy fro beginning to end. There is no point where any enemy, including bosses, is really a challenge. Most of them do not even require any of the easy mode waggle features to beat. The only real challenge is the challenge that is present in every 3D Mario game, and that is the camera being rather unfriendly in some situations. For the most part it is not terrible, but there are definitely places where a player can die if they are not aware that the camera thinks Mario needs to be viewed from a different angle all of the sudden. Another thing that makes the game far, far too easy, is the Amiibo support.
For the most part, Amiibos only do simple things like giving Mario free costumes based on whichever character the Amiibo is of. However, if a player has a Mario, Peach, or Bowser Amiibo, then the game is basically over. A Mario Amiibo will make Mario invincible as if he had found a star for 30 seconds, Peach gives Mario a Life-Up Heart, which extends Mario from 3 hits to 6 hits, and Bowser will highlight any purple regional coins hidden on the screen the player is currently viewing. All of these remove any challenge the game may have had, which is already quite a low amount of challenge. So, to answer the questions presented at the beginning. While the game itself has its flaws, it is hard to say that it is not a lot of fun, and one that will easily hold a player’s interest well beyond completion. In that regard, it is safe to say that the game definitely lives up to the hype, but does that mean that it is worth buying a Switch for? If someone does not already have a Switch, and is wondering if there is one game that makes the console worth owning, then unfortunately this reviewer does not think this one is quite worth the cost of the Switch as it is right now. The game is great and definitely worth picking up if one already owns a Switch, but it is not good enough to demand the purchase of a Switch immediately. The only difference would be if one is a Mario maniac, and must own every game in the series. Still, the game is good enough to deserve at least a B+, but since this site does not play around with + and -, this reviewer will end on giving this game a B. Still very good, but also very linear and lacking in any real challenge, and also giving amiibos that break any possibility of there ever actually being any challenge, encouraging people to spend money on things such as those. Either way, let us know what you think below! Do not worry, regular anime reviews will return next week. For now, thank you for reading and keep on gaming!