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Brings Back Old Memories

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    Super Mario Odyssey

    Rating: 5.0 – Flawless

    Brings Back Old Memories

    I’ve been playing Mario games for years now, many of which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. One of which was Super Mario 64 over 20 years ago, which remains one of my all-time favourites. I even went back to check, it’s still fun (and extremely nostalgic too).

    However, a couple more recent Mario games, the Mario Galaxy games, didn’t click with me. Between stiff controls, awkward gravitational gimmicks, and underwhelming gameplay, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth and a couple unpopular opinions.

    As such, I hesitated to pick up Super Mario Odyssey (SMO) at first. I was excited that SMO would return to the Super Mario 64 style of gameplay, but I also wondered how much of the Galaxy games would make their comeback. After recently finishing the game for myself, and I can say my initial worries are no more!

    Story and Presentation: 9/10

    The weakest part of the game, which is no surprise since it’s a (non-RPG) Mario game. I went in expecting the Bowser-kidnaps-Peach plot, and that’s what I got. However, there are a few side characters and twists that genuinely surprised me and warrant the higher score.

    It turns out that Bowser has kidnapped Peach this time because he wants to marry her. Bowser’s new minions are the Broodals, rabbit wedding planners that steal everything that he needs for the wedding. The game starts off with Mario fighting Bowser on an airship to try to save Peach. However, Bowser wins this time, kicking Mario off the ship and destroying Mario’s hat in the process. Enter your sidekick, Cappy, a hat spirit who meets with Mario and assumes the form of his hat. In exchange, Cappy asks that Mario also rescue his friend Tiara, who’s sitting on Peach’s head. And with that, Mario and Cappy travel in a hat-shaped ship called the Odyssey to chase after Bowser.

    Although the story is rather simple, by Mario standards it actually has some things going for it. For one, the story is more original than the average Mario game: having Bowser marry Peach has only been done once before in Super Paper Mario, but never in a mainstream Mario game until now. The Broodals are a nice change from the overused Koopalings and Bowser Jr. as well. Another thing I liked was the portrayal of Bowser; he had a believable motive and was a more crafty antagonist than usual, always being one step ahead. As such, I felt a compulsion to save the princess. There are also a couple plot twists near the end of the game that were really well done. I won’t spoil them, though.

    As far as presentation, SMO is fantastic. There is a lot of charm to be seen; some lines of dialogue put a smile on my face. Furthermore, SMO is packed to the brim with references to earlier Mario games, and even a few other Nintendo games! Some of them are out in the open, others are a lot more subtle. Examples might be callbacks to Mario’s 8-bit days. The shout-outs were nostalgic and had me grinning.

    Gameplay: 10/10

    While SMO’s story is very good by Mario standards, it’s obviously not the selling point of the game. The gameplay is the game’s strongest point, and it’s engaging throughout!

    In essence, SMO is a sandbox 3D platformer, which feels much like its ancestors Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. That is, the goal is to collect Power Moons to progress through the game, which act as fuel for the Odyssey. With enough Moons collected, you can travel to the next kingdom. The kingdoms have an open-world design to them, which allows for plenty of non-linearity and experimentation, which I really enjoyed! The Moons are scattered (and often well-hidden) throughout each kingdom, and aside from the few required Moons to progress the story, you can get whatever moons you want! While the game does suggest Moons you should be getting, you’re generally free to deviate from that path. Acquiring Moons can involve anything from a boss fight, to a platforming challenge, to a puzzle. The boss fights and platforming challenges start off easy, but can become quite challenging around the end of the game! The puzzles are also fun to figure out because they often aren’t spelled out as to how to solve them.

    As far as the kingdoms themselves, each of them has a distinct theme and distinct residents. While there aren’t too many kingdoms in the game (12-15), each kingdom has a suprising amount of depth. As such, I enjoyed most of the kingdoms in the game. It’s definitely quality over quantity here.

    While searching for Power Moons is your main goal in SMO, there are still other things to be collected in each kingdom. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mario game without coins! SMO has both yellow coins (the ones we know and love, found everywhere) and purple coins (which are unique to each kingdom). Yellow coins function as "lives" (although SMO doesn’t have the traditional 1-up life system; if you die, you lose 10 coins). Both types of coins are used to buy outfits, souvenirs, and other helpful items at a store called Crazy Cap. It’s definitely fun to mess around with different outfits for Mario!

    There’s already a lot going on with SMO, and I haven’t even mentioned Cappy’s role in making the gameplay a masterful experience! Mario can throw Cappy to uncover secrets, bounce off of like a trampoline, and attack enemies like a sort of boomerang. However, what really spices up the game is Cappy’s ability to have Mario possess certain things. There are at least 40 things that Mario can possess, from inanimate objects to many classic Mario enemies like the Goomba or Bullet Bill. You can even control a T-Rex! The list goes on and on, so I could be here all day, but I won’t. Suffice to say there are some possessions that are just too good to spoil. The outstanding possession mechanic keeps the game fresh, and leads to many memorable moments.

    You can also get a second player to control Cappy, which is also a lot of fun. It’s definitely better than the co-op multiplayer seen in the Mario Galaxy games since the second player now has a greater role in the game.

    Controls: 9.5/10

    Mario and Cappy control incredibly fluidly, much like Super Mario 64. This is a game where simply moving around as Mario is fun to mess around with. Cappy is just the proverbial icing on the cake; by combining Mario’s nimble moves with bouncing off of Cappy, technical movement is never far away. As such, the movement is the best part of the controls since it adds such a high skill ceiling to the game.

    The majority of the Cappy possessions also control really well.

    SMO also features some motion control. I found that the motion controls worked well unless I was playing the Switch in handheld mode, in which case the motion for spinning Cappy around Mario was a bit unresponsive. Thankfully, these more advanced controls aren’t necessary, but it’s worth mentioning.

    Graphics: 10/10

    SMO looks fantastic! The attention to detail is quite mind-blowing. Water looks beautiful, and the character designs are fantastic. You can make out individual hairs on Mario and Bowser, and many textures look really detailed, like textiles. And to top it off, it all runs smoothly. I didn’t really come into any lag!

    Sound: 10/10

    SMO is also a fantastic sounding game! Sound effects fit really well. There is some minor voice acting for the main cast (Mario, Bowser, Peach, and Cappy) as well, which is mainly gibberish although you can make out a few words when they speak. It’s a nice touch and works to give the characters some more personality.

    The music in SMO is also noteworthy. SMO features both original music and remixes from past Mario games in about equal number. The old tunes are used sparingly for good effect, and got me feeling nostalgic. The new tunes are also very good, ranging from good ambient music that fits the mood but is quickly forgotten to catchy tunes that I remember after turning off the console. A good amount of the music is orchestrated too, which is a bonus. There are even a couple songs with vocals, which are great! This is definitely a soundtrack I enjoy listening to. On top of this, the music is dynamic as you travel around, which is a really nice touch.

    Length and Replayability: 9/10

    SMO took about 12-15 hours to finish for the first time, and I got about 220 Moons before finishing the game. That may seem like a short romp, but the great thing is the non-linearity adds to the replayability, and there’s plenty of stuff to do even after finishing the game. In fact, I plan on going back to the various kingdoms and to search high and low for more Moons! I hear there are a whopping 880 Moons to be found, maybe even 999!

    While most Moons are fun to get, not all of them are. As you’ve probably guessed, there are a handful of Moons that are tedious to get. For example, a few Moons require you to plant seeds in pots, and this tends to be a chore because the seeds can be far away from the pots. As such, I’m not sure if I want to go for all of the Moons just yet. That’s my only real gripe in this section.

    There are also a handful of minigames in the game, and these even have an online leaderboard! The minigames range from races to jump rope and you can spend a good amount of time doing them too, as I did.

    Collecting more Moons can also unlock a couple extra challenges or features after you finish the game, and these are generally worth it to experience. I can’t spoil them, of course!

    Overall: 57.5/60 -> 9.6/10 -> Rounded to 5/5 for GameFAQs

    Super Mario Odyssey is the kind of game that doesn’t come around very often. It’s a love letter to all the masterful Mario games that came before it, yet it also puts a fresh spin on the series, feeling inspired and standing out as it does so. It’s funny to refer to a newer game when talking about nostalgia, but I feel nostalgia for SMO. As I was playing it, I felt like I was a child again, playing Super Mario 64 for the first time over 20 years ago. It was truly an amazing feeling, at times even moving.

    If you already own a Switch or are a Mario fan, what are you waiting for? You owe it to yourself to get this game, even at full retail price. Even if you don’t have a Switch yet, it’s worth getting one just for this game! Super Mario Odyssey is a masterpiece, and I don’t throw that term around lightly!

    Rating:   5.0 – Flawless

    Product Release: Super Mario Odyssey (US, 10/27/17)

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