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Mario continues his amazing Odyssey

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    Super Mario Odyssey

    Rating: 5.0 – Flawless

    Mario continues his amazing Odyssey

    Is there any other series with the longevity and staying power that Mario has? Maybe another Nintendo series like Zelda, but Mario was the original. It is amazing that Mario started back in the 1980’s and is still a powerhouse franchise developing hit after hit. Not every game in the series’ history has been a flawless masterpiece, but Nintendo has always had their flagship character deliver when it matters. Super Mario Odyssey is the latest game that shows why Mario has been so relevant for so long. It is still the Mario we know and love at its core, but with new quirks and design philosophies to make it a brand-new experience.

    Super Mario Odyssey game starts up with a rather interesting premise. Mario is battling Bowser, and actually loses! This isn’t the first time Mario’s been duped in their thirty-year rivalry, but it’s always a good way to get one’s attention. Bowser wants to marry Princess Peach as always, but this time he’s actually moving forward with the wedding plans. Naturally, since being the main bad guy of the series means no one is really going to just sell you wedding gear, Bowser goes about stealing whatever he needs for his grand wedding. Nothing spells romance like a reluctant bride and a kleptomaniac groom, am I right?

    Mario didn’t just lose the fight this time, however; he also loses his iconic cap in the progress. Winding up in a land of sentient caps (Yes, that’s correct), he befriends Cappy who’s home has been terrorized by bowser. Cappy lends Mario aid in the form of possessing enemies, and the two set off to stop the king of the Koopas. To do this, they commandeer an airship known as the odyssey, stopping at various kingdoms along the to refuel. Oh, and of course Bowser is up to no good wherever you go. I think Bowser’s presence alone could just make a good day go horribly wrong. The guy is just so good at causing trouble wherever he goes, be it silly or serious.

    it’s largely the typical Mario plot with some interesting twists thrown in. Mario actually gets curb-stomped, and Bowser seems to actually be moving forward with his attempts to marry Peach for once. I must say that they actually did a good job making Bowser a feel like a credible threat this time. Bowser’s always had his side of silliness but over the years he’s become more cartoon-y and goofy in his villainous ways. There’s still plenty of silliness to go around, but this is the first time in a while where Bowser comes off as competent and actually threatening¡­ at least to an extent. it’s nothing too different from the expected, but I found the game’s narrative to be entertaining. You have to do something to mix-up the trope of saving the Princess, after all. I am starting to wonder if Peach actually enjoys getting kidnapped¡­

    Playing this title quickly took me for a stroll down nostalgia road, and for a little while I felt like I was playing Mario 64 all over again. That’s exactly how Mario seems to move in this game. Similar animations, many similar moves, etc. This is far from a bad thing, because Mario 64 was superb. It feels like Odyssey took that and added a couple new moves for added control, and for the most part the game’s platforming and controls are superb. I say for the most part because while the game usually controls flawlessly, there are times where it’s a little more slippery than I’d like. Occasionally Mario will glide a bit as if he’s on an ice level without the ice. Nothing that really hampers the experience, just an occasional hiccup. For the most part, this game handles fantastically.

    it’s not just the controls that remind me of older Mario titles, however. The game’s main goal is to collect power moons to power your Odyssey ship. This harkens back to the days of Super Mario Galaxy or the many collect-a-thon games that existed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The way you have to find items scattered throughout open levels is an old formula that I wish hadn’t faded away. it’s fun, in the traditional sense. The levels are well done in their design, and every single world feels unique. Every single level is essentially a playground where you explore to find all the items you can. At first, I was worried that you had to find every single moon in a level to progress, but this is not the case. it’s definitely like Mario 64 in this sense, the main difference being that you have to collect enough moons in one stage before you can move to any others. This game is a reminder of why games about exploration and collecting were so popular back in the day. it’s charming, it’s enjoyable, and it doesn’t feel like your hand is being held. it’s the type of game where you can just can be immersed and enjoy the experience of playing it, exploring the level at your leisure. The way moons are scattered about the levels is superb as well. They are all over the place, but sometimes take a little creativity to reach. That creativity brings about an irony that even though the goal is the same in pretty much every area, it never feels repetitive. Some moons are right in plain sight, some are hidden away, and some require use of certain enemy abilities. That’s a good segway towards the next subject, in fact.

    Of course, the main new feature of Odyssey is the possession ability, wherein Cappy can possess certain enemies and let Mario take control of them. This is no simple novelty feature, either. it’s not just a neat little mechanic that’s done every now and then just for the sake of looking interesting; it is a downright essential feature baked into the core structure of the game. Fear not, however, because the possessions are an absolute hoot. There are several different enemies you can possess, many of which are unique to certain levels, and they all control superbly. Every single one has a certain quirk that is used to bypass certain obstacles or areas. Possess a tank and blast through walls, possess a bullet bill and navigate long pits while avoiding moving walls, possess a walking plant that let’s you stretch up and reach otherwise unreachable areas. That’s what I meant by the whole feature being essential to the game. it’s a great thing because it’s an incredibly fun and fresh twist on the Mario formula. By having different enemies with unique abilities in all the levels, it prevents the idea from ever getting stale and keeps it interesting throughout the entire game. it’s not just a cool little thing thrown in at the last minute, it’s a great new design to expand upon Mario’s gaming repertoire.

    It can take a little while to get used to the idea that you’re primary ¡°attack¡± against a lot of enemies is throwing your cap at them, rather than jumping on or punching them. Luckily the control is fluid and allows for some margin of error. A flick of the joystick after throwing the hat can let it home on a nearby enemy, and there’s even a certain joystick motion that performs a spinning cyclone to tackle all surrounding enemies. it’s not a complete guarantee it’ll take out all nearby enemies, so it’s useful but not broken. So overall, this is a great new implementation to the Mario franchise. Once again, this series has managed to stay faithful to its core while coming up with new ways to play.

    Mixing it up is really this games forte, in a way. The game also features some interesting boss fights, and they aren’t recycled for the most part. Many of the bosses have unique attacks and weaknesses as is expected, but they don’t repeat off each other. They can also be a tad challenging at times for a Mario title. Super challenging? Hardly. I’m not saying that this is the Mario version of Dark Souls, but if you don’t take the game at least a little seriously you’re probably going to die at least a few times during boss battles. The same could be said for the levels themselves, at least in terms of their design. They are varied, interesting, and at times a little challenging as far as typical Mario games go. There’s even several little sections of the game that make Mario 2D, giving you brief moments where you play as if it’s the good ole’ original Super Mario Bros. from 1985. It even includes the old fashion sound effects for authenticity. This is the proper way to give a nod to the series roots while giving it a new direction. Nintendo have always been good at giving old school players a trip down nostalgia lane without overly relying on it as a crutch. In essence, the gameplay never gets tiresome and never gets overwhelming in its variety. There’s always something new, but it never feels overdone. it’s well paced, and well designed.

    To really make sure things never get old, there’s some various minigames that you’ll come across as you play the game. Things like a quick game of volleyball, a challenge to see how many times you can jump rope, or quickly navigating a remote-control car are nice little deviations from the usual gameplay. They are quite simplistic most of the time yet manage to be rather fun for a quick distraction. They also usually reward you with a power moon, so there is extra incentive to give them a try. For those that like to play dress-up there you can also purchase various clothing for Mario at most kingdoms, ranging from a fancy tuxedo to a pair of boxer shorts. It really has no impact on gameplay save for a couple areas that demand you wear a certain outfit to get in, but it’s a nice little addition. The stores in each kingdom actually give a nice little purpose to coins in this game aside from continuing after dying. Coins can purchase extra health, one moon per level, etc. Each level also has its own special set of coins that are only usable there alongside the standard yellow coins. While the idea doesn’t go very far, it’s still a fun little addition to the game.

    Visually, this game is quite stunning. it’s another of example of how creativity and imagination trumps realism and graphical resolution every time. The graphics are bright, lively, charming, and captivating. It captures the awe of a fantasy world extremely well. The one level I find a little barren is the desert kingdom, where it’s mostly just a vast plain of desert. In other words, a bunch of beige and brown. Aside from that the game is beautiful in its art design and direction. The Mario games have always been lacking in the resolution department but make up for it with the sheer creativity. From the Cascade World of waterfalls to the beautiful beachside kingdom, the game delivers visually. Mario has even gone to the city in this title, throwing in a level based on New York City. Said level is probably the highlight of the game in both visuals and structure. The developers really outdid themselves in making every level not only feel like an adventure, but also look like one. it’s the variety and art direction that makes games like this so appealing from a visual standpoint.

    Is this game perfect? Definitely not. it’s fantastic but I wouldn’t say it’s Mario’s greatest performance ever. There are a few annoyance and hindrances that add up. As previously mentioned, the controls are occasionally a bit slippery. The camera is the same way, mostly fine but occasionally going in terrible directions when you’re in a cramped area or a corner. The music is good, but not top-level. I didn’t hear a single bad piece of music, but at the same time nothing that I felt was going to make it to list of great Mario songs. it’s certainly a step up from the music of some Mario’s more recent titles without a doubt, however. *Cough* New Super Mario Bros. *Cough* Another peeve of mine is the fact that, for some reason, there’s only one save slot. This seems to be becoming a more standard practice in major games, and I fail to see why. When did multiple save slots, something that’s existed since the 90’s, become taboo? it’s nothing major against the game, however, just something of a nitpick.

    Probably the biggest gripe I found with the game is that some of the levels feel too small. Some of the levels feel like they were finished by the time I was just getting started. Granted this is partially because you don’t have to collect every single moon to progress the game, but it still feels like a couple of the stages could’ve easily been expanded a bit. Levels like New Donk city are quite large and feel like true sandboxes, where a couple just feel too short and linear. This is made up for by the replay value, however, because once you beat the game even more content is unlocked. More moons can be found in each level, and a couple extra levels are even added. it’s nice to have game in released in 2017 that provides extra content for beating the game, ass opposed to just locking it all behind a paywall.

    Super Mario Odyssey isn’t Mario’s absolute best; I can think of at least two Mario games to be better overall. However, this is still an exceptional game that is extremely enjoyable and has a lot of quality to it. The throwback sandbox design coupled with the incredible possession mechanic makes for a game that feels familiar yet brand new at the same time. While it’s true that a lot of the moons are visible and quite easy, you’ll usually have to use some creativity to find enough in each level to progress. The boss battles are really fun, and the way some of them require use of the possession mechanic only makes them more interesting. Overall this game is pretty easy, but it does have its moments of challenge here and there. Mario has never been a series based on super challenging gameplay anyway. This is a definite must-own title for any Switch owner, granted you don’t already have it.

    +Mostly fluid controls

    +The enemy possessions are charming, brilliantly executed, and incredibly fun

    +Very good art direction

    +Very good level design

    +A lot of interesting and fun boss battles

    +Lots of variety in the gameplay

    -Some of the levels are a bit too small

    -Only one save slot

    Final Rating: 9.5/10

    Rating:   5.0 – Flawless

    Product Release: Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch Console Bundle) (US, 10/27/17)

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