“Mario Odyssey” revitalizes classic Nintendo character

Photo courtesy of Evan Amos, Wikipedia

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Hours Played: 14+

“Super Mario Odyssey” is a game that needs little introduction. Yet, there lies so many interesting ideas under the hood that simply calling it a “Mario game” is doing the title a disservice. 

Similar to this year’s release of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” Nintendo has again proven with “Super Mario Odyssey” that they are open to creative, fresh ideas, while providing an expansive open world and retaining the top-notch gameplay that the company is known for.

As soon as players hit the start button, a cinematic shot of Mario facing off against Bowser begins to play. The plot setup is hardly anything special, but this time around, Bowser isn’t just intent on kidnapping Princess Peach; he wants to marry her. Much to Mario’s dismay, Bowser escapes with the Princess by his side. 

Players will soon team up with the aptly-named Cappy, a ghost in the shape of a top hat, that takes on the form of Mario’s iconic hat and rests on the plumber’s head. This allows Mario new movement abilities, as well as a new mechanic where Mario throws the hat at certain enemies that can be “captured,” as the game calls it.

Even with the new capture ability on display, controlling the mustachioed plumber is still as satisfying as ever. Players can expect the usual run, jump, long jump and ground-pound moves from previous 3-D Mario games, but the inclusion of Cappy introduces a wealth of new options to aid Mario’s locomotion. 

Unfortunately, a couple of extra abilities are locked behind the game’s infrequent motion controls. Nintendo felt the need to implement minor motion controls in “Super Mario Odyssey,” which means performing the motion controls while playing in handheld mode is awkward and unreliable. Their use is infrequent, but it’s still worth pointing out, as the Switch controller offers more than enough buttons to which these motion-controlled abilities could instead be mapped.

Utilizing the new movement options at their disposal, Mario and Cappy make their way in pursuit of Bowser using the Odyssey, a ship that allows them to travel anywhere they please. The ship is powered by “Moons,” a new collectible that is scattered across the game world. There are hundreds of these moons to collect in “Super Mario Odyssey” and discovering each one is a joy.

The most famous among the new levels in “Super Mario Odyssey” is the “Metro City Kingdom” home to “New Donk City,” a cityscape in the sky where regular people walk around doing their everyday tasks as Mario leaps around along sidewalks and atop buildings. At first glance, this environment feels extremely out of place. No other Mario game has integrated realistic looking people alongside the whimsical nature of Mario and his jumping antics; yet somehow, the pairing in this game works wonderfully. Items such as coins populate the area for collecting, used for costumes that Mario can don during his adventure and street signs reference previous Nintendo games. Each kingdom offers something different from the rest and helps make Mario’s journey feel like a true odyssey across the globe.

The final battle in this game is an incredible way to end the adventure. There is a wealth of post-credits content to go through, including a not-so-discreet nostalgia trip, but the way these nods to the past are incorporated into the game’s story works flawlessly. In some ways, “Super Mario Odyssey” is a celebration of all things Mario. However, there are enough odd additions to the adventure that give it an identity unique from previous 3-D Mario games. Over 800 moons are available to collect, and you can bet I’ll be on the case to collect the rest of them. 

This game had me smiling nearly the entire way through, and it provided exactly what I expected, and more. If you own a Nintendo Switch, chances are you already own this game or plan to play it. If you don’t own a Switch yet, “Super Mario Odyssey” is another great reason to pick one up for the holiday season.