Hey all! I’m Brandon Myers, back with another Ramblings column. This time I want to talk about Super Mario Odyssey, the latest in the Super Mario series for the Nintendo Switch.
Before I get into that, please check out my Ko-Fi page. Right, onto the review.
Super Mario Odyssey is quite an adventure, to be sure. An odyssey, if you will. Probably the best 3D Mario game I’ve played. In the past, I’ve hated the way the 3D Mario games were laid out with the star collecting. You would go into a level, collect a star, go back to the hub world, then go back into the level, only this time minor things have changed to accommodate the new star. It seemed like a lazy way to pad the gameplay. Making you play the same level multiple times to get enough stars to finish the game, and even more times in order to get 100%.
That could be excused on the N64, as the cartridge size was kind of small. But for the GameCube and Wii games, it just seemed like poor design, in my eyes. What’s worse is Nintendo kept increasing the amount of stars to collect in each new game in order to get 100%. So while there were more levels, there were even more stars per level. It was a mess.
Super Mario Odyssey, meanwhile, has fewer levels than its Wii predecessor, Super Mario Galaxy 2, but has more moons than Galaxy 2 had stars. Yes, you collect moons in Odyssey, a nice departure from the other 3D Mario games. One other thing Odyssey does away with is the hub world. Once you enter a kingdom, you can collect almost all the currently available moons in one go. No need to exit the level and go back in.
Many moons can’t be collected until after the main story ends. You beat Bowser (spoiler alert), and dozens more moons open up throughout each kingdom. Collect all those and you get to go to the Dark Side kingdom, and later the Darker Side kingdom. There are 836 moons total, though some of them are multi-moons and count for three moons each. After you defeat Bowser, you can buy additional moons via the Crazy Cap stores for up to 999 total moons. So yeah, lots of stuff to collect.
As far as the story goes, the game starts with a cut scene of Bowser kidnapping Peach and knocking Mario off of his air ship, shredding Mario’s trademark red cap in the process. A mysterious hat-shaped ghost thing witnesses the kidnapping, and after running away from Mario for a brief chase, decides to join our hero. The hat-specter is called Cappy, and his younger sister Tiara, was kidnapped along with Peach. They’re a species called Bonneter, who are all hat-shaped beings who can take the appearance of any hat, and can also “capture” (aka demonically possess) almost any living being. Apparently the only way to counter their capture ability is to wear a normal hat and hope it never gets knocked off.
That’s basically the gameplay crux this time around. Mario uses Cappy to possess the bodies of enemies to navigate through puzzles and other such obstacles in order to gain moons and power up the Odyssey. What’s the Odyssey? It’s a hat-shaped air ship that runs on Power Moons, thus the need for collecting them all.
Super Mario Odyssey does such a good job with the moon collecting that it doesn’t seem like that much of a chore. Oh, after you beat Bowser and collect all the multi-moons in each kingdom, you can activate a Moon Block which releases more moons in that kingdom. What’s nice is that each of those extra moons (which are still needed for 100%) is marked on your map. The basic moons, however, you still need to find on your own, unless you get Hint Toad to mark them on your map for 50 coins each.
Speaking of coins, there is no Lives system this time around. Thank god for that. Now every time you die you lose ten coins. But why is that such a big deal? Coins are actually used as currency in this game. Go into the Crazy Cap store located in each kingdom, and you can buy stuff like extra health, a moon, or various outfits for Mario to wear. Each kingdom also has its own unique purple currency that you have to collect for special outfits (which are often needed to acquire moons) and other mementos. The purple coins you don’t lose upon death, but they also don’t come back once collected. There are a finite number in each kingdom.
Most kingdoms also have special 8-bit throwback segments where you enter an 8-bit pipe and go into a 2D, Super Mario Bros. 1 section. Those are pretty neat, although controlling them with an analog stick is kind of weird. Nintendo really should have allowed players to use the directional buttons for those sections. It’s a minor nitpick, but it’s still a bother to me.
As of this writing, I’m still collecting moons to 100% the game. I did beat Bowser and finish the main story, though, and I unlocked the Dark Side kingdom. But the Darker Side eludes me for the time being.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the best musical segment in the game, which is the Traditional Festival in the Metro Kingdom. In it, Mayor Pauline (yes, that Pauline from the original Donkey Kong arcade game) sings the signature song for the game, Jump Up Super Star, while Mario is tasked with going through a big 8-bit segment which caps off with a recreation of the 25m stage of Donkey Kong. This festival can be replayed as many times as you want once completed, but it only awards a power moon once. Jump Up, Super Star has got to be one of the best songs in all of gaming. At least in my opinion.
So there you have it, one of the best Mario experiences out there. I highly recommend Super Mario Odyssey.