Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Last year, two games rose supreme above its counterparts in order to classify themselves as the best titles for a system that was saved from intense doubt due to system-selling releases. These two games were obviously The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. These two releases from developer Nintendo seemed to have revolutionized both their series and genres, and while that statement, in my opinion, rings true for Breath of the Wild; Super Mario Odyssey proves to be a rather looser and somewhat lacking experience. Even with its fantastic visuals and charming level design, it is ultimately the gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey and its demoralizing tediousness that prevents it from becoming the acclaimed title that so many find it to be. Super Mario Odyssey is a fun, light-hearted experience that will give players of all ages constant enjoyment thanks to a bright, colorful world and intuitive gameplay, but will wear those same players to their knees with its tediousness and hollowness.
Starring Mario once again in an epic journey to save Princess Peach from a forced marriage with king villain Bowser, Super Mario Odyssey, story wise, is seemingly the most innovative of the entire franchise, outside of the licensed RPG’s. Rather than having a party of familiar comrades such as Luigi, Toad, or Yoshi, Nintendo brings in an entirely new character and their species into the fold, attempting to make this new addition the most pivotal aspect of the entire experience. This addition is none other than Cappy.
From the moment players meet him, he is instantly seen as a charming and likable supporting character even if his lines aren’t anything above average from the writing teams at Nintendo. Even more so than his characterization and storytelling, it is the gameplay that truly defines this revolutionary addition to the series. Cappy is essentially used to enhance Mario’s physical assets, allowing his jumps to be more distance-efficient and also providing players the ability of accomplishing parkour tricks from the ground or even mid-air. Seeing Mario and Cappy work together is always a constant delight as a player, a delight that is emphasized with the co-op mode allowing friends to band together as Mario and Cappy to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. The two seem like an inseparable pair, and in single-player mode, they feel like one central character, an impressive feat on part of Nintendo.
In addition to movement techniques, Cappy also allows the player to engage in transformations in which Mario is seemingly found to be hosting the physical body of an entirely different species. Mario is able to capture and effectively control a wide variety of species, even including a pre-historic T-Rex in one of the earlier portions of the game, a true highlight of the experience. This element easily solidifies the importance of Cappy’s addition and how, without it, the game would be rather dull and uninteresting.
Existing only to highlight the merging of Cappy and Mario is the stunning world and level design. Each world feels meticulous in its detail, with New Donk City being the clear highlight. And at first, the level design proves to be innovative and enjoyable, allowing players to feel the full spectrum that Cappy affords as an addition to the gameplay. It also leads to some fantastic moments, including the riveting and musical conclusion to New Donk City, a portion of the game that I will forever remember as a fan of Nintendo.
But while at first these additions may be innovative and technically impressive, they ultimately begin to fall short due to how resilient the game’s developers appear to be in moving past them. Each world is essentially occupied with the same type of level design, highlighting Cappy, in such a way as to where the experience quickly devolves into a chore that lacks true difficulty and imagination. Some collectibles, such as the Power Moons, may give completionists hours on end in terms of content, but will also leave other players with a hollow experience as there is no true incentive for the player to waste countless hours searching for these seemingly meaningless objects. This proves to be the biggest issue of the game-the collectibles. While many have praised Nintendo’s bravery and effort to include so many collectibles, 999 to be exact, it comes off as an effort comparable to that of Ubisoft’s modern Assassin’s Creed franchise, where the developers correlate quality to that of an open world stuffed with meaningless icons. At multiple points, especially following the main campaign, Super Mario Odyssey gave me this illusion, cheapening some of the wondrous experiences that I did have with it.
For hardcore fans, there are plenty of additional quests to partake in, outside of the tedious search for all 999 power moons. Most notably would be the minor RPG elements of the game, with players able to purchase costumes and power-ups for Mario as he ventures throughout the Kingdoms attempting to reclaim the Power Moons. Some of the costumes are loving tributes to classic installments of the Mario platforming franchise, including the ground-breaking, Nintendo 64 title Super Mario 64. Others are more deceiving and bland, with their designs being clichéd and also having a ridiculously high in-game currency price tag to it.
As a collective whole, Super Mario Odyssey is a fun, enjoyable but flawed game for Nintendo Switch owners. It isn’t the celebratory masterpiece that many critics have labelled it to be. It isn’t the ground-breaking, genre-defining experience that many fans have called it. And even with its many innovations, it often feels hollow, marred by an excessive misunderstanding from the developers as to what patience and pacing is.
Score: 7.2 out of 10