2017 will probably go down in history as Nintendo's year of redemption. After a particularly difficult time mainly caused by a relatively unpopular console (Wii U), the launch of Nintendo Switch has seen the Japanese giant revitalised. Despite a shallow line-up, at least in its first months of its life, the Nintendo Switch has seen respectable titles that have been praised by both the public and critics alike. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and last but not least the recently released Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle; all great titles that have launched within the first six months of the console's life.
It wouldn't be a Nintendo console without its iconic mascot, Mario, and it seems Nintendo is putting together one of the best sandbox platforming games since Super Mario 64 (which is still considered the best Mario game by many). Officially announced at the Nintendo Switch's reveal event back in January, Mario's new game was an extremely welcome surprise to the audience, who have been longing for this sort of Mario experience. We have already mentioned Super Mario 64 as Super Mario Odyssey clearly borrows from the concept, putting the focus back on exploration as players make their journey onboard the Odyssey ship.
Recently, we were invited by Nintendo to preview three worlds, different from those we tried at E3, including Cap Kingdom, Luncheon Kingdom, and Seaside Kingdom. This intense session allowed us to experience not only the innovative gameplay mechanics we will find in the game (such as the use of Cappy, which is extremely versatile and original) but also a couple of mini-boss fights and an exciting and deliciously complex boss battle.
After a brief introductory sequence revealing the backstory (we can't tell you anything at the moment, alas!), we have been catapulted into Cap Kingdom, a world where Mario meets Cappy, the character who will join us on our long journey around the Earth. This section works essentially as a tutorial where, along with Mario, we begin to learn the basic mechanics needed to navigate the game world. As you already know, Cappy - who in this game replaces Mario's iconic red cap - allows the moustached hero to turn himself into objects and characters around him, solving some small puzzles or simply allowing him to advance.
To do this, the player must launch Cappy in the direction of the corresponding object or character, using either the "Y" button or by swinging the Joy-Con while imitating the movement your hand would make to launch a hat. We found both configurations extremely intuitive and easy to use, even though we preferred to use the motion controls, as it provides further precision. Cappy can also be used as a weapon -
as a sort of Frisbee - to hit enemies, and this is also very simple and intuitive.
However, as we said, Cappy's most interesting aspect lies in the fact that it transforms Mario into a huge variety of Mushroom Kingdom objects and characters. This allows Nintendo's mascot to acquire abilities specific to the given object or character, enabling him to explore the map more effectively or overcome certain obstacles. In the case of Cap Kingdom, for example, we could turn Mario into a frog, which allowed our hero to jump higher. This mechanic also allows Mario to reach secret passages and otherwise inaccessible areas, which often hide not only the Power Moons to collect in order to beat the levels, but also amazing surprises or collectibles.
In the next world, Luncheon Kingdom, we could turn Mario into a Hammer Bro - perhaps more aptly called a Pan Bro, as the world is kitchen-themed and it tosses two pans instead of the iconic hammers - which allowed us to open some inaccessible areas and find new collectibles (which also vary according to the theme of each Kingdom). What impressed us most is the simplicity in using Cappy; it's intuitive and at times hilarious. In Super Mario Odyssey we not only explore the different worlds, but its most fascinating aspect lies in exploring the different things Mario can do with Cappy.
Across the three worlds we experienced we had a taste of both mini-boss fights and a real boss fight. In the first two Kingdoms, Cap Kingdom and Luncheon Kingdom, we came across the notorious Broodals, a group of rascal rabbits which obviously do everything to hinder our journey. Both boss battles were rather fun, because (as is typically the way in a Mario game) it's up to the player to understand the pattern and execute attacks accordingly. As for the mini-boss fights with the Broodals, both fights turned out to be quite simple, but at the same time, they required a bit of inventiveness and intuition from the player to figure out how to attack and hit the enemy in the right way.
As for the boss fight in Seaside Kingdom, where we faced a monstrous Octopus, the affair was far more complicated and compelling. Along with solving some simple puzzles in this Kingdom, which subsequently unleashed the giant octopus, our session in Seaside Kingdom was almost entirely focused on fighting this huge sea monster. Once again the abilities offered by Cappy's transformations turned out to be key. Don't be afraid to experiment because, very often, the solution to dealing with a certain enemy is right there under your nose. You have to be both creative and daring in this respect.
Another element that caught our attention is the extreme attention to detail that has been paid to each Kingdom. Each of the locations that we visited was characterised by very different themes; there was an ocean theme for Seaside Kingdom; a kitchen theme for Luncheon Kingdom; and finally Cap Kingdom featured (yep, you guessed it) a hat theme. It's not only the scenery but also the enemies that are adapted to fit the theme. Apart from what we called Pan Bro, it's fun to see Goomba wearing chef hats in Luncheon Kingdom or beach wear in Seaside Kingdom. The various collectibles also change according to the theme of the respective Kingdom.
The extraordinary care put in the game in terms of visuals is also complemented by a wonderful soundtrack. Even here, the themes and songs that run in the background didn't feel monotonous, and we say that with the prospect of having to spend a lot of time in each Kingdom to find every hidden secret. It always seemed to fit perfectly with the style and mood of the world in question; an added value that is often underestimated, but which adds further depth to the experience.
Another aspect we discovered in Super Mario Odyssey, something that has always distinguished Mario's main entries, is its depth. While it is true that Mario's games are famous for their extraordinary accessibility, allowing multiple audiences to enjoy and love them, what endures is how layered the experiences are. There are those who love the pure platforming sections and will concentrate exclusively on that side of the game in order to proceed, and there are those who, on the other hand, love to explore each section of the world in search of secrets and collectibles. In short, there should be something for every type of player thanks to the structure of the game.
We'd like to tell you much more about our time with Super Mario Odyssey, and what we've written here is just a brief overview of what we've seen so far. While we're not able to tell you everything, what we saw of this new adventure thrilled us. It's shaping up to be extraordinary in every respect, with lots of detail and a great sense of freedom, and we're looking forward to its release on October 27. If what we have experienced is just a taste of what is awaiting us in the final game, we could well be looking at the best Mario game ever made.
Loading next content