(Review) Super Mario Odyssey

I have been a fan of Mario games for a very long time now. Not all of them, mind you, but a good chunk. It’s been a staple in my house for years now through thick and thin. There have been plenty of Mario titles that I won’t touch anymore like the Mario Party franchise or pretty much any new 2D Mario game. I’ll break that tradition with the likes of Paper Mario because that’s not controlled the same way as a traditional 2D side-scrolling Mario. With Super Mario Odyssey (Odyssey from here on out), they tried to bring in some classic 3D style and mix it with a bit of the vastness of Breath of the Wild. Did it work out for Nintendo? Let me break it down for you.

These little 2D mini-levels were a cool addition. (Seriously that pun was not intended.) I really did like the mix-up it provided.

If you have ears to hear or eyes to see, surely you’ve noticed the large amount of praise that Odyssey is getting. It’s almost as if the world forgets how good a AAA casual platformer can been until Nintendo drops a new Mario game. People are fickle and I get that, but it’s still weird to me. At the same time as some of you are probably saying that there are plenty of good 3D platformers out by other developers, but you have to admit that Nintendo puts a load of polish and love into their titles. While other developers put a ton of love in their games, there’s something about the 1st party Nintendo titles that always have you realize the quality. Two games could be very similar, but the Nintendo title would likely just be better. It’s very strange, but it’s there.

I feel like they put this in the beginning of the game so you can clearly see the use of the hat. It worked… if not a bit over powered.

Odyssey takes me back to a more Super Mario 64 feel with a Super Mario Sunshine vibe.  Both were hub-world Mario games that were more down to Earth than say the Super Mario Galaxy titles (pun not intended, but you’re welcome). I’ll include Super Mario 3D Land in that as well. Those didn’t really have worlds, they had levels. I like this approach. It jives with the goofy cartoons from my childhood with all of the different kingdoms that Mario and Luigi would visit. That, and it also feels more like an adventure than it does a level slog like the non-world titles can. You’ll never get stuck on level 7-6 or whatever. You can get your stars in whatever order you want and move on even if you haven’t achieved 100% yet… if your brain will let you. Sometimes mine won’t.

Gottah catch’m all… or do you? I chose to not. I had to move on.

Another thing Odyssey has going for it is that it looks very pretty fantastic. It’s probably the most shiny Mario game to date… which only makes sense. They’ve got the power to do it and while Nintendo may “not be in the arms race” with the Wonder Twins… Nintendo knows that they are, in some form or another, being compared to them. Is it fair? Maybe not, but that is the state of things. It’s not photo-realistic, but it’s nice to see Mario with a mop of hair rather than a polygonal shape sitting under his hat. The worlds are even larger so there’s even more to explore! What’s not to appreciate here?

OK, it still kind of looks like a mop of hair, but it’s a nicer one… so there’s that.

The best thing in Odyssey is the new hat-possession ability. The ability to throw your hat and take over units and use them is amazing. It opened up a whole slew of new moves without adding too much mechanically to the game; you just control the bad guys. Bullet bills have always been there and you now control them (I just wish there was some verticality). It’s the same with Goombas and now you can stack them yourselves That was pretty cool. The best bad guys to take over for me were the stretchy caterpillars and the tanks. It was fun being a Mario tank and drive around to blow things up even if it wasn’t utilized much outside of that funky boss battle in New Donk City (as far as I’ve come across). Other than that it was just, drive and explode stuff which is a shame since the tank controls were fantastic.

New Mario game, now with tank-splodes!

With all of that said, the accolades Odyssey’s been getting and the talk of it being “absolute perfection” and a “monumental achievement”… I can’t say I agree really. One of the biggest changes for me was in the goal system. The usual goal has always been the end of the level, maybe a timer and later with stars or shines. You either had to get to the end of the level, or the end of a long path or defeat a “boss” or some level puzzle to get a star. It always felt as if it was rewarding you for completing a task (because it was). In Odyssey, there are around 60ish+ stars per level if not more. If you look to your left, there’s one on top of the tree. Push a button, there’s one behind the moving wall. Blink and one appears in front of you. Sure some are more difficult than the others, but it doesn’t help the general feeling that it’s less of an accomplishment and more like “everyone gets a trophy!” and I’m not a fan of that system. What adds to that feeling is the loss of a sting in death when they removed the life system. I’ve heard it said that they have no place in a modern Mario game, but losing coins isn’t the same. I’m all for encouragement, but it just feels overdone. The purple coins felt about right though, but you didn’t even need to collect all of them.

You know… I’d love to say that at least it’s not the Koopalings, but it kind of feels like bunny versions of them. I’ll take it though as I really didn’t like the Koopa kids. These guys had different moves!

The larger levels don’t always pan out for me either. I like some of the level design and as I mentioned before, they are all very pretty. My issue here is that some of the levels are a little too big where they don’t need to be. I’m not sure if they just wanted to make the levels this way specifically or someone told them to make it larger just because. There are places that feel too large and empty and it hurts. One of the first levels being a vast desert doesn’t help the game start off very well in my mind. Even New Donk City felt a bit too large even though it wasn’t that big. Maybe, bigger than necessary would be a better way of putting it. In past Mario titles, it almost felt like everything was placed just so and for specific reasons where in Odyssey, it almost feels that things were placed to fill up space. It’s a slight difference, but it’s there and it irks me.

Having a big game for the sake of having a game that is large is a waste if you don’t utilize the space well. Maybe that’s why they decided to go with so many stars? I’m wondering if they made it that large because of the size of Breath of the Wild. Zelda has always been an adventure title on a larger scale than the Mario franchise. Breath of the Wild felt like the natural progression of the series whereas Super Mario Odyssey felt forced. All of the improvements could have been implemented better if only they would have kept a few core things. Do I need lives? No, but I would have preferred they scale down the number of stars by a lot. I love conquering challenges, not accomplishing busy work. Even going through and collecting only the amount needed to move on didn’t feel very good either and more like simply going through the motions even on worlds/levels that I’ve never been to before. I had high hopes for this and felt that they finally delivered when looking at what everyone has been saying, but it feels like I’m either being lied to or everyone really did just want to collect more crap and have less of a challenge. I’d pick Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine (no matter how much that game kicked my butt) over Super Mario Odyssey any day. In the end, I am disappointed in this title. I’m gonna go back to Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Further Reading on Super Mario Odyssey: Facebook / Official Page / Twitter

5 thoughts on “(Review) Super Mario Odyssey

  • December 14, 2017 at 08:34
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    So the reason Odyssey could be the best 3D Mario title to date is more about the controls. I believe it has the best control scheme of any Mario title (and to be honest almost any game period) to date. Compare and contrast that to breath of the wild which had a bajillion buttons that do a bajillion things BUT I feel like Zelda was more for the older fans and Mario could have been “Super Mario Millennial.” The number of moons is akin to the reward system of a mobile game, there is a real city with real people, there is a (SPOILER) dragon, and the whole game had a “heist movie” feel to the story instead of the traditional Mario story we are used to. I thoroughly enjoyed it but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is still the best 3D Mario title in my opinion.

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    • December 14, 2017 at 11:08
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      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I realize that I didn’t touch on controls so that’s a bit of an oversight on my end, but I actually didn’t like being forced to use waggle in Odyssey.The rest of the game controlled well, I’ll give you that and BotW did have a lot of options, but it didn’t seem that bad to me. (Maybe if they would have put in waggle controls despite the Wii U.) It didn’t happen often with Mario, but when its head popped up, I didn’t appreciate it.

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      • December 14, 2017 at 11:11
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        Oh and… definitely Mario 64. lol 😛 (It wouldn’t let me edit my own comment… ugh!)

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  • December 14, 2017 at 21:14
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    I wasn’t a huge fan of this either. I also wasn’t a huge fan of XC2, which you’re now playing. The voices (which I turned off) were incredibly annoying (not at all “charming” like the die hard fans claim them to be) and the music is jarring after hearing it loop a million times. I really liked XCX on the Wii though. It was my favorite XC title and I played the heck out of that one and spent time getting the best stuff in the endgame.

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    • December 14, 2017 at 23:00
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      The voices in combat in XC2 are horrid at times; I couldn’t agree with you more, but it’s still more fun than Odyssey is personaly. I think the music in Odyssey was ok, but it was nothing remarkable and I was very disappointed after all of the “perfect” scores it has received.

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