by Matthew Thompson
I have always preferred my Mario platformers to be of the linear variety. As much as I loved the 2D titles growing up, I didn’t really become enamored with the 3D series until they returned to the plumber’s more straightforward roots with Galaxy and the subsequent games since (Galaxy 2, 3D Land and 3D World). I wasn’t exactly enthused to see Odyssey going back to the 64/Sunshine style and after playing Odyssey, I think my lack of enthusiasm for this return to a more adventure-slanting 3D Mario was warranted.
The focus on linear, platforming obstacle courses of the recent outings has been diluted here. When it does focus on that, the platforming remains excellent and you can see the lessons learned from Galaxy and its successors being applied. Unfortunately too many of the moons are gotten from exploration and puzzle-solving for my taste. But you know what? I could deal with that. Worse yet is how many of the non-platforming moons are given out for doing something that is neither challenging nor rewarding in any sense. You just sort of get them. Instead of feeling satisfied upon getting a moon, I often found myself saying, “Really?” in shock of how pointless the activity was that granted me it. I also think there is just a bit too much dead space in some of the larger worlds. Finally I wish they had handled the motion controls differently. There are a lot of unused buttons (or multiple buttons used for the same function) that could have had certain motion-controlled moves mapped to them. I’m not against motion controls, but these really don’t mesh with the Switch’s handheld mode. As a flagship title for a hybrid system like this, their handling of this aspect is a bit of a head scratcher.
Despite these issues, Super Mario Odyssey is still a very good game. When it focuses on platforming, Nintendo proves once again while so few can compete with Mario when he’s on top of his game. His moveset is incredible and playing with the possibilities it creates delivers loads of fun. The hat adds to your movement capabilities while the transformations deliver cool new ways to traverse the world (that bird that lets you climb walls was probably my favorite). The worlds are creative and the clashing looks of each area didn’t bother me as much as I expected. Fanservice is delivered often from throwback outfits to one of its best segments in New Donk City’s Festival to the awesome kingdom you unlock upon finishing the main story. The way the game transitions from 3D to 2D both visually and aurally is genius. And the story concept that finds Bowser gathering wedding stuff just cracks me up (I love that Piranha Plant bouquet).
Super Mario Odyssey delivers more run-and-jumping joy from the mustachioed plumber, but in a package more suited to fans of 64 than those of us who prefer his more linear, platforming-focused affairs. While it is a very good title, it just doesn’t quite live up to the lofty standards set by so many of Mario and company’s superlative entries of yesteryear for me.
A few more things:
- Of the 3D Mario games, I’d say Odyssey is my favorite of the “sandbox” style (so I like it better 64 and Sunshine), but I definitely like both Galaxy games and 3D World better (not sure on 3D Land). Super Mario Bros. 3 is my favorite Mario game for anyone wondering!
- Favorite Segment: The final gameplay segment before the credits roll is just so cool. It put a stupid smile on my face and I’m surprised I didn’t see it coming. The New Donk City Festival would probably be second.
- Favorite Outfit: I love the explorer outfit. That is the one I went back to the most.
- Taking control of a Goomba and then creating a giant stack of Goombas and then running around as said giant stack of Goombas is loads of fun and made me laugh many times. I would advise doing this whenever possible.
- Despite my complaints about this style of 3D Mario, I understand some prefer these, so I’m happy they got another one. I hope we can get a linear 3D Mario on the Switch and a new 2D game as well (even though Mario Maker is super cool, I don’t think it replaces a fully-crafted 2D Mario adventure by Nintendo).