I bought this game on release date (October 28), but between having a full-time job, some unspoken second thing, and wanting to finish Breath of the Wild main quests first, I never had the pleasure of playing it until 2 days later. That said, I enjoyed the crap out of the game and managed to 100% complete it in roughly 45 hours overall. Now, don’t be deceived by quantities (namely that I’ve spent 125 total hours on Breath of the Wild as of now), because I have to say that Super Mario Odyssey has a better ratio of quality to time spent. But, comparing the two games is like comparing apples to oranges, so I’ll just discard any further notion of doing so.
First off, a synopsis. Bowser schemes to arrange a marriage with Peach, and Mario has no choice but to interfere. However, Mario starts off being kicked off Bowser’s airship and lost in some mysterious location, his hat torn to shreds. Fortunately, this mysterious location happens to be the hometown of a hat-like ghost named Cappy, who meets Mario and ends up becoming his sidekick by giving him special powers, notably the ability to control particular creatures. While Bowser is out wreaking havoc and stealing valuables from a multitude of kingdoms, Mario and Cappy give chase, hoping to eventually rescue Peach (and Cappy’s sister, Tiara, who accompanies Peach throughout the story).
Simply put, Odyssey has a rather standard plot, but you can’t expect much different from a main series Mario game, eh? I mean, what makes a Mario game good is the music, atmosphere, and gameplay.
Starting with the music, Odyssey has a great soundtrack all around, with both original compositions and blasts from the past. Here’s a list of my top 3 picks in ascending order: Bowser’s Castle 2, Steam Gardens, and Honeylune Ridge: Caves. (As a side note, I have to say: The Wooded Kingdom music always reminds me of Llama by Phish.)
In terms of atmosphere, I don’t have much to say on the matter, except regarding the quirky characters of the game. I mean, there’s not much that I can say about everything else, because I’m not the type to be easily moved by any sort of scenery or inspired by any sort of theme. Anyways, regarding the characters… I’ll start with minor notes regarding minor characters.
- The residents of Shiveria are adorable. My favorite minor characters, hands down.
- “OTEP” is a nonsensical word said by the human NPCs of the game, particularly the bassist of Metro Kingdom. It’s become a meme on Twitch, so don’t be surprised if you see the word thrown around every now and then (to say the least).
- Not exactly a character, but darned if Burrbos aren’t the most annoying enemy in the game. They’re like Miniblins from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. They die in one hit, but they respawn constantly, make annoying noises, and are extremely pesky with their means of dealing damage.
Next up: talk about Cappy. His powers are irreplaceable, and he definitely tries his best to be a helpful sidekick. Although his help occasionally comes in handy (particularly when it comes to postgame moon/coin hunting), it’s mostly redundant to people (like me) who end up having learned more about the game than the developers would expect (specifically when it comes to gameplay techniques and normally self-explanatory moments). It also makes me curious that he and Tiara pronounce his name more like “Kyappy” than “Cappy”, presumably because the voice actors are Japanese. More importantly, his cries for help after being captured by Klepto are really annoying.
Now, last but definitely not least is the gameplay. I want to say there hasn’t been a Mario game with such satisfying movement since Sunshine or 64. Granted it kinda follows in the footsteps of 3D World, but the cat suit is not absolutely needed (in other words, taking damage does not absolutely negate the fastest form of movement). It’s no secret that Odyssey was developed at least somewhat with speedrunning in mind, considering the movement options, skippable cutscenes, Koopa Freerunning, and a few sequence breaks that Cappy comments on. Even so, it can just as easily be played casually by virtue of its design. What’s also cool is that there’s a multitude of 2D sections in the game despite it being 3D, and even with some throwbacks to age-old games such as Donkey Kong and SMB1.
And contrary to 3D World’s linearity in design, Odyssey has two types of collectibles: moons and purple coins. Some of the purple coins may be a major headache to get (read: Lake Kingdom underwater zipper and Bowser’s Kingdom lantern), but the concept of purple coins makes the game more of a collectathon like Sunshine. (3D World only had stars, stamps, and maybe flagpoles.) I mean, some of the moons were also a pain, namely:
- Dark Side moons 3 and 4 (Breakdown Road: Hurry! and Breakdown Road: Final Challenge!) – This is the start of a series of challenges that are repeats of earlier moons except that you have to use Cappy to get in and therefore can’t use him within the rooms (like how Super Mario Sunshine secrets have Shadow Mario stealing FLUDD). Well, I didn’t know they were repeats at the time; most of them I did before the original moons. Anyway, it’s some tough crud, lemme tell ya. Although, admittedly I was a bit too search-happy with this particular challenge, but the long jump sequence is challenging regardless.
- Dark Side moons 5 and 6 (Invisible Road: Rush! and Invisible Road: Secret!) – Honest to goodness, there were times when I felt like I was clearly stepping on the giant Poison Piranhas but ended up somehow getting hit instead. Deceitfully difficult stuff.
- Dark Side moons 11 and 12 (Yoshi on the Sinking Island and Fruit Feast on the Sinking Island) – This is not part of the series mentioned above. I find it cool that you can directly control Yoshi in this game instead of riding on his back; it feels a bit more like symbiosis than the usual master-servant relationship. Even so, I didn’t know, nor did I think I needed to know, about Yoshi’s climbing technique, so my first playthrough of the challenge consisted of sideflip fluttering and a whole metric frick ton of deaths. I mean, at least the fruit counter doesn’t reset when you die, but it’s always agonizing when the lava catches up (usually no thanks to the spike ball cycles), especially at high HP.
- Darker Side (a.k.a. Champion’s Road 0.5), although apparently some major skip was discovered for that level. This was actually the first place where I realized that you could control Glydon.
- Moon Kingdom moon 16 (Found on the Moon, Good Dog!) – It wasn’t in any of the craters that the dog could access, so I had no clue where it could possibly be. I tried using Hint Toad, but the hint he gives only points to the dog, so I just had to keep trying. Turns out the moon is between the debris-filled crater and the straw dummy for moon 7 (Moon Kingdom Timer Challenge 1).
- Moon Kingdom moon 28 (Mysterious Flying Object) – I went through so much trouble trying to figure out how to catch the UFO, not realizing that the solution was simply a homing cap throw.
- Metro Kingdom moon 36 (Celebrating in the Streets!) – I missed this secret the first time, and it was such a pain to find it postgame, even with the help of Talkatoo and the Hint Toad.
- Cap Kingdom moon 7 (Slipping Through the Poison Tide) – Somehow I didn’t notice the hole in the gate across from the entrance at first, and that was also the location of three of the purple coins that I was missing before I realized.
- Cap Kingdom moon 13 (Taxi Flying Through Bonneton) – I was confused when Hint Toad led me to the binoculars, and that was when I figured out that there are certain moons that require looking at oddities in the sky. (Others include Cascade Kingdom moon 25, Metro Kingdom moon 59, and Bowser’s Kingdom moon 39.)
- Cap Kingdom moon 17 (hint art) – I thought for so long that those were carpets like in Tostarena; I never imagined people on the moon. The blue circle in the background was the main giveaway, though.
- Sand Kingdom moon 76 (On the Eastern Pillar) – This one was a pain—but possible—to get without motion controls. That is to say, I was on gamepad at the time, so I didn’t even think motion controls were possible, but I painstakingly found a way to get the moon anyway. What I did was I went to the Tostarena Ruins Sand Pillar location, went to the pillars closest to the east of the nearest Bullet Bill cannon, lured a Bullet Bill from the south pillar, took its hat off at the north pillar, and threw Cappy at the very northeast corner of the pillar while luring the Bullet Bill to where I threw him. This allowed me to reach the box without shaking at all, just holding Y.
- Luncheon Kingdom moon 53 (Diving from the Big Pot!) – While capturing a Lava Bubble in the giant stew pot, do a rather precise jump to the smaller stew pot on top of the slots building in the plaza. The consequence of failing? Having to warp to the Top of the Peak Climb checkpoint and get back to the giant pot. This particular moon wasn’t a huge struggle, taking me only 2-3 tries, but it set forth a greater struggle that I had on moon 50.
- Luncheon Kingdom moon 50 (The Rooftop Lantern) – I did this right after moon 53, so I did the exact same thing for this moon, and it was a whole lot more painstaking due to being slightly farther away and having a smaller hitbox. (It took me upwards of 10 tries.) That was before I realized that I could just take a Fire Bro. from beyond the Path to the Meat Plateau checkpoint back to the plaza.
- Mushroom Kingdom moon 28 (Courtyard Chest Trap) – Aside from the Chest Trap in Seaside Kingdom that’s precisely like Super Mario 64, this was the first Chest Trap mission I had done. I had no idea what was going on, thinking that I had to kill all the zombies in the order specified, and I frustratingly died once or twice before realizing the truth behind it.
- Mushroom Kingdom moon 33 (Knucklotec rematch) – Those zombies were so pesky.
And regarding 100% completion, I did almost everything on my own—”almost” as in, I tried not to look up anything (although I was tempted to look up Bowser’s Kingdom purple coin locations) except the best farming spot for coins (that being the secret stage of moon 37, the beanstalk at the west wing of the castle) and 2 of the required captures (specifically the Poison and Fire Piranha Plants).
At any rate, the gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey leads me to believe that it’s not entirely complex but not entirely mindless—that is, just the right balance between simple and clever for a Mario game. I find that the Bowser fights are particularly well done in that Bowser seems to have a surprise for every cycle. Even in the first fight in Cloud Kingdom, the last cycle has Bowser performing a counterattack instead of the usual fare of being pummeled while doing nothing back. Then the second fight has him throwing rocks that can’t be punched, more as the fight draws closer to the end. Another surprising thing to me was the third cycle of the third Bowser fight (unlocked after obtaining all 880 unique moons). Normally, Bowser throws a fixed number of rocks before bursting out in evil laughter and leaving himself vulnerable, but in the cycle in question, he never stops throwing rocks until you approach him and pummel him. (But you have to be quick, otherwise he’ll jump away.) You could always do that in all the other cycles of all the fights, but I never imagined until then that such a thing was possible. (Being able to control Bowser after the fight was also a pleasant surprise!)
And even though I’ve finished the game, I easily came to enjoy watching speedruns of it, primarily on account of how slick the movement is and how so many tricks are revealed that I never knew in my first playthrough.
Final verdict: There is no such thing as a perfect game, but Super Mario Odyssey comes very close.
À la prochaine! (Until next time!)