Super Mario Odyssey was presented to us as the coup de grace in the (almost) perfect fight that Nintendo delivered in 2017. But is Super Mario Odyssey the promised KO punch?
A more open game
Super Mario Odyssey returns, to the delight of many fans, with the more open formula of Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine, after Wii and Wii U episodes much more linear (but nevertheless excellent).
So it gives us a game much more focused on exploration than on reflexes and tight platforming. I’ll admit it right away, I tend to be more of the second team. I usually prefer Mario games that offer tough and precise levels, to the detriment of exploration.
But I have to admit that here it is extremely well done. Mario must this time go around the world to find moons, which will allow his ship, the Odyssey, to go even further and catch up with the villain Bowser who has (again) kidnapped Peach.
The mechanics of the moons are reminiscent of the stars in Mario 64 or the Sprites in Mario Sunshine, but there is still a major difference: they are much more numerous. Thus, if for example in the past we found a star only at the end of a level, here the moons are absolutely everywhere. It is therefore an important incentive to explore every corner.
Some levels are very large, but they are also very dense in secrets, challenges and striking attractions. Odyssey is all about travel, and that’s really what Nintendo makes us experience here. We have fun exploring the nooks and crannies of the destinations in which we land, and we are rewarded with every shot.
Mario’s toolbox for exploring these levels has grown considerably. In addition to his usual skills, from the long jump to the ground pound, we see the return of the triple jump. Mario is also accompanied in his quest for Cappy, an animated hat with essential skills. Mario can throw it in front of him and use it as a temporary platform. He can also launch it to attack enemies.
But above all, his hat allows him to take possession of certain enemies and elements of the environment. For example, Mario can take control of a Bullet Bill and use it to break a wall hiding a secret passage. Or he can take control of a tree and make it move to reveal a secret. Or become a mustachioed T-Rex and destroy everything in its path.
It’s much more interesting than the traditional power-ups,and it allows real surprises throughout the game.
What about lifespan and difficulty?
It always makes me laugh a little. When I talk to friends about my love for Mario games, I’m always given the same answer: “Yeah, but it’s too easy.” And I always ask the same question: “Did you continue to play after beating Bowser?” Often, the answer is no.
It is that Nintendo wants to offer the opportunity to everyone to see the end of the main story, so as not to discourage younger players. So yes, the first part of the game tends to be pretty easy, and that’s still true here.
But as always, the game gets considerably tough after defeating Mario’s rival. I have a lot of experience in platform games, I probably do better than the vast majority of players (that makes up for my complete lack of talent in just about every other type of game) and I’ve already started to face some challenges that I can’t see myself succeeding one day.
And I played a lot. Since I received my copy last Friday, I have had to accumulate nearly thirty hours of gameplay. My girlfriend is starting to be afraid that I will take root in my sofa. And if I start to get closer to the “real” end of the game, I still have a lot of work to do. Let’s say that for a Mario game, it’s a phenomenal lifespan.
A game that solves a lot of problems… to create a new one
Super Mario Odyssey will certainly be considered an important milestone in Nintendo’s flagship series. There aren’t really any bad Mario games (let’s not talk about Hotel Mario), but the fact remains that the series was accumulating small underlying problems that were never really solved.
First of all, there was the problem of lives. The “1-ups” had their place in the NES when the game was played in 30 minutes and we had to find a way to slow down the progress of the players, but for a long time, it no longer made sense. When we talk about a game with a lifespan of 30-40 hours, what do we do once the player has no more lives? We make him start all over again from the beginning? No, we sent him back to the title screen, and he just had to press Start again to start again in the same place where he was.
This problem therefore led to the problem of money. Why accumulate money, if they give lives, rather useless? And how is exploration rewarded? With lives that don’t serve much purpose?
Moons address some of these problems. By putting them in such large numbers, they reward exploration in a beautiful way, in a better way than 1-ups have ever done.
And when you die, you don’t lose lives now, you lose money. And the pennies are finally used for something: you can buy costumes, but also moons, essential to the progression. Suddenly, Nintendo has reinimported its currency, created a penalty just for failure, and found a better way to entice players to explore. A nice hat trick.
Humans are terrifying
The only problem? By making such secretly dense levels, the number has necessarily been reduced. Lifespan, as I mentioned earlier, is not affected. The game is very long. But the contrast with Super Mario 3D World, the latest 3D Mario, is striking. Where 3D World introduced new environments and mechanics to throw them in the trash at a crazy speed, Odyssey really takes the time to explore each of its levels and concepts to the fullest. So much so that in the end, we spend a lot of time in a rather small number of levels (a dozen, at most).
A tribute to the series
Remember in 2015, when Nintendo celebrated 30 years of Mario with Mario Maker pis genre 2 amiibo? It left us a little hungry, for what is one of the most important franchises in video games.
In a way, it looks like Super Mario Odyssey is that tribute we’ve been waiting for. The game is packed with references to the story of the mustachioed plumber. I will remain vague, because I do not want to steal the surprises that Nintendo has prepared for you, but know that if you have the slightest nostalgic fiber, you will not be disappointed.
Game of the Year?
Super Mario Odyssey was an expected game of firm foot. Nintendo had an incredible year, and this game was supposed to close this record year in force. Does Odyssey keep its promises? In a word, yes.
The graphics are beautiful. Never have we had such a perfect balance between cartoonish and realism. The gameplay is enjoyable. The game is long, full of secrets. And above all, there is this magic that few games possess that makes us fall back into childhood, that allows us to have fun without asking too many questions.
From there to say that it is a perfect game, there is a step that I will not take. The humans of New Donk City are animated in a disturbing way. We would have liked to have a little more levels. It’s a bit “cheap” that you can buy the moons of the end to unlock the last secret world rather than really being forced to complete all the challenges.
But as you see, these are minor flaws. In the end, Super Mario Odyssey is a magical game that every Switch owner should own. And that anyone who doesn’t own a Switch should buy a Switch and then buy Mario.
Super Mario Odyssey agrees with the adage. It’s not the destination that counts, it’s the journey. Especially if we have a cap that allows us to own T-Rex.
- Exploration always rewarded
- A varied arsenal of movements
- A true tribute to the series
- A limited number of levels