Super Mario Odyssey: A Short ‘Review’

Yeah, ever since my Top 10 Albums post, I haven’t really posted anything. I guess it’s time for a filler post then. I’ve gotten myself a Switch last November and with it two excellent games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. I started off with BOTW and I had absolutely no intention of playing Odyssey initially, simply because BOTW was a complete masterpiece that captivated me from the first hour. Excellent gameplay, a vast, expansive world to explore, brilliant mechanics, charming characters, a consistent mood of darkness and emptiness complemented by a well-fitting soundtrack, and fresh and stylized graphics as well. I really couldn’t ask more from a game, and it became the only thing I played for a long, long time. When I finally picked up Odyssey, I finished it in around a week, playing it for a while a day. While some may consider Odyssey as being superior to BOTW, I disagree. It ain’t no Zelda, but it’s definitely an amazing game that was a lot better than expected.

Super Mario 64 gave us the first 3D Mario game. Sunshine had a specific atmosphere and vibe along with new and interesting mechanics, such as FLUDD. Galaxy, the crowning achievement of the Wii, made playing through the game ridiculously fun, with Mario zooming in between different planets and different worlds, as well as a non-intuitive and nonsensical but fun approach to gravity. The main gimmick of Odyssey, the flagship 3D Mario game of the Switch, is throwing your cap and possessing stuff. While a lot of people were excited by the trailer, with New Donk City and realistic humans, it didn’t really pique my interest a lot. If I really wanted to play a 3D game in a realistic city where I can ride vehicles, I’d just play GTA. Also, possessing different objects and enemies seems like a very odd mechanic.

It was clear from the second level that all my doubts were unfounded.

With all its secrets, surprisingly challenging platforming for a second level, and its great variety in platforming, Cascade Kingdom really showed how good Super Mario Odyssey can be. The Sand Kingdom is where things really started to kick off though. A large, sprawling desert with so many secrets that you can’t possibly find everything in one sitting? Yes, PLEASE. From the Sand Kingdom onwards, it is clear that Super Mario Odyssey is not just fun because of its level design and main gimmick, but also because it is simply very well-made. The attention to detail is very nintendo-esque, with harmonizations along the spark pylons, random secrets hidden in odd places, multiple approaches to the same Moon, nostalgia-inducing remixes of previous Mario soundtracks, and an undeniably catchy theme in Jump Up, Super Star!.  In Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo took the most enjoyable parts of Galaxy and removed all the unnecessary fluff, leaving a denser, fuller and more admirable game. This alone is enough for me to consider Odyssey as being one of my favorite Mario games.

That being said, is Super Mario Odyssey a perfect game? No, no really. The Moon system didn’t really make me that happy from the start, and when I started to farm for Moons I realized why. Some moons were so low effort that they just seemed absolutely worthless. Kicking a random rock a few times in order to get a moon seems very cheap, and so do the several other moons that one can obtain in a mere 20-30 seconds. While there are a lot more high-effort moons to try and balance out the gameplay, that still doesn’t stop each individual Moon as a unit of completion to be almost insignificant. Maybe I’m just too used to having 7-8 Stars in each level, just like in older games. Does making getting the Moons generally easier make the game easier? Not really, because there are still so many genuinely difficult levels, especially in the post-game, with the glories of Dark Side, and although I haven’t gotten there yet, Darker Side. I really do hate Invisible Road. I really do.

Collectibles-wise aside, Super Mario Odyssey is a well-designed, well-made game suitable for all ages, with a higher level of difficulty than previous Mario games for sure. There’s a polish in Odyssey that wasn’t there before, and those smaller details make the game worth it in the end. If I had a dollar for how many times Odyssey made me smile because of its attention to detail and well-placed secrets, I could probably afford a few more copies of the game.

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