For over 30 years, Mario has revolutionized gaming, from his arcade origins in “Donkey Kong” to the groundbreaking “Super Mario 64.” He’s not stopping anytime soon if his newest adventure, “Super Mario Odyssey,” is evident.
To save Princess Peach from a forced marriage to Bowser, Mario and his new ally, Cappy, travel across the world to new kingdoms, each of which has something Bowser needs for the wedding. Each kingdom is visually unique, like the comically realistic New Donk City.
Mario’s partner, Cappy, possesses his iconic hat, giving him the new Capture ability. Replacing typical power-ups, Mario can throw his hat onto enemies to control them. Mario can possess over 50 different enemies, and while each enemy only has one or two abilities, the levels are brilliantly designed around them. While the abilities stay the same, how the player uses them to solve puzzles constantly changes.
Mario has dozens of moves to traverse wide maps. The game can be completed without them, but advanced moves give experienced players a chance to truly explore. With practice, skilled players can do the impossible- and the developers know this, as there are hidden items in seemingly unreachable areas for those willing to find them.
For solving puzzles, Mario receives Power Moons, which fuel his hat-shaped spaceship, the Odyssey. Moons are scattered across wide kingdoms, and can be found in different ways, such as platforming challenges, talking to locals and possessing specific enemies. A set number of Moons is needed to travel the next kingdom, but the player can stay behind or return to kingdoms anytime to collect all the Moons at any pace.
Hundreds of Moons can be found, but not all are fun to collect. Some Moons are difficult to find without a sharp eye. There’s also a Moon or two in most kingdoms that involve finding a seed, carrying it halfway across the map, then waiting for it to grow. While not required to progress, they slow down the adventure.
Mario’s character animation is top-notch, with so much attention to detail that even his nose has its own physics. Outfits and hats can be bought that compliment his goofy animations, some of which are costumes from past Mario games. The new Snapshot mode allows fantastic angles for beautiful screenshots, but combined with his silly outfits and expressions, the right photographer can make pictures into comedy gold.
As per usual for the series, the soundtrack is phenomenal. While boss themes are less memorable, area music sounds wonderful and fits each level, many of which explore different musical genres.. Between the drum and bass theme of Steam Gardens, Fossil Falls’ tear-inducing orchestra, or “Jump Up, Super Star,” which took on a life of its own in the game’s trailers, it’s difficult to pick a favorite.
“Odyssey” excels in variety. Each area is unique, and thanks to movement options and capture abilities, traversing kingdoms is a blast. The player can go at any pace, collecting as few moons as needed or staying in each kingdom to collect everything. Because of its variety, “Super Mario Odyssey” stands as one of Mario’s greatest adventures yet.
“Super Mario Odyssey” is available for $59.99 on Nintendo Switch.
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