It’s hard to believe that we have two new games in two of Nintendo’s biggest franchises arriving for the Switch in its first 9 months on the market. While many are still lost in the fantastical world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, many early adopters of the Switch are eagerly anticipating the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey. Created by the team behind classics like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World, Odyssey is a brand new massive adventure that features sandbox Kingdoms to explore, similar to the gameplay pioneered in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine.
This past weekend I went hands-on with Super Mario Odyssey and was able to explore the Sand Kingdom of Tostarena. This is a huge desert world with giant shards of ice poking out of the ground, an odd site for a hot desert! As it turns out, something or someone is causing this unusual cold snap and it’s up to Mario to figure out the mystery surrounding it.
I began the level up on an embankment that showed off a small village in the distance. I ran toward the various characters that were dancing around in their Day of the Dead garb. These skull characters were quick to point out that something was wrong, and I kept pushing forward until I came across a hat store. I figured I’d step inside and take a look around. I had 300 coins at my disposal so I purchased a new hat and suit. They didn’t appear to give Mario any new powers, and I believe they were just cosmetic, but it was cool to see him run around wearing some different threads for once. I know that changing clothes can solve a certain puzzle, but I don’t like to give things away. Discovering the solutions to the game’s puzzles is half the fun!
The Switch setup at the event only allowed for split Joy-Con controls. The game does make use of motion to do things like throw your hat (Cappy). You can also do this with a simple button push. Although I do like the Joy-Con controllers, in a game like this where camera control is on the right analog, I would prefer to have played with a Pro Controller, so I’m looking forward to that opportunity once I have my own copy of the game. I still managed to do just fine with the smaller buttons and sticks, and the majority of Mario’s iconic moves make a return for this new game.
The biggest addition is that Mario can now capture various enemies and use their abilities. In this stage there were multiple instances where you could capture a Bullet Bill and fly around to parts of the level that would otherwise be inaccessible. This time around Mario’s on the lookout for green moons, and there are a lot of them! In my short time playing I had collected five or six, and thankfully the game doesn’t kick you back out of the level when you find one. You can just keep on exploring to your heart’s content. I also took control of a mechanical contraption that rocketed high up in the sky and allowed me to scope out the world below. This revealed some of the locations of the green moons and I was able to plan my next move.
There are a few places in this world where you can enter a pipe on the wall and the game shifts to a classic 2D perspective – complete with 8-bit sprites. Mario can then traverse the wall and jump and break bricks just like you’d expect. This mechanic reminded me of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds where Link could flatten himself and move along the walls. It’s a nice nod to classic games and adds variety to the levels.
Although I have seen plenty of videos of Super Mario Odyssey in action, playing the game for myself really drove home just how great the visuals are. Not only does Mario look better than ever before, but the environments are stunning. The red/brown sand dunes look fantastic with light catching certain grains of sand to make them shimmer. Mario’s animates better than ever, with small details like his nose even bouncing around as he moves about. The game is vibrant with striking colors and is definitely one of the prettiest games yet for the Switch.
One other thing that stood out during my gameplay sessions was the HD Rumble. Most of the time the vibrations in the game are pretty subtle, but they match perfectly with whatever is happening on the screen. You can literally feel the Bullet Bill accelerate as you fly around, and bouncing on enemies and throwing your hat all have a different feel. I’m not sure if this will be as pronounced with the Pro Controller, but I am excited to see (and feel) what some of the other environments have in store for the new technology.
Although my play session was much shorter than I had hoped (I wanted to play all day), what I saw of Super Mario Odyssey was magical. It offers up some amazing visuals and the Kingdoms seem vast with plenty of spots to explore. In fact, even when I messed up a jump and thought I was falling to my death, I managed to slide down a waterfall of sand only to discover a hidden moon wedged between two walls. There’s going to be a lot to discover here, and that’s my favorite thing to do in video games. October 27 can’t come soon enough!