Super Mario 64 is one of the first games that I can remember playing (properly). Sure, I played Super Mario 1, 2, and 3 and a bunch of other games before that, but Super Mario 64 is the first game that I remember being truly captivated by. I would constantly go back and try to find the laststar or find a hidden area that I’d never seen before. It was a time before online guides and relied on your sense of discovery in order to find hidden areas and new stars.
Ever since, I’ve been longing for a game like Super Mario 64. One where every level (or Kingdom) feels like a brand new adventure where you literally don’t know what’s around the corner. Sure, Mario Sunshine as well as Galaxy 1/2 were great games, but they didn’t provide me with that sense of wonder and mystery like Super Mario 64 did.Whilst I was always confident that Super Mario Odyssey was going to be an amazing game, I’m now fairly confident that it could go down as the best Super Mario game of all time. It takes the things that Super Mario 64 great (the many different worlds, brilliant platforming and sense of discovery/exploration) and expands them even further, with many different new and iconic enemies that you can now capture as well as a number of new gameplay techniques that push the series forward.
Earlier this week, I spent almost two hours playing through Super Mario Odyssey. Previously, I’d had about 30 minutes hands on with New Donk City (The Metro Kingdom) and Tostarena (The Sand Kingdom), but I got to sit down and actually explore the newly announced Bonneton (The Cap Kingdom), Mount Volbono (The Luncheon Kingdom) and Bubblaine (The Seaside Kingdom).Bonneton is the black and white Kingdom where you first discover Cappy. As far as I know, it’s an area to learn the ropes of Mario’s expanded moveset. Mario has more moves in his arsenal than ever before. Not only are all of his iconic jumps from Super Mario 64 back, the addition of Cappy (as well as the motion controls) allows him to use Cappy to reach extended areas and attack in new ways.
Obviously, one of the new mechanics in the game is the capturing technique with Cappy. Whilst this is new to the game, the actual capturing powers aren’t too dissimilar from that of previous Mario games. The first character that you can capture in the game is a frog, that allows you to jump to higher areas. It’s one of the more basic captures but quickly showed me just how much these characters would change the game.
Once I got to Luncheon Kingdom, I was overwhelmed with just how much there was for me to do. Similar to Super Mario 64, each Kingdom has a objective (at least initially) that leads you through the level. There’s a number of random objectives along the way that you can do (or ignore until later) that will lead to obtaining power moons (the currency used to get to the next Kingdom), but there’s always an overarching objective that leads you to a main point (usually a boss battle) in the Kingdom. I was introduced to the Broodals which are essentially boss battles. These feel incredibly similar to the Koopaling boss battles from 3D world, but often make you put Cappy to good use in order to defeat them.Throughout the level, there were a number of enemies to capture. Most of these were required to get certain power moons or push the objective forward. For instance, there’s Frying Pan bros instead of Boomerang Bros. You need to capture them in order to throw your frypans at cheese in order to unlock switches to access new areas.
Hidden throughout each Kingdom (I could only find one at this stage) is a 2D side scrolling Mario mini game that takes 2D Mario to a whole new level. In the Luncheon Kingdom, there’s a lot of hills for you to climb which basically makes the 2D world constantly spinning. In the underwater Kingdom, you need to access different pipes in order to get to different parts of the 2D world in order to reach the power moon. This is an evolution of the iconic 2D Mario gameplay and they are a nice touch that wasn’t necessarily needed but adds a whole lot of creativity.There’s a bunch of other mysteries throughout each level too. I found a disappearing Goomba in both kingdoms that I was unable to catch, but it’s clear that catching it would do something special. There’s also little mini games throughout each Kingdom that you can compare other people’s scores with on the leaderboard. In the Underwater Kingdom (Bubblaine) I played Volleyball with a Boo (and Cappy), but there’s also classic Koopa races like in Super Mario 64.
Once I got to Bubblaine, the game changed again completely. It was a mix of ground and underwater elements, still with an overarching objective to complete (followed by a boss battle). Once again, I was forced to use Cappy to defeat the boss (a flying fire-breathing Octopus that shoots water). I had to capture a Purple octopus that essentially could either spurt forward with water or fly in the air (with a water meter that would replenish when hitting the water). I would need to use this captured creatures to cool off the lava that sat on top of this octopus.The underwater elements of this level got me incredibly excited due to the fact that I could tell there were a bunch of hidden secrets hidden in every nook and cranny. At one point, I discovered four mummy like characters hidden within treasure chests that I had to defeat in the correct order to get a power moon. I’d need to capture Cheep Cheeps to swim down to the deep and dark places, as they would give Mario unlimited breathing time.
If you’re overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with everything I’ve spoken about, I don’t blame you. I haven’t even touched on any of the costumes, the different forms of currency, stickers or souvenirs that you can get along the way.I’m incredibly excited about Super Mario Odyssey. It’s clear that similar to Breath of the Wild, Odyssey pushes the Mario franchise forward in ways that only the geniuses at Nintendo could have come up with. There is so much content in this game to the point that I’m fairly confident you can spend hours exploring each Kingdom without actually completing any of the core objectives. This is exactly what I want from a Mario game and it’s what I’ve been waiting for, for the better half of 20 years.