By HARRY FISHER
For over thirty years, Nintendo’s world-famous Italian plumber, Mario, has dominated the video game industry, providing both gamers and non-gamers with some of the most entertaining experiences the industry has to offer. In addition to being fun, well-designed and family-friendly, Mario games do not require players to have any high-level gaming skills to enjoy them. Even those who have never played a video game before can easily pick up a Mario game and immediately start having fun with it.
They have excellent controls, bright and colorful levels, challenging game play, great music and a charming cast of characters that have become well-known in pop culture. The newest installment of the series, “Super Mario Odyssey” for the Nintendo Switch, has all of these elements and more. Mario fans have been chomping at the bit, waiting for months for this game’s release, and now that it’s finally here, it’s being hailed as one of the best Mario games in history. Personally, I believe that Odyssey is the best game in the entire Mario series, and I’ve never had more fun with a Mario game than I’ve had with Odyssey.
As with all Mario games, the story of Odyssey is pretty simple. The evil Bowser, who is basically a fire-breathing dinosaur with a giant turtle shell, has kidnapped Princess Peach, ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, and is trying to force her to marry him, so nothing new in terms of storyline.
When Mario tries to save Peach, Bowser defeats him and leaves him stranded in a strange kingdom inhabited by ghosts who are obsessed with hats. Mario meets a ghost named Cappy, whose sister Tiara has also been kidnapped by Bowser. Cappy transforms himself into a duplicate of Mario’s hat so he can aid Mario in his quest, and together they set off on a journey across the world to rescue the princesses.
The game has Mario and Cappy traversing several different “kingdoms,” each of which has its own unique charm and atmosphere. For example, the Sand Kingdom contains a village of little skeleton people wearing ponchos and sombreros, as well as a large desert with a sphinx and a giant inverted pyramid. Levels like these are clearly inspired by real world locations, in this case Mexico and Egypt.
The Cascade Kingdom is a prehistoric land where dangerous creatures roam, such as the classic Chain Chomp enemies from past Mario games and even a massive T-rex. Each level is absolutely gorgeous to look at. They are all oozing with detail and make you feel like you are actually in the world of Mario. This is easily one of the best looking games the Switch has to offer.
However, the gameplay mechanics are the core of the game and the main reasons why it is so fun. In addition to having classic Mario staples, such as the ability to jump on enemies’ heads to defeat them, this game adds many new gameplay elements, most of which revolve around Mario’s ability to use Cappy as a weapon or tool. Mario can throw Cappy at enemies to attack them, use Cappy for a jump boost and do a spin attack with Cappy that hits all the enemies surrounding them.
Cappy’s most notable function and my favorite feature in the game, however, is his “capture” ability. When Mario throws Cappy at certain enemies, Cappy can transform Mario into these enemies, allowing the player to take control of them. This one mechanic adds so much more to the game play. Throughout the many levels, Mario can transform into various different classic enemies such as Goombas, Chain Chomps and Bullet Bills, and use their various abilities to solve puzzles and get power ups. The wide variety of enemies and creatures Mario can transform into opens up new levels of fun and exploration of new abilities. I could even become the T-rex in the Cascade Kingdom and cause mass destruction.
Another really interesting feature of the game is just how open-ended it feels and how much there is to explore. Every level feels like a brand new world, filled with various hidden items and secrets you can spend hours searching for. I must have spent two hours in the Sand Kingdom alone, just trying to find all of the hidden coins and secret doors scattered throughout the desert.
The player’s exploration is always rewarded with a fun new challenge or secret area to conquer. My personal favorites were the areas in which Mario actually transforms into a 2-D, pixelated version of himself and the game play suddenly resembles the original Super Mario Brothers. These sections are even complete with 8-bit enemies and music to add a nostalgia factor to the game for long-time Mario fans. Sections like these just go to show how much fun it is to explore and discover this game.
Super Mario Odyssey is a perfect example of why Mario has been the face of Nintendo, and gaming in general, for so long. It has breathtakingly beautiful and detailed levels, as well as incredibly fun gimmicks that make it feel like a Mario game, but so much more at the same time. The game is a must-have if you own a Switch, and if you don’t have one already, the console is worth buying for this game alone. Hats off to you, Mario, for another fantastic adventure.