Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch) Preview

By Jorge Ba-oh 05.07.2017 3

Review for Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch

When it comes to genre-defining games, Nintendo is regarded as one of the key developers in forging some of the most compelling titles. Throw out the term "3D platformer" and folk would usually chime in with the likes of Super Mario 64. It's the one that's said to have injected life into lukewarm attempts at creating these 3D worlds. That was over twenty years ago, when the industry started to tinker with 3D concepts in the living room. Fast forward two decades and gaming habits, the way people consume, has changed dramatically. It's likely that a smart, fruit-branded phone is your platform of choice for reading this particular article. Is there room for a collect-a-thon 3D platformer in 2017? Nintendo wants to bring it all back with a flagship adventure built ground-up for Nintendo Switch - introducing, Super Mario Odyssey. Cubed3 followed Mario into his latest tale during a recent hands-on experience with Nintendo UK.

Nintendo's recent efforts with 3D Mario titles have spawned some ideas that were, quite literally, out of this world. Super Mario Galaxy was all about spherical, mission-based planets that had a very specific, clear goal. Nintendo blended tradition and explored multiplayer with the manic Super Mario 3D World - with up to four players working together to fend off Bowser and his minions. Whilst being truly standout titles in their own right, what was missing were levels that were perhaps more open, akin to Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine. Whilst there were missions to complete, it took a fair bit of exploration and "ah-ha" moments to figure out where the collectibles were hidden.

Mario's traditional moves are intact - hops, long jumps, triple jumps, and somersaults. The porky plumber may have been plodding about for over three decades, but he's still as a fit as a Mushroom Kingdom new-born. Whilst it may not be worth mentioning, given that it's a Nintendo platforming title, Odyssey serves up more fluid movement than ever before - rendered in striking 60fps. The boost in frames, despite there being teeny drops on occasion, makes controlling the protagonist an absolute joy. It's instantly familiar, though, something that hasn't needed to change in so many years. Seasoned Mario folk will be leaping around the world in no time.

Screenshot for Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch

What is new, however, is that famous red hat has finally become sentient. Cappy is the new, rather cheeky, talking hat that sits firmly on Mario's head. It's not just a helper hat as Mario can throw Cappy towards objects to trigger switches, toggle the environment and even possess those classic enemies. Mario can possess a Bullet Bill to reach impossible pillars, or channel a wandering Chain Chomp to gobble up rocks. These miniature moments were cleverly executed - and the prospect for more wacky possessions and puzzles are invigorating.

Some Mario purists, however, might recoil at the very mention of a new item to use. Cappy doesn't lean as far as Fludd in its oddity as it feels more like an extension of the hero, rather than a wacky invention of sorts. Yes, the cap is used a fair bit, but there were still plenty of moments in the demo that could be overcome by pure and simple jumping precision, with plenty of Charles Martinet "woo-hoos" for good measure. Speed-runners will likely have a field day trying to see whether the majority can be completed without it.

Screenshot for Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch

During the session, Nintendo offered two distinctive kingdoms to visit - Metro Kingdom (New Donk City) and a desert oasis (Tostarena), and they certainly were unique in their own right. First up was more familiar terrain - a lush desert that's composed of small areas - a town, ruins, pyramid, and even a frozen cave. As seen in the trailer, it's an eclectic celebration that borrows elements of the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday - the town comes alive with plenty of smaller buildings to nip into, inhabitants to greet and collectibles scattered throughout. Within minutes, Mario will be triple-jumping across moving platforms, gambling coins, and zipping across a pixelated 3D landscape to collect hidden "moons" (the main item of interest in Odyssey). One thing is for sure, these are certainly tucked away; a far few discovered completely by accident whilst trying to become acquainted with Mario's new googly-eyed friend.

The second area that Nintendo demoed was New Donk City, a bustling metropolis that draws heavily from sprawling towns like New York, but several decades earlier than present day. Chaps in classic cut suits, iconic yellow cabs, and scaffolding for days - welcome to Mario's rare trip into town. The plumber has strolled off course to more Earth-like regions in the odd spin-off game before, but it's the first time he will get to interact with human folk in a major 3D platformer. In terms of level design, there is truly a sense of height and scale, with the towering buildings being put to good use; a platforming fan's dream and a nod to the arcade hit, Donkey Kong. Even Mario's old flame, Pauline, makes a rare cameo. It's a bizarre mash-up of worlds, and whilst it's amusing to see Mario ascend a fire escape, having rigid human NPCs is just too jarring - visually and thematically. It seems an odd choice, given Nintendo could have opted for suited Goomba or Koopa in dresses to add that sense of cohesion with the franchise. That said, Odyssey is promising to break convention with these Kingdoms, so expect the unexpected!

Screenshot for Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch

Despite there being unique sub-regions to explore within these two worlds, there's a feeling that Nintendo hasn't arbitrarily plopped in objects to fill a space. It's something that the game's director looked to achieve; a concept of "hakoniwa," a Japanese term that suggests cultivating landscapes within a small area. Nintendo has ditched the return-to-hub approach after collecting moons this time round, so the action continues to flow until Mario and Cappy decide to move on. This seamless nature makes things that bit more interesting - it's almost like small, open worlds, within Nintendo's bigger open, and distinctively quirky, planet to explore. It's likely that this will be the least linear Mario title to date, but the worlds are still neatly contained and not empty.

As for presentation, Nintendo ticks the usual quality boxes when it comes to appeasing audiophiles - the usual whimsical flavour is present, but with neat riffs that play off conventions for the different themed areas. The soundtrack is certainly one to look out for once other kingdoms start to come into play. Visually, the game performs in line with more recent efforts like 3D World but pushes further by inviting more detail in these bigger worlds - everything, so far, feels so alive and well planted, slick, and polished more than would be expected from a game that still has while before it goes gold.

Take the Nintendo Switch out of the dock and the initial impression goes something like, "Can a Mario title run this well in handheld mode?" The short answer is a resounding, "yes." Everything is just as slick, if not that bit better given the resolution, when roaming about without a 40-inch television in your pocket. Handheld Mario is something that just had to be tried.

Screenshot for Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch

Final Thoughts

Super Mario Odyssey is a promising start for Mario's new flagship adventure. There's a new, key, hat mechanic that expands Mario's ability but doesn't make him rely solely upon it - with plenty of classic platforming activity to be had, as well. The worlds shown so far are distinctive, and although the human folk are a tad jarring, Nintendo has paid a lot of attention to puzzle areas and the sprinkling of little, discoverable gems. The full adventure is certainly one to look out for, and a potential system seller for Nintendo's aspiring home/portable hybrid.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Oct 2017   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Apparently, Nintendo doesn't like people using the term 'possess' - I wonder if it feels there will be some negative connotation from some quarters over the idea of 'possession' being a demonic type thing Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Hakoniwa: very interesting stuff indeed. I'm still not sure what to expect, but I really like the tone of Odyssey so far. Without being too different to the other mainstream Marios, it seems to have much more licence for cultural influence, and the sort of fun and playfulness that could spring out of that sort of approach.

It almost seems perfect in that respect. The general parameters seem much less defined in design terms, I hope they get whacky and abstract, but equally so, are prepared to make more and closer real-world references (New Donk City - a good start and indicator of this possibility), which I think they should start doing more considering the iconic nature of Mario.

( Edited 06.07.2017 23:02 by The Strat Man )

I like that you're not returned to a hub world after finding a moon. That used to grind a bit, having to always traipse back to the stage you wanted to wander around. Should keep the action flowing nicely.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
K-Pop Korner - The Best of Korean Music
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Azuardo, FiDRoC

There are 2 members online at the moment.