Preview – Hands-on with Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo’s developers are masters of their craft. Truly. I’d spent less than 10-minutes with Super Mario Odyssey when I knew it was going to be one of the best games I’d play this year, maybe of all time. I’m happy to be called hyperbolic right now because I know once everyone else plays what I’ve played, they’ll feel the same.
Super Mario Odyssey does what all the greatest Nintendo games do; uses the technology to its fullest potential and taps into your inner child. Except somehow, it does these things even better than usual. It’s been a long time since we had a proper 3D Super Mario (no 3D World doesn’t count) but it has definitely been worth the wait. Super Mario Odyssey is going to be stellar.
In my hands-on with Super Mario Odyssey preview, I was able to explore parts of three kingdoms; Cap Kingdom, Luncheon Kingdom and Seaside Kingdom. Afer a short cutscene setting events in motion, I found Mario in the ghostly, somewhat spooky Cap Kingdom. The shortest of the Kingdoms I got to play, Cap Kingdom is Cappy’s home and it’s where I learnt the basics.
Mario can throw Cappy in all directions and he can be used as a weapon, a shield and as a way to possess enemies. That final point is the crux of Super Mario Odyssey. Nearly every enemy (and even some friends) you see can be possessed by Cappy’s supernatural powers. I’ll admit that it’s odd to be controlling a character other than Mario, Luigi or Yoshi. It didn’t take long for me to get over that though, what with Mario’s bulbous nose, trademark moustache and sparkling blue eyes appearing on anything he possesses. It’s just adorable.
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Goomba Mario, Fireball Mario, Frog Mario, Cheep-Cheep Mario…and the list goes on. Part of me wanted to forget about the objectives at hand and simply seek out new characters to possess. Every new possession comes with a new set of skills too. Frogs can jump higher, Fireballs can swim in lava, Goombas can stack and Cheep-Cheeps never run out of air.
It’s not surprising then, that Nintendo has based most of Super Mario Odyssey’s gameplay around this mechanic. Nine times out of 10, solving a puzzle and collecting a Moon (Stars have had their time, according to the Nintendo rep) requires Mario to be in possession of some body or other. It keeps the entire experience fresh and fun and different. Since you’re constantly finding new characters to possess and skills to learn, you don’t really have time to get bored or find things getting stale.
Boss fights especially rely on these mechanics, though sub-bosses tend to focus more on Mario as himself and his ability to throw Cappy in the right direction.
For the purposes of the demo, Nintendo insisted that I use the Joy-Cons undocked and unencumbered by the Joy-Con Grip. I was hesitant at first, but I know now that this is the best way to play. When it’s release, players will be able to use the Joy-Cons with or without the Joy-Con Grip or the Pro Controller.
The right Joy-Con is used to throw Cappy and despite motion controls usually failing miserably, once again Nintendo proves it is the master. Throwing Cappy is intuitive, easy and it just works.
If you want to throw him upwards, flick the Joy-Con up. If you want to throw him to the left, flick it left. You can even pull off combos and homing shots by flicking the Joy-Cons in combination. Flicking it once to throw Cappy and then a second time will make him hone in on any nearby enemies. If you’re in trouble and are surrounded, you can flick both Joy-Cons to make Cappy spin around you, creating a temporary barrier.
Along with Cappy’s abilities, Mario has a couple of new tricks up his sleeve too. By jumping while pressing crouch and throwing Cappy, Mario goes into a forward roll. Flicking the right Joy-Con will give him some extra momentum and keep the roll going. There are some others in the game too, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. Besides, all of Mario’s moves from Super Mario 64 are present and accounted for.
If you’ve played that game, Super Mario Sunshine or either of the Super Mario Galaxy games, you’ll be pretty familiar with what a Mario game feels like. Super Mario Odyssey feels like a Mario game. Mario moves the way you expect him to. His jumps feel exactly as they should and getting around the Kingdoms feels just like it did way back on Nintendo 64. Perfect.
What is different is how amazing Super Mario Odyssey is visually. It’s stunningly gorgeous to look at. I’ve always thought that Mario Kart 8 was Nintendo’s homage to Pixar, but with Super Mario Odyssey, it’s been taken to a whole other level. There’s a level of detail in Super Mario Odyssey that’s simply unheard of. The textures of various pieces of cloth and material are all easily recognisable, be it Mario’s denim pants or neoprene boardshorts. Lighting effects are absolutely incredible and Seaside Kingdom is especially impressive.
Sunlight bounces off and filters through the photo-realistic water, objects under the water blur and warp in real-time and when dry objects become wet, the difference is noticeable. I could spend all day just talking about the water in Seaside Kingdom. Or the characters you can possess. Or the boss fights. Or, well, just about anything I got to see and play in my Super Mario Odyssey preview. And I was only given a tiny glimpse of the final product.
If my Super Mario Odyssey preview has told me one thing, it’s that the final game is going to be enormous. The three small sections I was able to play were chock full of missions and puzzles. There was too much to see and do within 90-minutes in just one of the areas let alone all three. This is a game that’s going to keep fans interested for a really, really long time.
When the Switch came out, everyone bought it for Breath of the Wild and now its library of games is robust and healthy. When Super Mario Odyssey comes out, it ‘s not going to matter what other games have been released; it is the only game that will. It has the potential to be a generation-defining game and may well be the best thing Nintendo has ever done.
I honestly, can’t wait.