While attending E3 today, we had the chance to swing by Nintendo’s booth to try out the highly anticipated Super Mario Odyssey. As someone who’s felt somewhat burned out from Mario games for the last few years, I had a complete blast. While I was cautiously optimistic about Super Mario Odyssey, I found myself surprised at how much fun the demo was, and how it managed to put me more at ease than I was prior to taking it for a spin.
I tend to prefer the more open 3D Mario titles when I’m looking for a platformer to fiddle around in. For example, I’m more into Super Mario Sunshine than Super Mario 3D World, largely due to the sense of exploration and freedom that games like Mario 64 allow when compared to the more linear installments in the franchise, and the 2D platformers. Being able to explore environments at my own pace while finding collectibles and secrets is an experience that few platformers can pull off, so there was a sense of disappointment in the more basic Mario titles that often followed.
After feeling somewhat burned out from the numerous entries in the New Super Mario Bros series, my enthusiasm for Mario games in general was moderately lowered. Only after playing Super Mario Odyssey has that fatigue begun to dissipate, largely because of the game’s impressive open levels and freedom of exploration.
Odyssey‘s demo was composed of two levels: a sand civilization and a modern city. The sand level had a number of different “moons” to be found in many nooks and crannies, despite them not being part of the main objective. Each moon had different requirements to obtain them, such as possessing a statue’s head to see invisible platforms, to collecting moon shards on the many dunes surrounding the center area of the stage. There were so many different moons to find that the timed demo ran out before they could all be located, which bodes well for Odyssey‘s similarity to the Mario titles I previously spoke of.
My favorite level would have to be the urban stage, known as “New Donk City”, a true gem of a name. Not only did this stage provide countless opportunities to scale skyscrapers through surprising transformations (turning into a power surge and moving through a hydro wire was unique to say the least), but it also provided a number of new features that I couldn’t have expected to see. Mario can drive a scooter around town with free controls, a la GTA-lite, with a stopping animation that brings to mind Akira, for what it’s worth.
One of the more surprising things was being able to enter a store to purchase Mario’s outfit from Mario Maker. Alternate costumes in Mario games are an interesting idea, especially since Mario has years of costumes and color schemes to choose from. Exploring the city as my own costumed Mario was a genuinely new experience in a Mario game, which really made me think Odyssey has the potential to be a great 3D Mario title. If it weren’t for the timer, I would have gleefully enjoyed spelunking the concrete jungle for quite some time, which is something I didn’t expect going into the demo.
Overall, Super Mario Odyssey has a great deal of potential. In the case that it can live up to my current expectations for it, I’ll be incredibly happy and relieved. But even if it can’t, Odyssey is a step in the right direction for making Mario games free again.