Nintendo has proven divisive in recent years, with the brilliant, but flawed, Wii U courting much derision from many gamers ignorant of its thrills. Even large sects of the gaming press has taken an anti-Nintendo stance, seemingly holding the belief the PlayStation and Xbox are the proper games consoles, with Nintendo’s efforts “for kids” and not worthy of adult gamers.
The fantastic Nintendo Switch has helped to redress the balance. Launched in March 2017 with the astonishing Breath of the Wild, we didn’t believe it would be possible to challenge that one for Game of the Year. The brilliant games are pouring in thick and fast now and Super Mario Odyssey was always going to be the big talking point – new Mario adventures, even 30+ years after the very first, are always a big deal! So what’s going on?!
Super Mario Odyssey
First up, this one has met with the same level of international critical acclaim as Zelda earlier in the year. It’s another masterpiece, it’s been claimed, with two of them in one year a quite incredible achievement. A sandbox-style title, where free roaming and exploration are encouraged over a linear path, it’s a lesson to other developers about what makes a fantastic video game – it’s just bloody amazing fun.
Mario’s last adventure in 2013, the superb Super Mario 3D World, was more restrictive in its setup. A masterpiece in its own right, the imagination on display still dwarfs what most AAA developers cover across several games – we’re not trying to be sycophantic Nintendo fanboys here, this is simply an impartial consideration made by video game fanatics of going on 30 years (you can read a well-considered counter argument from our arch-nemesis LightningEllen: Super Mario… Meh).
Super Mario Odyssey takes that imaginative scale, throws in a new ability for Mario (in the form of the jaunty Cappy, who sounds a bit like a Minion), and attempts to reinvent the Mario formula. Now, many other developers figure bigger is better and, these days, it’s not at all unusual to have enormous open world gamers. There’s often, however, little to do there – it’s just open space. The different with Nintendo, as seen here and in Breath of the Wild, is they pack in endless moments of charm and wonder at every turn.
Odyssey is a fantastic video game and places fun, exploration, and inquisitiveness at the forefront of its adventure. As with all Mario games, you simply pick up and play and you’re having fun in seconds… however, we don’t quite believe it’s the 10/10 masterpiece as it has been hailed. Very good it is, yes, a 9/10, but there’s a slight twinge of disappointment it’s not delivered the slice of sweeping genius Breath of the Wild achieved.
Bucking da Trend?
Simply put, you can race through the game as you see fit, but there are only 17 stages (compared to Super Mario 3D World, which doesn’t seem to want to end) at which point exploration begins where you search every nook and cranny of the level. In short, you can complete the game in five hours like an indie game… so after that it’s up to the player if they want to collect everything.
It’s a title for completionists, then, but kids and adults will be left delighted with the more spectacular moments in Odyssey (such as taking control of the various in-game enemies, such as a T. Rex) – what’s obvious is Nintendo has attempted to cater for a vast selection of players at once. It’s succeeded in providing something for everyone, but after the initial euphoria of the sweeping soundtrack, exploring the stunning Sand Kingdom, and much more… the lack of levels hits you and I was left wanting more. But… it’s still bloody good!
Developing the Goods
The game’s developers recently discussed what has kept the Mario games so appealing over 30 years, particularly for older gamers who, you know, should be more interested in mature games like Call of Duty (*ahem*). Odyssey’s directors, Kenta Motokura and Yoshiaki Koizumi, have been open with the press about what makes the games so great – Motokura told GQ magazine:
"For me, what's always important for a Mario game is that it has to be something that's fun [the moment you touch it]. There's just an instant fun right when you pick up the controls. From there we add lots of different actions and gameplay elements when we create a game, but that's something that's always there, that idea of fun."
These two are rock stars of the video game world. Whilst Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, worshipped as a gaming God by many, oversees projects these days, at 64 he’ll potentially be nearing retirement and has clearly prepped Nintendo’s creative department with geniuses on his scale to keep the incredible games flowing out. Good gravy.