Mario has captivated gamers since his debut in 1981’s Donkey Kong arcade platform. As a fictitious Italian plumber, Mario frequently sets out on outrageous, playful adventures to save Princess Peach from Bowser—a Koopa villain who resembles an oversized dragon-tortoise hybrid with a spiky shell and flaring, oversized nostrils. One of the newest additions to the Super Mario video game franchise is Super Mario Odyssey, being developed and published by Nintendo EPD and Nintendo, respectively, for the Switch. In a recent hands-on preview, OnlySP played a demo of the upcoming 3D platformer, and the experience was a mixture of comical, refreshing, and reminiscent of Super Mario predecessors dating back to the Nintendo 64.
Nintendo regularly produces games that combine cartoonish animations with 3D environments. Super Mario Odyssey is no different in that regard. With sharp, colorful landscapes and buildings that look like a cross between a Disney sketch and vibrant claymation, Super Mario Odyssey is every bit the offspring of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. With such bright, chromatic imagery, one feels thrust into a world that revolves around dippy antics. The sharp surroundings offer an amusing reprieve from the realistic, and sometimes grim, atmospheres depicted in many modern games, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Battlefield 1, and the upcoming Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord.
Similarly, the game’s characters are spitting images of their 1996 and 2002 ancestors, albeit with less hazy detail. Mario, for example, remains the short, bulbous-nosed goofball with a red cap, blue overalls, and thick moustache fans have come to love. Moreover, the diverse non-player characters (NPCs) often resemble satirical stereotypes, such as the short and stocky NPCs sporting festive sombreros and maracas. While not a perfectly accurate representation of certain Latin American and Hispanic cultures, the silly models stay true to Nintendo’s wacky visuals. Lovable as Super Mario’s loony graphics are, they should not exist in such a fashion purely for the sake of eccentricity. However, given the trend set in early Super Mario games, the style is fitting and succeeds in rendering a unique appearance for Mario’s bizarre world.
Enlivening these kooky graphics are the whimsical shouts, grunts, dialogue, and other vocal utterances peppered throughout Super Mario Odyssey’s gameplay. While running and jumping around the game world, Mario will often huff and shout as he performs acrobatic maneuvers, such as flipping or climbing up ledges. In addition, the popping and puffing of defeated enemies as Mario jumps on and flattens them provides playful timbres, reinforcing the lightheartedness of the Super Mario world. When combining comedic noises with jovial optics, the end result is usually either hilarious or scoff-worthy. Nintendo achieves more of the former with Super Mario Odyssey, and has persisted in consistent success with Mario’s audacious shenanigans.
More than just vocal and combat sounds make up Super Mario Odyssey’s world, however. The familiar jingling of coins when Mario acquires them from a plethora of sources returns in the same nutty harmony as in previous installments. Furthermore, enemies and friendly NPCs offer their own audible incarnations in the form of whirring rockets, rapidly-pattering footsteps, and several other incarnations that add to Mario’s batty world.
Naturally, these sound effects would not exist without equally daffy gameplay mechanics to give the audio a platform on which to shine. One of those mechanics, new to the Super Mario series, is the ability to throw Mario’s hat. Dubbed Cappy, the hat acts as both a weapon and control mechanism, meaning the cap can be used to take control of enemies, such as the shark-faced rockets that have plagued Mario since the days of Nintendo 64. Flinging Cappy adds a little more to the player’s arsenal, providing additional methods to defeat enemies and overcome obstacles. With Cappy at gamers’ disposal, taking down or controlling the multitude of impish foes is both funny and satisfying.
In addition, one of the most iconic pieces of the Super Mario series returns: collecting coins. Super Mario Odyssey has two types of coins available. The first one is the widely-recognizable gold coin, which Mario collects around the game world by defeating enemies, breaking things, or simply coming across them along the ground or hovering above or below certain objects or parts of the terrain. These coins can be used to purchase items in the game. The second kind of currency is unique to each area of the game world. Gold coins can be used anywhere, but the more unique coins can only be used to buy items in the respective kingdoms said coins are found. Some of the items Mario can purchase with coins include new hats and outfits, and specific attires that are sometimes required to complete different quests. The use of coins has been a consistent feature in Super Mario games, and each additional title evolves coin usage in some way, shape, or form, building upon the franchise’s predecessors to keep even the established mechanics refreshing and innovative.
All-in-all, Super Mario Odyssey is looking to offer an interesting playthrough, but is not likely to redefine 3D platform video games. The title will presumably be one that the less diehard fans play in small doses as opposed to marathoning through in a few sittings. While Nintendo does appear to be improving upon already-entertaining forebears, the company will need to dig deeper if Mario’s latest journey is to outshine previous installments. With picturesque visuals accompanied by charming audio and engaging yet familiar gameplay, Super Mario Odyssey is looking to be a mostly-typical Nintendo experience.