Sunday, October 29, 2017

Super Mario Odyssey

That’s some fuckin’ art design right there.

I am only sort of kind of a Mario guy.

I wasn’t into Nintendo during the golden age of the NES and SNES. I did hanve an N65, but don’t think I really played much Mario 64 on it. I had Mario Sunshine on the GameCube because it was obligatory, but never got hugely into it.

Then Super Mario Galaxy came out for the Wii, and I ate that shit UP. Just obsessed over it. Love everything about it to this day - the 3D gameplay, the level design, and most importantly, the way the game handled difficulty. The main mode provided a nice, light difficulty level. And then there were optional challenges that ramped the difficulty all the way up to holy shit nutballs. So you could beat the game, and do most everything, without being great at it, but if you wanted to do EVERYTHING, you had to develop some skills or devote time or both. I did EVERYTHING.

Mario Galaxy 2 was more of the same, but that was OK, because I loved the same.

Then, on the WiiU, we got the 2D New Super Mario games, and Super mario 3D World, and I liked them fine, but they didn’t do that thing Mario Galaxy did for me, and I don’t think I ever beat either one.

Super Mario Odyssey is way, way better than Super Mario Galaxy.

I’m serious. This game is fucking astonishingly good. It takes everything that was great about Super Mario Galaxy, adds in the open world lessons learned on Breath of the Wild, adds dozens upon dozens of new tricks, and wraps them all up in a package that’s pure, unmitigated joy.

It’s not an open world game in the sense of Zelda, of course. It’s broken up into smaller, themed open worlds that vary in size. I’ve just about wrapped up the second of the non-introductory ones, and they have that same thing Zelda has where you aren’t punished for exploration. Go off in a direction, you’ll find something. Play around. Experiment. Maybe you’ll die. If you die, you’ll lose ten coins and go back to your last checkpoint. No biggie. Load times are fast enough that you’re not punished that way, either.

All the exploration comes in the service of two collectables - Power Moons are similar to the stars in Mario Galaxy. You need about a third of the available ones in the game to progress. The rest are granted by stumbling across or seeking out challenges to complete or just hidden spots to find. The first two “real” levels I completed had 61 and 51 of these moons respectively, not counting some apparent bonus ones achieved in other ways like secret exits and entrances to the worlds.

There’s a lot to do, but the game makes it relatively easy to do it. You can learn the titles of the challenges for free, two at a time, from a character in each level. Once you’ve cleared the story missions in a world, you can access map markers for challenges either by tapping an Amiibo and doing other stuff for five minutes, or paying 50 coins to a Toad. Between these two things, you can find probably 90% of the callenges on your own. The rest you may need to look up on the Innternet for convenience, just because the levels have a LOT of... well, levels to them. So an X on a 2-D map doesn’t always tell you where to go with any degree of precision. There are also a few thingsthe game doesn’t make 100% clear are among its hundreds of mechanics, like hanging your hat on shit.

I haven’t mentioned the hat yet, even though it’s the primary game mechanic and the whole point of the game. Basically, you use the hat to take over the bodies of enemies and objects to either solve puzzles or give yourself new navigational abilities or both. It’s Tanooki Suit turned up to a billion.

Controls, even the motion ones, are mostly seamless so far. Graphics are fantastic, gameplay is fantastic, everything is fantastic. This is what video games should be.

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