Monday, October 30, 2017

Mario Odyssey Impressions

After over six months of hype, Mario Odyssey is finally out, and I am once again absorbed into another massive world built by Nintendo’s crew of mad scientists. Over the course of the game’s release weekend, I have put about 15 hours into the game and have already collected 222 moons (out of 800). Here are my impressions of Mario Odyssey so far:
  • The game’s structure is an interesting amalgam of Galaxy, 3D World, and Sunshine. While there’s no central hub world, each kingdom in Mario Odyssey is a large and fully open playground to roam around (similar to Sunshine or 64). Just wandering around the kingdoms, the player will happen upon dozens of opportunities to collect Power Moons (equivalent to Stars or Shines in other Mario games). Within each kingdom, there are doorways that lead to areas with linear platforming challenges that reward the player with even more moons. I’m not sure if these areas have proper names, so I've started referring to them as dungeons. From what I’ve seen so far, the regular kingdom moons and the story-essential moons have been relatively easy to get, while a few of the dungeon moons have been quite tough.
  • Unlike previous Mario games, where there would be no more than 10 stars in a stage and finding each one involves a significant trek, the moons are extremely plentiful and vary widely in terms of difficulty to acquire. Some moons are obtained simply by breaking a glowing box or talking to a right NPC, while others are more involved and could require climbing a massive tower or beating a boss. So far, the kingdoms I’ve played through have had anywhere from 17 to 100 moons to collect.
  • After collecting the story-essential moons and a handful of the more obvious moons in each kingdom, I find myself making pretty liberal use of the in-game hint systems. There are two ways to get hints in Mario Odyssey: In one case, talking to an NPC will provide you with the title of a moon (e.g. "Atop a Tall Tower"), but not provide a location. In the other case, an NPC will mark the map with a location of a moon, but not tell you what you need to do to actually make the moon appear. The second of these two options requires paying 50 gold coins, which is pretty easy to accumulate, or to scan an amiibo. 
  • The capture mechanic, in which Mario can take control of an NPC or enemy allows for some interesting breaks in the typical 3D Mario action. Capturable characters range from giant dinosaurs, to classic Mario enemies, to benign objects like plants. For the most part, the time spent as a captured character is brief, but each character has a unique feel and adds more variety to the gameplay.
  • While it didn’t initially grab me when I heard it during E3, Mario Odyssey’s theme song, “Jump Up, Super Star” has really grown on me. I couldn’t help but put it on in the car on my way to work this morning.
While Zelda: Breath of the Wild represented a drastic departure from the series' traditional formula, Mario Odyssey feels more like a new blend of mostly familiar elements. However, as one would expect from a Mario game, the execution is top-notch and every part of the game that I've seen so far is simply imbued with the spirit of fun.

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