Once again, a Nintendo console launch came and went without a peep from the mustachioed maestro himself. You’d think they’d have realized that a Mario title makes a Nintendo system print money; even more effectively than that snarky DS meme from back in the day (remember Miyamoto laughing it prints money through his slack-jawed, Terrence and Philip-style mouth?).
Still, you can’t keep a good, chunky, red plumber down. Mario is arriving fashionably late to the party, as Super Mario Sunshine did for the GameCube, Super Mario Galaxy did for the Wii, etc. But, he’s bringing a hell of a gift for the birthday boy/girl. The much-ballyhooed Super Mario Odyssey is on its way to Nintendo Switch.
The game is set to be the most expansive and ambitious adventure Mario has ever had. What with the dizzying scope of Breath of the Wild and all, he’s having to get his ass in gear and step his game up. Do we want a power-mad Link to roust him from his spot as Nintendo mascot, in a bloody coup that sees him run Mario through with the Master Sword while Peach howls "Maaaaaaario" the way she does? Of course not. That’d sure tarnish the company’s family-friendly reputation.
So, Odyssey, we expect great things. From the big reveal in January and its star-studded appearance in Nintendo E3 2017 showcase earlier today, we’ve got a good glimpse of what makes the game tick. Here are 8 Things We Learned (And 7 Things We Hate).
Now, I don’t know quite how I was expecting Super Mario Odyssey to burst onto the screen during Nintendo’s conference, but an enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex galumphing onto the screen with a tiny Mario hat on its head wasn’t it. Touché for that move, Nintendo.
As the game burst onto the showcase in badass Jurassic style, it introduced another intriguing new aspect of the game: Time travel. As the brief new clip progressed, we saw Mario scampering along a huge Triceratops skeleton, Indicating that we’ll be flitting through different time periods throughout our time with Odyssey. Will we be advancing through time in a similar fashion to PS1 classic Ape Escape? Nobody knows yet, but there’s one thing I can say for darn sure: the sight of a T-Rex with a teeny Mario hat on its head was something we all sorely needed in our lives.
Again, I know. When it comes to Mario titles, it’s a little unfair to expect Dan Brown levels of plotting; convoluted character development, a double agent or two, and cliffhangers out the wazzoo. We know how this stuff goes: Bowser’s up to something nefarious, he steals Peach away, Mario hauls ass after her. That’s the way it will be, the way it must be, and the way it should be.
So let’s make our peace with that right now. Even having said that, though, there’s a level of cheesy theatrics about Odyssey on that score. What’s all this theater business about? Does Bowser really need to be putting on a play to marry Peach, like he’s Count Olaf of A Series of Unfortunate Events? What’s with that top hat? The world may never know.
The first thing you probably noticed about the Super Mario Odyssey promo material is… well, that hat. For reasons best known to Nintendo, Mario’s hat is alive and kicking this time around, sporting a pair of eyes and a life of its own.
We knew this off the bat, really, as the game’s first in-depth trailer back at the start of the year showed this kooky feature. What wasn’t clear from that two-and-a-half minute clip was just how central the hat theme would be to Odyssey. From the simple jumps and tricks we’ve already seen the main man perform using his new headgear, Nintendo has reached a whole new plateau in terms of level design and platformer puzzle solving. If you thought some of Mario Sunshine’s sans Fludd levels were fiendish, you’d better buckle up for this one.
Speaking of Mario’s FLUDD (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, trivia fans), though, I can’t help but sense a faint whiff of gimmickry here. While Super Mario Sunshine was a much-loved series installment, there were some who thought that the FLUDD was a bit of a gimmick, something new introduced for the sake of it being new.
I’m getting a similar feeling here. I’m super hyped for Odyssey, as so many fans are, but this whole hat motif does seem a slightly odd concept to be pushing so hard. Bowser in his top hat. Enemies in hats. Mario’s hat is alive. He flies around, as we’ve seen, in a gigantic hat spaceship. I’m not sure how much hat is too much hat, but we’re probably getting perilously close here. As Resident Evil’s Albert Wesker once said, “Complete. Hat. Saturation.”
I know, I totally get it. This is a difficult one to judge, with Mario’s ability to grow and shrink by taking magical substances like it’s Alice in freakin’ wonderland. Nevertheless, the fact remains. If we’re safe in the assumption that Mario is one of the Mushroom Kingdom’s few resident humans, then he seems to be one tiny, tiny dude.
Odyssey marks one of the few times that he’s been brought face to face with true, regular, Earth-humans. As the trailers have shown, they tower over him like an Ent taking his pet dwarf-baby for a walk. Curious indeed. Is it just because he isn’t in his mega mushroom form? Is that the true standard by which Mario’s height is measured? How would Luigi measure up?
Now, this, I don’t know what to make of. My younger nineties-self wants to cheer and cry simultaneously (now that’s an awkward thing to envisage).
Generally, Mario’s the kind of guy who sticks to his guns. He’s got his crop of moves and he sticks to them, like the stubborn chubby dude we love. All platform heroes are like that; from Crash Bandicoot and his spin attack to Spyro the Dragon and his flame breath. Or, you know, so I used to think.
Hey, Mario, Sonic called. He wants his patented spin dash back. Right from our first glimpse of Odyssey, we’ve known that Mario came packing this new move. The animation is almost identical to the blue speedster’s own, and I think Sonic’s weird anthropomorphic hedgehog lawyers are going to have something to say about this.
Everything about the game, from its globe logo to its title and sense of freedom, suggests that this is Mario taking his biggest leap yet. As we know, the guy has traveled whole star systems in Mario Galaxy and its sequel, so that’s one holy hell of a boast to make.
Galaxy’s grand scale is quite an act to follow, the team was surely wondering how they could make things yet bigger. The answer, some thought, was that the game might be set in our own world (or a bizarre Mushroom Kingdom take on it, at any rate). And so we arrive in New Donk City, a great metropolis world clearly inspired by a certain little town on Manhatten Island. Despite that, though, we’ve also seen a Candyland world that looks more like something Homer Simpson would daydream about than anything I’ve ever known on Earth.
Darn it, Nintendo. We know you don’t want to shoot your bolt too early and show us everything you’ve got under your skirt straight away, like Marilyn Monroe standing over that steam grate in The Seven Year Itch. We get that. That’s how you stoke the Hype Train up to fever pitch.
Still, though. Give us something, damn it. Odyssey is the biggest deal of the Switch’s early life. It might be the most hype game the system ever sees. Stop with the teasing and get to the pleasing, already.
Nintendo’s trailers and gameplay showcases have been perfectly pitched to just hint at some of the game’s cooler new aspects. How does that fancy new hat shop work? Will there be more mounts, and will each of them behave differently? Even after today’s E3 show, we have many more questions than answers.
There’s one thing we certainly can’t knock Odyssey for. When I first got my hands on Super Mario Galaxy, I was amazed by the level of detail and the lush and varied environments (I was afraid the whole thing would come with the bitter tang of ‘generic space-y’ flavour). Mario’s big Wii outing boasted gorgeous and grand presentation throughout, not to mention that beautiful orchestral soundtrack.
For his Switch debut, then, Nintendo had to pull out all of those stops again. From everything we’ve seen so far, they’ve certainly delivered in a big way. The detailing is, for a Mario title, quite extraordinary. Every individual hair on his mustache can be seen (as perfect and manly as Tom Selleck’s it is too), and his bulbous nose looks to have better jiggle physics than every pair of boobs in Dead or Alive and Soul Calibur combined.
As we’ve already said, platform heroes don’t tend to be very big on the whole ‘revolution’ thing. Donkey Kong, the very first game to ever feature Jumpman (as he was known then), was released in 1981. Over 35 years later, you really can’t expect to teach an old mascot any new tricks.
In the big Odyssey reveal back in January, the scant gameplay footage we saw showed off all of Mario’s favorite moves. His long jump and triple jump were present and correct, as was to be expected. At E3 2017 earlier today, much more of the game was showcased, and hat-flingin’ good times aside, it’s remarkable how similar the game is to previous 3D entries mechanics-wise. Perhaps this brave new era of Mario isn’t quite as new or brave as it might have been.
In the current, post-Wii world, it’s unusual to find a strictly single-player Mario title. For much of the series’ history, the reverse was true, but there it is.
All of the main man’s biggest releases, from Super Mario 64 to Super Mario World and Galaxy, have been solo adventures. This is usually the case with the platform genre, but Nintendo went wantonly barrelling ahead with the New Super Mario series and put paid to all of that. It was couch co-op-amundo with the Wii and Wii U titles. You picked your character from the Mario brothers and two of their Toad buddies, and you were off.
As we’ve previously reported, Odyssey is billed as a one-player title, and the E3 showcase has done nothing to dispute that.
Now that Mario’s got in on this fancy new ‘open world’ thing that all the kids are talking about these days, he’s had a decision to make: How do I get around? Every free-roam-heavy game has to deal with this, and they go about it in a range of ways. For the Grand Theft Autos of the world, with their busy city settings, a car is a natural choice. If we’re talking about a Red Dead or Breath of the Wild sort of setting, then good ol’ fashioned horses are the way to go.
When it comes to that sort of thing, Mario’s a little more difficult to place. As it turns out, our man man travels by one of the most ridiculous modes of transport I’ve ever seen: A slightly camp pink spacecraft thing shaped like a huge cowboy hat. What is it with this game and hats?
Once we’d accepted the fact that there was an ACTUAL MOTHERFREAKIN’ TYRANNOSAURUS REX right there, we could move on to the next most telling aspect of the Odyssey reveal. As we’ve already seen, Mario isn’t against stealing from the greats to boost up his repertoire on occasion. He’s got that Sonic-spin dash all ready to go, and now we’ve seen him take a whole chapter out of Kirby’s book too.
While the groovy gelatinous pink dude prefers to swallow opponents to gain their powers, Mario can now do a similar thing with that hat of his. By throwing his cap, he can possess (for want of a better word) all manner of enemies. We’ve seen him become a T-rex, a tank, and even ‘become’ electricity and open up a shortcut by sneaking down some wires. This, Nintendo explained in their Treehouse demonstration after the show, is central to gameplay.
This could just be me, being the miserly old cynical dude I am. I’m fully prepared for that to be the case, but… I’m really not quite convinced by Cappy yet. This little guy is your hat companion, the official name of the Mario-hat-with-eyes you’ve been seeing all over the Internet just lately.
Cute as the little guy is, I can’t help but feel a little concerned. Mainly because Cappy is taking on that companion role and we saw him offer advice as to how certain items were used via a text box. Is he going to prattle endlessly at you, like some nefarious headgear Navi? Will we be up to our eyeballs in snarky Cappy-is-annoying memes come release? More than likely. I’m steeled for the worst.
There it was, then. If you tuned into Nintendo’s E3 showcase today, you were treated to a ridiculous whirl of primary-colored wonderment, including American Football outfits, sombreros, and frog-possession. You’re probably feeling a little exhausted by the whirlwind that was that trailer. The company is clearly throwing absolutely everything and anything into this one. The goal seems to be making the definitive Mario, in the same sense that Breath of the Wild was the definitive Zelda.
Odyssey’s shaping up to be quite the wild ride, that’s for darn sure. The good news is, it’s one that we won’t have to wait too long to experience. At the close of the clip, Nintendo revealed the game’s release date: October 27, 2017. Those funky looking Day of the Dead-inspired enemies are coming our way just in time for Halloween.