Seeing as Super Mario Odyssey has been distracting me from my writing over the last week, it seems only fair I reach a compromise- write about Super Mario Odyssey. (Some mild spoilers follow, but I will flag those before you get there.)
I don’t think I’ve been quite so obsessed with a game since… well, since The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild earlier in the year. If you have to say one thing for Nintendo, it’s that they’ve continued to hit home runs with the Switch- between Zelda, Mario and Splatoon they’ve managed to keep the other consoles in my home relegated to “just those things I stream Foxtel/NBA League Pass on”.
The basic quest is to collect enough Power Moons (yes, not Stars for once) to move on to the next area, with the eventual aim of catching Bowser before he can (forcibly) marry Princess Peach. Each world (or “kingdom”) has a mini-boss of sorts, and beating the mini-boss opens up much more of the kingdom to explore, as well as rewarding you with three Moons. The mini-bosses are the only truly mandatory quest in each kingdom; once they’ve been downed it is entirely up to the player as to which Moons they collect in order to advance. As in Breath of the Wild, there are far more Moons available than are needed to advance, and there is no pressure to move on until you’re satisfied that you’ve got all the Moons you can for now.
And as in Breath of the Wild, there are dozens of things you can try in each kingdom, and if you can think of it, the designers have probably thought of it as well. There are rewards all around each level for those willing to look, including Moons that turn out to be hiding in plain sight if you’re viewing at the right angle, as well as coins for scaling the geometry; even places that don’t seem accessible will probably reward you for making the effort to scale the heights (or explore the depths).
The game’s attention to detail is stellar- there are dozens of callbacks to previous games, including sections in each world where Mario goes inside walls and has to navigate a 2D, NES-style section without his special moves. Some kingdoms resemble areas from previous games, and Nintendo has made sure that there are little graphical or musical touches that hark back to Mario’s previous adventures; for the long-term Mario fan, there are lots of great little moments that will make you smile.
Below here, here be (mild) spoilers.
With the main campaign out of the way the game truly opens up. It is simply not possible to 100% each kingdom on the way, and indeed new areas only become available once Bowser’s plans have been thwarted. The post-game experience if you’re a completionist can drag on far longer than the campaign did, and there are some downright diabolical challenges awaiting. Nintendo has thrown you a bone, though, if you want to see all the game has to offer but feel like throwing your Switch across the room during some of the trickier challenges. You can buy Power Moons with the in-game coins, meaning that eventually, even without completing every challenge and unravelling every puzzle, you can unlock all the remaining content.
There are no microtransactions, either; everything is earned in-game, so you will eventually succeed if you continue to pick up coins. That said, there is one additional cosmetic reward if you do 100% all the puzzles as designed, rather than buying your way through, so you’ll still be able to claim your internet bragging rights.
Overall, without wanting to give too many spoilers away (and there are people who would already suggest that the last two paragraphs are spoilers) I’m loving my time with Odyssey. I haven’t 100% completed a Mario game since the first Super Mario Galaxy, and I may yet run out of patience with my platforming skills, but even well after the campaign has been completed I still feel like I’m making significant progress and finding new stuff each time I boot the game up. And at $80- less if you shop around- Odyssey feels like a steal.