The realization that I was hooked first hit me after collecting my 40th Power Moon in a single world. Apparently I'd spent 15 hours playing the game on my Switch by that point, but time flew as I explored world after massive world in search of widely abundant, yet ever well-hidden, crescent-shaped pieces of spaceship fuel. That's around the time that I also arrived at the conclusion that Super Mario Odyssey is the greatest Super Mario title released to-date – if not one of the best games to ever come from Nintendo.
It's more than just the scale of the levels or the hundreds of sparkling moons there are to horde though, as each Kingdom is as detailed as it is immense. Every area is riddled with secrets that can take hours to discover for even the most dedicated gamers, yet serene enough that it creates a desire to explore at a leisurely pace. Getting from Point A to Point B is far from the name of the game this time around, and with linearity thrown out the window, the sense of exploration and adventure that Nintendo's developers have strived so hard for is fully realized in spectacular fashion.
Many of the locales, like the New York City-inspired Metro Kingdom, may feel somewhat out of place as Mario treks through them. Still, this nouveau aesthetic gives way to tried and true mechanics from the plumber's various outings to provide familiarity for longtime fans. Question mark blocks, wall jumps, ground pounds, triple jumps, and recognizable enemies are all present and accounted for. As a result, learning how to best utilize these techniques and deal with these iconic foes within each setting helps keep the feel of a Mario game intact enough to then begin building on this bed of existing knowledge through brand new mechanics.
The never-before-seen, core gameplay mechanic in question? The new Capture ability that Mario has at his disposal (courtesy of the Nintendo mascot's new, wearable friend Cappy), which allows the former plumber the opportunity to control various creatures, items, and baddies found within any Kingdom. This ability replaces the power-ups that are present in almost every Super Mario title, and it provides gamers with dozens of potential targets that fundamentally alter the way they play the game. It's brilliant in its design, and whether it's a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Goomba, or a slab of meat, each has its own unique feel and ability that can be utilized.
These "Captures" are necessary in order to secure additional Power Moons and level-exclusive purple currency that can be exchanged to unlock new costumes and souvenirs for Mario's ship, appropriately titled the Odyssey. This is sure to be a major motivator for completionists, as the desire to juggle Kingdom-exclusive apparel and decoration purchases takes priority amidst the search for coins both gold and purple in sheen.
The more items collected, the more the game actually opens up. It's a wonderful snowball effect that constantly encourages exploration and provides reasons to revisit Kingdoms after I'd thought I'd run out of reasons to stay. A lot of this builds as post-game content, ensuring that the dozens of hours I'd already put into Super Mario Odyssey were only the tip of the iceberg. Of course, the narrative is as shallow as fans have likely come to expect from a Super Mario title, but this provided little turbulence once the adventure had taken flight.
As the trailers for Super Mario Odyssey have implied, Bowser is once again responsible for kidnapping Peach and the accessory-themed newcomer, Tiara. It then falls to Mario and Cappy to rescue the pair before the villain can be forever joined to Peach through holy matrimony. It's a flimsy premise, but one that helps to loosely justify why it is that the King of Koopas is travelling around the world in the first place. The cutscenes that follow are also well animated and showcase a range of emotions on the characters, all while accompanied by grumbled dialogue in true Nintendo fashion. It's not a reason to become invested in the game by any stretch, but it's also the furthest thing from a detractor – with the experience itself taking center stage.
Controller options also playing a rather crucial role in how Odyssey will play, with separated Joy-Con making for the preferred method of control according to the game itself. These motion controls may not strike fans as ideal at first, but the motion is so heavily implemented into refining the experience that they're well worth doing for those in search of the smoothest possible layout. Even then, the game controls well in a portable state with the Joy-Con attached, and motion can be switched off in the settings for those firmly against the gimmick, ensuring that gamers can play it on the go or whenever a spare moment strikes.
In almost every way, the game acts as a love letter to fans of the 3D iterations of the Super Mario franchise. From the spectacular Kingdoms and all of their hidden secrets to the minute nods to past ventures and friends, the entirety of this adventure is a joyride from beginning to end – with countless hours that can be invested into the title long after the narrative has been completed. The formulaic changes have helped modernized a genre that has long been dormant, which is an immense feat in and of itself.
Super Mario Odyssey is a venture that would make even Homer envious, locking itself in as a must-have for Nintendo Switch owners and a great reason to invest in the console for those that have yet to.
Super Mario Odyssey arrives exclusively for Nintendo Switch on October 27, 2017. Nintendo provided Game Rant with a downloadable copy of the game for review purposes.