Having completed E3 2017, I thought it wise to reflect and think back on all the incredible games and experiences I’ve had in the past week. One of the topics I was most excited to ponder was what would be my Game of the Show 2017. I anticipated struggling and going back and forth with certain titles, but when it came down to it, my answer was already firmly decided. Super Mario Odyssey is, without a shadow of a doubt, that game and is absolutely fantastic and everything you hoped it would be. In just two small sections, in which you get 10 minutes to play, the depth and charm and challenge bursts through the seams. I was fortunate enough to play the title on three separate occasions, and I want to break down each one for you.
Super Mario Odyssey Play Session #1 – The Introduction:
My first hands-on came an hour and a half after the E3 show floor had opened. I sprinted to Nintendo’s booth to take in what magic they had in store for us this year, and got in line behind a few passionate and excited fans. While I waited for my turn, I shared in my love of Nintendo and E3 with those in line with me and it was a great first experience and distraction of having to wait to play Super Mario Odyssey.
Once my turn was up, I was greeted with the title screen of Super Mario Odyssey with Mario and his new hat friend, Cappy. When you start the game you can choose either the Sand Kingdom or Metro Kingdom (New Donk City!), and since I watched the person before me play Metro Kingdom, I wanted to jump into the Sand Kingdom and explore as much as I could.
When I started, I was thrown into a desert world that mysteriously was freezing and was inhabited by NPCs that had a very Day of the Dead motif. Some had exclamation points over their heads, indicating that they had something to say or a quest to start me on. This run, however, I had no interest in following the critical path, and wanted to just explore and test the limits of the world.
I started by running around and getting comfortable with the controls. In this demo, I played with the two Joy-Cons separated and had a chance to experiment with the motion controls. You can flick your Joy-Con to throw Cappy or perform other moves, and if you were to posses an enemy, you can shake to move faster. NOTE: All actions can also be completed with buttons.
Oh, and speaking of possessing, this is one of the most exciting and refreshing changes to the Mario franchise!
Seemingly taking place of the power-ups, you have the ability to control friends and foes alike! In one instance, a Bullet Bill was angrily headed towards you, but with a quick flick of the wrist (or press of a button), you could throw Cappy and take control of the Bullet Bill, complete with Mario Hat and mustache. You can only control him for about 10 seconds, but these moments change the game and open up new avenues to play. Bullet Bill can fly and get you to areas Mario wouldn’t be able to reach by himself, and the transition is so smooth and rewarding.
As Bullet Bill, I was able to reach an area that had a wall that looked like a painting of an original Mario level. On the bottom right of that wall, a pipe was beckoning you to jump in and when you did, you became a part of the wall. This was very reminiscent of the ability for Link to do so in A Link Between Worlds, this would allow Mario to assume his 2D form and you could play small sections as you would back in the NES days! This was one of my favorite surprises and it was such a treat to discover.
That is the magic of Super Mario Odyssey. The power of discovery and not knowing what you may stumble into next. There are Moons hidden around the levels that call back to searching for Stars or Shines in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine respectively, and they are plentiful enough to keep you excited and searching for more.
Ten minutes went by in the blink of an eye, but I knew this wouldn’t be my last time taking in the awesomeness that is Super Mario Odyssey.
Super Mario Odyssey Play Session #2 – The Secret of Handheld Mode:
My second Super Mario Odyssey hands-on time was made possible by being observant and learning the secrets of E3. On the third day of the show, while everyone was sprinting to wait in line to play on the big screen, I noticed that they had a few Switches set up on park benches on the side of the booth that allowed you to try out handheld mode. These were looked over in the mad rush to secure your spot for TV mode, and I walked around the line and was greeted by a super happy Nintendo employee and an open seat on a bench to begin playing Super Mario Odyssey one more time, with no wait time whatsoever!
In my second Play Session, I jumped into the Metro Kingdom, which you may know as New Donk City. This felt quite distinctive from the Sand Kingdom and really did give me vibes of Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast and running around a city inhabited by real people! The difference between Mario and these “real people” was quite hilarious, and I couldn’t wait to explore.
I tried to follow the story a little bit more this time around, and went and spoke to Mayor Pauline. Yes, that same Pauline from the original Donkey Kong games! She was trying to get a concert together, but needed help in gathering four musicians. In typical Nintendo fashion and humor, one was literally right outside the venue, just playing away with not a care in the world. After recruiting that drummer, it was off to find the other three.
Super Mario Odyssey tries to make life easier and more manageable in multiple ways. The first is that just by walking around, NPCs will have speech bubbles that may guide you in the right direction to your next objective. Also, a giant beam of light will shine down on an area you should probably be checking out. It’s not overly distracting, and gives those players who need a little nudge a hand. Lastly, Mario has a map that can have points of interest on it and it is presented like a travel brochure and has things to see and look for in the city, and is just an awesome touch.
One of the most convenient features of the map is that as you find checkpoints in the world, you have the ability to fast travel to areas on the map. It is pretty quick and can help cut down on the tedium or running back and forth to certain areas. This was especially useful in one instance when I found another musician, but noticed a rocket nearby. I collected the musician, returned back to the venue and Mayor Pauline, and then quickly flew back to the area I had just been at. I threw Cappy at the rocket and became the rocket and flew up into the sky. I then was welcomed to a platforming puzzle that took place on skyscrapers so high the were above the clouds. At the end, as I collected my newest Moon, and once again became the rocket and flew back down to New Donk City.
Once I discovered all the musicians, and the venue started filling up with people dancing, I was sent to find an entrance to the sewers to help with a power situation. On my way there, I discovered Crazy Cap, and found that I was able to purchase new outfits, hearts, and even moons, with coins I’ve been collecting throughout my play session. There are two sets of coins, the normal gold ones that have been around forever, and then coins specific to each world. By collecting these, you can purchase such outfits as a fancy black suit and top hat. Mario has never looked so classy!
As I ran out of Crazy Cap in my new Zoot Suit, I ran towards the sewers and then…my time was up. Oh, the sadness!
Super Mario Odyssey Play Session #3 – The Appointment of a Lifetime:
Thursday, June 15th, at 2:30pm is a date and time I will never forget, as it was my first Nintendo E3 appointment. I had an hour to play all the games Nintendo had to offer at a private station and really dive deep into them. Of course, I spent half the time playing Super Mario Odyssey because it’s just that good!
I split my time between the Sand Kingdom and Metro Kingdom and tried to explore more of these two areas and see things I hadn’t seen in my first run-around. In the Sand Kingdom I found some coins and purchased a sombrero and poncho, and discovered that when you jump in the tube to become one with the wall, your costume comes with you as well, and it was too adorable to handle.
With the help of my Nintendo representative, I was guided to Jaxi, a golden sphinx that you can ride and zoom across the frozen desert. I then discovered a hidden puzzle that had you becoming Bullet Bill multiple times to find the exit. Shortly after, I discovered a Moai statue that could be controlled by Cappy and can flip his/her shades up or down and reveal hidden platforms.
However, the most incredible moment of this experience happened as I was running around with Jaxi and I looked to my left and saw none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, legendary developer and creator of Mario, as well as the producer of Super Mario Odyssey Yoshiaki Koizumi standing against conference rooms watching all of us play these incredible games. I had to step away and was able to tell them, through a translator, how much Nintendo meant to me and that they are the reason I am here today. It was a priceless moment that I will never forget.
After meeting the people who have inspired me for years, I had to jump back in to New Donk City. As with the Sand Kingdom, I tried to see as much as I could that I hadn’t before. I found that you could throw Cappy and become a electric current to zoom across power lines. I found Captain Toad standing on a construction beam! I also noticed that there were people Jump Roping and you could instantly take part, and if you reached 30 jumps or more you would obtain a Moon!
I could go on for hours and hours about how much I loved this brief glimpse of the game, but I think its time to wrap up my thoughts on Super Mario Odyssey.
I went in to E3 2017 having Super Mario Odyssey as one of my most anticipated titles, but I don’t think I could ever properly convey how special this game truly is. It is so fervently unique and bold and isn’t afraid to be as crazy and weird as possible. There are so many hidden secrets and areas to explore and it just feels so good to play. I’m sure there are small things here and there I can nitpick, but I was having such an incredible time that none of them really mattered.
On October 27th, when Super Mario Odyssey is released for the Nintendo Switch, I can’t wait to be lost in this world for countless hours on end. I can’t wait to see what is around every corner and what incredible adventures I can get into with Mario and his new friend Cappy. Mark my words, Super Mario Odyssey will be one of those games that will join the pantheon of titles that will live forever and be considered one of the greats of all time. That is how confident I am, and I have no issue staking that claim. In a year that has already given us The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s hard to believe that in a few short months we will be treated to another masterpiece.