We haven’t seen an open world sandbox Mario since Super Mario Sunshine a whopping fifteen years ago. A game in this style is so overdue that it’s easy to be excited about that fact alone, but thankfully, Odyssey promises to be so much more. This looks to be the wackiest outing yet for our favourite plumber; pair this with the idea of striving for new heights in familiar territory and it’s safe to say we are in for treat.
Nintendo wasn’t holding back with its show floor this year — the entire booth area was set up to mirror the style of the in-game New Donk City. Just like the Zelda set the year before, Nintendo was putting everything it have into spruiking what is sure to become its newsiest license to print money. Odyssey will also surely help the Switch along this holiday season.
The show floor is one thing but entering the proper New Donk City is a different experience entirely. The beginning of the level is way up high on one of New Donk’s many skyscrapers. One of the first things you’ll encounter are some actual people with real proportions. Admittedly, it’s pretty jarring at first — not quite Sonic kissing a woman in Sonic 2006 bad, but it does make our hero look even more of an odd little man than we’re used to. Once that strangeness starts to wear off it’s time to find a way down to street level; this is where you’ll get your first taste of the new, crazy Mario.
The only way down is to throw your magical hat at a nearby electrical wire and possess the current within. It sounds insane, but that’s what Odyssey brings to the Mario franchise: the ability to temporarily take over enemies and objects in the worlds you explore. It’s as brilliant an idea as it is surprising and doesn’t take long for the possibilities to start showing off what the game is all about.
After gliding to the busy streets of New Donk City as a stream of electricity, it’s time to explore. You’re soon given an quest to find some musicians hiding around the city and sent on your merry way. If, like me, you’re more interested in checking out the local clothing emporium this is as good a time as any. The store sells a range of hats — very central to the theme of the game — and some clothes for pimping your plumber out below the moustache as well. If you want to rock around town looking for musicians in a pinstriped suit and fedora like an Italian mafioso there is nothing standing in your way — I highly recommend it.
Stepping away from the busy streets of New Donk City, the second area showed off in the E3 demo is an expansive desert area. The proportionally-correct humans are replaced with some more familiar looking Mario-style NPCs and enemies. This is where you will find the Goombas and Bullet Bills and yes, with a flick of your hat you can take them over and mix things up. The Bullet Bills in particular really show what Mario can do; if you take over one in mid-air you gain the ability to fly over gaps and gain access to previously inaccessible areas.
There are so many possibilities for Mario to interact in crazy ways with his environment. After seeing only two of the potentially many worlds we will get to explore later this year my mind is racing with ideas for whats to come. Nintendo is clearly very confident that Mario Odyssey will be a massive holiday hit — I can’t see a reason not to trust this myself. After all, this is the publisher’s number one intellectual property. If Breath of the Wild hadn’t just blown everyone away so recently, it would be safe to say this will be the most important Nintendo release in a long time. It’s a good time to own a Switch.
Super Mario Odyssey heads to Nintendo Switch on 27 October.