Death of the Critic

Super Mario Odyssey

Written by: Tom Blaich


Super Mario Odyssey
continues to baffle me. I don’t always fully understand the decisions that Nintendo makes, but somehow they generally work out for them. So when they released a trailer for the new Mario game for the next real generation of Nintendo consoles, I was actually excited in a way that I don’t usually get about Nintendo products. This is how we got Mario 64 and Galaxy, and the entirely-less-cool Sunshine. New Nintendo consoles ideally drive innovation in gameplay and graphics, so the first real new 3D Mario in years enticed me.

Odyssey feels like a game stuck between ideas, a too-large open world combined with more traditional Mario levels, and I just don’t know how they are going to balance that out. The city is a cool idea, if a bit baffling in execution. Quite frankly it looks really impressive to me, but it just brings up an entire host of questions that I doubt they’ll ever answer. “New Donk City” is the biggest single area we’ve ever seen in a Mario game and, much like Breath of the Wild, it seems as if Nintendo finally got the memo that people like open-world games, so they are going all in with their two biggest franchises. One modeled after Skyrim and one that looks confusingly like GTA with movement straight out of Sunset Overdrive.

A lot has already been said about the normal people walking around the city, and I’m more ok with that than most, due in part to my relative lack of attachment to the Mario franchise. What it does make me ask is this: Does Mario now exist in the real world? Is this the same city from the infamous live-action Mario movie? If Mario is now existing in the real world, that would explain his appearance in the Olympics, but that would also mean his companions exist in our world as well. Does this mean that Sonic is real?

I hope that they can do something really cool with
Odyssey, however, I remain skeptical. The gimmick this time around is an anthropomorphized hat that you can throw and bounce off of, with a giant pair of cartoon eyes staring out at the world. Honestly, this looks like it could be a cool mechanic, yet I question if there is enough depth there to carry me through the entire game. It could be cool for a while, but I can see that quickly wearing off and just wanting more. But that seems to be a theme of the game. New Donk City actually looks to be an interesting and expansive area quite unlike any we’ve seen in Mario before, with room to play and explore. But how is it going to be structured?

We catch glimpses of other, obviously different, worlds in the trailer, and they feel so much more like the Mario that we are used to. This mostly leaves us with a number of questions. Are they stand alone areas like New Donk City? Or side areas, a la
Mario 64? Are they going to be able to stack up content wise? The worst possible decision they could make (besides making Sonic real) would be to hamstring New Donk city in an effort to not overwhelm the other areas.

If Nintendo is going to make an open-world Mario, they should go all in and make an open-world Mario. It may be a couple of years late to jump on the “copy
GTA” train, but at the very least, I am interested to see what they’ll do with it that will hopefully surprise me. The idea of a city sized playground that you can explore is more than a little exciting, and I hope they do more than make a bunch of buildings you can jump up. For them to flesh out the world in a way we haven’t seen before, and make players care.


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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