Super Mario Odyssey - Pushing Boundaries and Removing Shirts

Super Mario Odyssey may have recently lit up the internet and social media thanks to our favorite Italian [ex]plumber's debut sans a shirt. Yet in gamer circles, the buzz is gaining momentum for reasons that extend far beyond Mario's hairless body and weird nipples...

Yes, let's get this out of the way... This is a pretty damn odd site to behold, especially for a Mario fan of nearly 30 years who has played the vast majority of this lovable shirt-sporting plumber's kid-friendly library. Though, part of Nintendo's charm - aside from its usually trustworthy quality gameplay, is their occasional tendency to provide some weirdness and throw an occasional curveball. But hell, most people didn't expect to see Mario running around a real looking city among real looking people twice his size either. Yet in a way, this is part of the reason Mario Odyssey is looking so great - it's retooling and expanding the 3D brand of Mario, but at the same time, it simultaneously reinforces it with familiar elements. At least, this was the impression I got during my E3 demo, which went by far too quickly.

Going into this recent Nintendo Direct, I already knew that this game had some pretty solid mechanics and gameplay which feels a bit reminiscent of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine with some new quirks. I knew I was having a good time running around New Donk City like and idiot, bouncing off the hoods of cars and creeping up skyscrapers like Spiderman.What I didn't know was the sheer grandiosity that Nintendo looks to dial this one up to compared to even the most epic of 3D Mario games preceding this.What we learned from the latest Direct - aside from the fact that Mario's got some odd looking nipples - is that this game could take a hell of a long time to fully absorb and explore with its many vast kingdoms. Not to mention, all of these environments will be rife with collectable "power moons" (apparently at least 600 of these suckers!) which will be obtainable through a number of diverse means.

Here are just a portion of these kingdoms, to get an idea -

Luncheon Kingdom - Mount Volbono
Wooded Kingdom - Steam Gardens
Cascade Kingdom - Fossil Falls
Snow Kingdom - Shiveria (Straight out of Game of Thrones north of the Wall)
Seaside Kingdom - Bubblaine

Unlike a certain couple of recent 3D Mario entrees that largely kept you in the same, monotonous environments *cough* Galaxy, Sunshine *cough* Odyssey seems to get back to the spirit of Super Mario 64 by providing a plethora of colorful environments, each with their own style and feel. This game essentially looks to be Super Mario 64 on roids, while borrowing some of the seamless gameplay and open world nature that popularize many modern "sandbox" games. While I'm not entirely sold on the sometimes awkward nature of flinging your cap around endlessly and essentially using it for everything, the idea of Mario "warging" into enemies by tossing cappy at them is certainly one that intrigues me. It can lead to some fun gameplay elements, and should prove to further diversify this crazy hodgepodge of a platformer.

Odyssey could very well prove to be not just the biggest, but perhaps also one of the best Mario games to date. And keep in mind, I'm typically a bit of a retro/2D Mario snob. Most of the attempts at bringing this classic series to the 3D realm post Super Mario 64 didn't quite do it for me. And while my heart will always be with the charming Super Mario World and its legendary predecessor Mario 3, this game could certainly get me back on board the epic 3D Mario bandwagon. Let's just hope Mario keeps his shirt on for the majority of his epic Odyssey...