At this year's E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), Nintendo showcased Super Mario Odyssey, it’s newest Mario game. The trailer, soundtracked by some snappy Jazz, showcased the wacky worlds that Mario can explore and his new abilities. Cappy, a white top hat with eyes, gives Mario the ability to possess other character in the world, in the process giving them a red cap and mustache. Mario possesses characters and creatures, like frogs, Bullet Bills, Gombas and even a human being. What Nintendo showed was so wonderfully strange and creative.
Super Mario 3D World, while still a great game, lacked the ambition and creativity that Odyssey has shown thus far. 3D World focused on linear levels, with a clear end-goal, getting to the flag. Green Stars are carefully strewn about each level to increase difficulty and cleverly gives a choice for more exploration. Odyssey is a direct departure from 3D World’s style of platforming, opting for exploratory levels, akin more to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine.
The worlds of Odyssey are open-ended. Getting a “Power Moon,” the game's version of a Star, does not take you out of the level, thus making the them flow more seamlessly. Moons are not only rewarded for completing a platforming challenge, but also for interacting with world and characters, like playing a guitar. Beyond the mechanical changes, is the strange world that Nintendo managed to make. As with New Donk City, Nintendo’s take on New York City. Mario walks alongside non-stylized human beings. The mayor of the city, Pauline from the original Donkey Kong, tasks mayor with gathering up jazz musicians. Mario can even inhabit their bodies for his own use, making us question the morality of his actions. It’s all so strange.
As Nier: Automata has shown earlier this year, unconventional games are often the most remarkable. I enjoy games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and the Uncharted series, however, they don’t capture my sense of wonder. Unique gameplay ideas, worlds and styles rejuvenate the childlike amazement of the past. Video Games as a medium have so much potential to divert from the standards of movies and books. Smaller scale games (Indie games and downloadable games mostly) have done that with great success, but we are seeing a uplifting trend in bigger budget games, like Nier and Odyssey.
I have doubts about the game’s aimlessness at times. Due to the open design, the levels don’t will not have the polish and airtight structure of the more linear 3D World and the Galaxy games. To be fair, I only watched the game, I didn’t have the chance to play it yet. However, what Nintendo showed was promising and exciting. Odyssey is a needed reprieve from the “cinematic single-player experiences” and eSports of this year’s E3. It’s exciting seeing unconventional games showcased in this year E3. I can’t wait to play Super Mario Odyssey, which comes out on October 27th.