Mario Is a Man of Many Hats in Super Mario Odyssey [Preview]
There are three things that define Mario as an icon. The first is his mustache, the second is his overalls, and the third is that bright red cap. Over the years, Mario's worn a number of different outfits, but the mustache and the hat have always been a central part of identifying Nintendo's star mascot. With Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo is finally giving the hat a bit more of a purpose, and a personality. By making Mario's chapeau a living, breathing character with its own abilities, Super Mario Odyssey opens a range of possibilities that are a lot of fun to explore.
First and foremost, Mario's hat — which has been replaced by a being known as Cappy — allows the Mushroom Kingdom's number one plumber to possess just about anything in the game world. Whether we were roaming around Tostarena's deserts, flicking our hat onto Bullet Bill's to take advantage of their mobility, or rocking out in New Donk City, behatting a rocket ship to fly to new locations, there were very few things we couldn't become thanks to Cappy. The most recent game trailer (which you can see below) also showed off a number of different characters and creatures we could apply this magic to, including Hammer Bros., Goombas, and yes, a Tyrannosaurus rex. Sadly, we didn't get to test that out in the demo.
What we did see however was a solid glimpse at the variety of worlds and new platforming and puzzle elements Super Mario Odyssey will feature. In Tostarena, we explored the Calaca-inhabited town, and made our way through one of the numerous castles in the sand. This area was much more of a traditional 3D Mario world, which featured moving platforms and plenty of enemies to stomp on. It also included those Bullet Bills, which we possessed to reach some areas that otherwise would have been inaccessible. It was a very classically arranged stage, but it also showed Mario learned a little something from Link.
Part of the castle included a warp pipe that we entered, only to find ourselves displayed in a painting on the wall that called back to Mario's 2D adventures on the NES. If you recall, Link was able to meld into the walls as art himself in the last 3DS installment, A Link Between Worlds. The segment wasn't all that long, but it was just another way the developers on this particular Mario game are playing with the formula and paying tribute to the character's 30+ year history.
Outside of that, the mechanics are very much still in line with the classic Mario mold. You can run, you can jump, you can ground pound, but Cappy adds a bit of offense to the playbook as well. With the Switch's motion controls, you can flick Cappy to attack in front and above Mario. You can also activate a whirling attack where Cappy will spin around Mario in a protective circle for a few seconds. The motion controls didn't feel excessive or gimmicky, but if they aren't something you're looking forward to using, they can be ignored for more traditional button inputs.
New Donk City has gotten a lot of attention out of E3 for bringing back Pauline, but also for its jarring juxtaposition of the cartoony Mario against more traditionally rendered humans. The Pauline thing is cool, and so it how the city is arranged with some nods to the arcade classic where she first met Mario, but it's all about getting some new style at the Crazy Cap Shop. These stores are located throughout Super Mario Odyssey, and you can use your hard-earned coinage to buy new clothes and hats. In New Donk City, the clothes make the man, and getting a sharp pinstriped suit with a matching fedora makes all the difference. It doesn't do anything truly outrageous to the gameplay, but it does allow Mario to get some more variation in that wardrobe.
For our money, the 3D Mario adventures have always been a more enjoyable experience (we're really bad at straight platfomers), and Super Mario Odyssey looks like it will deliver another classic along the lines of Super Mario Galaxy. There's still a lot we don't know about the rest of the worlds we'll visit, and whether or not new abilities can be earned when taking up different personas. However, there have been very few let downs in the Mario game library, and there's little indication this first Switch installment will fail to impress in its final form.
Super Mario Odyssey will be available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on October 27.