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Super Mario Odyssey is a fantasy journey of hat-collecting and body-capturing

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Mario’s hat Cappy is the key

Super Mario Odyssey won’t have the wild costumes of single-player Mario entries from the past. That’s because Mario’s options for new skills stem from his ability to capture enemies and objects, thanks to his magical hat, Cappy.

Polygon got to spend time playing Super Mario Odyssey before it made a gameplay debut on Nintendo’s E3 Spotlight and Treehouse streams Tuesday morning. The core gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey is centered around that magical hat, which performs a variety of functions: it serves as a weapon, a platform, a way to collect items and, most importantly, a tool to capture enemies.

The hat’s throws are mapped to the Joy-Con’s motion controls — though you can also use the X and Y buttons to fling it. Flicking your wrists once throws the hat out, but flicking them up or down will send your hat in those directions. Flicking both wrists also creates a spin attack, spinning the hat around Mario. (The game will also support the Switch Pro Controller, which has gyro support.)

During the gameplay time, we were able to capture Bullet Bills to fly across areas inaccessible to Mario before. We could also capture lightbulb-like objects to zoom to inaccessible areas of New Donk City, and both worlds — called Kingdoms — we visited had capturable giant binoculars that give you a better vantage point of the whole area.

Game director Kenta Motokura told us that this was a new way of looking at the costumes that had appeared in previous Mario titles. We also saw gameplay footage of a Mario capturing a Hammer Bro, for example, using his hammers to knock out obstacles. Capturing a Chain Chomp will let you break down huge obstacles, and a extremely stretchy-legged monster was used to hop to new platforms.

Motokura said the wild-looking capture opportunities were part of the huge prototyping process that took place for Super Mario Odyssey. It was this process that lead to the game’s different Kingdoms, with different game mechanics.

“The stages have a very high density of gameplay elements,” Motokura said. “You’ll want to check behind every wall, jump over every cliff and fight every boss you find. There’s a lot of variety and fun gameplay elements [that] await.”

These Kingdoms are vital to the game’s premise: Mario must rescue Princess Peach from Bowser yet again, but he’s taken her far outside of the Mushroom Kingdom for this jaunt. While the developers wouldn’t say how many Kingdoms are going to be playable along Mario’s journey, they did imply that they’ll be extremely diverse.

“You’ll see a lot of things that you’ve never seen in Mario’s world before, but a lot of the things you may have seen in our world,” said producer Yoshiaki Koizumi. “These are meticulously crafted spaces that are packed full of things to encounter, discover and interact with.”

The game’s main collectibles are called Power Moons, which will power Mario’s airship as he flies from Kingdom to Kingdom. Instead of Mario being kicked out to a main world after he finds each, he’ll keep moving ahead to new ones. Motokura noted there are far more Power Moons than main-game collectables in games like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. There aren’t also any “mandatory” story moons to collect as well, which proved to be tricky to develop for, Motokura said.

“You can choose to advance the story if you wish, but you can also do just a lot of exploration and just poke around all the levels and not really worry about advancing the story and just go at your own pace,” Motokura said. “And trying to make it so that it would be a game that would be fun, choosing either of those play styles, which is something that we hadn't really had to do before in a 3D Mario.”

Super Mario Odyssey will be available on Oct. 27, 2017 on Nintendo Switch.