So, I'd been saving up for a little bit, but I'd been having difficulty bringing myself to actually buy a Nintendo Switch. I'm not a fan of Splatoon; I don't tend to like party games (and don't have any friends to play them with, besides); the only game I'd been even remotely interested in on the system was Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but lately I just don't have the time to play a game like that, entertaining as it may appear to be. (And it looks phenomenal, and I fully intend to play it at some point in the future, but I digress.) Fact is, the library simply hasn't been there to justify the admittedly rather large investment.
I'd still be making that argument had I not walked into the local game store Saturday evening and they flat-out told me they had Switches in stock. See, that was the other issue with the console: They simply haven't been available. You had to be a product reviewer or a close personal friend of Reggie Fils-Aimé to get your hands on one. Nintendo has this really poor marketing philosophy that intends to drum up demand, but all it does is drive that demand to competitors — including scalpers, who turn around and sell a nonexistent console for massive profit, none of which Nintendo sees. But, that's a rant for another day.
So, they had a Switch, and I had the capital. It seemed as fitting a time as any. And with that purchase, I also obtained a copy of Super Mario Odyssey, the only other game on the console to pique my interest: It had just come out, so, that was the trifecta.
Some backstory: The last Mario game I'd actually gotten excited about was Super Mario Sunshine. I enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Paper Mario had great gameplay (if a mediocre story, given the hype), but… that was it. I didn't much care for New Super Mario Bros. or any of its various incarnations and reincarnations; Super Marios 3D Land and World were playable, but nothing really special, at least to me.
Odyssey, I wasn't really sure what to expect: It clearly looked like a return to the 3D Mario formula with the added twist of Cappy, but beyond that, I hadn't really seen much. I knew nothing of the story, nothing of the actual gameplay, barely anything about the system: Which is exactly what I like going into a new Mario game. Completely blind, not knowing what to expect.
I don't want to spoil anything, but fact is, at this point I really can't spoil much; I've been enjoying exploring the first few areas so much, I've not progressed the story hardly at all. THAT, my friends, THAT is the halmark of a good Mario game: That I can pick it up, and enjoyit. It's loads of fun to just wander around the Kingdoms, looking for shit to do. It's a touch frustrating when you find something obvious, but the game forces you to come back later to accomplish that item, which this game does a surprising amount; however, it's bearable.
No, my biggest complaint thus far has to do with the controls. I don't mind motion controls; hell, I loved Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii, with just the Wiimote and the nunchuk. But here… This game feels more like the motion controls were shoehorned in because they felt like they needed to be there, and then they made certain actions only performable via those motion controls. It comes across as sloppy, and if you prefer to play platformers with a rigid controller as I do, it makes the game a lot less fun to have to sit there and consciously shake the whole controller around just to get Mario to do the thing.
This probably wouldn't be so bad if the Joy-Cons were designed a little differently. I know, the idea was that you could use the two that came in the box for two-player party games, and so they needed to have the same sort of controls on both, but that really doesn't work so well when, in a platformer, you're controlling Mario's movement with one hand, the camera with the other, and then trying to use the camera control hand to make him jump and/or toss Cappy, while trying to keep the camera behaving (which is next to impossible in the Deep Woods, seriously), AND trying to use the LZ button on the first controller to get him to do anything with any sort of urgency? It's too much for two separate hands. (The size and weight of the controllers doesn't help this.)
Which brings me to my other complaint about controls: The speed. Mario walks at a decent pace, sure, but these worlds are huge. Many times, it's just easier to have him roll, or long jump, both of which are accomplished with the LZ button and either the jump or throw button. I understand, with Cappy's mechanics, they couldn't make the throw button also be the run button (as had been done in previous Mario titles), because you need to be able to hold Cappy in place in certain situations where you do not want to be running; that much, I'm okay with. But then, the LZ button is also the button used to release Mario/Cappy's control of other creatures.
This is especially problematic with Bullet Bills.
In the Sand Kingdom, without going into too much detail, there are many large crevaces that Mario must cross by “capturing” a Bullet Bill and flying over. While controlling other creatures, the Y button — which is the throw button in every other instance — is the accelerate button, and Bullet Bills are no exception. As stated before, LZ releases the creature, dropping Mario wherever it happens to be.
I died a good handful of times because I was trying to make Mario go faster as Bullet Bill, and used the LZ button to do so.
You can't change up what button allows your character to accelerate, especially if the alternative causes him to plunge to his death!
BUT. In spite of all that, it's still a fantastically fun game. Like I said, the exploration in it is just phenomenal, and you really feel good about finding the various Power Moons (this game's version of Stars, or Shine Sprites) and hidden Purple Coins scattered everywhere.
The Purple Coins are an interesting and fun mechanic, that I feel add another layer to the game: Each Kingdom has its own form, and those found in one Kingdom cannot be used in another. These coins are used to purchase new costumes and souvenirs for each area, completely optional (unless you want to get to the final area, I'm told), but still loads of fun. Each area has enough Purple Coins to buy exactly everything in that Kingdom, so it's a good challenge to find them all.
You can also buy things with regular coins, another relatively new mechanic, at least for the main-line Mario games. The items you can buy with regular coins are fairly consistent across all Kingdoms, and are wholly different from those you can buy with Purple Coins. If nothing else, you can pretty consistently find a Power Moon for sale in each Kingdom, for regular coins.
Another big change in this game: You don't have lives. Rather, each time you die, you lose ten (regular) coins. I'm not sure what happens when you die without that many, as it's pretty easy to make them back; if you died such that you hadn't fallen off the level, those ten coins are exactly where you had died, meaning you can even scavenge your own things if you can manage to survive doing so. This gives the game a much more free feel, as you're not constantly worried about losing all your lives and having to start all over; further, the way the game is structured, starting over in any given Kingdom would be devastating, as the whole thing is free-flow, rather than the level-style areas of previous 3D Mario titles. (Personally, I like this new style.)
So, in conclusion: Fantastic game, loads of fun, but would greatly benefit from an altered control scheme. (Maybe make use of the… geez, nine other buttons that either don't do anything or are mapped to the same command, maybe?)