With video games becoming more and more self-serious, Nintendo might be more important than ever. Throughout the growth of video games into a mainstream entertainment medium, the company has remained dedicated to keeping things light, prioritizing fun. Only a few minutes with Super Mario Odyssey will tell you that nothing has changed in the Nintendo Switch era — if anything, Mario is only going to get more endearingly goofy.
At E3 this past week, we got to check out a couple of the worlds you’ll blast off to in Super Mario Odyssey. And we do mean blast off — Mario travels in a hat-shaped spaceship called the Odyssey. But, worlds like the desert zone and the metropolis of New Donk City aren’t like the planets in the space-faring Super Mario Galaxy games — this game feels more similar to older entries like Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64. As always, Mario will need to rescue Peach from Bowser, who seems to have nuptials on his mind this time.
That doesn’t mean Odyssey is a rehash of those older games. Mario vets will notice a lot of changes, starting with Mario’s new friend. Cappy is Mario’s red hat come to life, and he’ll be doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this adventure. Cappy can be thrown into enemies or obstacles, or can be spun around in a circle attack to knock out a few goombas at once.
But, as you might have noticed from the E3 trailer, Cappy isn’t just a weaponized hat. Mario can toss Cappy at objects in the world to take direct control of them — toss him at a binocular stand, and it’ll fly up, allowing you to survey the entire world from up high. Toss him at a Bullet Bill, and Mario will become a hatted Bill, rocketing around to harder to reach areas. Cappy can even let Mario take over other people or creatures — including that dinosaur they showed in the trailer. Raise your hand if you thought you’d ever stomp around as a T-rex in a Mario game!
Even better, Cappy helps Mario become more stylish than ever! Each world has its own currency that needs to be collected to buy new outfits for Mario — I got to hook Mario up with a construction hard hat and a bangin’ roaring ’20s suit with a fedora, and I can confirm that Mario is one of the few dudes in the world who can actually pull off a fedora. That’s not just for looks, though — a full construction getup will let Mario sneak into a construction zone to find more coins and moons. There are loads of other surprises, too, like green pipes that throw Mario into 2D sections that look just like the original Super Mario Bros.
You can also say goodbye to lives and hello to checkpoints and fast travel. Instead of being tossed to a game over screen once your lives are up, Mario will simply lose some coins every time he gets knocked out. The game will load you back into the last checkpoint you ran through, which are marked by flags around the stages. From the map, it’s possible to fast travel to any of those checkpoints at any time, too — another departure for Mario.
Nintendo reps told me this was done to keep the game fast-paced and fun, instead of breaking up the action with backtracking. It’s also probably another way Nintendo is tailoring their games to the Switch. Unlike previous home consoles, the Switch is meant to be played both at home and on the go — keeping the action going makes sense when you expect a lot of your players to be squeezing in 10- to 15-minute gaming sessions on the bus or subway. We also saw this a bit in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which had both fast travel and much shorter dungeons than usual for the series.
And, while we didn’t get a chance to try it out, we do know that Super Mario Odyssey has a co-op mode where the second player can take control of Cappy. As we understand it, the two players will take one Joy-Con controller each, and Cappy will float above Mario’s head a little and fly around where the second player wants to go.
Here’s the best news — Mario’s new adventure will kick off earlier than expected. Despite being tabbed for a holiday release when the Switch was detailed earlier this year, the game will be released on October 27.
Check out more of our E3 2017 coverage right here!