I got to play around 40 minutes of Super Mario Odyssey at E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) trade event in Los Angeles last week, and while it was a blast overall, the best part is that each moment is often bursting with surprises.
As always, Nintendo has put an excruciating amount of effort into tiny details for its upcoming Switch platformer, which is due out on October 27. My favorite example of that is the transition from the 2D retro platforming mechanic back into the 3D space of the game. Throughout the worlds of Super Mario Odyssey, Mario can take special, pixellated warp pipes that paste him to a wall as his blocky sprite from Super Mario Bros. for the original Nintendo. During these sections, you can run and jump on goombas just like in the 8-bit games. But when Mario jumps out of the these sections back into the polygonal environment, the game morphs Mario from 2D back into 3D seamlessly.
And it’s not just Mario. In one section of a level, a Bullet Bill starts in the 2D section, but he chases you out into the 3D area as well. Like Mario, the flying enemy also seamlessly jumped from its 2D sprite to its fully rendered 3D version.
This trick is maybe more impressive because it’s so subtle. The game doesn’t draw attention to this effect with flashy animations or lighting. That’s different than when Link jumped from 2D to 3D when he had a similar power in The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds for the 3DS. Instead, in one frame Mario is two-dimensional and in the next he has three dimensions, and this is crucial in a game like Odyssey. Instead of pausing to add a graphical flourish, players maintain all of their momentum and visual awareness, which is important to making a platformer like this feeling fast and responsive.