LOS ANGELES — The new "Super Mario" game coming to the Nintendo Switch is fantastic. That's the most important thing you take away from this.
Just as "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" was a massive evolution of the long-running, celebrated "Legend of Zelda" franchise, "Super Mario Odyssey" appears poised to challenge and evolve the Super Mario formula.
The game arrives this October exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, but Nintendo offered attendees of the annual E3 video game trade show a chance to play a 20-minute demo. I played that demo this week during E3 2017, and am here to tell you that it was rad.
If you're thinking "Grand Theft Auto," that's not entirely accurate. "Super Mario Odyssey" is segmented into worlds. "New Donk City," seen above, is one of those worlds — it's a massive open environment that you can explore to your heart's content. There's no timer; your only limitation is survival.
In "Super Mario 64," little Mario entered paintings that acted as doors to massive, distinct worlds. In those worlds, there were six stars. After collecting each one, Mario would be whisked back out of the painting. You could choose to jump back in and go after another star, or you could move on (if you had enough stars to open the next area).
"Super Mario Odyssey" works very similarly. Each area has a number of moons. Those moons are used for powering your ship (seen above), and that ship is how you reach new places.
So it goes: You could go to, say, New Donk City and focus on collecting as many moons as possible. Or, you could collect just enough moons to power your ship to the next area.
1. You can collect as many moons as you want in one run. You're not "reset" as it were — a short, celebratory animation plays when you grab a moon, and then you're able to continue exploring. Similar to "Super Mario 64," moons you've already collected will continue to appear as ghost items (you'll get a few coins for grabbing them again — no biggie).
2. There are many, many moons in each area. They're all over the place — hidden inside of girders, across perilous gaps, on top of seemingly insurmountable buildings. There's a focus on exploration in "Super Mario Odyssey" that I did not expect.
The actual plot, of course, is "Defeat Bowser." That's always the conceit of Super Mario games, and it's almost certainly the case here as well.
The path to get there, of course, is what's most important. To that end, "Super Mario Odyssey" is seemingly built for exploration. In my short time with the game, in both New Donk City and Tostarena (the desert area), I was overwhelmed by the amount of places to go and stuff to do.