Today at Gamescom, Nintendo showed off more of the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey for Switch. There are few more exciting games incoming, so it was surprising that the fetchingly-bearded gent sent out to present things got such a muted reception. The crowd, mostly attired with Mario’s new hat Cappy, failed to respond four or five times as he tried to get the Odyssey hypetrain running.
You felt for him, but Odyssey director Yoshiaki Koizumi saved the day by rocking onto the stage like a badass, sporting his own Cappy and a bright red suit to match. Not only was this Koizumi’s first time at Gamescom, but his first time in Germany, a fact he smoothly segued into Odyssey’s appeal. “We want people playing the game to get that sense of travelling the world and seeing things they’ve never experienced before,” said Koizumi.
The initial part of the show was a slow re-Cappy of the E3 trailer footage, notable mainly for Koizumi’s idle thoughts about capturing the giant T-Rex. “I’d love to see the surprised look on everyone’s face if I became a dinosaur and rampaged through the streets of Cologne.”
Soon enough, though, it was on to the new stuff. The Luncheon Kingdom continues Nintendo’s delightful obsession for food-themed landscapes, and the mission shown was called ‘Under the Cheese Rocks.’ The unusual art style here is striking, a texture-light and flat-shaded landscape drawn in mostly pastel colours.
“Some [of the locations] have a more surreal or cartoon-like vibe to them,” says Koizumi, and this is clearly one of them. Almost the first thing Mario sees is a race of sentient forks with chef’s hats, talking about their stew being ruined. They do not appear to have mouths. How do they eat the stew? Is there a larger race which uses them to eat the stew?
Gosh, why did they have to show off a food-based level at lunchtime? I need to finish writing this and grab a bite to eat now. Damn you Nintendo.
A big pink bird has taken over the cooking pot! The forks can’t make stupendous stew! This stew is so good even Bowser wants it. Koizumi’s favourite German food is schnitzel, he tells us, which perhaps indicates he hasn’t yet experienced the joy of a good currywurst.
But the Luncheon Kingdom takes its inspiration from elsewhere in Europe — Italy, the home of fine cuisine and, of course, Mario. The most charming aspect of this entire kingdom is that Mario pops into a hat shop, picks up a chef hat, and becomes chef Mario. This might seem to be a cosmetic change but it makes the inhabitants of the food world more friendly towards Mario, which in turn leads to new quests. Most of the new ‘outfits’ seem to operate like this, increasing popularity rather than giving unique abilities, with the traditional role of power-ups taken over by Cappy’s function.
I now can’t help picturing Mario running a stereotypical Italian restaurant. “Hey-a Luigi, get me the gnocchi!”
In the Luncheon Kingdom, the Chef's uniform allows Mario to enter a cullinary school which he's otherwise turned away from. Inside of the school is a bonus area, featuring a number of ways to collect additional Power Moons.
Tying in with the theme of food and cooking, Mario picks up giant turnips and tosses them into a stew bowl! Yes, it’s SMB2! We’re back baby!!! Hopefully weird nowhere doors, floating cherries, and Wart turn up too.
Following this Mario takes over a lava bubble and swims through a load of pink goop before bouncing up some lava columns. While the player was being guided by Koizumi towards this, it didn’t seem enormously well-signposted, which is one of our minor concerns about the final game: how clear is it what you can or cannot take over?
Enemies are always a safe bet, at least. Chef Mario soon finds some Hammer Bros., who’ve also dressed up for the Luncheon Kingdom — sporting chef’s hats and tossing frying pans. There’s only room for one chef in this town, however, so Mario takes one over by whacking him with Cappy (the first hit removing the koopa’s hat and chef credentials). Then uses the possessed koopa’s frying pans to start battering away at the cheese rocks. ‘Under the Cheese Rocks’ remember.
Mario finds a switch, bops it, and finds the Moon pickup that signifies the end of the objective. Rather brilliantly, when Mario abandons the Hammer Bros., the poor koopa flies back stunned. Mario then bops him on the head, and collects a coin. Slave driver.
We also learn that Lava Mario can only exist in liquids, so he at one point on livestream forcably melts down some poor helpless living tomatos in order to continue his own survival.
The more we see of Mario in Odyssey, in fact, the more unsettling his new mind control powers seem. He controls his host, leaves them with no agency or body autonomy, makes them act against their will, then abandons them and abuses their confusion to finally kill them. Brrrr!
The Luncheon Kingdom, however, looks delicious. Super Mario Odyssey hits Switch on October 27th, and the date can’t come soon enough.