Do you ever get the feeling Nintendo backed themselves into a corner with Super Mario Galaxy, or is it just me? When I played it, I remember saying, “This is great, but where can the series go next?” I suspect Nintendo went countless nights without sleep while trying to find the answer to the same question, perhaps releasing the New Super Mario Bros. games just to stall for time.
Now that we know Super Mario Odyssey is set in a world eerily similar to ours, I think it’s clear that the series’ settings will only become progressively weirder. I look forward to seeing how trippy the Mushroom Kingdom can get. But, for now, we have to put up with these ugly NPCs that look exactly like you or me, which might help make this installment a timeless one.
A quick aside: have you watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I have. It blew my mind when I was a kid, because it took two of my favorite things at the time, noir and cartoons, and combined them in such a way that it's strangely believable. And it still holds up! CGI characters in live-action movies may come and go, but the cartoon characters in Roger Rabbit are timeless and props look as if they were literally drawn to life!
Video games, by comparison, struggle to achieve the Roger Rabbit effect. It’s not a common issue, but I’ve been thinking about this since I played last year’s Final Fantasy XV. Half-way through the game, I realized it looks startlingly similar to Sonic ‘06, in that the NPCs, main characters, and settings were a bit mismatched.
Don’t believe me? Take a moment to open another tab (or two) and watch the introductions to both games. Then, watch some footage of the actual gameplay, specifically when the protagonists interact with the NPCs. Pretty surreal, right? I never thought I’d encounter a Final Fantasy character whom I could reasonably cosplay, but I’m pretty sure I could rock the double chin, neckbeard, press badge, and graphic t-shirt worn by Vyv, the editor of The Meteor.
I’m not trying to shame the poor guy. In the real world, the characters with the spiky hairdos and impractical clothing would be the odd ones out anywhere except a gaming convention. But it’s not the characters with diverse body types that are my concern, it’s the lack of artistic cohesion brought about by the mishmash of realistic and cartoon styles.
Although it’s practical to polish the important characters, the NPCs in Final Fantasy XV and Sonic ‘06 not only look underdeveloped, but also look out of place. It feels like Noctis and crew have stepped through a portal to our dimension and are now trying to find their way back home. It’s because of this disconnect that I never truly believed in the characters’ struggle, and that’s kind of what makes me wonder about Super Mario Odyssey.
That said, I think Super Mario Odyssey is in a much better position than Sonic ‘06 and Final Fantasy XV, thanks to its realistic NPCs and setting. Sure, the NPCs will always look out of place, but the entire city is bright and colorful. It's exactly what you’d expect from the Mushroom Kingdom. Plus, this disconnect seems intentional, and I can’t wait to see how Nintendo handles it.
Image Credit: Sephiroth-Artƒ | Grishin Alexey