The first day with my Nintendo Switch was full of curiosity and confusion while I became acquainted with the new console. The one thing in particular that I couldn’t get my head around was using the Joy-Con controllers undocked. Holding the two controllers in each of my hands and trying to navigate Link around Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild felt way too foreign to me, and so I quickly purchased a Pro controller and never went back to the Joy-Con controllers by themselves. However, that might have all changed thanks to my time with Super Mario Odyssey.
During E3 2017, I had the opportunity to go hands on with Super Mario Odyssey, but I was confronted with an old enemy. That’s right: the Nintendo employee asked me to use the Joy-Con controllers as I was stealthily reaching for the Pro controller, which was sitting right next to the console. So, I held out my wrists and he strapped me in: I was now ready to go back to that unfamiliar gaming territory that I never wanted to return to.
However, as soon as I entered the Metro Kingdom, I felt a sense of delight rush over me. It didn’t matter that I was using the Joy-Con controllers: instead, I was running and jumping my way through the city as Mario on a brand new adventure. The thing that surprised me the most is that I felt comfortable with the controllers on their own; I faced my fear of the Joy-Con controllers and was entering uncharted territory.
Soon after, the Nintendo employee asked me to stop and demonstrated different ways of using the Joy-Con to play the game. With the flick of my wrist I could throw Mario’s hat, Cappy, and control the direction with another flick. Although this sounds like it could get out of hand while playing, Cappy never left Mario’s head when I didn’t want him too. I was surprised by this because I was expecting my movements to cause an accidental hat throw when I was unaware, but that wasn’t the case during my time with the game.
Another cool feature is Mario’s rolling ability: by getting in a crouching position, I was able to send Mario rolling through the streets by doing a slight drumming motion with the Joy-Con in hand. The Joy-Con HD rumble provided great feedback during these rollings moments, which made the experience that much more engaging.
During some areas of Metro Kingdom, balancing on narrow platforms is required in order to get to the next destination. For example, Captain Toad is conveniently standing at the edge of a long steel beam. Although I was hesitant of my platforming skills using the Joy-Con at first, I tackled the situation masterfully and spoke with Captain Toad, who I’m assuming will appear in other dangerous places throughout Mario’s adventure.
In the end, and most importantly, the Joy-Con felt natural. While Zelda was first developed on the Wii U and then later planned for the Switch, the Joy-Con controllers never had a proper chance to show their full capabilities with Breath of the Wild. However, Super Mario Odyssey was clearly designed to support the Joy-Con controllers in a way that I never thought possible, and it works.
I started my Switch journey off by vowing to rarely, if ever, play the system with the Joy-Con controllers undocked from the system, but Super Mario Odyssey has made me a believer in its potential. Next time I’m faced with which controller I want to play Super Mario Odyssey with, I will happily reach for the Joy-Con first.
Super Mario Odyssey will release for the Nintendo Switch on October 27th, 2017.