Ellie Gibson on mortality and Mario Odyssey

Also: how do koopas have sex?

By Ellie Gibson. Published 25 February 2017

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. As I lie there, I think about the people in all the other bedrooms on my street, and wonder if any of them are awake. Then I think about the people who slept in these rooms a hundred years ago, and where they are now, and how death is coming for us all. And I imagine what my funeral will be like, and wonder if my husband will obey my wishes and play C'est La Vie by B*witched. (Seriously, watch the video. I have yet to find a closer approximation of my personal vision of Heaven captured on film.)

Weirdly, this can all get a bit depressing. So to cheer up, I remind myself that the whole of humanity deserves to be doomed to eternal oblivion by reading some comments on YouTube.

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The chat about the recently released trailer for Super Mario Odyssey has been a goldmine. All the classics are here, from fair points asserted for some reason in all caps to nonsensical insults ("If 3D World, Sunshine, and Galaxy had a baby, it'd be this." "It would be your mom.")

My personal highlight is the discussion about what the trailer reveals of Bowser's backstory: "If Bowser have a child, it means he had, at least, a wife. And that rises a lot of questions, because I've never saw her."

Needless to say, another YouTube user springs to the rescue: "no, you don't know how koopas reproduce and there are other artificial ways to have children other than the 'good old fashion way' and the technology in the mario world is different than ours. also he doesn't need to be married to have children, i bet bowser has had lots of one night stands lmao."

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So that clears things up - koopas have weird sex, IVF is available in the Mushroom Kingdom, and Bowser is a slag. Hooray for the internet!

Along with all the jollity, there is a comment beneath the video which strikes terror into my heart. It's the one in the description box: "Super Mario Odyssey sees Mario leave the Mushroom Kingdom to go on a new sandbox-style journey!" Oh God.

I know, I know. We're supposed to embrace progress, to focus on the benefits of change, even if 48 per cent of us didn't vote for it and at least 3 per cent of the remainder just thought they were voting to keep the EU's hands off our bendy bananas. But the word "sandbox" fills me with gloom.

Admittedly, this is partly because I grew up playing in the sandboxes of parks in south east London. For me, the term has connotations not of free movement and creative exploration, but used syringes and dog eggs.

On top of this, I am a wizened old games journalist. I can remember a time about ten years ago when every other press release featured the word "sandbox" or "open world" or some other euphemism for "bit like GTA". Frankly, most of those games were rubbish. So I'm afraid to go back to a time when this kind of thing was all the rage, along with plastic guitars and brown graphics.

The actual Mario Odyssey trailer doesn't do much to allay my fears. Seeing Mario out of his usual context and in a real world setting just feels odd. It's like watching the queen lay a cable.

And who are these strange, normally proportioned people inhabiting the city? Why don't they run screaming from this tiny man with his freakishly large hands? What are two grown women doing with a skipping rope? What kind of kick is the guy on the left getting out of it? Which PS2 game did they all escape from?

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But to be fair, the trailer also features a ton of more traditional Mario-style environments, and they're very appealing. I mean, who hasn't always wanted to ride a lion through a desert or bounce off soup?

I mean, it's no stupider than the Power Glove.

And let's remember, this is a game by Nintendo - arguably the most successful video games publisher in history, despite having once released a knitting machine peripheral, and named a console after a British colloquialism for piss. Who are we to question their decision to set this game in old New York? If they can make it there, they'll make it anywhere, and make another trillion billion pounds in the process.

In fact, perhaps they'll start another trend, just like they did with motion control, and loads of other publishers will start sticking their characters in more realistic settings. How about Tomb Raider: School Run? Lara must drop the kids off on time and having remembered the P.E. kit, book bag, and form about Tarquin's nut allergy. Puzzles include trying to park a Skoda Yeti on the KEEP CLEAR bit without getting shouted out by Mrs Havistock, and avoiding getting co-opted by Lynne from the Easter Fair committee into manning the chocolate tombola.

Or how about Street Fighter II: Away Day? Our plucky fighters are recast as middle management colleagues in a call centre just outside Reading, and forced to endure a day of team bonding.

M. Bison takes the paintballing session far too seriously and nearly blinds everyone, while Blanka is told off for accidentally short circuiting the Nespresso machine. Guile walks out of the evening meal in a huff after discovering nothing on the Harvester menu is gluten-free. Chun-Li is too pissed to find the ladies and ends up wandering out to the car park, where she discovers Ryu and Ken getting off with each other behind a bin.

Urgh.

But what of Mario's oldest and greatest rival, Sonic? I know: how about some sort of gritty reboot, where our plucky hero is transplanted into an ugly new world, and there's a load of nonsense about rifts in the fabric of space and time, and the whole thing climaxes with the unforgettably weird and unpleasant image of a hedgehog kissing a human woman! Nah, don't be ridiculous.

All things considered, I'm giving Mario Odyssey the benefit of the doubt. Chances are it'll be another beautifully crafted, highly enjoyable platformer from the masters of the genre. And if not, never mind, because death is coming for us all. Cheers!

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