It may be safe to say that Nintendo is going through a renaissance of sorts as of late.It seems like just a few years ago everyone was on Nintendo’s ass for their refusal to innovate and going on and on about how much of a failure the Wii U was. Ever since that awful E3 conference in 2008, people have assumed that Nintendo stopped caring about their core base. Even when the Switch just came out, people were saying it was just a fluke and that the support the system had was going to wane. Yet here we are and Nintendo seems to be back on top. Despite the fact that it had mostly positive reception, I have yet to play Super Mario 3D World due to the fact that I did not care for its predecessor Super Mario 3D Land or New Super Mario Bros U.
NSMBU was hailed as the best 2D Mario platformer since Super Mario World, and given how much I loved Super Mario World I was very excited to play NSMBU. Unfortunately NSMBU fell way short of my expectations. Not only did I find it nowhere near as good as Super Mario World, but it wasn’t even as good as New Super Mario Bros Wii. While I planned and still do plan to play Super Mario 3D World at some point, I never quite got around to it. For the purpose of comparison, I HAVE played every other 3D Mario platformer with the exception of the DS remake of Mario 64.
While I may have a softer spot for the Galaxy titles, I am not going to deny that Super Mario Odyssey is a top notch platformer that can easily go toe to toe with them. There are some criticisms that I have with the game because I’m a total buzzkill and always can find something to complain about, but Mario Odyssey is a remarkably solid game. The question was never so much about whether or not it is good, but HOW good?
Super Mario Odyssey is a massive game. Similarly to Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy, the goal is to gather up a bunch of shiny collectables that allow you to access other worlds. In the aforementioned games, there were a total of 120 collectables, with the exception of Galaxy 1 and 2 which had 121 and 242 stars respectively (and even then, Galaxy 2’s green stars were just cheap padding implements that required you to replay old levels to find them, some multiple times because collecting a star took you back to the overworld). Super Mario Odyssey on the other hand, has a total of 880 power moons (technically 830 since some are multi-moons that count as three moons).
It may even be possible that Super Mario Odyssey is TOO massive. There is just so much shit packed into this game that it risks becoming overwhelming and tiring to do all of it. You don’t need to do even nearly all of it to see the ending credits but this game is going to give completionists nightmares. For casual gamers or kids who are just playing through to see the end credits for the first time. You will only need a minimum of about 124 moons to see the initial ending credits but there is naturally a fuckton more to do.
That being said, there being “too much content” is not an inherent flaw in and of itself. I put about 150 hours into Megadimension Neptunia VII and rarely got tired of it after all. Additionally, I would not say that the issue is that the content is bad either (although 100 Volleys and 100 Jump Ropes can go straight to Hell). Rather the issue is the way they are laid out and are paced. I briefly went over this back when I reviewed another 3D collectathon platformer from last year.
In Banjo Kazooie, the worlds were smaller and easier to navigate, while Banjo Tooie had large sprawling levels with a ton of collectables. This has lead to some claiming that Banjo Tooie went overboard while others liked it for having more content. Yooka-Laylee decides to streamline itself by letting the player choose which way they wanted the levels to be, which they did by requiring a certain number of pagies to increase the size of the world. This way, one could casually explore each world in its default state and simply pick up whatever they can along the way, or they could comb the entire world for every item before moving on.
I’m going to make it known that I think Yooka-Laylee is a better game than Mario Odyssey. I don’t say this just to be a contrarian hipster but rather because there were far fewer moments where I felt like quitting when I played Yooka-Laylee than Mario Odyssey. That is not to say that Mario Odyssey isn’t a fantastic game or anything, it just means that Yooka-Laylee feels like a much more consistent experience and I am going to be making a lot of comparisons to illustrate what could have been done better.
As illustrated in the quoted paragraph, Yooka-Laylee allows the players to choose the size of the worlds that best suit their play style. Super Mario Odyssey doesn’t have its own equivalent. Okay technically it does in that there are moon rocks that you can activate in the post game that give you about 20 more moons to access, but the key word is “more.” Those of us who play a game and try and do everything as soon as it becomes available are going to get worn out pretty quickly by just how many moons are packed into each world.
Collecting all these moons starts to feel similar to RPG fetch quests that are spread out among towns in RPGs. They provide you something to do that makes you feel like you are making progress when you don’t feel like putting in a play session over 2 hours, but this approach only works in moderation. When you have over 800 power moons to collect, it feels a lot less of an accomplishment when you do pick one up. And let me be clear when I say that 1 power moon does not equal 1 power star in Mario Galaxy or one Shine sprite in Mario Sunshine.
In the previous 3D Mario games, each world would have a varying amount of collectables that you obtain by performing a task, and said task could only be performed in certain episodes. In Super Mario 64, it was slightly open ended in that you can collect a some of the main stars out of order (and Sunshine has one that is like this) and both 64 and Sunshine have bonus stars/shine sprites that don’t have a title but are obtained through collecting 100 coins or fulfilling a red coin challenge on one of those secret stages with the acapella music. You also found other secret stages in the game’s hub worlds or even some collectables that can be found through creative. In both Mario 64 and Sunshine, you actively found the entrance to each new world by exploring their respective hub worlds.
In Mario Odyssey, there is no hub world and each area is instead its own separate location that is packed full of collectables that you find by completing task and through creative thinking. I will give credit to Mario Odyssey in that it requires one to pay close attention to find every moon, but the way that you find these moons is treated differently than in the previous 3D Mario titles.
That is not to say that it is not a valid approach to design, but rather that Super Mario Odyssey is only somewhat longer than that of Galaxy 2 and isn’t as monumentally massive as its moon count would lead you to believe. Truthfully, I am having a difficult time putting my finger on what it is that made Mario Odyssey feel overwhelming at points. It could just be possible that it was because I was playing through this game at a very difficult point in my life, but I think it is more so because the worlds don’t feel as “whole” as other 3D platformers I played.
I was disappointed by the lack of a hub world in Mario Odyssey given that this means the only means of transportation is using Mario’s ship “The Odyssey” and needing to find a certain amount of moons to power it… which doesn’t change depending on the amount you already collected so it doesn’t even make sense. The closest that there is to any type of overlap between worlds is the inclusion of paintings that will warp you to other worlds and give you a hidden moon that can’t be accessed via any other memes. Oh and there are also moons collected through vague hints in pictures that the player will almost certainly need a guide to decipher.
Despite all this I did end up collecting every moon in the game and I thoroughly enjoyed most of it. I need to praise how unique each of the individual worlds are and just how much they managed to squeeze out of them… even if it sometimes feels like they ran out of ideas and put some moons in plain view. There is certainly a sense of accomplishment in finding any of the hidden moons that Nintendo tried to sneak past you, yet there is also a hint feature that prevents you from getting too stuck.
Furthermore, each world has its own individual feel and there are creative mechanics that are being introduced the more you play. For those unaware, the main gimmick of Mario Odyssey is that Mario now has a partner named Cappy; a sentient hat that can possess other living things by sitting on top of them. There are a lot of creative puzzles that are utilized with this mechanic and i can’t think of any that weren’t enjoyable to control.
What also deserves praise is how well structured the difficulty curve is. I remember having trouble with a lot of these minigames the first time through (trace walking anyone?) yet when the harder variations came around in the post game, I found myself easily able to manage what the first version needed but just missing the score needed for the harder version. I also will say that I like how the standard gameplay has just the right balance of difficulty and refrains from either dumbing itself down for kids or using any cheap tricks to elongate the playtime. The final level on the “Darker Side” was hard as Hell but was nowhere near as painful as Galaxy 2’s “The Perfect Run” because it doesn’t use a cheap “one hit and your dead” mechanic.
The visual design was fantastic with the amount of creative variance present in each of the worlds and the game is just breathtaking to look at. Sound design was top notch and as I’ve previously stated, the music is fantastic. I think it is certainly a testament to this game’s quality that the negative that I have pertains to it being overwhelming for completionists, and even then that only really applies to those with a specific play style. I had an absolute blast with Super Mario Odyssey and it definitely gets my recommendation.
If you are interested in playing this game for yourself it can be purchased here.
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