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The Nintendo Switch is enjoying a vast amount of success compared to its predecessor. In just ten months, the system has sold roughly 15 million units, beating the lifetime sales of the Wii U. This could be down to its superior marketing, but its initial line-up of quality titles in its first year certainly helped. Launching with the lauded The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild followed by the likes of Splatoon 2, ports of popular titles such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and a consistent array of quality downloadable games on the e-shop. However, the biggest game since release saw the arrival of Nintendo’s golden boy with Super Mario Odyssey. A return to the classic collect-a-thon platformer in similar set up to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine fans have been wanting for some time now. Mario Odyssey looks to be a huge stepping stone for the series and while it does get many things right, it does fall flat on some core aspects.
The biggest addition to the game the possession mechanic. Mario can now throw his hat at enemies to use their powers for unique puzzles and platforming challenges. They’re all very simple to use, some a bit too simple and unremarkable unfortunately, but mostly they’re fun and engaging enough to enhance gameplay to an extent. There is a novelty to controlling these classic foes, but most of them are just slightly different movement options that in all honestly you may as well skip because if you’re skilled enough with Mario you can easily do some fancy tricks to get around their sections or topple them completely rather simply.
This is the most versatile Mario has been since Super Mario Sunshine. While his movement options have excellent variety that make the sometimes disappointingly simple worlds a fun time to travel through and explore. They will take some getting used to, however, the dive being a combination involving the ground pound is quite frankly stupid and leads to an unfair amount of deaths. Mario also doesn’t feel as if he has much weight to him, it tends to fluctuate how heavy he is. His running speed looks slower than the animation implies it should be, long jumps never go as far as you’d expect and his jump is much less floaty than previous games which is awkward to adjust to as a veteran of the series when starting off. The control scheme is far from bad and is satisfying to get creative with but at times can be its own hindrance.
Mario’s more basic movements suffer because of the trickier, player implemented moves ruling his move set and becoming the centre stage of the gameplay. It leads to players praising level design that they can exploit and skip, but as a result… you skip the level. This can be its own reward for certain players but usually completing a challenge is more satisfying than skipping it. On the whole, gameplay in Mario Odyssey is top notch. Despite the negative focus of these paragraphs it’s important to note that they are merely nit-picks of a well-done system. Mario is fun and nearly hypnotic to control, which is something that cannot be taken away from Odyssey, but it’s also important to notice the flaws it does fall victim to.
Super Mario Odyssey boasts an excessive amount of its main collectible: power moons. There are nearly 1,000 of them and they are in every inch of the worlds making collecting them feel rather rudimentary. Aside from the triple power moon you get from beating bosses, they all carry the same value. Why bother with this massive puzzle and gauntlet of challenges when you can spend a mere 100 coins to buy one, or break open a rock to get the same reward in seconds?
The amount of moons is staggering and at times, cleaning up a world to collect them all puts you in a trance where you feel like you’re just going through the motions, with rarely any real challenge. This applies to the secondary collectible of purple coins used to buy outfits, which can either be in plain sight or hidden off the edge of worlds. Their difficulty spikes going from fun to just a chore. Collecting every moon is just that, a chore. Most of the moons require you to complete similar, if not the exact same, missions in multiple worlds and it leads to a repetitive experience when going for 100% completion.
As with any game of this structure, you’re encouraged to spend most of your time exploring the terrain in search of as many moons as you can find. But this ultimately turns into a pie to the face when you learn that beating the final boss unlocks EVEN MORE moons in each world. Sometimes adding roughly 25-30 more moons per world. This effectively tells you that searching every nook and cranny of the worlds as the set up encourages was a waste of your time and to go do it all again. Adding to the repetitive nature, scowering these worlds again with no new areas or sections, instead just more varied NPCs isn’t fun or rewarding, it’s tedious. Exploring the exact same areas again doesn’t add to anything except the tedium of collecting everything. The number of moons could’ve been cut in half and the experience would’ve benefited greatly.
To coincide with doing the same missions over and over, in the post-game you’ll be awarded moons by Toadette for collecting moons as a sort of in game achievement system. Collecting moons earns you more moons. Talking to Toadette for minutes on end, skipping past text and seeing the “YOU GOT A POWER MOON” celebration and jingle over and over is dull and breaks the pace. Usually a Mario post-game is a slew of new levels a la 3D Land and World but this goes the route of Mario Galaxy 2, adding random stars (moons in this case) to old levels leading to a tiring experience collecting them all. Even the two post worlds are hit and miss, one is a boss rush and the other the typical gauntlet, where its main source of difficulty is the lack of checkpoints and the leaps of faith above certain death with the pokey bird possession, the rest is rather easy to traverse.
While this article has focused mostly on negatives it does have to be stated that Mario Odyssey is a darn good game. A good portion of the shortcomings are down to the standard Mario has set in the past then this game as a single entity’s fault. Mario Odyssey is a good time, not frustrating and often enough brings a fair challenge. As a newcomer, you’ll eat it up and as a veteran it’ll quench your Mario thirst just fine. It has its shortcomings and annoyances that keep it out of the conversation for ‘Best Mario Game’, but in its own right, it’s fun and that’s what it goes for. Just do not go for 100% because quite frankly no reward you get is worth doing all that exploring and menial work again for 20+ hours. Mario Odyssey is fun, if not still somewhat disappointing overall.