Will Super Mario Odyssey be hella boring?

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I’m pretty excited for Super Mario Odyssey. I’ve watched Nintendo’s trailers, put down my $5 on a pre-order, listened to podcasts, and ruthlessly avoided reading the 10/10 Edge review. I don’t want it to be thoroughly spoiled, though I’m fairly certain I’ll break down and read *every single review* before it comes out.

But I can’t help feeling that it will let me down in a massive way.

For me, the feel of each 3D Mario game improved on the last. I consider Mario 64 to be something of an abomination–having played the NES and SNES Super Mario games, it just didn’t feel Mario to me. The pie-slice health bar, temporary powerups, and open, platformless levels were a massive concession to limited hardware. With each 3D Mario, they seemed to shed some of that concessionary baggage. 3D Land and 3D World were finally in glorious alignment with the classic 2D games–and I loved them to death.

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Now we’re back to Mario 64 design. I should say, straight away, that I was totally ready for an open world Mario. I’m completely on board with that. It’s just that, when I look at Odyssey’s levels, they look… flat. You run and jump, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of actual platforming. Mario 3D World was packed with things to do. Every second you were stomping goombas, jumping into secret warps, turning gigantic, chucking snowballs, and riding wooden rafts down purple poison rivers. The design was really meant to spoil the player, and each level felt like a little bite-sized playground. Odyssey looks like a different sort of playground. One that’s huge, but without attractions. You’re given some sticks and told to make your own fun.

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I do look forward to possessing enemies. Shooting above the world as a bullet bill looks breathtaking in a way only Nintendo can manage. And even more than the giant T-Rex, I look forward to playing as the flappy-winged gliding lizards. They look so bouncy, goofy, and adorable. There’s a sort of richness there, the feeling that Nintendo wanted to stuff as much as they could into the game. That’s what Nintendo does. That’s why they’re the best.

But then I hear how much there is “to do” in the game, and it feels like previewers are playing a checklist. “Even though the first area is really small with not a whole lot going on,” says Kinda Funny Gamescast, “there’s seven moons to find!” Well, I’d be more thrilled if it seemed like the area had a lot going on. This is a huge problem I have with Breath of the Wild and open world games in general. There is a massive amount of “things to do,” but in actuality you’re mostly just walking and climbing and picking plants. Which is boring! It’s boring. I’m sorry, but it’s boring.

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I’m really wanting to be wrong. Really, really. I see all the different costumes, the bright and beautiful worlds, that dumb Championship Sprint minigame, New Donk friggin’ City, and I want this game to be totally awesome. I want to cherish it, to explore it, to delightedly uncover all of those stupid green moons. And then I remember Super Mario Galaxy, a game with a ton of awesome ideas that I never completed because it was just so damned boring.

Instead of excitedly unwrapping Mario Odyssey, I think I’m going to take a more measured approach. I’m gonna state at it for a minute, breath a sign of resignation, and slot it into the Switch. I don’t want to be breathlessly excited because I don’t want to be endlessly disappointed. I want to play Super Mario Odyssey on its own terms.

Hopefully I’ll find what I missed in Princess Peach’s Castle, all those years ago.

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5 Responses to “Will Super Mario Odyssey be hella boring?”

  1. RetroUnited Says:

    I felt the same way about Super Mario 64. It’s my least favorite Mario. While I can totally understand why it left such a big mark on the gaming world..I was never found of the open-world gameplay. As you said…it just didn’t feel like a Mario game.

    • catstronaut Says:

      I’m glad the first comment was supportive–I thought I was gonna get thrashed handily for this one! When 3D World came out, I thought to myself “now that this is here, I think Nintendo really could manage a fresh and fun open world Mario game.” But everything I see about Odyssey looks like it’s dialing back on things Nintendo rightly changed. I really want that same sort of “fullness” that 3D World had, but instead I see a lot of distant landscapes and open world emptiness. I’m not sure how to feel about it, and I really hope Nintendo reigns in their new tendency to make their IPs open world. Breath of the Wild needed to dial it back a bit imo, and I’m afraid that Odyssey will too.

      • RetroUnited Says:

        We shall see. I have the game pre ordered and played a bit of the demo. I liked what I played but it’s just a matter of waiting till next week. I don’t trust the reviewers. It may very well be a good game and I have hope…but you know they’rr gonna give it tens across the board just because it’s Mario.

  2. Particlebit Says:

    As a huge fan of SM64, I can see your argument. While I am excited for the playground aspect of the game, needless exploration is not really all that fun. I felt 64 balanced the exploring with immediate action nicely in most levels, and that’s what I hope Odyssey brings (and I hope Amazon brings my preorder on time!)

    • catstronaut Says:

      Yep! In particular I’m *a bit miffed* that they brought back the pie health, and that you get hearts instead of super mushrooms. Like… whyyy do we have to go back to this???

      It does look like a lot of fun though. I’m going to take deep breaths and try to control my cynical side 🙂

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