If someone finds much enjoyment within a video game, chances are you have a desire to see it through to the very end. And sometimes, the game features incentives to return, such as downloadable content (paid or free), a “new game plus” mode, or extra challenges that build upon your experience. I’ll always remember traveling back to Kanto in Pokémon Silver after beating the main campaign to fight against the gym leaders, for example.
However, I often find that games in the Mario franchise have a track record of superb post-game content that often consists of new/remixed levels that extend the playtime heavily. You only need sixty Stars in Super Mario Galaxy to beat the main story, but in total there are 242 Stars to collect. Super Mario 3D World features thirty-three extra levels and a fifth playable character once you beat the final boss for the first time. Even Mario’s recent 2D outings feature extra content to keep the fun going.
Therefore, I had a certain level of expectation for Super Mario Odyssey. Having gained an immense amount of satisfaction from the main campaign, I felt compelled to complete the game in its entirety, which involved collecting all the moons, purple coins, and outfits available.
Heck, you literally go straight to the Mushroom Kingdom after taking down Bowser, a nostalgia trip for the ages with its throwbacks to Super Mario 64.
And hence I set out on my journey for a complete playthrough, exploring one kingdom at a time in its entirety to uncover all the secrets each hid within its environment. Over the course of fifteen hours after beating the main game, I managed to find every moon and purple coins from the Cap Kingdom to the Snow Kingdom(ten kingdoms in total), and effectively beat the postgame content found on the Dark Side and Darker Side of the Moon Kingdom. Out of the 999 moons, I collected 679 overall.
And then I stopped.
It wasn’t even an abrupt stop. No, it was the culmination of tedium and boredom that gradually built upon my consciousness with each and every moon I attempted to scout out. For around ten hours, I daresay it was a chore to play, and ultimately if I had chosen to stick it out to the end, whatever semblance of entertainment I obtained from Super Mario Odyssey would have disappeared.
So what exactly happened to trigger these sentiments? All in all, it boils down to three specific reasons that I will elaborate on further:
The Mundanity of Moon Collection
As I have mentioned prior, there are hundreds upon hundreds of moons to collect, and they can be found in every nook and cranny with proper exploration.
All seems dandy, there are eighty-nine moons to discover in total and after finding them they’ll be marked accordingly on the map.
Except that you can’t find all of the moons on your first playthrough. Nor are the locations of the moons marked on your map.
The first time around in the Sand Kingdom, there are a total of sixty-two moons to collect, and then afterward there are an extra twenty-seven moons to find upon completion (thankfully marked). This may sound in line with the previous Mario installments through the unlocking of new content, but unfortunately, its implementation simply fails in execution here.
Why? It’s because moon collection fundamentally relies on exploration to derive enjoyment, but nothing about the map is altered after returning to collect the rest of the moons. This often means you’re treading old grounds to collect forgotten moons and purple coins, and it is extremely likely that without a refresher one will find themselves forgetting where they have and haven’t explored.
And it’s easy to forget because the process of collecting moons is inherently tedious. Most of the tasks that reward moons in the game are generally mundane, and merely serve to motivate players to look everywhere within their surroundings. It’s hard to remember a handful of moons where I truly felt I accomplished something or found the challenge memorable, and I came to realize that the game’sinsistence with instant gratification is just that.
Lack of Gameplay Variety
So the actual process of collecting moons becomes gradually boring after a period of time, but the game can still be interesting if it finds new means of challenging the player and rewarding them for exploration or mastery of the game’s mechanics. I hold a similar issue with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the sense that the shrines and puzzles featured in the game are not particularly stimulating, but the means of exploration trump such detractors.
However, it is nearly impossible to say the same thing for Super Mario Odyssey, given the recycling of multiple challenges and the relatively monotonous task of exploring discovered territory again and again. Let me give an example:
For those that have played the game, you might remember a task along the lines of something like this…
In order to get this moon, one must capture a Goomba and find the Goombette hiding in the area. Having been infatuated with the Mario-looking Goomba, she will disappear and the moon will appear for collection. The first time, it’s a harmless diversion that put a small smile on my face.
Yet you repeat this particular challenge in the game six more times, and the task is literally the same, except it involves stacking more Goombas or traveling some distance.
One of these challenges literally has you running across the desert as a Goomba in order to find the Goombette. There are no obstacles to block, no new mechanics to exploit, or new tricks to take advantage of: you just run. And it’s just as boring as I’m making it sound.
It certainly feels uninspired, but it is nearly nothing in comparison to the many other tasks that you’ll find repeat itself after completing the main campaign. Hundreds of moons trigger an eerie sense of déjà vu just like this set, and it ultimately reduced my anticipation of any pleasant surprises for the remaining hours of my playtime.
Lack of Value
Did I already mention there were hundreds of hundreds of moons to collect? Did I already mention how repetitive a significant number of these moons were to collect over and over? Well, I will repeat them again because these two factors expose the fact that the process and the reward for collecting each moon don’t amount to much.
There are many tasks to be completed for moons, whether it be ground-pounding a rumbling spot on the ground or completing a challenge room or conquering the jump-rope game; moons are scattered everywhere and can be obtained by nearly any means possible. This approach to game design is great for a console like the Nintendo Switch given its flexibility in play style, but it compromises something crucial: accomplishment.
With the exception of the multi-moons, every task and challenge will reward you with a moon, regardless of its difficulty. But therein lies the issue: there’s no metric that effectively determines how much the task you accomplished translates to the payoff. For example, is throwing a cap onto a lamp pole really worth an entire moon? If I had a voice in the matter, I would be content with one-quarter of a moon for my trouble, and I don’t think many people would complain about that either.
In its current state, Super Mario Odyssey can prompt a false equivalency in the mind of the player that each moon has equal worth, that you can literally do anything to get a moon. It dampens the feeling of achievement one might feel when they actually come across a formidable trial, only to gain the same reward as they could from an easier alternative.
Yet if my assertions on a moon’s value don’t ring true to you, why not I throw another bucket of salt on the wound: the game developers feel the same way I do. And there are two major pieces of evidence cementing my disposition:
In the Mushroom Kingdom, there’s a Toadette waiting for you that has a bunch of moons ready to hand out for completing various tasks throughout the game. At first, I was excited to see how the game would continue to provide a challenge for obtaining extra moons, but unfortunately, they amount to tasks such as:
- Collect Power Moons
- Throw Cappy
- Rescue Princess Peach
In other words, things you literally have to do in the first place.
Unfortunately, it’s also obvious why they exist in the first place: to serve as padding and come even closer to reaching a total moon count of 999 moons, an unrealistic benchmark for a game that stretches itself so thin throughout the post-game.
But guess what? You can only collect around 866 of those moons by playing through the game itself. So you may be asking yourself how can someone manage to collect another 133 moons…
You Can Buy Moons
I’m not kidding. For a measly 100 coins, you can purchase a moon from the Crazy Cap store. And that’s not all: the Crazy Cap store conveniently has an infinite supply of moons waiting to be purchased from the beginning of the game!
Therefore, not only do you need to purchase the rest of the remaining moons to see the true ending, but someone with enough coins can buy their way through the game. If that isn’t an indication of the worth the development team administered to each moon, then I cannot begin to fathom what else would convey this thought process so explicitly.
Coming to terms with my gripes in Super Mario Odyssey was tough. I had such a grand time playing through the main campaign, collecting coins and taking down enemies to discover everything the game had to offer. It’s why I wanted to commit myself to see it through in its entirety and have the ultimate Mario experience that I had been craving since 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2.
As many of you can see, however, that aspiration was a pipe dream. Thirty-five hours later, I don’t have the motivation to go back to Super Mario Odyssey for quite a while. While I realize that my complaints predominantly arose from the post-game, the main campaign was fun enough to warrant further playtime, and it served to disappoint me in that regard.
Super Mario Odyssey is still a great game for the Nintendo Switch and a fine entry within the Mario franchise., but I cannot allow myself to let its flaws go unnoticed and undiscussed if we want to see the franchise continue to evolve and improve from game to game.