– This article was originally published on 30th April 2018; it is being updated and archived here as part of the newly-named Let’s Chat series –
It only took about 6 months, but I did it, everyone – after weeks of fellow Let’s Chat voice Ashley Harrison telling me to, I have finished the main story of Nintendo Switch title Super Mario Odyssey. So, now, it’s time for our first joint-review of the game, which will cover our thoughts on the game, how it compares to previous 3D Mario games, the DLC, and each of us giving the game a score. I hope you enjoy!
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY
William Robinson: You thought the day would never come. But after roughly half a year, I finally got around to finishing Super Mario Odyssey (the story, at least)! I think I should take up speedrunning… Jokes aside, this Let’s Chat is going to be our first joint review, as we discuss and likely disagree on the game. To start with, then – where are you now in the game, and what were your thoughts as that awesome soundtrack played to the end credits?
Ashley Harrison: I’ve finished the game completely, with 999 Moons and every single costume unlocked, bar the new ones that they’ve added recently. Gonna go on to get those at some point, as well as trying to finally get this damn jump rope challenge Moon. When I’d gotten to the point you are now, my thoughts were that I had justified spending the £350 I spent on my Switch bundle, but felt that I wanted more because whilst there were a ton of moons to collect, I was shocked at just how few levels there were.
WR: Woah, you’ve managed to 100% it? I didn’t know that, that’s impressive. Yeah – the game is split up into Kingdoms, which are all large-ish open areas reminiscent of Super Mario 64 levels, with Moons hidden everywhere for different tasks. If you’re just blasting through the main story, though, each Kingdom is pretty brief. It took me around 10-15 hours to get to the final encounter with Bowser. Looking at the statistics afterwards, though, it’s almost unbelievable how many Moons are supposedly in each Kingdom!
AH: Yeah, it’s ridiculous how many Moons there are in each Kingdom. I just wish there were fewer Moons per Kingdom, and more Kingdoms to make up for the “loss” of Moons.
WR: I’m actually the opposite. I felt the Kingdoms felt too bite-size, and could’ve felt bigger and taken longer to get through. It all felt a little fast-paced for me. However, I was undeniably enjoying the game as I played. There is a certain magic to the design and feel of Odyssey that only 3D Mario games seem to have. The capture mechanic, where throwing companion Cappy at enemies lets Mario basically possess them, only helped that; I was surprised at just how many different forms Mario could take.
AH: It’s without a doubt my favourite Mario game of all time, and the capture mechanic is a major part of that. It’s something I wasn’t too sure on when it was first announced, but once I’d played Odyssey, I fell in love with it. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a T-Rex in a Mario game?
WR: Which were your favourite uses of the capture mechanic?
AH: I loved the T-Rex, obviously, and I thought the frog was pretty cool too. You?
WR: Come on, can it be anything but the Snow Kingdom and the Shiverians there? They’re a) incredibly adorable and b) so fun to roll around as. If the next Mario Kart doesn’t have a Shiverian track, something is amiss. Speaking of, the same question for Kingdoms; which were best designed or most surprising for you?
AH: Snow Kingdom is GOAT Kingdom, followed by the Seaside Kingdom for me. Most surprising isn’t even really a Kingdom, but more the final level of the game, just for how ridiculously hard it actually is.
WR: You don’t mean the final story sequence, but the traditional Champion’s Road ending or however this game names it?
AH: Yeah, it’s called “Darker Side” in this game and it’s ridiculous.
WR: I still rate my 100% file of Super Mario Galaxy 2 as one of my finest gaming achievements, and I’m looking forward to getting to the final level of Odyssey too. 3D Mario games always manage to make such incredibly challenging final levels that, somehow, still don’t feel cheap. Back to the game, though; how did you rate the general platforming design? Did you feel that some of the focus there was lost to the amount of play as different forms of Mario?
AH: I genuinely feel that whilst they’re not as good as the Galaxy games, the levels in Odyssey are some of the best Nintendo has ever produced for a Mario game. Everything is tightly designed so there’s always something to do or find, and the capture mechanic only adds to that, rather than feeling like anything was lost because of it.
WR: I was very rarely challenged by the platforming; it had more of a puzzle feel, figuring out which powers were needed when. That’s certainly a great side of the game that encourages intuition, but I did miss some of the platforming focus that I would have liked alongside it.
AH: See, I didn’t find myself missing the pure platforming elements at all. I loved the puzzle focus to it, and I’d be more than happy to see it make a return in future games.
WR: Did you feel that they were trying to recapture that Super Mario 64/Sunshine feel, rather than the pure platforming of Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World? If so, is that the kind of 3D Mario you prefer?
AH: Oh, without a doubt, they were trying to make it more like 64/Sunshine than Galaxy or 3D World. I wouldn’t say I exactly prefer it that way, as I’d rank both Galaxy games above either 64 or Sunshine, but I preferred it for this game.
WR: For me, Odyssey sits around the level of 3D World (which is possibly the most underrated game ever, in my books). Both Galaxy games are clearly superior to me, due to their sheer creativity and platforming prowess; Odyssey, despite the varied gameplay brought through the capture mechanic, still feels very grounded, you know? The joy of movement I have come to expect from a 3D Mario is there, but not that same freedom the Galaxy pair give. Still, being -slightly not as good as Galaxy– still puts Odyssey ahead of most games.
AH: Fun fact: 3D World is the only main series Mario game I’ve not completed, because I just didn’t like it one bit. So to even compare Odyssey to 3D World is blasphemous in my opinion.
WR: Right, before we start fighting, let’s put the spotlight back on Odyssey. In terms of the main structure and story, did you like the pacing and challenge? The Moons required to progress didn’t really require much extra grinding; I found I tended to naturally have enough a lot of the time.
AH: I think there was only one time during the whole game where I didn’t have enough Moons to progress right away, and even then I was only 2 Moons off, so I definitely feel it could’ve done with a change in pacing. You never really got to see every Kingdom properly unless you looked for Moons afterwards, so I would’ve preferred if more Moons were needed to progress so that I was forced to explore each Kingdom.
WR: I agree with that. Seeing the amount of Moons I have left to collect is almost unbelievable – I don’t know how they all fit in those Kingdoms! It’s exciting, though, that I can now slow down and enjoy exploring what Odyssey has to offer without feeling pressure to get to Bowser and see the credits. It’s similar to the modern Tomb Raider games, where you can go back to areas after the story and experience them as a relatively relaxed open world game. Considering you have all the Moons, I’m guessing you feel a similar way.
AH: Yeah, I do. It’s cool to go back after you’ve beaten the Darker Side level and restored peace to the Mario Universe, and seeing all the different animals and people you meet along the way interacting with one another in every Kingdom. It made mopping up the Moons I’d missed an absolute joy.
WR: It’s funny you say that; this game gave me a real feeling of a Marvel-like Mario Universe, in how you see different locations with different characters, such as Pauline in New Donk City. Also with how, as mentioned earlier, Odyssey references older 3D Mario games – particularly the ending with Bowser, which gave me a vibe of Bowser just wanting to be friends with Mario and Peach (but going too far with, you know, trying to force Peach to marry him, which gets into some pretty dark ideas actually).
AH: Bowser kidnapping and forcing Peach to marry him is essentially the storyline to every Mario game though, so does he really just want to be friends?
WR: I mean, sure, but right at the end he just wanted to come along. Mario didn’t need to jump on him and leave him on the Moon, after Bowser and him have just connected over Peach-rejection. Either way, the appearance of Captain Toad helps this game a lot. He’s just minding his own business, with hordes of Coins, being the real hero of the Mario Universe.
AH: Captain Toad is the MVP of the game, though how he manages to get to some of the places he does in the levels I will never know.
WR: I’m glad I’m making you see the majesty of Captain Toad. Also, yeah… he can’t jump, yet somehow he got to the cave at the end of that Wiggler section in the Lost Kingdom. How? The stickers, outfits and Photo Mode also gave Odyssey a more modern feel, with the extras we have now come to expect from big name game releases. One particular joy? No real-money purchases in sight.
AH: Photo mode is legit one of my favourite things about the game. Can we make sure every game from now on has one? Please?
WR: I’d also like to get your thoughts on the presentation of the game in general – 3D Mario titles are often so magical from a visual and musical perspective. I really enjoy how each game has a distinct vibe now; Galaxy was very orchestral, then 3D World had an awesome jazz feel, and now Odyssey has a rock undertone.
AH: I think the whole presentation is great. The game itself looks incredible, and the soundtrack is way better than it has any right to be. I genuinely would go as far as saying Mario Odyssey is the best game on the Switch right now.
WR: I’m in the Zelda: Breath of the Wild camp on that front, but I’m not going to get too into that, as I think there is a split of people who think either Zelda or Mario is the best Switch game (and best game of 2017). It’s down to personal taste, I think, as both are incredible. I played the whole of Odyssey in handheld and the visuals were pretty great – on the small screen some rough edges were occasionally evident, but overall it was slick if not revolutionary; it doesn’t stand out as a massive step from 3D World on Wii U.
AH: I also played it in handheld mode, and I agree that whilst there were some rough edges in a couple of places, overall it was spectacular. It’s made me wish Nintendo would be willing to adopt technology like Sony and Microsoft do – imagine Odyssey in 4K!
WR: Did you try any other control or display options? On the 4K topic, I’m in no huge rush. The artistic direction of Nintendo is enough in these games, but I do have to admit, a Switch 4K Edition in a few years would be amazing.
AH: Not with Odyssey, no. With the way the game is designed, it felt like the kind of game made to be played in handheld mode rather than on a TV.
WR: Yeah, for sure – with Moons everywhere, you can literally just play a few minutes at a time and still have a sense of progression. So, how many hours did it take you to get where you are? Have you played the Luigi’s Balloon World DLC?
AH: Um, I think in total I’ve put in about 40 hours? That was just for the main story, and getting all the collectibles. I haven’t tried out the Balloon World DLC yet, though. As much as I love Luigi, sadly this concept doesn’t do anything for me.
WR: That DLC seems kinda light on substance, but I haven’t given it a proper shot yet?. Kingdom DLC in the future would be great, and make a lot of sense. It would allow the developers to get really creative; imagine Kingdoms based on other Mario games like Sunshine, Galaxy or even Kart, or maybe even other Nintendo properties! A Hyrule Castle Kingdom would potentially be incredible.
AH: I would absolutely love that. As I said earlier, my only real criticism of the game is that there aren’t enough Kingdoms, and at this point, I’d even pay for an expansion pass! Which completely goes against my point in our previous Let’s Chat about microtransactions and DLC and stuff, but Odyssey is genuinely just that good that I’d happily pay for more.
WR: Nintendo have so much goodwill in not exploiting players that I think they’re an exception. You think we see DLC announcements at E3?
AH: Hopefully! But at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t, to be honest with you.
WR: How so?
AH: I just think Nintendo will see Odyssey as a finished product now, and leave it to move onto the next Mario game.
WR: I can see that, but I can see them also realising how much money that massive Odyssey install base could produce. Remember that Super Mario Odyssey has sold over 10 million now! Either way, it’s a superb game on its own, like you say. Before we close out, I’d like a final thoughts from both of us and a score out of 999 Moons. Just to be awkward.
AH: For me, Mario Odyssey is the quintessential Switch game. It ties together the Mario charm everyone knows, with brand new ideas such as the capture mechanic. Whilst it might not be as good a pure platformer as the Galaxy games, it’s without a doubt a contender for the best Mario game of all time and more than worth picking up as a Switch owner. I give it 998/999 Moons; it needs more playable Luigi.
WR: My turn, then. Despite having played it a tinyyyyy bit later than everyone else did, I can see why Super Mario Odyssey was received in such a positive way. As a fan of the 3D Mario games, they are unmatched in that sense of pure platforming feel and creativity, with new ideas around every turn that could literally have entire games based around them. The return to a more hub-world feel has advantages and disadvantages – the rewarding exploration of 64 and Sunshine is back, but at the same time the game does sacrifice some of the tightly crafted focus that Galaxy and 3D Land/World had. As well as this, there is a very fast pace to the main throughline of Odyssey, and whilst there is plenty of opportunity to go back and revel in that exploration later, I can’t shake that that I felt hurried in that 10-15 hour story. I’m going to be playing this game for a while yet, and y’know, it has Captain Toad, so it has to be a good game, right? My score is 900/999 Moons.
AH: Missing out on nearly 100 Moons? What does it need to do for you to earn those?
WR: Hey, that’s -just- over 90%. That rushed pace and the smaller spotlight on levels that feel more exactly crafted for the purpose of platforming are just less to my tastes than previous 3D Mario games. It’s still a great score, just not the 998/999 you gave. Bear in mind, I wouldn’t give Breath of the Wild too much more (I guess that would be out of Korok Seeds?).
AH: Fair enough, that’s a reasonable explanation.
WR: Y’know, I’m glad that settled pretty peacefully. We welcome differing opinions here, unless you don’t like Spyro or Captain Toad.
AH: Indeed. I’ve actually been watching a Spyro: Year of the Dragon speedrun whilst we’ve been doing this; bring on September for the remaster!
WR: Can’t wait! We may have to do one of these joint-reviews for that as well. Until next week!
AH: Until then!
Finally, then, we got to review Super Mario Odyssey. The joint-review is a fun format, and perhaps one we will use again in the future for certain releases.
For more Let’s Chat, you can see other articles here!