Another Feature Super Mario Odyssey Should Have Dropped
Next month the highly anticipated Super Mario Odyssey will come to the Nintendo Switch. Super Mario games have always found new and exciting ways to lift the platformer genre to new heights; Nintendo constantly elevates the genre with innovative features such as jumping on enemies, 3D platforming, or even popularizing power-ups. But this time, in case you haven’t heard, they will be taking out an old feature, the game over screen.
That's because that screen has become obsolete. Like wisdom teeth or the appendix, the game-over screen is a relic, something that used to serve a purpose but is now unnecessary. Unfortunately, there is one other feature that Odyssey seems to be keeping that should also be laid to rest.
Since Super Mario 64 was released on the N64, Mario games have forced you to collect a certain amount of items in order to progress further in the game. In Super Mario 64 it was stars that you collected to open up new levels, while in Odyssey it looks like moons will be the main collectible you'll need to advance.
In September's Nintendo Direct a new video showed that Mario travels the world in a air ship in the shape of a top hat, and that top hat is powered by collectible moons. That means for this game it will be a requirement to replay levels over and over again just trying to find hidden moons to power your hot air balloon, or get stuck trying.
Now, in all fairness, this isn’t a completely pointless feature. It's there to serve the progression of the game, while also adding extra content and increasing replayability. The problem is it’s a poor, lazy way to add that content. Rather than pack in more levels to pad the playtime, Mario games force you to constantly replay the same levels over and over again, finding stars (or moons) by running through each level in a slightly different way each time.
Odyssey could have been the game to buck this tired, played out trend. Nintendo is even aware that their level progression in games is a problem. They addressed the issue earlier this year with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Fans had been clamoring for years for Nintendo to give people more freedom in Zelda games. The slow play style of entering a dungeon, finding an item, then using that item to open the next area in the game finally become a problem for fans.
Unfortunately, fans of Breath of the Wild don’t seem to be complaining about what amounts to basically the same problem in the Mario games. Generally, you reach a spot in the game where you don’t have enough stars to advance, then you have to go back and replay a level that was either too hard or not fun enough to replay, to begin with. If it’s the former you end up playing, dying, and replaying, ad nauseam, until you either get the star by sheer dumb luck or give up in a fit of rage.
It’s time for Nintendo to stop subjecting us to this antiquated play style. While I’m not suggesting that Nintendo makes the next Mario game an open world platformer I do think it’s time to return to the format they used before Super Mario 64 changed the rules. When you beat a level you beat that level and move on.
They wouldn’t even have to stop adding all of the extra missions and hidden areas in the game, they just wouldn’t be necessary to progress through the game. A system like that would still pad the game's playtime without infuriating its fans. Let people replay levels because they're enticed by the possibility of discovering new secrets, excited for finding new paths, and enthralled with the level design. Not because the game forces them to retread old paths to open new ones.
Right now it looks like this gameplay mechanic is here to stay; Odyssey won't be making that change for now. But there is still always hope for the future. If there is one thing Nintendo is good at it's changing up a formula that isn't working; and collecting for collecting's sake is one formula that is in drastic need of a change.