Paige FTW: An Empty Kind Of ‘Odyssey’

I finally got my Nintendo Switch in the mail a few days ago and so immediately reached out a friend to borrow the universally acclaimed Super Mario Odyssey as my first game.

Some context is required before we continue. I … don’t usually play Mario games. I used to play the Super Mario Land Game Boy titles when I was young, but I haven’t played a 3D console title since Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube, which I also did not finish.

I’m not the target audience for this game, is what I’m saying.

I’d estimate I’m about one-third of the way through Odyssey (I’m currently wandering around the Lake Kingdom), and I’m impressed at what can only be described as its exemplary game design.

There’s no shortage of things to do or explore, and you can stumble upon new secrets at exactly the right pace and difficulty to keep your interest and Pavlovian sense of reward satisfied. The degree of polish is amazing; the controls feel good and solid. The menus are nice and easy to navigate (Nintendo learned its lesson from Breath of the Wild there). The easter eggs are plentiful.

So (you probably saw this coming) despite all this marvelously well-crafted gameplay, there’s still something about the game that completely fails to hold my interest. I can only play in hour-long spurts before I have to take a break and do something else — which is not my customary style.

It’s just, well, how is it 2018 and Mario still doesn’t have a story more complex than “rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, again”? Why don’t any of the side characters you meet in each world have anything to say outside one or two stock sentences?

Sure, it’s a Mario game; it doesn’t have to have a grand story because it’s all about the gameplay. It’s always been all about the gameplay.

But what if we strove for more? Why can’t we strive for more?

These are my thoughts as I collect my shiny moons and carry onward.