When thinking back on some of the best games on the SNES, a number of different RPGs that were groundbreaking at the time will likely make the list but one in particular will likely appear in most people’s thoughts for another reason, the sheer absurdity that it existed at all. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars saw Nintendo lending out their franchise to Square at a time when the mustachioed hero was exclusively a side-scrolling platformer. This unusual pairing led to one of the most fondly remembered RPGs on the SNES and one that fans were constantly hoping would reappear at some point.
Although this classic eventually inspired a wide range of Mario RPGs and eventually saw a release on a few eShops, fans were hoping that the ever-present remake bug would eventually nibble on this beloved title. Now that time has come over twenty seven years after the original release with ArtePiazza tapped to bring Super Mario RPG to modern audiences. Remade from the ground up and offering a few new elements, is this RPG still as beloved as fans remember?
Super Mario RPG begins like nearly every Mario story with Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach and Mario needing to rescue her. Unlike the usual story however, Mario just walks right in through the front door of Bowser’s castle, takes out a few minions, and beats Bowser within a few short minutes of the game starting. With Princess Peach seemingly rescued and Mario already celebrating, things seem fine until a massive sword plunges down from the heavens and impales itself in Bowser’s castle. Flung all the way back to his house from the impact, Mario returns to find that the sentient sword has destroyed the only bridge to the castle and Mario must find a new way to rescue Peach, at least so he thinks.
Along his journey Mario encounters some new friends in the form of a fluffy looking boy named Mallow that claims he is a tadpole and a magical puppet named Geno that informs Mario that the massive sword is part of the Smithy Gang and has torn apart the Star Road where all the dreams of the world are held intact and wishes are granted. With his journey now more important than ever, Mario learns he must find the seven pieces of the Star Road by defeating members of Smithy’s gang and he soon encounters Bowser, learning that the powerful reptile is ready to join forces if it means getting his castle back and even Peach enters the fray to prove that she is just as capable of a fighter as she is a princess.
Super Mario RPG gave fans a look at the Mushroom Kingdom like they never have before and the storyline remains the exact same here. While there aren’t any major twists or shocking reveals, the sheer level of whimsy and charm that permeates every element of Super Mario RPG’s storyline remains as strong as ever and it is easy to fall in love with the game once again. Every character players talk with will have something unique to say that will often change depending on story progress for that town and there is plenty of humor to be had even with some of the translation being altered to be a little less referential to pop culture.
Watching Mario and the gang pantomime events never grows old as well as their ridiculous interactions with the oddball characters they run across and this type of humor and charm helps the simple story remain entertaining throughout the fairly short runtime clocking in at under twelve hours. There are of course plenty of secrets to uncover as well, including a few unique interactions, unlockable items, and other secrets that were in the original release back in 1996 though those who want to truly experience everything Super Mario RPG has to offer can now find some new post-game boss fights and interactions.
With Super Mario RPG transitioning into an isometric world players will find themselves exploring dungeons and towns all while controlling everyone’s favorite plumber. Exploration is filled with various little secrets players can uncover, ranging from different paths with rewards at the end such as special Frog Coin currency or an extra Flower for FP. Players will also find a number of hidden chests that Mario can obtain by jumping in specific locations though a “signal ring” players obtain early can be equipped to alert them to the presence of such a hidden box. Exploring as Mario in dungeons still has a few puzzles here and there as well as some minor platforming here and there, which is a bit finicky given the camera angle, as well as a number of minigames. These range from things such as staying on a barrel going down a river, driving a minecart with awful feeling controls, and other smaller ones. Of course, players will also run into enemies while exploring and transition into a combat arena.
The combat in Super Mario RPG is turn-based with players being able to have three of their party fighting at once though any member of the party besides Mario can be swapped out on their turn even if they are sleeping or even knocked out. This means that a knocked out Geno can be swapped out with Peach who can immediately take her own turn. Along these same lines, should the player’s entire frontline be defeated their final two fighters will immediately swap them out making for some easier combat even should players find themselves up against a challenging foe. This easier combat is something of a trend throughout the game as a number of mechanics have been added to the classic formula to make this game far more approachable than it already was, though Flower Points (FP) that are used for any skills and spells are still shared between the entire party.
One element that always made Super Mario RPG’s combat entertaining was the timing system. Whenever players attack, be it a basic attack, a skill, or a spell, a properly timed press of the A button can deal out more damage and now, if timed exactly right, single target attacks can now deal splash damage to every enemy on the screen at the same time. Defensive timing is also a thing that has been given an upgrade as players can press the A button when targeted by most attacks to either lower the damage or negate it entirely, though a number of enemy spells are unblockable. This timing ranges widely depending on the skills used and even the type of weaponry a character is wielding, with Bowser’s timing different between throwing a chain-chomp or striking a foe with his claws, etc. To help players out, the game now displays an exclamation point when they should properly time their button presses which can make things a bit too easy, though should players build up a high enough “chain” of properly timed presses these exclamation points will disappear for a bit.
Chaining together the extra attack damage and defense presses provides not only additional buffs to the party but also helps build up a new gauge in this remake. This is the Triple Move gauge that can be activated on any character’s turn when at 100%. Depending on the party’s make-up the triple move will either deal out massive damage to a single enemy, large damage to an entire group of foes, or even provide buffs, make the team invincible for a round, or heal the entire party. These Triple Moves are quite powerful and can turn the tide of battle even when things might be looking grim. In fact, even if players don’t have three members alive at a time they can still call in their gauge for a Toad Assist that can provide healing, damage, or buffs as well. This, along with the aforementioned boost to timed button press mechanics make Super Mario RPG as approachable as ever, but that also can be a bit of a negative for those looking for any sort of challenge.
Rather than offer a harder difficulty mode, Nintendo has instead opted to include an Easy mode as well. This mode increases the amount of items players can carry and makes enemies easier to defeat, which is good for a “kid’s first RPG” but leaves longtime fans hoping for a little more challenge. Thankfully there are still some tougher fights throughout the game, including the randomly appearing special enemies. These enemies look the same as any other foe but are labeled as special. Not only are special foes much tougher and stronger than an average enemy but they also drop valuable Frog Coins when defeated making them worth taking down whenever players encounter them.
As for the boss encounters, many of them have unique little mechanics that make them fun to deal with. These range from disabling an entire set of combat actions, copying or removing party members, and more. These aren’t too challenging but they help change up the flow of fights. It is nice to note that the post-game content that is brand new to Super Mario RPG does make these boss fights far more challenging and changing up how players would usually approach a fight but a number aren’t too different from their original versions, especially in regards to the secret boss’s newest form. That being said, this level of extra content is welcome and there are some new interactions to be found in postgame as well as various challenges that remain true from the original release such as hitting a hundred consecutive jumps as Mario, finishing side-quests to obtain the best gear in the game, and other little secrets.
Audio & Visuals
ArtePiazza has wonderfully transitioned the unique designs and elements of the classic SNES title to modern day with a colorful and highly detailed shift to a more modern presentation. Characters are wonderfully detailed looking and still have expressive animations, especially when humorously reenacting scenes for others or watching Bowser tear up at his situation. The varied environments are better looking than ever with enemies also featuring a wide range of memorable looking designs, though a few still remain palette swapped near the end of the game. Combat animations are handled wonderfully with every party member having different animations depending on the weapon they are wielding while spells are as fun as players may remember. It is also worth noting that the game now features near seamless transitions between brand new CG cutscenes used throughout important story sequences, usually introducing a boss, as well as for every Triple Move that players use that varies depending on what three characters the player has in their party. That being said, the game does suffer a little bit of slowdown around water filled areas and one Triple Move in particular, Starry Shell Spike, causes some lag when used.
Similar to the original version, Super Mario RPG does not feature anything in the way of voice acting other than Bowser’s signature growling from time to time. Other than that the game’s soundtrack has been completely rearranged with a modern upgrade to every piece of music, making it sound better than ever. Of course, for those who want the original music, it is also offered as players can swap between the classic and rearranged soundtrack at any time in the menu and, upon beating the game, can replay every song through a jukebox style system.
Super Mario RPG was considered a classic back in 1996 and it still remains true today in this remake that faithfully takes everything that fans loved of the original and improves upon it. The balancing is a little off, as the many combat improvements and new elements made to make combat easier haven’t been balanced the best with actual challenges to face off against despite the brand new post-game content on offer. That being said, with a story that oozes with charm and humor, Super Mario RPG captures the nostalgic feel of the original release while retaining all of the elements fans loved for a new generation to experience.
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