A fun, quirky introduction to simple RPGs that does a good job of smoothing some old-school rough edges with charm and nostalgia.
1996’s Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was a late-SNES era game that has now achieved cult-classic status. Square (of Final Fantasy fame) was the developer and it was Mario’s first foray into the RPG genre and the reason we later got the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series. I definitely enjoy the latter series. However, as I never owned an SNES/Super Famicom, the original was one I missed out on. Hence, as soon as I saw the remake’s first trailer, I was excited. As a Mario fan, I’m always happy to have something ‘new’ to play and the fact that this was a ‘basic’ RPG made it sound a lot more accessible (big grindy RPGs usually scare me off). However, it was the look of the game that really blew me away. Sure, it leans very heavily on the syrupy-cuteness scale – but I can’t get enough of the stubby pudgy look. It’s one of my favourite Mario designs ever. So, I eagerly jumped right in…
Straight off the bat, the delightful character designs and general feel of the writing and the world pulled me right in. When you compare the original to the Remake, you can definitely see that the original’s personality shines through – however, the bold colours and bright world go beyond a simple new coat of paint to make it feel very modern. It oozes adorableness. As some of the early trailers showed off, the new take not only allows you to play the traditional chip tunes, but you can also switch to brand new updated takes on the already great soundtrack. Awesome visuals accompanied by the option of alternating between audio styles compliment the ‘old vs new’ motif they’ve provided and it makes for a great package overall.
The writing is outstanding. It’s quirky and funny and I kept being surprised at how much Mario ‘lore’ came from Super Mario RPG!
On top of that, the writing is outstanding. It’s quirky and funny and I kept being surprised at how much Mario ‘lore’ (if there is such a thing) came from Super Mario RPG. The interactions with Mallow and Bowser were a highlight for me and as a huge Mario-nerd that alone would’ve been worth the price of admission. Plus, thanks to the updated bestiary – a book covering all the wacky enemies you encounter – there is something here for all the players who enjoyed the original but want even more detailed stats and facts on the weird and wonderful monsters that they take on.
On the gameplay side of things – this is a very lite RPG. Yes, there are some simple progression trees – but with only three options to spend XP points on (Physical, HP and Magic) there’s nothing overly complicated here. You can only start three characters in each battle but with only five in the total cast and a pretty easy way to swap in an alternate character (even within the battle), the set-up is straightforward and makes this an easy way to jump in for RPG newbies like me. The battle system is turn-based with a timing twist that you may be familiar with if you’ve played any of Paper Mario or Mario & Luigi games. By chaining well-timed attacks together you top up an Action Gauge. Once that is filled, you can unleash a special triple attack (which depends on which three characters you have in your lineup at the time). I liked this feature and found it particularly useful in later battles. After I finished playing, I found out this was an addition for the remake and, considering how much it helped me tackle the harder bosses – I suspect everyone will appreciate the update.
The new triple attack really helps you tackle the harder bosses.
Along with the traditional turn-based battles that make up the majority of the journey, occasional puzzle mini-games occur in many of the new areas. I found some of these quite challenging (hello musical frog puzzle!), however, given the simple battle mechanic, these provided a nice change of pace. Moving from area to area (and even some of these mini-games themselves) involves some basic platforming sections and unfortunately, this is where the update shows its age. The controls are tanky. While this is not a huge issue when running around, the mini-games require some more precision platforming so this can get a little frustrating.
However, you’re likely jumping into this game knowing it came out in the nineties and so, some ‘classic’ design issues are to be expected. To be fair, I was more concerned about the amount of grinding I was going to have to do to get through Super Mario RPG. I am happy to report though, that for the most part, this isn’t an issue. I’m sure this has something to do with the updates like the Action Gauge mentioned above. I made it through to the final level without much hassle and or over-thinking how to share XP. There is a little bit of a spike in difficulty in the main boss area, though, and I did find myself enjoying the last bit of the game a little less than the parts before – especially because there is a relatively short, but unskippable cutscene just before the ultimate showdown that I had to endure a few more times than I would’ve liked. However, after a few extra tries I got to the credits and the good news is that if that sounds like your worst nightmare – the Remake offers an easier story mode that makes levelling up pretty simple. There’s also a lot of post-game stuff to get through so it really is a nice option for anyone who is looking to 100% the game while avoiding any of the irritation.
The controls are still tanky and while this is not a huge issue when running around – the mini-games that require some more precision platforming do get a little frustrating.
All-in-all I enjoyed my time with Super Mario RPG. As someone who never played the original – I’m really glad the remake exists. The humour holds up, the care taken with the visuals and audio plus the quality of life updates definitely make it easier than I imagined jumping into a game first designed nearly three decades ago would be. That being said, this is still an older game and the simplistic movements and basic RPG elements will date it. In fact, I imagine affinity to the moustachioed plumber or nostalgia for the original game will influence how much you enjoy the remake. If you have a heavy dose of either (or both) this will likely be something special. However, if you don’t – the charm may eventually wear a little thin before you roll credits. Thankfully, my love for Mario and the new designs were more than enough to make this a fun experience and yet another great addition to the Switch’s fantastic swan song year!
REVIEW CODE PROVIDED BY: NINTENDO
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