As fans of RPGs and Mario since the beginning, we were really looking forward to this new version of the Super Mario RPG. Because the original holds a special place in our hearts and now Nintendo has brought it back in all its glory and nostalgia for Switch.
In recent years, we’ve often started our reviews with a history lesson. We’ll try to keep it short this time. In 1996, the first RPG starring world-famous high jumper Mario was released on the Super Nintendo. The game was fully called Super Mario RPG: Legend of The Seven Stars and was developed by SquareSoft at the time. Now Square Enix.
The collaboration between Nintendo and SquareSoft has had many successes. The RPG makers released the first six Final Fantasy games exclusively on Nintendo consoles, as well as many other great games like Secret of Mana, Live-a-Live, and Chrono Trigger. So there was a lot of excitement to discover what would happen if Squaresoft were given the creative freedom to create an RPG set entirely in the world of Mario and company.
The first Mario RPG was received with triumph and can stand proudly next to the RPG classics mentioned above.
Seven Christ…eh stars
Let’s start with the story, which is very simple, but still dares to deviate from the well-known Mario story. Although Princess Peach is still kidnapped, she is quickly rescued during the introduction. There’s an even greater danger lurking around the corner in the form of the Smithy Gang, a group of zombies who want to take over the world.
Long story short: Smithy and his buddies have partially destroyed the Star Road, and it’s up to Mario and his buddies to recover seven Star Pieces. You can hear it already: the plot doesn’t really get complicated, but the genius of this game is in the subplots. In every city and kingdom you visit, you’ll get lots of additional stories. Together they provide a light-hearted adventure lasting around twenty hours of gameplay.
Very funny, light-hearted, clownish
This is also the game that first brought outright humor to the Mario series. This semi-remastered/remastered version remains very true to the original and includes dialogue that still regularly makes us laugh today. For example, after a while, Bowser becomes a member of your group of heroes, but the King of Koopas acts as if the opposite has just happened: that’s Mario and his buddies. They have just become his followers.
Super Mario RPG is full of memorable characters who not only drive the plot forward, but are often genuinely funny. We think of the half-wild supporter who wants to marry Peach. Or the pirate Jonathan Jones dressed as a shark. The entire game is drenched in a fun and clever atmosphere, which is exactly what we need this winter.
The fight is nice
Obviously the most noticeable upgrade between this version and the original is the graphical flare. Nintendo could have simply released the game in its original state on the Switch’s SNES service, but chose to treat it as a true remake. As a result, Super Mario RPG closely matches what you’d expect a Mario game to look like today.
This remake looks much better than the 1996 game. We think it’s a good choice to keep the 2D graphics, rather than opting for a remake complete with 3D levels. The existing puzzles, mini-games, and level designs are reproduced almost faithfully.
The visual upgrade is more noticeable during combat. Super Mario RPG doesn’t have random battles, because you always see enemies wandering around the different levels. Once the battle starts, a separate screen opens and everything is played out via the well-known turn-based system.
Unique combat element (already in 1996): You can boost each attack and defense by pressing the A button at the right time. In addition, you can enhance some special attacks by performing additional moves on your controller. This system proved so popular that every Mario RPG has continued to use it since.
From Paper Mario to Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga, they all owe a debt to the original. This is also reflected in modern indie RPGs like Sea of Stars, which is an ode to 90s gaming. Also impressive is the fact that Nintendo has added cinematic cut scenes to this remake which are definitely worth it in combat. Once you have three characters in your party, you can launch a triple attack that is always accompanied by such a unique cinematic. All this ensures that you will never get bored during the countless battles and boss battles.
An enchanting adventure
Besides battles, the RPG largely consists of visiting locations, talking to NPCs, and solving (light) puzzles. Collectible secrets are hidden in each new environment, such as frog coins or invisible chests. You also regularly end up in a mini-game, such as creating music by jumping on tadpoles, or skillfully maneuvering the swirling River Midas.
The result is an RPG that feels incredibly fun and relaxing. All this is accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack and countless sound effects that make us feel nostalgic. There are no complicated stats here that you have to minimum, no intense story full of intrigue or combat that feels too punishing. You could even say that Super Mario RPG is a very easy game by modern standards. There is something to be said for that.
Combat in particular feels much easier thanks to a short visual cue that tells you when to press the button to get that aforementioned attack or defense boost. We never had any issues with combat during the game, not even in boss fights. However, we hasten to say that this is not a problem.
There should be RPGs that you can enjoy as a newbie to the genre, and in that regard we highly recommend Super Mario RPG. Additionally, this new edition gives a nice look at the evolution of RPGs as a genre. As far as we’re concerned, there’s no doubt that Paper Mario 2 is a deeper, more fascinating RPG than its predecessor. We also ask ourselves some questions about the prices (about 60 euros). But as a piece of history revisited in this way, we want to continue to cherish Super Mario RPG.