Back in the 1990s, there was a collaboration that nobody saw coming. Nintendo and Squaresoft teamed up to bring the Italian plumber who could into a new genre. Bear in mind that, despite a few high-profile releases, Squaresoft wasn’t quite the behemoth that the Square Enix of today is. 2023 sees both Nintendo and Square Enix listening to the deafening cries of “Remake” and “Geno for Smash” with the recent release of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for Nintendo Switch.
Mushroom Kingdom Mayhem
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars sees the titular plumber once again rescuing Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser and his legion of Koopa Troopers. Mario saves the day and all is well, that is until a giant sword crashes through the roof of Bowser’s Keep and sends Mario, Bowser, and Peach across the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond. Upon waking up it seems a new bad guy called Smithy is running the show, and Mario once again puts his cap on and sets off to save the day.
Despite having Square Enix (Soft at the time) behind the helm, the story isn’t quite as nuanced as you would expect from the house that built Final Fantasy. Instead, it is like a collection of smaller stories, held together by the larger narrative that Mario and company want to stop this new threat.
The bulk of the writing is spent on the characters and it is as you would expect, Mario is silent and Bowser is goofy and delusional, but it’s the newcomer Mallow who you meet quite early on that is interesting. Mallow has all the charm and depth of a JRPG party member with a satisfying plot line and actual character development. The boss enemies all have distinct personalities, though they tend to lean on the more comical side of things, the only real letdown when it comes to these is the actual main villain of the story just feels painfully phoned in and frankly unmemorable. Fortunately, the supporting cast of NPCs and bad guys more than make up for it.
In terms of extras in this particular version of the game, there are a few cutscenes introducing bosses, but there isn’t anything in terms of extra areas or story outside of the post-game content which I’ll tackle a little later on. If you’re familiar with the SNES version of the game you will know exactly what to expect with this title, word for word.
Get Your Walking Boots On Mazza
Straight out the gate, you know exactly what type of game this is from the title Super Mario RPG. Rather than a traditional platformer or educational game like Mario is Missing, this is a traditional JRPG. It comes with turn-based battles, dungeons to explore, and NPCs to converse with, and is lovingly held together with Mario based tape and stuffed with raw Nintendo charm.
First off, exploration is done on an isometric plane. You have all the abilities of Mario in terms of running and jumping, and there are many sections where you’ll have to platform or just show off Mario’s jumping skills to prove who he is. You can speak to NPCs who will offer hints on where to go, buy and sell items and equipment, and find many hidden treasure boxes that you open in the traditional head-bashing Mario way.
Dungeons are pretty linear affairs. The game is pretty tight in terms of exploration, there are the odd few areas where you can stray slightly off of the beaten path, but for the most part you’ll find yourself almost funneled to the next section of the adventure until the credits roll. Around the halfway mark of the game, you’ll start coming up against puzzles in the dungeons which does diversify them a little, but there is an especially egregious section towards the end of the game where it feels the developers ran out of steam as they throw several “challenges” at you which just feel like recycled filler content to pad that dungeon out.
Put Up Your Dukes
The battle system, as mentioned earlier, is a traditional turn-based affair which means that the character with the highest “speed” stat goes first. This isn’t an issue as it was extremely rare that my party went second in any battle. Attacks can be enhanced by pressing A when an ‘!’ appears above your character’s head and this adds extra damage to the target, and a small amount of damage to other enemies on the field, adding that little bit more interactivity. This also can be done when you are taking damage to either negate or lessen the effect or damage.
The combat in Super Mario RPG stands out with the fact that it rarely drags on. It’s engaging because of the need for timed inputs and it is insanely random. Sometimes when you use an item you’ll gain a “freebie” which replenishes the item you just used, sometimes you’ll get to take your go again, and when you defeat enemies you can sometimes receive buffs. At the end of some battles you can even wager your EXP or Coins gain in a “watch the Yoshi egg” mini-game where you can double or nothing your gains.
Magic is replaced in this game by skills, and rather than having HP and MP bars to worry about, the MP is shared between your party in the form of Flower Points to keep to the Mario theme. The Skills have little mini-games such as timing-based button presses or rapidly filling a bar, which is much more engaging than just selecting an option and watching it happen.
New to the combat in this Nintendo Switch remake is the trio attack. There is a gauge in the bottom corner and successful attack or defense inputs fill this gauge, as well as offering small buffs the higher the “combo” you build. When you fill the Gauge to 100%, if you have less than 3 members in your party you can summon Toad or Yoshi to give you a mystery item, but when you have 3 members you can activate a super attack or buff, signified with a cutscene. These moves are fantastic and almost trivialized some fights while making the optional bosses a little more manageable.
Other new additions are the inclusion of a slew of post-game bosses alongside the Final Fantasy inspired Culex, and an Easy Mode for younger gamers or people who struggle with JRPG gameplay. The game isn’t the hardest JRPG you’ll play, I never once saw the Game Over screen and it has a run time of around 13/14 hours before the Post Game and then that will only add an hour or two.
Looking Good Mario!
The strongest aspect of any good Mario game, I find, is the visual presentation. Much like his peer Sonic The Hedgehog, you can identify characters and locations from the Mario world with ease, dare I say that it has an “iconic” look to it. Square Enix and Nintendo understood this assignment and there isn’t a section of the game or a character, that isn’t called Culex, that doesn’t look like it was directly dragged from any traditional Mario title.
The graphics have been modernized from the “clay sprite” look that the original had going for it. Everything now has a clean 3D model and looks fantastic. Mario himself looks a little stumpy initially but when the game is in motion you’ll soon forget it as you’re chasing Croc through the fields or racing Yoshi whilst trying to track down the Seven Stars to stop the tyrannical Smithy.
The game now has full cutscenes and they look amazing, easily on par with the Super Mario movie by Illumination, and show just what mastery Square Enix has when it comes to making cutscenes. Mallow has never looked more animated, Gino still holds an air of badassery and mystery, and of course Bowser still manages to toe a line between monster and puppy dog.
The game lacks voice acting aside from the one-liners and sounds you would hear from the main Mario games. The music is a fun collection of original tracks and classic Mario tracks, and there is even a Final Fantasy song in there to bring out the best of a boss battle. The music all feels authentic to the product and has been beautifully remastered/rerecorded for this release. It easily stands tall next to other JRPG soundtracks as well as Mario soundtracks.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars has always had a strong following and this remake will only do wonders in introducing this game to a whole new slew of fans. The game features enough quality-of-life changes and feels much faster than the SNES version, making it an absolute joy to play. The pacing of the game is lightning fast and this will keep gamers glued to their Nintendo Switch, and they won’t feel short changed with the smaller-than-usual run time for the genre.
Yes, the game is a condensed easy ride, but it’s fun from start to finish and manages to capture the fun of a Final Fantasy game whilst also perfectly representing the world of Super Mario. It’s an almost ideal “first” RPG for any budding gamer and a perfect palette cleaner for others.
SUPER MARIO RPG: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN STARS IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thanks to Nintendo for providing a Nintendo Switch review code for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
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