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You know what you get when you play a Super Mario game: lots of jumping, platforming frustration, questionable powerups (adults, you get this one), and one hell of a game overall. Back in ’96 all of us Nintendo fans were already used to the routine, but alas, a new experience was on the horizon. We were about to see a change. A wonderful, glorious new Mario game, by the makers of Final Fantasy. Sound good? Well guess what… the game was better. Now, more than fifteen years later, I’m going back to another classic RPG from the SNES. Today, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars gets a ReExamination!
The First Boss, ten minutes in
The game starts out in typical Mario style: our hero is having a normal day, Bowser kidnaps Princess Toadstool (remember, its the 90’s), Mario goes to save her, SSDD. The cutscenes look pretty, but how could they keep this up? Easily it seems. Using environments and sprites in a 3D perspective, Mario had never looked better, and quite frankly the graphic style looks better than some of the current 3DS games. And jumping on enemies didn’t finish an enemy, no no, it started a battle with one. Using timed button presses, magic (like the signature Jump attack), items and punches, Mario easily dispatched the Koopa Troopas with minimal effort and frankly, horribly timed button presses. After a short battle with Bowser in which destroying his chandelier was they key to victory (creative for RPGs at the time), Mario rescues the Princess! Wow, ten minutes in and I already rescued the Princess? Why did I pay for this?
Only the Beginning
Gotta go the long way around
Oh, but it’s just beginning. The entire castle begins to shake, a giant sword strikes at the heart of the castle, sending seven stars across the landscape (yes, THAT’s why they call it that). Mario is thrown from the castle back to his Pad, where he begins his journey to rescue Toadstool. This is just the beginning of the adventure. The giant sword brought an army who call themselves the Smithy Gang, with the goal of taking over the world! Yeah it’s cliche, but dammit, it was ambitious for 1996!
The game mostly consists of finding one of the Seven Stars to repair the Star Road, and eventually taking on the invading Smithy Gang, enjoying humor, simple but fun RPG elements and a lot of hidden secrets to explore for. You travel in a party including two Squaresoft originals, Toadstool and, believe it or not, Bowser (though he convinces himself Mario has joined HIM on a quest to retake his castle *nostalgia giggle*).
See the World
Oh, the places you’ll go…
The Mushroom Kingdom is one of many different locations such as Marrymore the Wedding Capital, Moleville with a replayable mine cart mini game, and Rose Town, beset by an endless rain of paralysis arrows. It even takes you to Star Hill the land of wishes, unfulfilled due to Smithy’s incursion, including “I wanna be a great plumber like my brother Mario.” Looks like that one NEVER came true… The whole game is filled with these kind of easter eggs. Link and Samus Aran can be found sleeping at different Inns, some enemies appear to be relatives of Donkey Kong, and a short segment where you take on an 8-Bit appearance straight from the original NES classic, complete with the traditional Mario theme.
And speaking of themes, the Mario theme is pretty much nowhere to be heard. Normally I’d be whining about not including such great and necessary musical homages, but you know what? I don’t miss it. Seriously, I don’t. Squaresoft was always known for its great soundtracks and the music here shines. It captures the feel of Mario games without actually being Mario music Some themes are similar, like the underground music, but it’s more like variations on the themes.
One of the best elements of this game is Geno, one of the original characters. A spirit from the Star Road inhabiting a small doll, Geno serves as equal parts exposition and badass, with the best attack animations (rocket arm, star gun, etc.), a vested interest in stopping Smithy and not having to rely on almost ten years of games to make him interesting. A masterpiece of Square’s character design.
Did we mention the Final Fantasy inspired boss, Culex?
Concept: Make Nintendo’s flagship platformer into an RPG with the company that set the standard with Final Fantasy.
Story: A wonderful cliche from the time, Mario seeks to rebuild the Star Road by rebuking the evil Smithy Gang!
Gameplay: Traditional RPG mechanics with timed button presses for added bonuses. Overworld exploration has 3D platformer elements mixed in, a wonderful way to update the classic formula.
Graphics: Great graphics for ’96. Even today the game holds up well, even compared to some mobile games.
Sound: A great original soundtrack without the inclusion of the main theme. Carries the feel of a Mario game despite that.
Fun Factor: Super Mario World is the standard for SNES platformers. Super Mario RPG takes that fun to the RPG genre.
Replay: It’s an RPG, so it’s limited to how much you enjoyed/payed attention, but finding all the secret items, secret treasure boxes, beating mini game times, optional fights and easter eggs can bring you back and increase playtime.
Moment of Truth
Just the first phase of the final battle
What more is there to say? It’s a Squaresoft RPG, a Mario game, and succeeded in combining the two seemlessly, which is a rarity today, let alone in the nineties. Nintendo and Square’s relationship had many wonderful advantages, but except for Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan), this was the most wonderful product of it all. If you have an SNES, find a copy on eBay. If you have a Wii, pick it up on Virtual Console. If you have neither, get one so you can play this wonderful game.
Super Mario RPG was Rated KA (Kids to Adults) back on the SNES, and E for Everyone for the Wii Virtual Console release. No content descriptors were available at the ESRB website at the time of writing.
Any favorite memories from this wonderful game? Drop a comment below and tell us about it!