Retro Review: Super Mario RPG

And now for something… completely different?

Super Mario RPG is widely regarded as one of the greatest crossover games of all time. AN unlikely pairing of Square Soft and Nintendo brings this classic game to life in Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars. A perfect mix of Square’s influence in Mario’s world makes for a surprisingly fun RPG that still holds up after all these years. The only question being how well does it hold up? Does it deserve all the praise it gets? Has it not aged as well as people may seem to think? Does Geno really be in Smash? All of these questions and more will be answered. Now, without further adieu, let’s get into the review.

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Super Mario RPG was released in America in May 1996 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES.) It is a lovechild of two historic companies in the gaming industry. The first was Nintendo, they offered up Mario and his world to the table. Bringing a rich cast of characters, settings, and many pre-established tropes. On the other side was Square Soft. who would later go on to become half of the gaming company Square Enix. Square was known primarily for their final fantasy series and bringing the J-RPG style of gameplay to western audiences. Square developed and actually made the game. They brought their gameplay, battle, all of the RPG elements, even a completely fresh story that would influence a whole new set of games in Nintendo’s catalog.

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The game plays like a child’s introduction to the final fantasy series. Offering up elements from both paragons of gaming to balance each other out. Not any time did it feel like Nintendo had a lot more influence or Square took over the game, the two styles blended perfectly together to give a new life and charisma to a lot of these characters that had been very well established even at that point. Square’s story explores different aspects of the characters that we normally don’t see because of the lack of a story in most Mario games.

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The story is so much fun and it is really interesting seeing all of Mario’s main cast together interacting in a whole new way. Peach is only a damsel in distress for about half the game and then she quickly becomes your best healer, offering special moves that save your team time and time again. Mario is a our lovable, silent, hero. He doesn’t offer us anything from a line sense, but his physicality more than makes up for the lack of speaking. His ability to act out everything and momentarily transform into the different characters in the game is hilarious. Often times the characters will get involved and add on to the scene, adding more characters means more people get involved in the bit! Bowser, however steals the show when it comes to story characters. He is the lovable loser that is too proud. This game does more to humanize Bowser and make him a genuinely likeable character more than almost any other game in any Mario series. This laid the groundwork for all of the Mario RPGs to come that made sure Bowser just couldn’t ever get it right. But, lets not forget two of the most important characters in the game, Mallow and Geno. Mallow is an orphan found by Frogfucious and raised by him until the events of the game. Geno is a star warrior, a toy brought to life by basically an agent from star road. These characters are Square’s creation and bring a whole new life to the game that would have gotten stale very quickly with just Nintendo characters.

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The writing and wit in this game are close to none, I found myself regularly laughing at all the things that were said over the course of the game. It wasn’t just the main characters that had life, it was the entire world, talking to people was enjoyable because they always had something different to say, often commenting about Mario’s jumping ability or on some other aspect of what is going on in their immediate surroundings. It is so fun talking to the towns people because they idolize Mario, he’s a superhero to them, and watching how they approach Mario is  always so funny.

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The music in this game is like no other. This is by far some of the best music composed for a video game to date, it perfectly sets the mood, making you anxious at all the right times, and some of the tracks in particular just stand out, Bandit’s way is loud, bombastic, and easy to listen to over and over again. Tadpole Pond oozes the feel of the islands with the steel drum in the foreground. Mostly, though, is the forrest maze, this song is just perfection, and it can get stuck in your head for days.

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The gameplay is nothing less than you would expect from a Square game. It is tight, the mechanics can control a little weird and some things are poorly explained, but overall the battle system feels great. My main gripe with battles however, was the shared pool of flower points. Often times with such large flower costs i felt discouraged from using my attack specials, electing to focus on regular attacks and saving mana for healing primarily. The fighting did get stale after a while because of this. If there could have been independent Flower points for characters, even scaling the number or decreasing it altogether would have put this system over the top. There were a lot of cool moves but i didn’t get to see very many because I was saving my flowers for health, which is extremely unfortunate.

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The bosses are the highlight of any battles though. The boss music sets just the right tone to make you on your feet. And, the different gimmicks that come from the different bosses, like different 1v1 situations, or turning off a button altogether, every boss brought something different to the table to switch up how you had to think about the game. Not just main bosses either, mini-bosses too, these brought different things to the game that really made things still feel fresh until the end.

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This is such a fantastic game but it did have its faults, first was the usage of the special items tab in the menu, in my playthrough I only got one thing, and i know that i missed a few things on the way. However, there were plenty of things that could and should have gone into the special items bag that didn’t. Notes for a level dissapeared when they could have easily been made accessible through the tab, along with the items for mario’s ultimate weapon. The game also couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a hardcore RPG or a kids game many times, so there were some really weird difficulty spikes, such as the six door challenge, some of the boss fights, and mechanics that were only explained once. These caught me the most off guard and left the worst taste in my mouth because much of the game is skewed to kids and things like those happen seemingly randomly.

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Overall though this game is absolutely incredible. This is a game that carries its own legend more than 20 years after release. That is with good reason too, the environments, characters, story, everything is so extremely well done. A modern equivelent of how successful of a crossover this is would be Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Taking what was once thoguht impossible to do and bringing new life to a plumber that has done everything already. In this age of nostalgia this is one game that could be due to be revived. I hope so, while a remaster or a true sequel would be nice. This could be an even better movie than it is a game, the pace, structure, and humor in this game all flow perfectly, and seeing it all flow together in its own way on screen could elevate this classic game to new heights. Even if it doesn’t get revived, it is still a good enough game that if you haven’t checked it out by now you definetly should. And, Geno should 10000000% be in Smash, and with that precious 66th character out there, and the inclusion of Ridley, it may very well be time to see Geno in smash

Score: 9/10

Amazing

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