|Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars|
|Platforms||Super Nintendo, Virtual Console|
|MtAMinutes to Action||1|
|Genre||Super RPG Bros.|
|Buy from Amazon|
Shortly before they began squabbling about cartridges versus compact discs, and long before Square-Enix came crawling back for a suck at the Nintendo DS teat, Nintendo and SquareSoft got around quite nicely. One of the results of this relationship was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, a Japanese style role-playing game set in the Super Mario Bros. universe. It's one of those games that no one would have ever thought to ask for, but was so successful, it spawned the Paper Mario series that landed on later Nintendo systems (with no help from Square) and the Mario and Luigi RPG series found on their handhelds.
The game itself was quite ambitious, even beyond the cooperation of two major developers. The cartridge had its own onboard CPU, not to be confused with the popular graphics Super FX chip, but simply a co-processor to the main CPU already in the Super Nintendo. The ability to include additional hardware on the actual game cartridge was one of the amazing design decisions that revealed the foresight the hardware team had and kept the console highly competitive through 1996 when Super Mario RPG was released.
Super Mario RPG ended up being one of the last, great Super Nintendo games, being released along with some of my other favorites including Harvest Moon and Kirby Super Star. It's the end of the classic era, in my opinion, but marks the beginning of some bold moves by Nintendo. Here's the first hour of Super Mario RPG for the Super Nintendo.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Super Mario RPG begins. First, my name: Greg. Princess Peach is sitting on a grassy knoll minding her own business when the sky darkens and Bowser sweeps in and kidnaps her! Well, that sure didn't take long. Mario quickly jumps after her.
01 - Mario has already arrived at Bowser's castle and I get control. I walk around a bit and work out the controls. The game is set from an isometric angle and it is a bit awkward to press at an angle to run where I need to. Whoops, I run into a koopa troopa. This brings me into my first battle. I hit the A button a few times to punch him(!) and he goes down in one shot.
02 - I try jumping on the troopas outside of battle but nothing seems to come of it. Actually, I did get two hits in a row, could be from that.
03 - The music is classic Mario castle music, but the gameplay is like classic Japanese turn-based role-playing, weird.
04 - More and more Mario fodder lines up to die. I walk over a lava pit and the bridge collapses behind me, spooky.
05 - I'm now in a room with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling, it's in the foreground and really stands out nicely. Oh, and the Princess is hanging from the ceiling! And there goes Mario jumping up there to confront Bowser!
06 - I try to perform a Jump attack on Bowser, but Mario just punches him...? Oh, you just have to keep pressing the Y button instead of switching back to the A button to confirm. Different.
07 - Princess yells to attack the chain instead of Bowser. I perform a Jump on the chain and do 52 damage! Bowser falls to the ground, but gets back at Mario and knocks his chandelier down too. Now they're falling in freefall together.
09 - Mario jumps back up to the Princess, but then the castle shakes and a giant sword comes crashing into the castle! The Super Mario RPG title screen appears. Some stars are scattered about as Mario is kicked out of the castle and flies across the overworld. He appears to have landed in his own house, crashing through a pipe.
10 - I'm checking out Mario's one room house now, you can jump on the bed! Holding Y also runs, duh, this is Mario.
11 - Mario is going to play the silent RPG hero, and Toad makes light of the "silent treatment" he's receiving. I jump on the Save block and save my game. Then I move to the world map and head towards Bowser's Keep from Mario's Pad.
13 - The sword is still there, and it talks! He announces himself as part of the Smithy Gang, and then kicks me out again.
14 - Mario reports back to Toad, and because he can't talk, mimes out what happened. It's pretty funny. Toad somehow understands him. He then informs me we need to tell the Chancellor.
15 - We run off, but it is quickly time for a tutorial! This first one is about timed hits (I skipped the items one, seemed obvious). If you hit the A button a second time right before you punch the enemy, you'll sneak a second hit in! Nice, it also works for defending yourself! And it performs the same trick on special attacks like Jump.
18 - Back on the overworld now, I direct Mario to Mushroom Way... and the first Goombas go down as easy as they do in Super Mario Bros. I receive 2 exp and 0 coins. After defeating another Goomba, a little flower pops out and refills my HP to the max, now that's convenient.
20 - Take down a Sky Troopa, who manages to do 4 damage in one hit, when I only have 20 hit points that's a lot! Oh man, I'm only down to one hit point, but I would have been dead if I hadn't strategically used Jump instead of a regular punch.
22 - Toad was getting beat up by some Goombas so I rescue him, he gives me some Honey Syrup as a reward. What's that do? Wow, this next screen is pretty chaotic with guys running out from all sides, good thing they can't gang up on you.
24 - Mario has reached Level 2! I can decide how I want to upgrade him, either more power, more hit points, or more star...? Whatever that does, I think I'll go with hit points though. Oh, the game previews what the upgrade will be, the star is magic related, increase magic attack and defense. The power also increases defense, and the hit points increases my HP by 3, all the way to 28 after the regular level bonus, that'll leave me set for a while I think!
25 - Level up also totally heals you, I love games that do that. And I can also take out Sky Troopas in one hit!
26 - There are these flowers on the ground that when you jump on them, they rotate you around and will launch you further when you press the jump button. I blast over to a Sky Troopa carrying Toad around, poor guy. He gives me a Flower Tab, kind of like a Magic Tab from Chrono Trigger, it raises my flower points by one. Flower points must be used for magic.
28 - Hah, instead of jumping at me to attack, one of the Goombas spit at me or shot a spike at me, I like the varied attack options.
30 - In the third screen, there's a Lakitu flying around dropping Spikeys. Probably can't jump on these guys. That's all right though, punches work just fine. The music playing now has almost a Caribbean beat to it.
32 - I'm tearing through these bad guys, but they always manage to get at least one hit, slowly dragging down my health.
33 - Oh man, a giant Hammer Bros. has got Toad, and I need to refill my health! Okay, I'm good, now for my first real boss battle! Woah, there's two! I guess they really are the Hammer Brothers. I'm going to Jump on these fools, the first one goes down in two hits, and they barely do any damage if I block.
35 - From that "boss" battle, I pick up 6 exp and 20 coins, along with a flower jar. Probably the best part though is that the Bros. left a hammer! Time to equip my new weapon: it ups my attack by 10 points!
36 - Mario arrives at the Mushroom Kingdom, it's a town full of Toads. Wow, these toadstools sure are boring.
39 - I arrive at the shop and buy a shirt and some Jump Shoes, which allow me to jump on any enemy! I'm all out of money though. Wow, I could sell that Flower Jar for 300 coins, though it does raise my FP by 3...
41 - Some Toad kid playing Game Boy tells Mario to shut up. How dare he!
42 - I head into the castle and meet up with Toad again, he escorts me to the Chancellor. Mario starts doing his miming again and is able to turn into Bowser and the Princess to illustrate what happened! This guy is crazy. He's freaking everyone out.
44 - Well, I guess the Chancellor figured it all out and told me to go save the day... again. He gives me a world map, thanks dude. He also lets me into the castle vault, which only has 10 coins, a flower, and a mushroom. Tough times in the Mushroom Kingdom.
46 - We head out of the castle and immediately there's some commotion. Some kind of purple alligator is getting chased by a marshmallow. A fat marshmallow that can't jump. The reptile stole his money though. He starts crying and it begins raining out! Wow, this kid can control the weather.
48 - The marshmallow introduces himself as... yes, Mallow the frog. Doesn't look like a frog to me. I tell him I'll help him catch his thief.
49 - So Mario and Mallow are a team now, time to head to the shop with my new loot and see if I can buy this kid some armor.
51 - I purchase some Pants for him (he wasn't wearing any before?) and we're off on our adventure. This game has some great dialogue, the toads do not pull any punches while talking with Mario.
52 - Mallow and I head to Bandit's Way. There's the croc! Doesn't Mario have a coin he could lend Mallow? Man, Mario's hammer is brutal in battle! And Mallow just extends his hands out like Dhaslim from Street Fighter II to punch the Goombas.
55 - Mario has reached Level 3 and learned Fire Orb! I am probably also like a magnitude stronger than before. This time I upgrade my attack and defense.
57 - On the next screen we encounter the croc again, but of course, he runs off leaving us in his dust. Have a feeling I won't be catching this guy in the next three minutes. Couple of new enemies including some K-9's which I believe are from Super Mario World.
59 - I kill one of the K-9's and get a Once Again flower, which immediately allows me to hammer them again. I wonder what the odds are on that?
60 - Mallow reaches Level 3 also and learns HP Rain. I simply increase his hit points to 28. And that's the end of the first hour of Super Mario RPG.
Minutes to Action: 1
What was awesome: The interactive battles make a potentially boring battle system quite fun! Besides being able to critical hit at will or defend more effectively, however, things seem pretty basic. I also liked the Mario feel running around the field has. It certainly doesn't feel like an RPG while you're launching yourself off flowers and dodging goombas and troopas.
Can't go much further without mentioning the game's graphics: they're honestly amazing for a 16-bit platform. The world is modeled very well and while everything seems to float in a blue, empty space, it all looks quite impressive. Probably most surprising is the quality of animations the game features, and I'm not even talking about in-battle here, Mario's miming techniques are very expressive. This is a great game to play and look at.
The Super Mario RPG's music is also excellent, there's a great mix of classic Mario tunes and some new tracks that fit the game perfectly. The composer was Yoko Shimomura, a woman with Square at the time who has since worked on Parasite Eve, Kingdom Hearts, and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the latest game from the Super Mario RPG lineage.
What I liked: The games moves pretty quickly for an RPG, running around on the field feels pretty natural once you're used to the isometric view, and while the switch to the battle screen doesn't feel as natural, there are at least no random battles.
I enjoyed all the early cameos and throwbacks to the Mario platformers. The Princess is captured again, but it's all done tongue-in-cheek and the battle with Bowser is more done for laughs than anything else. It sets up the tone of the game quite well though, while developing a brand new bad guy, even if he did just fall from the sky.
What I didn't like: It seems so unnatural to be able to run around the main field and not actually interact with the enemies besides just kicking off a battle. If I jumped on a Goomba's head, shouldn't it instantly kill them? Or at least give me the distinct upper hand. I believe they added this to the Paper Mario series, so maybe I'm just expecting too much from the original game.
Also, what's up with Mallow? I'm a bit confused if this game takes place in the Mario universe or some kind of alternate universe where the Mushroom Kingdom sits next to a marshmallow factory. Where's Luigi? I'd prefer him on my team instead of this cry-baby fluff ball.
Last complaint: the turn based battles are slow and stuttering. There's no flow to the battles and most of them are over in just a few hits, they just seem like a waste of time.
Gameplay: Turn-based battles can be entertaining, but seem kind of worthless when the enemies are so weak and Mario is so strong. I did enjoy running around on the fields though and discovering all the stuff that the developers hid around them.
Fun Factor: Much like Final Fantasy VIII, you can pull off a critical hit with a well timed hit of the A button. This makes things a bit more exciting, but the real enjoyment comes from Super Mario RPG's humor. All the Toads have a good time poking fun at Mario and there's a few funny references and jokes scattered about to keep everything light. Yes, the Princess was captured, but no one seems like they're in much of a rush to rescue her!
Graphics and Sound: Coming at the end of the Super Nintendo lifespan, Super Mario RPG is an impressive game as far as presentation goes. It has its own style too, Square didn't rip off their Chrono Trigger engine but instead developed something that was both unique and distinctively Super Mario.
Story: You know, I really like how Bowser is a bad guy for about 10 minutes and then a giant wrench is thrown into it all and he doesn't even seem relevant anymore! It's really hard to tell where the game is going to go, especially with Mallow being quickly introduced as a main character.
Would I keep playing? While I've beaten the game before, this first hour playthrough has got me yearning for another go! Definitely play this classic gem if you've never had the opportunity, especially if you're a fan of the Paper Mario series or Bowser's Inside Story.