Super Mario RPG - Review



Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 9
   Plot 7
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

25-40 hours

Seven ate nine. Har. Har. Har.

No, this is not what you think. Get your head out the gutter.

   Squartendo. Think about it. Ok ok, don't think too long about it. It hurts the eyes. But the concept was like butter on rolls back in the day. No Sony contracts. It was all about Square and Nintendo sittin in a tree. But what happens when Square develops an RPG with a Nintendo baseline? What if Mario summoned Bahamut against Bowser (don't wet your pants, it doesn't happen)? What happens when Princess Toadstool starts whacking ShyGuys with her umbrella in turn-based combat? Super Mario RPG answers those questions, and durnit, it's a fun little cartrige.

   What could be so fun about the too-cutesy Mario theme embedded into an RPG? Well, try fighting a battle. The battle, started by running into your enemy a la Chrono Trigger (rather than random), is your standard turn-based fare at the very core. However, these are the battles on which many an RPGamer trained their R-button-GUNBLADE!! skills way back when. You see, you don't just select Attack and sit there. You have to actually hit A at the right time to get the full potential out of your attack. This is also applied to defense -- when an enemy leaps over and starts to strike, given that you time the A button press correctly you will suffer only half damage. Active participation in the battles extend to magic spells and special abilities, as well. For instance, repeatedly pressing the A-button during Mario's Super Jump skill -- at the right time -- allows you to pogo back up and land on the enemy's head again, and again, and again until you either mess up or until the limit is reached. Of course, mashing on it won't work; you have to time the button presses to correspond with him landing on the enemy's head. (Lowly unskilled gamers, fear not; there are some Control-Pad-rotating moves which just require you to go spastic.) This active participation definitely gives the battles a sense of intensity, as you have to pay attention rather than reaching for the paperweight to hold the buttons down. The drawback to the battle system is the allocation of Flower Points (we know them normally as MP). The entire party shares Flower points, and with skills/magic being quite useful, you'll find yourself struggling to minimize FP spending.

   Managing around battles is easy, however, as each button on the SNES pad is assigned to different commands to attack, run, use a skill or an item. Simply press the button and select the command that pops up from the menu, or the enemy you wish to strike. Of course, all menus are easy to navigate. Unfortunately, the item menu is quite frustratingly low on space, leaving you with a small inventory. It will eventually leave you with the Final Fantasy Legend dilemma of what to drop and what to keep. It's very annoying when you don't have enough space to load up on major healing items, then suddenly find yourself in a battle with low HP. Like many RPGs today, SMRPG works on a specific weapon-to-player basis, meaning that Mario will only use Hammers, the Princess will only use Umbrellas, and so on. It makes for more simplistic gaming, letting the gamer focus more on the game and less on inventory management (although personally I like the weapon system a la Final Fantasy 4-6 and 9). What gives the game a kick outside of battles, however, is the Mario goodness that oozes out of the cart. The maps are isometric view action/platform material. You'll find yourself jumping here and there, popping coins from question mark boxes just like in the good ol' Mario days, finding hidden boxes and climbing vines. Again, it makes the game more dynamic than many other RPGs, and just gives you that Mario feel that nostalgic maniacs are all familiar with.

Boo: Abil -> X Fire (study your FF Legend FAQ...)
Let's teach Mario to think in RPG terms: Boos are weak against fire.  

   Contributing to the Mario Feel are the music and sound. The sound, including happy little *hops*, *bleeps* and *bloops*, does everything for the atmosphere of the game. The music, as well, provides bouncy cute tunes that just sing, "Koopa!" While not epic, the themes and melodies used for SMRPG are quite fun and amusing to listen to, and won't make you turn on the Mute. Certainly no Chrono Cross caliber work, but extremely enjoyable nevertheless.

   As you've read so far, much of the game is very original. While using the standard RPG core of a turn-based battle engine and leveling up, the action elements it implements in battle and area navigation make the game creative. The way they took the Mario concept, blended it with console role-playing elements, and totally took off with it using key elements from both, make the idea original in its own. The magic attacks and skills were innovative and fun to watch, and the ideas for the minigames were great fun. Games such as Barrel Dodging to get up a hill, a Mode7 Minecart scene, and a coin-collecting waterfall/river fiasco make you feel that SMRPG really brings new things to the table.

   The plot was semi-original. Of course, it's a Mario game, and there has to be the standard Princess Toadstool Kidnapped subplot, which takes away from some of the freshness. But the overall plot is unexpected (no, you're not getting any words outta me), and at least different from what you'd be accustomed to from a Mario game. It's not convoluted, it's not epic, and it's not cinematic, but it does its job as an interesting storyline to goad players on to keep playing.

   Of course, you gotta have the whackiness that gives Mario games their feel. The translation did that quite well. I couldn't spot grammatical errors, for one. Also, each character's personality fit well. Although Mario doesn't talk, he nods his head like a total spazzoid and jumps up and down in order to explain things. Bowser is his usual, "GRAAAAAAGH!" self, and Yoshi is "Yoshi!" as always.

Apparently these caterpillar dudes were called Podobos.
Podobo Photoshop  

   SMRPG is a fun game, but tends to be a little on the short side. That is, until you go back and find out everything you've missed. There are secret coin treasure boxes that are hidden, that juuust *beg* to be found. There's also a hidden casino to stumble across. Unfortunately, aside from that, there's nothing really to play it repeatedly for except for an injection of fun now and then. The character cast is quite unbalanced, so trying out new combinations of characters won't be as enjoyable as in some other games. Sometimes games tend to fly by, and when they're done, you put it down and say, "Cool!!" and play it very rarely afterwards. SMRPG was one of those games for me.

However, if you do need a reason to go back to SMRPG, don't fret -- all of the above are good enough reasons to go back to the world where Mario has HP and doesn't travel alone. A big aspect of the game not discussed are the visuals. All in isometric view, the graphics are rendered, mimicking the Donkey Kong Country series. The colors are plentiful, bright and beautiful to look at. Each old Mario character looks cool in their 3-dimensional digs, and environments are plush and splendidly crafted. SMRPG's graphics are quite clean and playable, not making it hard for you to complete jumps (agh! Xenogears!). Well-rendered enemies range from disgusting to easily-recognizable to downright hilarious. The graphics are an excellent takeback to the old days while beefing them up with a better technology. My only complaint is what looks like dithering here and there, but hey -- it's quite rare, and you can't have everything anyways.

Of course, you wouldn't be unjustified in asking for more in the difficulty department. It's just not that hard. You can breeze through the game, not pausing to explicitly gain levels, without running the risk of getting smacked down by the final boss. Oh sure, you'll have trouble, maybe you'll have to try twice or three times -- but it's very doable. Spending hours to sit there and power up your levels only makes the game that much easier. But then, the low difficulty level doesn't take away from the game's overall fun.

Dem pimp plumbas wit dem pipes.  

Along with the difficulty being low, is the time to complete being short. Running through the game in 25 hours isn't uncommon. Basically you can tack on hours by looking for hidden coins and that darn casino, but when you finish it, it doesn't seem long at all.

Of course, people say time flies when you're having fun... and that's exactly what SMRPG is: fun. Sure, it may not be as WOWing as other RPGs, it may be a bit on the cutesy side, hell, it doesn't even have Luigi in it. But Super Mario RPG is worth the time if you're just looking for a quick fun-fix. And that's what Mario's all about -- fun.

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