Super Mario RPG: Legend of the 7 Stars - Review

"These Mushrooms are Good for Ya’!"

By: Justin A. Harwood

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 10
   Plot 7
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

15 - 20 hours


Title Screen

   Super Mario RPG (SMRPG) is an enjoyable, if short, SNES game that combines everyone’s favorite plumber with full-blown RPG elements. Featuring Mario, Bowser, and the Princess, as well as all-new characters, the game uses the world of Nintendo’s flagship character as the background for a new adventure. Designed by the first (and unfortunately last) Square-Nintendo partnership, it is the Square-based elements, such as gameplay, originality, and that Square “feel” that make the game great.

   The Battle system for SMRPG is a simple, turn-based system in the style of FFVI or Chrono Trigger; that is, the character immediately takes any actions entered. Battles (in fact the entire game) are played on a ¾ screen, meaning they are in-between an overhead and 2D view. Each button on the controller activates a different battle function (A for attack, Y for magic, B for defense, and X for items). This makes it extremely easy to execute a given command, provided you are familiar with the SNES controller. The simple battle system is rather nice, just because it doesn’t interfere with the game.

   Outside of battles, the control is still relatively simple. The one notable exception is some tricky action areas put in to pander to the “Mario” element. This comes from both a hard to control jump function (press B, but hard to use repeatedly), and a perspective that is somewhat skewed for jumping. The menus are easy to navigate, and great in that there aren’t the sub-menus within sub-menus of later games like FFVIII. No one can say that they couldn’t handle the controls of this game; it’s just not possible.

2. Bowser summons Big Boo to scare enemies.
Bowser summons Big Boo to scare enemies.  

   While the sound effects of SMRPG are certainly nothing new or surprisingly different, they don’t detract from the overall game. The music is generally the same, with a few tracks that will, for better or worse, be stuck in your head for a week or two. Despite it’s release 6 years ago, the theme from the Forest Maze still pops into my head from time to time. The best quality about the game’s sound is its use of sounds and music from the Super Mario Bros. games. From the familiar ‘Bwip’ of fireballs to a great remix of the battle with Bowser from Super Mario Bros.3, the sounds will bring certain nostalgia for Mario fans.

   The concepts in SMRPG are nothing new when it comes to gameplay, however, where it is truly original is in its cast of reaallly messed-up characters. There’s Booster, who wants to get married for the party and cake. Then there are the tortoise chefs, with extremely (and purposefully) cliché accents. And no one who’s played the game can forget the spoofalicious “Axem Rangers.” This game gave the Square team the opportunity to go overboard on their odd brand of humor, and it gives the game a semi-realistic feel that perfectly fits Mario and his friends.

   SMRPG, as I’ve said, has a well-done semi-real feeling. Let’s face it; no one’s going to take a superhero plumber who saves a kingdom of mushroom people seriously. And, by the way, why isn’t the princess a mushroom person?? Huh? Anyone?? Regardless, while the plot starts out in a very Mario way (save the princess), it quickly moves beyond that to a somewhat different save-the-world plot. The only true originality is that Bowser isn’t the villain. It’s the characters and odd events that occur along the way that makes the plot memorable, and makes the storyline work.

"That rain dance finally paid off..."  

   As for the localization, SMRPG has one of the best translations I’ve ever seen. There’s a lot of dialog in this game, and it all makes great nonsense, as it should. In addition, all the jokes make sense, in so far as they don’t seem to have lost something in their translation from Japanese. Definite kudos go out the team that translated this game. It’s amazing that the completely half-baked storyline survived to be extremely humorous as opposed to extremely confusing. This is one of the game’s better aspects.

   Replay value honestly probably isn’t too high. While you won’t finish the game and immediately start another, I find myself pulling it out every now and then. I generally would pull it out and play it through in-between RPG’s, though there’s less time for that these days, with so many new RPG’s.

    Visuals in the game are obviously not great by today’s standards. However, when considering that it was made between FFVI and FFVII, it quite frankly looks it. The graphics were a sort of test for Square, as well as Nintendo, and gives us an idea what later FF’s might have looked like if Square and Nintendo hadn’t had that spat. Overall, they’re probably the best RPG graphics on the SNES, and they push the 16-bit engine to the limit. They have great depth, and it’s the only SNES rpg with prerendered backgrounds.

    Unfortunately, the game isn’t extremely long or hard. It has only about 3 optional parts to it, requires little to no leveling up outside of what you’ll do along the way, and as a result, only takes 15 to 20 hours to complete. Maybe less if you’re really experienced with RPG’s or like to fly through without getting any extra stuff. The difficulty, while not mind-numbingly stupid, is moderate at best. If you like short yet sweet, this game’s for you.

3. Guess why it's called Pipe House....
Guess why it's called Pipe House....  

   All in all, though the game falls short in the length or difficulty department, it makes it up for that in its humorous overtones, smart twist of the old Mario themes, and a truly enjoyable gaming experience with a very small frustration factor. Despite the Mario-ness of the game, it doesn’t pander to a younger audience, save in its relative ease. Any RPGer who enjoys smart, funny gaming should spend a worthwhile weekend plugged into this game.

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