Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars - Reader Re-Retroview  

Super Mario Fun
by Jerry Gallen

Less than 20 Hours
+ Still the best Mario RPG.
+ Actually has a good plot.
+ Nice music and graphics.
- Some minor graphical slowdown.
- The game ends.
- Doesn't have any direct sequels.
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   Before Square teamed up with Disney to produce the Kingdom Hearts series, they joined Nintendo to produce an RPG featuring their mascot plumber Mario. As Square was competent at developing RPGs, and Nintendo had developed its own such as the Mother series, this was naturally a match made in heaven, with their joint title, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, even today still being the best Mario RPG.

   Like most other Mario games, the story opens in the Mushroom Kingdom, a nation on par with Hyrule and Latin America in terms of kidnappings, with Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach of House Toadstool, and Mario paying a visit to Bowser's stronghold to rescue her. During his battle with Bowser, a giant sword falls from the heavens into the fortress, with the titular MacGuffins falling across the world as well, separating Mario, Peach, and Bowser. Afterward, Mario embarks on a quest to recover the fallen Stars to repair the shattered Star Road, gaining a few friends along the way.

   As Mario and his party wander the game's isometric fields and dungeons, they can get into fights with visible enemies wandering about. Once in a while, however, Mario might receive temporary Star Power from a floating item box, allowing him to run into enemies and instantly kill them without actually going into battle. Killing enemies nets coins and experience, with level-ups will occasionally occurring (and a level cap of thirty for all characters), where the leveling character's stats naturally increase, new Flower Point-consuming skills are occasionally learned, and the player is able to choose one of three bonus stat increases for physical attack/defense, hit points, or magical attack/defense.

Fun times A typical battle

   Most of the time, however, the player will be taken to a separate screen for battle after contacting an enemy, with Mario and two of his four allies acquired throughout the game having a number of options to execute against their foes, which execute immediately after the player inputs them. Among these is normally attacking, with a timed button press allowing for additional damage against an enemy. Each character can also use skills that consume Flower Points, which the entire party shares and which the player can occasionally increase with special items, and most of which have greater effect depending upon timed button presses or button-mashing.

   Characters can also use consumable items (with a cap on inventory space that adds some balance to the battle system), after which the player may gain a "freebie," in which case another consumable item appears in the inventory. Finally, characters can defend to reduce damage (with timed button presses reducing damage from enemy attacks, as well) or attempt to escape, which doesn't work all the time. There's also no indication of turn order, although luckily, turn order mostly remains consistent, and the battle system ultimately provides plenty of fun, and occasional challenge, at times, with the only real flaw being the lack of spell and item descriptions during combat.

   It would have also been nice if the player could tell how equipment affected characters' stats before buying it, although more expensive gear tends to be more powerful anyway, and the rest of control is generally tight, with gameplay outside battle somewhat resembling that in non-RPG Mario games, what with jumping and platforming sometimes being necessary to advance, translated to isometric environs, no less. If the player doesn't know how to advance, moreover, they can always talk to Frogfucious in Tadpole Pond to get a clue on where to go next. All in all, interaction is well above average.

   Super Mario RPG was the first game in its time to translate classic Mario gameplay into an isometric RPG, naturally borrowing many elements from that series such as the characters and platforming. Although there would be future Mario RPGs, the first has yet to receive a true spiritual successor, and is still distinct even today.

Fun times, again A typical dungeon

   While the game's narrative begins with Mario seeking to rescue Princess Peach, it quickly evolves into a surprisingly good plot, with all characters having some kind of story behind them (the writers seemed to love Mallow in particular), a few nice plot twists, and decent contribution to the Mario mythos, what with plenty of familiar and original characters. The translation is also one of the best of the Super NES era, with plenty of humor and occasional cultural references, but there are some minor mistranslations such as "NokNok Shell" (with Nokonoko being the Japanese name of the Koopas). Even so, the story is easily one of the greatest of the 16-bit era of RPGs.

   Yoko Shimomura provides Super Mario RPG's soundtrack, with a few remixes of Koji Kondo's Mario themes and plenty of original ones as well; standout tracks include the Forest Maze theme and most town themes. The sound effects largely consist of those present in standard Mario games, which certainly aren't out of place. The only real fault is the short battle theme, which loops after less than a minute during longer fights. Even so, the aurals definitely serve their purpose.

   Super Mario RPG featured an early example of prerendered environments and character/enemy sprites, giving the game a borderline photorealistic appearance, with the visuals looking much better than those in even a few future Mario RPGs, not to mention PlayStation titles. There is some minor graphical slowdown in places with lots of sprites or sprite movement, but the game looks fantastic even by modern standards.

   Finally, the game is fairly short for an RPG, about fifteen hours or so, but fun nonetheless. Overall, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was a solid start for Mario RPGs, with just about all its aspects being all-around solid, from the fun gameplay to the lighthearted plot to the superb music and graphics. Future Mario RPGs don't come close to matching its grandeur, and more unfortunately, the game has yet to receive a true spiritual successor.

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