Mario has proved time and time again, there’s nothing he can’t do. From racing in karts, playing various sports and even turning into paper, he’s done it all. But 27 years ago, the library of Mario spin-offs was nothing but a twinkle in the sky, the occasional karting being his only venture. But then Nintendo teamed up with SquareSoft (now known as the industry giant Square Enix), to bring the plumber to an entirely new genre: RPGs. The game was a huge success and even now is fondly remembered by its fans. So, imagine the shock when Nintendo revealed in a presentation earlier this year that they would be remaking the game, with a complete graphical overhaul and additional gameplay features? But can the remake capture the magic of the original, or should this classic have stayed in the nostalgic past?
Super Mario RPG tells a tale as old as time, Bowser has once more kidnapped Princess Peach and it’s up to Mario to rescue her, however, strangely enough, this occurs within the first 10 minutes of the game. Just as Mario reunites with Peach, a massive sword comes crashing down from the heavens, sending Mario, Peach and even Bowser flying out of the castle. Mario luckily lands in his house, but the confusion of what just happened lingers. What was that giant sword? Where is Princess Peach? What were those strange stars which fell from the sky as well? But with no hesitation, as there never is with our titular hero, he embarks on an adventure to find Princess Peach, with the help of some (unusual) allies along the way!
The story is as simplistic as you would imagine for a Mario game. It never reaches any epic highs like that of Final Fantasy, but it doesn’t try to either, because what you get is exactly what you would want. Instead, Super Mario RPG focuses on humor, this is a funny game. It got quite a few chuckles out of me, and I had a smile on my face when reading some of the obtuse and crazy lines (why does Toad have a bazooka at home!?). Even mere in-game cutscenes featuring the shenanigans of the characters are enough to warrant a smile or a giggle. The game is overflowing with charm, and that doesn’t just apply to the writing but also the designs.
You’ll recognize some familiar enemies like the iconic Goomba, Koopa Troopa and Shy Guy, but Super Mario RPG is brimming with plenty of enemy variety, and it never seems to stop. With every new world there is always something which brings a new color to the palette of the Mushroom Kingdom. And speaking of appearances, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Somehow, the developers have been able to translate the art style of the original flawlessly into the realm of modern graphics, and every world, enemy and even object are overflowing with life and there are tons of new animations to enjoy. There’s even been added cutscenes which are a blast to watch and add so much character to an adventure already overflowing with personality.
But graphics aren’t the only thing to enjoy. Super Mario RPG has traditional turn-based combat segments in-between Mario jumping all around the Mushroom Kingdom on his quests. Here, Mario and his allies, the toad(??), Mallow, and the doll brought to life, Geno, will duke it out against foes who stand in your way. A staple of Mario RPGs has been button inputs to enhance your attack to bring some more damage to enemies and player agency to the turn-based combat system. It originated in Super Mario RPG and with the remake it’s more satisfying than ever. Every character requires different timing, which can also change depending on the equipped weapon, and even magic attacks have button inputs which can add to the damage or healing. You can also time your defense, and potentially negate all damage.
However, the remake goes an additional mile and if you time your attack perfectly not only will the primary target take damage, but also all the other enemies, albeit the others will receive only a fraction of the original damage. This makes battles go quicker and you never feel battles drawing out or that they’re a tedious annoyance in your quest to grow ever stronger. Another addition to the remake’s battle system is the action gauge which is filled based on correctly timed button-inputs for either defense or attack. When filled, you can use a powerful Triple Move! Depending on the characters in your current party the cutscene and effect will differ They feel right at home and gives the game additional charm and encourages you to experiment with party set-up. It should be noted that the remake seems like it didn’t quite balance around these additions as some battles feel a bit too easy, especially boss battles where their main gimmick is summoning tiny swarms of enemies to aid them or uses powerful effects to mess with your party. The game has a “breezy” mode which is good for those that just want to chill while playing, but it is a bit puzzling that the developers didn’t add a “hard” mode too. æ
Something that goes hard is 100% the soundtrack. Every track from the original has been remastered by the original composer, Yoko Shimomura (best known for Kingdom Hearts) and it’s utterly jaw dropping how she modernizes the music while retaining the magic of the originals. There’s not a single dud here, and it speaks volumes to her talent and skill. And even if you prefer the originals, the game allows you to swap back and forth between the original renditions and the remade ones.
Another aspect that serves as a double-edged sword is the length of the game. It is very short by RPG standard, clocking in between 10-15 hours depending on whether you try to find all the secrets and easters eggs or complete every sidequest there is. It is a relatively short adventure, but on the bright side, the pacing of the game is incredible. The experience may not be long, but it’s tight pacing makes sure that it never feels like you’re experiencing any padding or that you level up too slowly simply to extend your game time. There’s not much post-game content either, the remake adds some boss rematches, but that’s about it, however, since it’s a short and enjoyable experience, I’m much more inclined to replay something like this than the behemoth Xenoblade Chronicles for example (which can be between 60-100 hours).
Everything about Super Mario RPG screams “baby’s first RPG” from the combat to the story. Luckily, the game is fully aware of what it is, and never tries to be more grandiose in its storytelling or deep in its gameplay mechanics, instead refining the elements it has to a brilliant shine. The story is silly and goofy, laying the foundation for that brilliant Mario RPG humor that its spiritual successors would use after it. With a masterful graphical overhaul and an excellent soundtrack to boot, the remake invites you into its sprawling and wonderful world. The gameplay is a finely tuned clockwork that, even though it’s a bit on the easier side, is engrossing to play and master. Albeit it’s a shorter adventure than most RPGs, every second is a delightful marvel. Old fans will find this a worthy remake of one of their favorite games, and new players will definitely fall in love with it. Super Mario RPG is an incredible blast from the past, and still proves that it stands as one of Nintendo’s and Square’s most successful and brilliant ventures in the library of Mario spin-offs.