by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
As a child of the 80s, I can confirm that Saturday Morning RPG is a 100% accurate representation of 80s life. It has everything I remember: Trapper Keepers, Giant Robots, evil foot soldiers with guns, sweet dance moves, and bright colors. The Nintendo Switch also continues to capitalize on wonderful games that need a new audience, and Saturday Morning RPG is again, no exception. Originally released for iOS, then Android, Windows, Playstation platforms, and even the Ouya, this turn-based RPG is definitely still worthy of narration and note. Marty is the main character, and through a strange set of circumstances, he winds up with a special notebook (that is not at all a Trapper Keeper) that can bring inanimate objects to life so he can use them in battle. This nerd just might have what it takes to brave all the tropes of the 1980s and save his girlfriend in the process. Saturday Morning RPG really did take me back to when I was a kid in some of the best, most entertaining ways. The storytelling is irreverent and fun, the attacks are wonderful, and it has a nice, easy-to-digest plot. There are absolute swarms of references to retro culture (movies, games, et al), and even the main character is one (Marty, Back to the Future)!
Saturday Morning RPG is a blend of modern-day techniques with the retro style we’ve come to love. Let’s be honest: Retro things never really, truly die. Retro-style is alive and well, and while it does have Quick Time Events (timed hits), it does not shoehorn in dumb, annoying motion controls. That’s one of the things that I sincerely detested in so many modern Nintendo games: The forced motion controls. It reminded me of Super Mario RPG in its combat system because if you time abilities right, they have extra effects/more damage/reduce incoming damage. You also recover your HP/Charge Meter at the end of each battle, which felt like an 80s cartoon also. After all, everything’s better in the next episode. In the vein of JRPGs/anime, you can also power-up, using that charge meter. Mash the buttons as fast as you can when prompted (or you can go for the safe, guaranteed charge), which multiplies your damage by a factor depending on what choice you made. This meter can be regained by attacking, thankfully. But what kind of attacks can Marty do?
His basic attack is a sort of underwhelming punch (but come on, he’s a nerd in the 80s. What did you expect him to do?), and he has that above option to charge up (in the form of a battery). Or he can utilize his notebook! You attach certain objects into your notebook and use them X amount of times in battle. He can eat a cookie to regain health, put on a rhinestone glove and moonwalk up to an enemy (which comes complete with Michael Jackson spin, spotlight, and sound effect), summon a “Giant Transforming Robot”, a basketball that sets enemies ablaze. You have so many status effects you can apply to enemies, “Stripe Gum” (which is totally not Fruit Stripe Gum in any way, shape or form. Which is good, that stuff was disappointing), Share Bears, and so many other moves. You have a limited amount of space in the Notebook, but you can replace items whenever you’d like outside of combat.
There are five “episodes” in Saturday Morning RPG, that can be done in any order you see fit. It’s chock full of references to 80s shows/movies/life, the comedy is solid, and the storytelling is top-notch. You have the main quest, side-quests, and Marty is a pretty engaging character overall. But probably the most important part is The Notebook. As someone who grew up in the 80s, having a cool notebook/trapper was incredibly important. His is magical, so it’s clearly way cooler than ours. Radical, one might say. It affects more than simply capturing inanimate objects to use in battle though! Changing the cover also changes his stats, and the stickers in it are equally as important. When a battle starts, you scratch off the stickers (by rapidly moving the joystick), and each one you scratch gives stat bonuses in that fight. So if you want to be magic-based, and use awesome magical items you certainly can modify that with stickers, or be more melee-based, it’s up to you! But the items always seem to be better, and I seldom had a reason to use a melee strike unless something was just simply almost dead.
Some of the fights are incredibly frustrating because you will almost always be outnumbered in Saturday Morning RPG. That is just the nature of it. Luckily, you can dole out the harshness with plenty of damage, but you must learn which enemies are a threat and which are less so, so you can balance your special attacks accordingly. I almost never felt like a fight was hopeless (unless by design), and I sincerely enjoyed every single moment I experienced with this game. It was clearly designed and composed by people who loved the 80s as much as the rest of us. Hell, the composer (Vinnie DeCola) worked on Rocky IV, the Transformers Movie (the good one, not that bollocks we got from Michael Bay) and Staying Alive. The game is not incredibly long, but every moment will be worth experiencing, I can promise that. But the real question is: Who is this for?
Use the Schwartz: 5/5
Whenever I do one of these “Port” reviews, I have to ask myself who the game is really for, and if it’s worth picking up (even if you already own it) and in this case, I’d have to say 100% yes. I already owned Saturday Morning RPG on Steam, and I probably would have bought it again for my Vita if I had remembered it was there. The primary audience is quite clearly people who were born in the 80s/90s that love that culture. Some of the jokes might go over the heads of the younger crowd, but I think even with that, it could lead some of the younger gamers to go seek out some of the wonderful things from generations past, to see why they are so treasured and beloved. The past is not always such a wonderful thing though. For every great memory, there’s something terrible and disappointing. Saturday Morning RPG does not disappoint on any level. From the story, the items, combat, music, and the retro visual theme. Even without my Rose-Colored Glasses, this is a pleasant trip back in time that I look forward to doing more of. If you skipped out on this game because it’s inexpensive/weren’t sure of trying an indie RPG, you need to correct that, and get it. Get it for the Switch. It’s without a doubt worth it. Bask in the lingo, the colors, and the story.
A key was provided for this review.