by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
As many series go, the first is the most basic, and it grows from there. There are a lot of fans of the Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi sagas, but I’m here to drop a sick hot take on you: The best Mario RPG was the first. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is the epitome of the Mario RPG franchise. When I first heard about a Mario Bros. Roleplaying Game, I was torn. I wanted to be excited, because Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World are still to this day, two of my favorite titles. It has that same charm that I came to expect from a Mario title, while also having a turn-based RPG system that had too enchanted me. I love that it starts off just the same ol, same ol, Mario vs. Bowser. He saves Princess Peach, brings peace to the Mushroom Kingdom, and then everything changes. The Fire Natio…the Sword Gang attacks! Yes, Smithy and his gang have taken over Bowser’s castle, kicked him out, and split the fortress with a titanic, colossal, mountain-sized blade. It shattered the Star Road, and it’s up to Mario and pals to recover the stars and set things right. The cast for your party members is Mario, Mallow (a “tadpole”), Princess Peach, Geno (A Star Warrior) and Bowser. Yes, Bowser.
Super Mario RPG is an isometric turn-based RPG with a timing-based system that set the standard for other games that followed it. The team (three party members) share an FP pool (Flower Points) that can be raised by finding Fire Flowers throughout the world. Hidden Question Mark Blocks also lie in wait throughout the world, with hidden prizes. This is a game with incredible secrets, and one mighty Superboss in Culex (which plays the Final Fantasy IV boss music and is a representation of the Crystals). There’s a fairly standard initiative system, and your team/the enemy go when it’s their turn to act. You can use an Item, Defend, Attack, or use a Spell/Skill. Here’s where the timing system really comes to shine. When you act, act at all, this system comes into play. It comes down to timing your button press typically when the animation is about to end. If you do it right, you can get extra uses of consumables (all of them), reduce damage or nullify it entirely, and do extra damage/extra hits when attacking/using skills.
The timing changes depending on what skill you were using, what character and weapon you are using, as each animation is quite different. For Princess Peach, you might have a glove on, and to get the most out of her “Pride-obliterating bitchslap” (trademarked, Bottom Tier Entertainment System), you tap the attack button right before the slap ends, so she can attack a second time on it. Not to mention, the combat system also has potential “Attack Again” bonuses when you defeat an enemy, or other things like a chance at doubling your XP/GP (a Shell Game, so you can/probably will lose). Many of the enemies will feel familiar, from Goombas, Bloopers, Bullet Bills, Bob-Ombs. There are also a host of new creatures, and basically, every boss encounter is someone new and intriguing. Here’s where some of the disappointment for this game comes into play though.
Super Mario RPG is easy. Very very very easy. The level cap is 30, and while you do get to pick where your bonus stats go, it’s very easy to do well in this game. There are but a few boss fights that are frustrating and challenging, but far and wide, it’s incredibly simple to succeed in. The real challenge is getting to the bosses, learning the mazes and secrets of the game. Finding all the side content and stuff you don’t have to do but can do. From Sheet Music to Yoshi Races, collecting Frog Coins and landing 99 hits on an Ultra Jump. Finding the most powerful equipment in the game, figuring out what team you want to run (Spoiler: It’s Mario Bowser Geno or Mario Bowser Peach), it’s got a lot of side-content for what is basically a linear RPG. But if you’re looking for a challenge and are a hardened, seasoned RPG player, you won’t find it here.
We Need More Geno: 5/5
What you will find is a charming RPG, with a wholesome story filled with familiar characters, interacting in an all-new way. It was the first RPG of it’s kind, taking characters from one genre (side-scrolling platformers) and putting them into a new style of gameplay (isometric turn-based roleplaying). It’s got a very particular sense of humor and has some wacky characters along with some pretty serious ones. It even has some crazy Mode-7 graphics in the minecart stage! I also adore the music. Super Mario RPG has one of the absolute best RPG songs of all time in the Forest Maze. I’m stunned that Geno hasn’t appeared in more Mario franchises or even in the Smash franchise. It doesn’t make a single bit of sense. Super Mario RPG has a decent learning curve for mastering the combat, but the actual gameplay is nice and easy. It’s got compelling storylines, fun characters, and just beautiful graphics. It keeps that same bright, colorful Mario color palette in a 3D form without it looking blocky and gross. I was very grateful that it wasn’t the same Mario vs. Bowser. Hell, Bowser joins the party at one point! Some of bosses are ridiculous and loony, but that’s really part of the Mario charm. It’s a game 100% worth of buying in a digital format by Nintendo, on the Super Nintendo Classic, or even buying the original cartridge. If you have not experienced it, and have played Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi, go play the game that made it possible.