Super Mario RPG originally launched on Super Famicom on March 9, 1996. Finally, after nearly 30 years, it has gotten a gorgeous remake! New art, tunes, and various other updates have ushered this classic title into the modern era. Read our Super Mario RPG Review to learn more about this re-envisioned legend!
A Classic’s Legacy
Super Mario RPG, in its heyday, was quite highly regarded. It was praised for its writing, music, and graphics and wound up selling over a million copies in Japan. The game was even one of the top rental games when it came out in North America.
Succession of a SuperStar
Super Mario RPG‘s success expanded the series and opened the door to more Mario-themed RPGs, such as the famed Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi subseries. Paper Mario (Mario Story in Japan) is handled by Nintendo’s Intelligent Systems. These games offer not only more writing but also richer in comparison to Super Mario RPG. I honestly believe the tone set in Super Mario RPG led to this. Mario & Luigi also does this while taking the interactive battles to a whole new level. Mario & Luigi also superbly adapts the visual gag comedy.
Sadly, Alphadream, the developers of the Mario & Luigi games, filed for bankruptcy in 2019. What makes this sadder is that AlphaDream was founded by staff from the original Super Mario RPG. The certainty of another game in the Mario & Luigi series is up in the air, and a thread from the developer tapestry of Mario RPG was ripped away.
The studio that worked in conjunction with Nintendo’s leadership is the fabulous ArtePiazza. Haven’t heard of them? Well, maybe you’ve actually played a chunk of their library if you’re an RPG fan. ArtePiazza as a studio has tons of pedigree, proven by their star-studded library! They have worked closely with Square Enix in the past and are responsible for developing many Dragon Quest games! Now that’s some talent! Arte Piazza was a perfect pick for Super Mario RPG remake. They have re-envisioned many beloved games, including creating original content of a high quality that stamps out many other re-releases’ pitiful attempts at tacking on new content.
The Legend of the Seven Stars!
Let’s start digging into individual elements of the game, then! There are the modern updates, of course, and then the base mechanics themselves. I’ll be sure to give you a nice sample of what to expect. Also, off-topic, but isn’t it weird that only the original North American release of the game had the “Legend of the Seven Stars” subtitle?
Goodness Gracious! Dem Graphics
The first thing you should notice (and expect) is the new graphical overhaul. Everything is lush, vibrant, and detailed. There are even new, pre-rendered cutscenes to accentuate important story beats and spectacular Triple Attacks. The game even targets 60fps, a goal which it achieves in most cases! This all adds up to the game looking and feeling superb.
1… 2… POW! Well-Timed Combat
The combat in Super Mario RPG is simple enough to be accessible to beginners while being thoroughly engaging due to its ‘Action Command’ system. All of your attacks and enemy attacks are animated wonderfully. How does that play into the combat and ‘Action Commands’? Well, all attack and defend timings are tied to these animations. Paying attention to different attacks rewards the player with spectacle and experience learning timings. Timings are given a smoother learning curve in the remake by displaying a prompt until you learn the timings.
Funky, Fresh, and Familiar Tunes
Super Mario RPG has had its soundtrack lauded since its original launch, which is no surprise as the composer is Yoko Shimomura of Kingdom Hearts and Mario & Luigi fame. Super Mario RPG is Mrs. Shimomura operating at peak whimsy. Each song has a special place in the soundtrack. Don’t worry; the game allows you to swap between Original and Remake soundtracks seamlessly!
The writing is one of the best parts of the game. It’s usually pretty funny and entertaining. I’m sure the Japanese is just as whacky and interesting, but I’m most familiar with the English Localization. This remake reuses most of the original script, which was originally written by Ted Woolsey. He’s known for his work at Squaresoft for games like Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI). He was a solid translator for that era, whose main shortcomings were more than likely publisher-forced. This translation does indeed have some 90s flair due to its reuse.
Grab Bag of Fun (mini-games)
One of the most interesting ways the game captures the whimsical tone is by incorporating tons of minigames to break up the gameplay in fun ways. These mini-games break up larger chunks of traditional RPG gameplay with quick games that offer some variety. Some of these can take some practice, but they are all replayable for extra rewards.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the secrets. They are well-hidden and enhance the experience. They can involve treasure, NPC interactions, and unique scenes. I highly recommend messing around a little bit, as it greatly enriches the experience.
The Faults in the Star Road
Super Mario RPG is a great game, but personally, I feel that some of the later RPGs do some things better. I don’t overtly dislike any elements in Super Mario RPG; it was the first of its kind after all! Nothing but mad respect for it in my heart. However, I do like the combat, characters, stories, and puzzles better in later games. To also be fair, Mario RPG was the first foray into Mario RPGs. Super Mario RPG is also really unique and worth playing as none of the other RPGs do quite the same things.
There are a few things in specific that I didn’t jive with. Some of the platforming is wonky, and I’m not sure how I would have properly blocked some enemy attacks without the new warning icon. 90s Squaresoft loved their mini-games, and they have a nice home in Super Mario RPG. They really do add to the quirkiness of the world; it’s just that some of them aren’t my jam. I do wish the story was a bit more fleshed out, like later Mario RPGs.
On the other hand, this game does have that storybook quality of classic Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, so I honestly can’t complain too much about the storytelling style. The only visual complaint I’d have is that some level screens don’t try as hard as others to feel like a cohesive part of an area. Some interiors have the same ‘floating in the void’ feeling as the original. This feels slightly lopsided.
The Legend of the Seven Stars…
I really liked Super Mario RPG! It’s a fun time through and through. Seeing all the zany characters in a gorgeous art style and a beautifully rearranged soundtrack took me back. The combat is engaging and smooth, especially with the updates provided by ArtePiazza. It takes everything that was beloved about the original and keeps it intact while adding minor tweaks to sandpaper down some rough edges. Some may complain that some of the mechanical additions make combat too easy, but I find that they further push the idea of a “beginner’s RPG.” Super Mario RPG is a beautiful, funny, and diverse experience for any RPG player, mind you.
After the credits roll, there’s quite a bit of content left for players to engage with. You can revisit areas to discover secrets or undertake some awesome NEW content. ArtePiazza did a great job in this regard. The initial playtime may be short, but the new stuff definitely sweetens the deal. On top of Mario RPG already being a short game that’s fun to replay, this makes the package feel even more complete!
I don’t necessarily want to get my hopes, or anyone else’s, up too much, but… I think a sequel or new Mario RPG would be great! I’d even want it to be done by ArtePiazza. They clearly know what they’re doing! The original content is even top-notch. This would especially be great due to Paper Mario‘s departure from being a traditional RPG and the limbo that Mario & Luigi is in. The director of the original even expressed interest in creating a sequel in an interview last year. So, who knows what’s in store?
Check out the game exclusively on Nintendo Switch! I implore you!
Disclaimer: Nintendo provided Final Weapon with a Nintendo Switch copy of Super Mario RPG for review purposes.