Things are never truly peaceful in the Mushroom Kingdom. Peach always gets kidnapped by Bowser, Mario has to constantly save the day, which he does and everyone goes back to their lives until the next attempt takes place. That is a premise many gamers are familiar with, but when you add a new adversary into the mix and have hero and villain team up against a common threat, then we have something fresh, and it’s what Artepiazza Games and Nintendo’s Super Mario RPG has delivered.
A remake of the 1996 SNES classic, it is about time that a new generation of players get introduced to the goodness of this turn-based roleplaying spin-off classic. With Smithy, the ‘new’ bad guy in town as a larger-than-life threat, it leads to an uncanny alliance to set things right.
The stalwart that is Mario will be joined by new allies Mallow and Geno, the former a creature of marshmallow-like properties that somehow believes he’s a frog, and the latter, a puppet come to life with the cosmic purpose of defeating Smithy. Peach and Bowser are also part of the fun, and together with the assistance of Toad, this party will set off on a lighthearted jaunt, smashing and punching everything in sight.
Needless to say, there is a sense of accessibility in Super Mario RPG, even if the genre usually dictates the need for hardcore investment. This is a streamlined experience designed to get players from start to finish without too much of a fuss, with only some equipment and a few stats to care about. Enemies are never too tough to overcome, especially if you take some time to level up, but there is seldom a need to when following the main path.
Each party member can unleash different attacks depending on their equipped weapon, and special moves like powerful stomps and healing rain can also be used both in and outside of battle. Even though such moves require limited Flower Points, it isn’t hard to find recovery items out in the world to replenish it, firmly keeping players focused on the task at hand.
The biggest mechanic to note would be the Action Command system, which is a core part of the combat. By pressing the A button at the right time, players can negate damage completely with a block or deal critical damage that not only hurts the target but also other enemies.
In addition, chaining together all these successful Action Commands will fill up a gauge that makes it possible to execute the new and powerful Triple Move attacks. With different party members determining the nature of the attack, there is always a nice surprise as the excellent animations and charming cutscenes play out as the enemy gets whacked hard. Players can also count on Toad to assist with helpful power-ups during battle as well, firmly stacking the odds in your favour.
However, while the game initially cues players in on the right timing via an exclamation point icon, at some point, those disappear completely, making it harder for those not attuned to precise timing. For new moves and attacks, this can make it harder to pull off the Action Command reliably, which can break the chain and cut off your momentum at the most inopportune of timings.
For a turn-based affair, Super Mario RPG can be both incredibly fast-paced and slow at different times. Encounters against the rank and file of Smithy’s army can be settled in just a few moves, whereas the battles against the more inventive and dangerous bosses are more time-consuming. This can be due to status afflictions like party members falling asleep or the unique mechanics of such fights, which definitely shake things up every once in a while.
As an adventure, the game also brings players on a journey full of variety and wonderful sights. There is never a dull moment as your party moves from world to world, going from normal battles to minigames like collecting coins while floating down a waterfall or composing music using tadpoles for notes. On their own, these ideas could very well stand out like a sore thumb, but in a Mario game, it somehow all works to enhance the charm.
That charm is also obviously elevated in Super Mario RPG thanks to the stellar work in recreating the game in 3D goodness that is up to par with modern standards. The eye-catching cutscenes are always a delight, and character models have been polished to a new standard that feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch. It might not be for players looking for that old-school charm, but for everyone else, this is a looker of a game.
The same kind of polish is also extended to the soundtrack as well. Having the option to switch between the old and new music, fans can enjoy the impressive auditory experience from more than two decades ago or dive into the added layers of refinements of the new arrangements. Nintendo has somehow made something already awesome even better.
Mario’s latest adventure shouldn’t take players more than 12-15 hours to complete, especially since the mainline story hasn’t been changed much at all from the original. Blow through all that, and there is new endgame content to enjoy as well, allowing players to continue seeking out secrets and taking on combat challenges that are certainly more demanding.
It isn’t always advisable to bring a classic out from the past and into the present, but this faithful remake presents an outstanding case to do just that. It embraces the quirkiness of the Mushroom Kingdom, gives everything a shiny new coat of paint, and delivers a magical charm that is hard to beat. The story and combat may be more straightforward than most, but this is one adventure worth revisiting over and over again.