Published on December 4th, 2023 | by James Davie
Super Mario RPG Review
Summary: A polished and pleasingly accessible remake, Super Mario RPG is a lovely refurbishment of a nearly 30 year-old game managing to balance classic gameplay with new refinements that do nothing but improve the core Mario RPG experience.
The year 2023 isn’t over yet, and despite receiving a hearty helping of Mario with his latest majestic 2D outing Super Mario Wonder he returns again in 3D form, this time in a remake of the 1996 classic Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. By the looks of things, Super Mario RPG looks like yet another case of Mario magic with insatiable simplicity, a revitalized artstyle, and an engrossingly moreish turn-based RPG core, but is there substance to this reskin, or is it a boneless husk masquerading as one of Super Mario’s finest adventures
Typically for any run-of-the-mill Mario game, our titular hero starts off by rescuing Princess Peach, only this time a gargantuan sword known as Exor crash-lands onto Bowser’s Castle, sending all the main cast spreading asunder. Now it’s time to gather yourself, meet unlikely new allies, and put a stop to the insidious Smithy Gang and halt the influx of menacing sentient weapons coming to wreak havoc and rain down misery on Mario and pals. As is the case in most Mario-centred games, you won’t care very much about the yarn weaved here, but the set-up paves the way for a joyous RPG you won’t want to relinquish easily.
Super Mario RPG like any classic RPG, is a Mushroom Kingdom spin on the traditional turn-based RPG. This means buddying up with three characters, of which there are five to choose from including Princess Peach, Bowser, Geno, Mallow, and of course the star Mario himself. For a remake it’s disappointing and underwhelming that there aren’t more Mushroom Kingdom stalwarts to take into battle, but at least Super Mario RPG shows reverence and respect to what’s come before, rather than overegging an already sumptuous RPG-layered pudding.
Journeying with Mario and his delightful companions is helped along by an overworld map that displays all of the game’s levels and townships. After the preamble at Bowser’s Castle, you’re introduced to Mario’s swanky little pad where he can sweetly sleep and dream in his bed before popping awake wide-eyed for adventure, and he can save the game just outside his abode, so it’s a lovely and cozy spot to temporarily hang out in and recover from all your goomba and Koopa Trooper-stomping adventures.
Levels in Super Mario RPG run the gamete of expected Super Mario staples such as the level that takes place in a sewer, the level that takes place in the woodland, and the level that takes place in the forest, but they branch out to levels on the seaside, inside a volcano, at a casino and situated in a sunken ship. There’s plenty of variety on offer here alongside the classic stages you’ll be familiar with if you’ve played any other 2D or 3D Mario game.
Turn-based RPGs get a bad rap for their slowness and lack of imagination, but when you inject Mario and chums into the much-maligned formula, you can forgive the format right? The answer depends on your tolerance for turn-based combat and Super Mario, but what’s here is as simple and inviting as possible. Yes, you’ll still likely plod into random encounters, need patience to persevere with taking turns attacking and defending against enemy scoundrels, and keeping an eye on how much damage you’re getting battered with and being adequately prepared for each encounter is of continuous concern-but you want a digestible and welcoming turn-based RPG, Super Mario RPG is one of the best you can get. Of course, Super Mario’s status as a remake of a classic harkens back to the ease and simplicity that defined mid-90s RPGs, but the contemporary flourishes and crispness of this latest offering ensures you won’t grow tired of it.
One of the most commendable aspects of Super Mario RPG’s gameplay mechanics, is how you can increase hit point damage with a well-timed button press when on the offensive, and shield yourself from further damage on the defensive. It’s immensely satisfying to load up an additional attack or fend off a barrage simply by tapping a face button, making you feel like an active participant in battle, rather than a basic command-giver. This results in turn-based battles that appreciate your precise inputs, where you’re actively dealing more damage by registering the moment an attack is about to land.
The breeziness of Super Mario RPG stems from the power-ups and the fairness inherent within its very design. During battle, you and your party possess your own special powers. Mario can vault into the air and squash his target’s head with a Super Jump, or he can unleash and flurry of quickfire fireballs that can devastate the opposition. Meanwhile, Mallow can conjure up storms that can fry everybody on the battlefield, an option that’ll certainly come in handy if you want to wipe out everybody quickly and proceed onwards.
Special attacks require magic points dubbed Flower Point in Super Mario RPG. To acquire these, you can simply play the game, or participate in asides such as helping out at the local tavern or by feeding a toad…..that’s not a joke! FP is in abundance, so you should never yourself falling short,
After each battle you’re given experience points and coins that’ll prove beneficial to levelling up and buying healing and magic items when the need arises. Your party members level up individually rather than collectively, so one character could be trailing behind whilst another is overpowered, making the system a bit uneven.
It’s a dinger that you can’t level up the whole party at once because it quasi-defeats the purpose of having a party to begin with. On the one hand, it’s great that each character can level up and become more powerful on his or her own, but on the other, the sense of chemistry isn’t there. The fact there aren’t any unified party attacks or special moves is a bummer too-but again, Super Mario RPG is sticking to tradition for better and in some minor instances, for worse.
Every time you level up you’ll be planting your upgrade points into one of three categories. Attack/defense dictates how much damage you inflict, as well as how well you can withstand the hits thrown back at you. HP grants you additional health on your health bar, which of course ensures that it takes longer for enemies to put you away. Lastly, the Magick Attack upgrade increases the amount of Flower Points you can use in battle.
Like Super Mario RPG in general, the upgrade system is straightforward without needless complexities and there are no tangled upgrade tree webs where you need to garner skill points to unlock new abilities, you just have three attributes to focus on and they’ll grant you greater endurance-no fuss and no complications to be found here.
Unsurprisingly, Super Mario RPG looks like a beautiful remake that elegantly transforms a 27 year-old game without compromising its soul. You could argue that Nintendo has brought Super Mario RPG inline with its Mushroom Kingdom-lead contemporaries such as Mario+Rabbids and the latest 3D Super Mario titles, but rejoicingly the look of Super Mario RPG doesn’t invade the classic aspects, meaning it’s basically an up-to-date visual refurbishment, not a total refinement of every single element. Triple moves and a new and improved inventory system are the main internal changes, but it’s mainly the look of Super Mario RPG that has seen a flourishing overhaul.
The music in Super Mario RPG is wonderfully catchy and thematically coherent too, so no matter how dreary the mood, you won’t soon forget the beats of the music in the levels. It’s a testament to how brilliant Nintendo’s music and audio design is that basic melodies can leave such a staining imprint on the mind-and here they’ve done yet another sterling job.
A polished and pleasingly accessible remake, Super Mario RPG is a lovely refurbishment of a nearly 30 year-old game managing to balance classic gameplay with new refinements that do nothing but improve the core Mario RPG experience. Yes, Super Mario RPG is far from a sublime game, with a lack of meaningful party collaborations, it won’t win new turn-based RPG fans or surprise you with something out of left field, but it’s a really good RPG that deserves its plaudits. So if you’ve got more room for Mario after the delight that was Wonder, then Super Mario RPG is a fitting companion.