Super Mario RPG review. Does the SNES role-playing adventure for the Seven Stars still hold up today?
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was Squaresoft’s last title for a Nintendo system before they moved on to Sony-exclusivity with their massive hits Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX for the PS1.
Before this occurred, the company (which would later go on to merge with Japanese powerhouse Enix to become “Square Enix”) had a love fest with Nintendo and this is where several of the Super Nintendo’s best games were created, including RPG’s like Final Fantasy VI (released in the U.S. as Final Fantasy III), Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger and Secret of Evermore.
As such, Super Mario RPG feels like a game in which Square put it’s all. A final swan song to it’s fan-base of Nintendo fans who wouldn’t see a Square game on a Nintendo system for an entire console hardware generation.
Also On: Wii Virtual Console
SNES Debut: USA May 13th, 1996 – Europe: Never released – JAP March 9th, 2006
Wii Virtual Console Debut: USA September 1st, 2008 – EUR August 22nd, 2008 – JAP June 24th, 2008
Wii Virtual Console Cost: USA 800 Wii Points – EUR 900 Wii Points
Genre: Isometric turn-based RPG
Players: Single Player
Save: Four Save Files
Publisher: Square Enix
Creators: Chihiro Fujioka & Shigeru Miyamoto
Rating: E for Everyone
Super Mario RPG is a game to be reckoned with and it seemingly has everything you’d want from a Super Nintendo RPG: Great graphics, great music, interesting story, a lovable cast of well-known and new characters, incredible unique gameplay (for it’s time), a huge quest with tons of mini-games and side-quests, enough secrets and hidden content that you almost assuredly won’t get it all on the first play through, a hilarious script with some of the best localization seen till that point . . . the list just goes on and on.
The storyline goes something like this:
One day Princess Toadstool (who would later be named “Peach”) is out in Mario’s garden when the sky clouds darken and who else but Bowser swoops down in his “Koopa Clown Car” (from Super Mario World) and snatches up his favorite Princess. Mario, of course, rushes off to the rescue in a very cool (and graphically impressive for the day) semi-3D scene where Mario seems to jump up and into the screen as he chases after her.
That short opening is followed by what is perhaps one of the longest intros in gaming history (give it a look in the video above), a very cool montage of scenes from the game where the cast is introduced. This intro is about five minutes long before you finally see the “Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Stars” title screen. If you are completely adverse to spoilers though then you may want to skip the intro, as not only does it reveal all the characters (who will be revealed in this review as well, just to let you know, as the game, manual and box don’t try to hide them) in addition to (and more spoiler worthy) also showing tons of locations from the game, including ones you won’t see until much later in the game.
The opening scene shows Mario crossing the bridge to arrive at Bowser Castle, and from there it switches to gameplay. After you make Mario’s way through the short Castle section, you will encounter Bowser’s Throne room and face off with the King of Koopa himself (and Kinklink . . . those who play the game will understand) while Peach hangs from the chandelier by a rope. Just as the battle is coming to a close though and Mario is about to free Peach of her peril, a brilliant scene takes place as a giant sword splits the sky and slams into the Castle itself, sending “Star Pieces” into seven different directions and throwing Mario, Peach and Bowser yonder.
Mario is thrown into the Pipe House at his “Pad”, falling straight through the pipe on the roof and into the house. Toad just happens to be there to pick up Peach and this is where Mario’s grand adventure begins.
Originally it is to retrieve the Princess who’s whereabouts are unknown after the shake-up at Bowser’s Castle. But remember that Sword? Naturally the tale evolves into a grand adventure where Mario will travel a very vast world in search of seven “Star Pieces” (The Seven Stars from the title) in a quest to destroy an all-new enemy and repair a world that grants wishes.
Super Mario RPG is an isometric, turn-based RPG (role-playing game) but it introduces action adventure elements that aren’t only unique, but very true to the Mario name. Since jumping is Mario’s calling card (naturally), you can freely jump to your heart’s content in Super Mario RPG by pressing the B Button. Y Button runs, X is your Menu and A is to talk.
Jumping gives you a greater range of freedom while exploring the game’s many environments and subsequently introduces a ton of platform elements as you will be jumping from platform to platform or up onto various ledges. You will also encounter various objects you can jump on to interact with with. In addition you’ll encounter individual Coins as well as Coin Boxes scattered about the environments (the Coin Boxes are just like you remember them from Super Mario Bros. Jump at them from below to punch them and keep jumping to receive all the coins inside) in addition to Question Mark blocks that will contain items ranging from instant items like Mushrooms (will heal your HP and FP to max) or Flowers (Restore Flower Points). There are even hidden Treasure Boxes scattered around the game that are completely invisible and must be jumped into from below to discover and these contain a range of items and equipment. You will also sometimes encounter other items hidden around that will go into your inventory (Press X to see your Menu and Items, Equipment Inventory, etc. more on that later).
The game completely takes advantage of Mario’s ability to jump to create some interesting and fun situations. For example, if you run across a cake, JUMP ON IT! The people around will surely react and not be pleased that you jumped onto their cake (fool . . .). Try jumping on everything and anything, whether it’s at a wedding (organ) or onto a spinning flower (fun, fun), the game does just about as much as you can do by involving jumping into the environments. In fact, you will be required to “prove” Mario’s ID by . . . what else? Jumping higher than anyone else! If your controls completely freeze and it doesn’t let you move, then chances are you need to jump, which will wow the discussioner (and many times Mario will do a little flip for added effect) and prove you are “the mustachioed one”.
You start out Super Mario RPG with a party that only includes Mario, and the viewpoint while on the field (i.e., not in a battle with enemies) is from a top-down but slightly tilted angle, giving the game a 3D rather than 2D look. Additionally, all the characters, enemies and environments are 3D rendered polygon models, instead of 2D sprites. This made Super Mario RPG one of the most graphically impressive games of it’s day. And even now the game looks mighty fine.
Naturally as is even revealed on the game box (and within the aforementioned five-minute cast introduction), Mario is hardly the only character that will join you on this grand adventure. Also joining your party will be two all-new members to the Mario universe, whom (sadly) were never heard from again outside this game.
Here is the cast of characters
MARIO: Everyone’s favorite plumber! He’ll do some serious damage with that jump of his! In fact, if you time your jumps just right, you can do a lot of harm! Also very harmful are Mario’s fireball Special Techniques, in which you must repeatedly Tap the Y Button as quickly as possible to do the most damage.
Given that Mario is the introductory character, he will be one of your strongest fighters and best overall. Mario must stay in your party at all times. Around the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond, Mario is famous for his jumping skills, which are known the world over. They say he can jump higher than a box of frogs! Mario is well liked by all (well, almost all . . .) but is of the silent type.
Instead of speaking, Mario has an uncanny acting ability, which always seems to get the message across just fine, AND provide the player with lots of laughs. He’ll even physically transform into other characters while telling his stories!
MALLOW: A froggie who was raised by the sage, Frogfucius. He doesn’t look like a frog to me! Like Mario, time your attacks just right for extra damage. Mallow is perhaps the greatest new character in Super Mario RPG, and provides a lot of the game’s comic relief due to his timid and upbeat personality.
Mallow is well known in the Mushroom Kingdom as the tadpole who can’t jump! Much to his own personal shame. He really doesn’t look like a frog though . . . Mallow is actually one of the weaker characters, although he can be quite powerful and will learn a plethora of Special Techniques that not only damage everyone on-screen, but also do extreme damage to some types of enemies (as far as his Lightning attack is concerned).
He also learns a healing technique early on called HP Rain (Press Y near the end for additional health) which makes him vital for the early portions of the game. Either way, Mallow is an enduring new character and a personal favorite for many fans. I was personally very dismayed that Mallow didn’t appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and that he hasn’t been seen since this game.
GENO: A new hero who totes a mean gun and wears a stylin’ cape! This is one doll you don’t want to mess with! Geno is probably the most unique character in Super Mario RPG and a strange ally who somehow seems to fit rather well within the group of new and old heroes.
Geno will find a lot of interesting weapons that use his hands and guns to attack, get the timing just right for major damage. He is easily the second most powerful character in the game, and his supernatural Special Techniques are also some of the most powerful (He even has one that will do 9,999 damage every time to a normal enemy if you can time it right).
It’s not until you meet Geno that the plotline for Super Mario RPG really opens up and takes on a whole new layer of depth and creativity. Suffice it to say that Geno isn’t exactly from around these parts . . . in fact, his name my not even be Geno . . . The scene where you meet Geno is also one of the most creative and fun scenes in the game and really highlights how great the game is.
As for the Nintendo regulars whom will join you on this adventure, Bowser becomes an unlikely ally . . . But is it Bowser who joins Mario? Or Mario who joins Bowser?
Bowser is easily the toughest and likely strongest character in your squad, when he finally joins you in the adventure. He uses some of the most unique and coolest weapons in the game, although his Special Techniques, although unique, leave something to be desired. But if you are going to fight a tough enemy, then there’s no greater force to be reckoned with than to have them face Bowser.
Bowser also provides a lot of fun and interesting story bits in the game as they play on Bowser’s shame over his failed botch at keeping the Princess kidnapped. And his desire to take back his castle after the Sword kicked him out during the opening scene. There are even some very cool things that will happen in the overworld as a result of having Bowser on your team. Goombas & Koopas will run from you if they encounter Bowser, while the residents of Mushroom Kingdom will be scared of you or comment on Bowser being in the group. Which are some very cool story touches.
And last but not least, Princess Toadstool (aka Peach) is not one to be left in the wings . . .
PRINCESS TOADSTOOL (aka PEACH): The crown jewel of the Mushroom Kingdom, Princess Toadstool is a royal yet tough Princess who’s real strength has never really been tested. In Super Mario RPG she finally gets to see the grander world outside the castle walls in a state other than that of a useless damsel in distress.
She excels herself in all kinds of Magic, particularly that of the Healing variety, with the ability to heal an entire group and raise the deceased from the dead. She isn’t very strong however and can be as much a liability as a strength due to her physical weakness. She also has some of the funniest normal attacks and weapons in the game (cookware to the rescue!).
Unlike in most traditional Japanese turn-based RPGs, battles in Super Mario RPG are NOT random. That is, you can see the enemies you are going to fight walking around the location you are in. If you touch them, you will go into a battle scene where you will have to fight them and their friends in a traditional Japanese menu-based RPG battle. You may only see one enemy on the overworld, but you’ll almost always fight more than one at a time.
Unlike in more recent Mario RPGs (or even a game like EarthBound), you will not get any kind of advantage by jumping onto an enemy or attacking them from a different angle like the back or sides (sadly). Since you can see the enemies, this also means that you can avoid fights if you want to (although some enemies will give chase if you get close) but like in most RPGs, avoiding fights is not recommended because you NEED to fight to gain experience and level-up (making your characters stronger, characters will also level whether they are in the active party or not). In fact, the game will also be much easier if you battle virtually all the enemies you come across. But it’s always nice to have the option to avoid fights if you tire of all the menu-driven turn-based fights.
Sticking to the theme of jumping, Super Mario RPG takes the action feel that you get in the overworld and applies them to the battles as well to make the game battles more interactive, involved and exciting. You can sit back and not press any buttons while battling if you like, but your moves will be MUCH weaker. Mario’s “Special Techniques” also all involve either jumping or fireball throwing, just as you’d expect.
To battle more effectively, you will want to take advantage of what the game terms “Timed Hits” (Toad will always teach you how to play the game, with the timed hits explanation during your first battle). This means exactly that, you need to time the hit correctly to get the most damage. This applies not only to your standard Attacks, but also your Special Techniques and even Defense. By “time the hit”, I mean that you will need to press the corresponding button at just the right moment. This differs depending on what weapon is being used, what Special Technique you perform, and what attack is being done to you. But it’s mostly logical, for example, press A just as Mario’s fist is about to hit the enemy, and he’ll do another punch. Press Y just as Mario lands from his Jump Technique, and he will keep on jumping as long as you can time the button correctly! (Though the continuous attack only applies to that particular move)
When in a battle, you will see your characters on one side, and enemies on the other. As per all turn-based RPGs, you will then select a move from the various menus for each character. They will then attack, followed by the enemies who will all attack.
The menu system during battles works like this: You will see one menu corresponding to each of the SNES face buttons (the face buttons will actually appear around the active character when it’s their turn, which you then press to activate the menu). You then scroll through the list with the D-Pad and press that button to confirm. The Y Button corresponds to Special Techniques. The X Button corresponds to your Item Menu, the A Button corresponds to your normal Attack, while the B Button corresponds to your “Defense” move. Differing from the mention of “Defense” above, this B Button Defense makes your character crouch into a ball and will significantly reduce damage they receive (but you won’t be able to attack until your next turn).
What makes Super Mario RPG leagues funner than other turn-based RPGs is due to the simple addition of the Timed Hits feature. Because the timing is different depending on, as mentioned above, the attack an enemy is doing to you (Time your hit just right and you will block their attack, to take less damage), the weapon you are using (the timing for each one is different. So for Mario’s hammer, press the button again as soon as it hits and he’ll hit again) and the Special Technique you are using (varies wildly depending on the move you use. For Mallow’s Lightning Strike, press the button again as soon as the lightning is about to end), this keeps you on your toes as you need to constantly pay attention to the various attacks that both you and your enemy are performing and hit the button accordingly to battle most effectively. Although it must be said that this battle system was expounded on incredibly in succeeding Mario RPGs (Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi) so if you’ve played those games before this one, it may seem a bit simplistic in comparison.
Super Mario RPG plays out just like your typical RPG in most other senses. You will explore various towns and environments as Mario (who is the only character you see on-screen, unless others are speaking in a conversation, at which point they will “walk out of” Mario just like in Final Fantasy VII and other early RPGs) and talk with various townspeople and other characters you run into with the A Button. Most folks you run into will just make various comments, the majority of which is useless idle chatter and serves no real point. Which, if you are splitting hairs, could be seen as a negative. Thankfully, the dialogue in Super Mario RPG is funny, sometimes witty, but always well-written. Now since this is a game in 1996, it doesn’t approach the writing standards of today’s games (Mario & Luigi wipes the floor with it) but it’s top-notch writing for a game released before the landmark Final Fantasy VII that set the standard for more involved dialogue that was built upon even further in the years following it’s release in 1997.
Although most of what various people say is useless, you will obviously encounter some lines that will hint at something later. It’s almost always an item that will need to be given to said person for an award in return. Additionally, the people you will need to talk to in order to move the story further and progress in the game are always obvious. And while the game won’t always force you out of the location you are in there will be a few occasions where you will want to explore before you talk to said person to trigger the story sequence. But generally you are able to freely travel to any location in the game at any time.
When you are in a location you can go inside the various buildings and talk to people, as well as jump on any furniture (do so in the Mushroom Kingdom Shop for a funny animation). And you will find the standard types of RPG conventions in the form of buildings that you’d find in any other RPG, namely Shops and Inns. Shops will always have a spinning Mushroom sign while Inns will always have a spinning Invincibility Star sign. Resting at an Inn will recover your heath while Shops will offer both defensive and offensive weapons and armor that you can buy for your character.
Character statistics represent how much damage you will give or receive from enemies and it’s broken down into: Attack, Defense, Magic Offense, Magic Defense and Speed. Speed will make you quicker in battle and determine turn order as well as how often you can dodge attacks. The Attack stat is how much damage you will do with a normal attack, while the Defense stat is how much damage you will take from a normal enemy attack. Likewise, Magic Attack is how much damage you will do with a Special Technique, and Magic Defense denotes how much damage you will receive from a Magical based attack.
Then you have HP which stands for “Hit Points” and represents your health. If this reaches zero, you die. You also have FP, which stands for “Flower Points” and takes the place of traditional “Magic Points” that you see in other RPGs. Flower Points are used for performing Special Techniques. If you run out of Flower Points, you can refill them by sleeping at an Inn, or using Items. You can also raise your Maximum FP (which allows you to use more than you had before) by finding Flower Tab’s, Jar’s, and Box’s (each gives you more than the last).
As you defeat enemies you will gain Experience and Coins. Coins are used to buy items, they are the currency of the Mushroom Kingdom and come in both the standard Mario variety you know and love, as well as green-colored Frog Coins, which you can use to buy special items at certain points in the game. Gain enough Experience Points to Level Up. Leveling up will not only increase each individual stat, it will also give you a “Level Up Bonus” which are represented by three different icons, selecting one will raise that specific stat even above what you get for leveling up. This happens each time you level up as well, so depending on what stat you choose, you can help lean that character towards having a specialty in that specific stat; To be stronger in that area. Or you can spread it over all three. However you wish.
The three “Level Up Bonus”s are: POW (A Mario POW Block) which increases Offense & Defense. HP (A Mushroom) which increases your Health Points and S (Star) which increases your Magic Offense and Magic Defense.
As you come across new areas in the game, you will gradually fight stronger enemies. Enemies in this game do not “level to you”, you will just encounter stronger ones as you go. If you fight a lot (general rule of thumb being to defeat almost every enemy in your path) then you will always be strong enough to take the enemies down without too much problem. But either way, the game starts off supremely easy, but toughens up about half-way through the game. In addition to facing tougher and plentier enemies during battle, enemies will also increasingly use stronger magic spells on you.
The further you get into the game, the more you will also encounter Status Effects. These effect your player in various ways. Sleep puts them to sleep for a round so they can’t move, though they can wake up if they are attacked. Poison damages you every turn. Silence disables your Special Techniques. Fear cuts offense and defense in half. And then you get the really unique ones. Scarecrow turns you into (what else?) a Scarecrow. This makes it so you cannot use the B, A, or X Buttons. You can however still use Special Techniques with the Y Button. And finally, Mushroom turns you into (what else?) a Mushroom. In this state, you cannot do ANYTHING. But on the positive side, you will automatically heal when you are in this state. It lasts for a certain period. There are ways to combat status effects though, such as by using items.
You will also sometimes gain a random bonus (in the form of a flower) when defeating an enemy. They come in these forms: HP Max (Completely heals the player), Once Again (Gives the character a free turn, this usually happens if you take out two enemies in a row by defeating each one with a single hit), Attack Up (Increases that character’s offense for the remainder of the battle), Defense Up (ditto but for the Defense stat), and Lucky (Let’s you play a mini-game after the battle in which you must guess what egg Yoshi is in for either double experience points or double coins).
In addition to simply leveling up your stats, you will of course come across various weapons and armor that you can Equip to further raise the stats of your characters in order to do battle with the increasingly more powerful enemies. Weapons don’t have any other spell effects or status effects associated with them, but they can make a huge different in determining whether you are able to survive a fight, as does what Armor you wear.
But the best thing about the weapons is that each one is shown differently in battle, and will have a different Timed Hit associated with it. So part of the fun of getting new weapons, is trying them out to see what they look like and figuring out when you need to press the A Button to perform a Timed Hit. This was pretty significant because even though the earlier Final Fantasy titles from Square had different weapon models that would show up when you used different weapons in the battle screens, the weapons never actually PLAYED different than any other one. But in Mario RPG they do. So the different weapons, combined with the different way you need to learn how to perform Timed Hits with them, makes battling a lot funner than your standard, turn-based RPG. And that’s in addition to the above (Timed Hits for Defense that varies with the enemy and for Special Techniques).
To access your Inventory you press the X Button. It is on this screen where you can check your current level and how many Coins, Frog Coins and Flower Points (called “Flowers” in the menu) you currently have and your Maximum amount (current on left, maximum, or how many you can have total, on right). You can also see at a glance who is in your party, their level and their HP on the left side of the screen.
The right side offers many options. They are Item (check your Item inventory or use Items like Mushrooms to heal, Syrups to restore FP, Pick Me Up’s to revive a knocked out team-mate, etc.), Status (Check all stats and how many Experience Points you need to level up), Special (Check each players Special Techniques, use the ones that Heal, and get a tip on how to perform Timed Hits with them), Equip (allows you to see your current Equipment and Equip it to upgrade stats), Special Item (Certain Items that you won’t be using but are still an important part of your quest, or unique items you’ve been rewarded, will be listed here with a short description), Map (allows you to see what all of Mario’s world looks like as well as where you are on that map), Star Pieces (Lets you see how many Star Pieces you have collected) and Switch (allows you to swap out characters once you’ve met everyone. Mario must always stay in the party though). There is also another additional Menu listing you can find . . . Make sure you talk to the kid playing the Game Boy a lot during your adventure.
As far as the Equipment Menu is concerned, it is here that you will Equip weapons and armor to your characters. You cannot use a bought weapon or item until you Equip it first. So make sure you always do that. On the Equip screen you will see your characters displayed in the box to the left, with your various equipment on the right. That character’s stats are displayed in a box below. You will notice that three pieces of Equipment can be equipped on any one character at a time. This includes a Weapon, a piece of Armor and an Accessory. Accessories can be bought in various stores or found/earned/rewarded and they can do very beneficial things, such as keep you from being effected by Status Effects like Poison, Mushroom or Fear, or drastically raise your Attack, Magic, or Speed. To equip, you first select a character’s slot or a piece of Equipment, then move it over to the slot you want to place it in and press the A Button. If there’s already another piece of equipment in that slot, it will simply swap them out. If you hover one item over a slot that has another item in it, then you will be able to see which stats equipping that item will raise, and which it will lower. Unless there is no weapon equipped in that slot, then you must click the empty slot first to view your stats. Finally, if you don’t have anything in a slot, then the only way you can see how a piece of equipment will effect the stats is to select the empty slow, then a piece of equipment, and move it back over to the empty slot, which will show how the stats are changed when you equip that item.
Super Mario RPG will take you through many interesting locations to meet many charming and interesting characters as you travel across the large world map (which is larger than it at first seems). These include: Bowser’s Castle (which is never quite the same once that sword strikes down), Mario’s Pipe House, The Mushroom Kingdom where Toad, Princess Toadstool and The Chancellor dwell . . . and the place where you will first meet Mallow and his nemesis, a thieving Crocodile named Crocco . . . There’s the Kero Sewers, the town of Merrymore where there is a wedding chapel, the Pipe Vault (complete with a remix of the original Super Mario Bros. underground theme), the home of Mallow (Tadpole Pond), Booster’s Tower, home to thick-headed Booster himself, and much more. There’s a hidden Casino, a sunken Pirate Ship, a Volcano, Monstro Town where all the baddies reside and you may even get to climb a Beanstalk . . . wonder where that leads? The locations in this game are extremely diverse, and you will never once feel like you are going through the same areas over again. Although you will sometimes have to travel back to a previous location to talk to someone or whatnot, but those times are few and far between. Of course, if you want to find all the secrets, then it will benefit you to consistently go back to previous locations after furthering the story and after major events. You’ll often find a lot of new aspects to old locations if you go back to them.
And as were mentioned above, you will meet many interesting and unique characters on your adventure. All of theme seem just as likeable as the last and in my opinion and one of Super Mario RPG’s crowning achievements is the way it is able to somehow blends elements of Mario mythos and nostalgia with all new characters, enemies, locations and bosses in such a seamless way.
That is to say, if Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was your first Mario game, it’d probably never even occur to you that half of the game’s characters, enemies, bosses and locations are all-new creations that were devised by Square Enix just for this game. In fact, virtually all of them were never seen from again (A very sad fact indeed, if you ask me . . . Mallow and Geno should have been playable in Super Smash Bros. Brawl!). Which is a shame because all of them are enduring and well thought out creations that could’ve easily become part of the Mario canon proper.
As mentioned above, Super Mario RPG also features lots of bosses. And I mean lots, you will battle a new boss at almost every new location that isn’t a town. And all of them are very unique. From the player-eating Belome (who will create fake versions of whatever characters you are playing with during your second encounter) to the thieving and reoccurring battles with Croco, to the mystical battle with the secret Final Fantasy boss Culex, to the cloning Yaridovich, the miniature sensei Jinx and the pirate boss Jonathan “Johnny” Jones (“JJJ” for short).
Then of course there are the Axem Rangers . . . a hilarious Power Ranger parody team (an enemy that predates the rangers in Disgaea) that immediately shot this game up the “awesome” list tenfold for me. And then of course there’s the big boss himself and the bosses leading up to him. Which is a great and grand battle indeed. And all of those are the newly created boss enemies for the game! You will also encounter a host of Mario-related bosses, ranging from some giant Hammer Bros. to Birdo (before he started to play nice in Mario Kart and Mario Tennis). Super Mario RPG contains some flat-out great boss battles, and is all the better for it.
In addition to the interesting locations, characters, and bosses, Super Mario RPG is also filled to the brim with very cool side-quests, mini-games and secrets. The game is absolutely packed with them. Here is a sampling of some of the mini-games and side-quests you will encounter:
Midas River Course: During the course of the game you will end up riding down this waterfall, which you can go back to later as a mini-game to collect frog coins. During the mini-game, you view the waterfall from a distance as a small, mini (and always screaming inaudibly at the top of his lungs) Mario plunges down a huge river that is populated with regular coins, Frog Coins and holes that you can enter (which will take you to a different spot on the course, and sometimes award you with items). You can also use the B Button to make Mario use his stubby arms to swim upwards a bit and slow his fall. The goal is to collect as many Coins as you can. After that you will do a Barrel Jumping Event in which you ride down a river on a spinning barrel and jump to collect coins while dodging barrels and enemies who will take coins from you. There are two paths, hitting a barrel will send you down the other path. Afterward you are awarded one or two Frog Coins depending on how many coins you were able to get.
Booster Hill: This mini-game is unlocked after you first go through it as part of the story. In Booster Hill, Mario automatically runs up a hill. The goal is to collect as many beetles as you can, they will appear in different forms (male, female & gold) and you must use barrels that fall from the hill or the Snifits that run behind you to launch yourself upward to catch a beetle. You do this by jumping on the barrel or Snifits when the barrels fall or the Snifits run at you from behind. Though you must get the timing right so that you land on them. If you miss and touch them instead, they’ll knock you further down the Hill. You reward for this is Coins or Frog Coins depending on the beetles you caught.
Sky Bridge: In this mini-game you must jump from Donut Block to Donut Block as Bullet Bills shoot at you from a canon. The bullets will knock you off if you don’t jump over them. The goal is to reach the end. But you can keep playing and the bullets will shoot faster, but if you fall you lose all the coins you received for completing it the previous times. You can also play harder versions like one where the Donut Blocks fall if you stand on them for a short period without jumping.
Goomba Thumping: In this mini-game four pipes surround Mario and Goombas in normal and gold varieties will pop out of the pipes. As will Spikeys. Jump on the Goombas for points, avoid the Spikey’s who will take points away. A very fun mini-game.
Mine Cart Ride: In this mini-game Mario zooms through a mine-cart that uses Mode 7 graphics to create a cool 3D effect. You must use the breaks when hitting curves in the track in order to not fly off. You can jump in the cart to collect Mushrooms and Coins. The Mushrooms can be used to give you a speed boost. The goal is to beat your previous time. Originally this mini-game is part of the story, but can be played later on for fun and coins.
And that is only the beginning, there are tons of other mini-games and side-quests, such as one that challenges you to find three invisible flags hidden throughout the game world in specific spots, one in which you must race by timing button presses to a beat, Melody Bay where you will compose songs by jumping on tadpols that correspond to musical notes, the aforementioned Casino that has a three games you can play (Play the “Look the Other Way” game 100 times for a secret Item), the hidden aforementioned Final Fantasy-style boss that is extremely tough, a hidden Gardener who will reward you with two amazing pieces of equipment in exchange for a seed and fertilizer, a totally awesome “Game Boy” Beetle Game you can play in which tons of beetles fly onto the screen and you shoot at them from below. The quicker you press the buttons the more points you can rack up. This very game alone can keep you playing for hours in a “Geometry Wars”-style “have to beat my/my friends/my brothers high score” kind of way. And many, many more. In fact near the end of the game, just when you think that there couldn’t possibly be any better mini-games than the ones you’ve seen since you’re near the end . . . you will reach a section in which you are required to take part in four out of six puzzle/mini-games. Some of them are extremely tough including some brain benders that may just have you reaching for a FAQ.
And that’s not all, remember the hidden treasure chests previously mentioned? Well find them all for a special item given to you in Monstro Town (good luck on that. There is one in particular that requires you to jump on Toad’s head while he is entering the Chancellor’s room during the beginning of the game. That is the only time you can get the chest as there is no other way to get that particular chest later on. But good luck finding all the others!). And there’s even an award for performing Mario’s “Super Jump” Special Technique. Do it 30 times or 100 times and then talk to one of the characters in Monstro Town to get your prize. 100 times?!?! It’s as crazy as it sounds. I’ve NEVER been able to accomplish it!
As you can see, Super Mario RPG is packed with so much content it really does match the greatest of RPGs. Just as Square is known for.
What else is Square known for? GREAT MUSIC! And they did not disappoint on that front with Super Mario RPG. The music in the game was composed by none other than Yoko Shimomura, who is known for doing the music in some other Square hits including Kingdom Hearts, Parasite Eve and Legend of Mana. Not only that, but Super Mario RPG also contains a few remixes of popular Koji Kondo-composed Mario-series tunes that will definitely put a smile on the face of Nintendo fans.
Super Mario RPG Music: Barrel Volcano Theme
The music in the game seems to somehow fit the on-screen action PERFECTLY in every single instance. And while a lot of it is upbeat and happy, the game also contains some really cool and beautifully composed tracks, ranging from the Nimbus Land theme to the Barrel Volcano and Pipe Vault songs, to the Smithy theme, the Axem Rangers song and the freakin’ awesome Factory music. The game contains easily one of the best 16-bit RPG soundtracks. So good in fact, that you may wanna track down the Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars soundtrack. Called “Super Mario RPG: Original Sound Version”, it contains 61 of the game’s 73 tracks. Alternatively you can listen to the Super Mario RPG soundtrack, or download the Super Mario RPG soundtrack.
Overall, Super Mario RPG is, in my personal opinion, one of the best Nintendo/Square games of all time. And yes it’s strong enough of a title to make either a “Best of” Square or Nintendo list. Heck, it’s personally one of my top 10 favorite games of all time.
The game is accessible, yet offers enough challenge and optional fights to satisfy the hardcore. And speaking of keeping you occupied, the game’s many side-quests and extremely tough challenges (such as finding all the hidden treasure chests or timing 100 jumps with the Super Jump) will keep you coming back for more and keep completests very busy, as the game also has tons of Items, Equipment and Armor to find, as well as some really well-hidden secrets (including some weird things, such as the mysterious B’Tub Ring Item. Equip that to one of your party members, and use the Mystery Egg item 10 times with that character, to turn it into the Lamb’s Lure. Use that item 48 times to get another item, the Sheep Attack! Just make sure you keep the B’Tub Ring equipped while using the previous two items). You can even find Samus and Link in the game! Sleep in the Rose Town Inn the first time you are allowed to in order to find Link, while Samus is hidden in the Mushroom Kingdom’s Guest Room after you’ve received the 5th Star but before you progress further in the game.
If you’ve never played Super Mario RPG, heck even if you have never played an RPG, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars will be a great, great experience that you will not regret. The game is incredibly fun and incredibly funny. At many points in the game Mario acts out certain scenes due to his muteness (which is never explained, he simply doesn’t talk) to hilarious effect. It even goes so far as to have Mario actually physically transform. In addition, Mario has some incredibly funny animations. There’s quite a few times where Mario will fall flat on his face which is almost always laugh-out loud funny. If you encounter any spinning items/objects in the environments, be sure to make Mario jump onto them for some hilarious animations. There are even a few optional scenes that you won’t encounter unless you go back to previous environments.
It’s these many great moments that will put a big smile on your face. Couple that with a pretty long quest, tons of awesome boss fights, lots of mini-games, side-quests and jumping action with a cool storyline and you have yourself one heck of a game.
Super Mario RPG is required playing for anyone that wants to see the best that 16-bit gaming has to offer, and whether you have never experienced it before, or you are a withered veteran who can find every hidden treasure chest with ease, Super Mario RPG simply begs to be played. It deserves it!
FUN FACTOR: 10
Super Mario RPG has everything you could want from a 16-bit, turn-based RPG. It’s got a great and fun storyline, a magnificent cast of interesting, charming and funny characters, lots of memorable scenes and moments (go behind the curtain in Booster Tower for one of the greatest scenes in video game history), a unique gameplay style that’s in line with the Mario name, but applied to an RPG, a seamless world full of new and old characters perfectly mixed into a synergy of Square-panache with Nintendo-style. Great graphics, wonderful music, lots of replay value with TONS of secrets . . . Really, what more could you ask for?
Super Mario RPG looks as good as a Super Nintendo game can get. It’s as 3D as you can get without actually being entirely 3D. The game impressed back in the day, and nowadays, it looks just as spiffy as ever.
Music & Sound: 10
Super Mario RPG contains an outstanding soundtrack with a mix of new and old in both the music and sound effect categories. There are some tunes here that are simply outstanding, enough so that I want to buy the soundtrack just thinking about it. Some of the new melodies like those of The Factory, Booster’s Tower and Nimbus Land are a brilliant showcase of just what you can accomplish with such limited 16-bit hardware. A tour de force that sounds excellent even in this day and age.
An “action RPG” in the truest since of the word . . . or maybe it should be called a “Platform RPG”? This game blended Mario-jumping action with RPG elements in a way that had never been done before and showed the world how to make turn-based combat fun again. So fun in fact, that the same basic design was built upon for the “Mario RPG” follow-ups like Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario. Play Mario & Luigi’s to see what a modern Super Mario RPG battle system looks like.
Replay Value: 10
Super Mario RPG is still a blast for me to play. Even though I’ve beaten it multiple times throughout my life and know the game like the back of my hand . . . . and yet, even then, I STILL have not been able to get everything in this monstrously large game! There are so many secrets packed away that if you don’t use a strategy guide or FAQ, then you may never find all of them! On top of that, Super Mario RPG remains both accessible yet challenging, with enough optional portions to keep players coming back for more. Of course, the game is so fun and funny, with excellent writing and some absolutely hilarious moments (the scene with Gaz where you first see Geno is ingenious) that you won’t mind in the least playing through the entire game again. And it contains one of the best boss battles of the 16-bit generation with an extremely fun ending to boot.