Welcome to week five of Re-Play! A ten-week series where we go look back in time to visit some of the greatest games of the past, give them an honest review, and see how well they still hold up today! Today we’re venturing to the Mushroom Kingdom to go on an adventure with Mario & friends in the cult-classic game Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, Mario’s name was synonymous with video games. The portly plumber had already achieved worldwide recognition by the mid-nineties from his entries into the side-scrolling platforming genre. However, Nintendo did not want their start to be limited to one genre of the video game medium, so they reached out to the RPG giant known as Square to help make a game which combined the charm and familiarity of Super Mario games with the tactical gameplay and fantastical stories of Square’s Final Fantasy games. Square worked closely with producer, and Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto to lovingly produce this amazing and charming game, which is so popular to this day that it has been re-released on different platforms in both 2016 and 2017.
The main reason that this game is still popular to this day is plain and simple: it’s just fun. By taking familiar characters such as Mario, Princess Peach, and Bowser, and throwing them into an epic questline to save the world Square gave Mario fans something they never knew they wanted: a fleshed-out Mushroom Kingdom and an epic narrative to hold it all together.
The story begins standardly enough, with Mario running to Bowser’s Keep to rescue the Princess from her most recent kidnapping. However, during their showdown, an enormous sentient sword falls from the sky and lands right in the top of the castle; throwing Mario, Bowser and the Princess to different locations across the Mushroom Kingdom. The sword heralds the coming of an entirely new big-bad named Smithy, who plans to take over the world with his army of weapon-themed minions. Mario then starts a legendary quest around the Kingdom to save the world from Smithy, recruiting new characters such as Mallow, the weather-controlling sentient cloud who thinks he is a frog, and old faces such as Bowser himself (Who really just wants his castle back, and sees Mario as a means to an end).
The gameplay combined world exploration which turn-based combat similar to the Final Fantasy series, but with its own unique twists. Players still collect or buy new gear for their party members, who earn experience in combat to level up and learn new abilities. However, most attacks in the game are assigned to 1 of the 4 buttons on the SNES controller and require proper timing to execute the full potential of the attack. Whether that means repeatedly pressing a button at the right time to make Mario continue to jump on a baddie, or holding a button to charge up a massive laser beam, combat feels more interactive than it usually does in a Square game.
The combat is started by running into enemies who roam around areas of the map, and you will be seeing them quite frequently. However, combat is not the only thing to do while exploring in this game. Numerous mini-games are scattered throughout the world of the Mushroom Kingdom, and they always seem to come a time when you need them. These can include riding a barrel down a waterfall while trying to collect coins, beetle-collecting for a crazed lunatic, or composing music by jumping on polliwogs. The pacing of the game is perfect, as these mini-games never feel intrusive, yet offer great rewards should you choose to take the time to master them.
The art-style of Super Mario RPG is genuinely unique as well. Square created beautiful 3D worlds for the 2D sprite characters to explore allowing for a 3D isometric world rarely seen on the SNES at the time. The 3D worlds pushed the boundaries of the Super Nintendo’s hardware at the time, but with fantastic results. The sprites in the game also seem to be lovingly created as well for every character as well, from Mario himself to the villainous ̶P̶o̶w̶e̶r̶ ̶R̶a̶n̶g̶e̶r̶s̶ Axem Rangers.
Lastly, one of the most important factors to a good game is the music within it. Now famous video game composer Yoko Shimomura helped compose a beautiful soundtrack for SMRPG by skillfully combining familiar Super Mario music with the epicness of a Final Fantasy soundtrack. This background music helps blend the old with the new in such a perfect way that it masterfully accents the gameplay and the world around it.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is still widely regarded as one of the best Super Nintendo games of all-time, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Between the interactive combat system, the beautiful world, and epic narrative, it is hard to pull yourself away from this game. Even though there never was a true sequel, Nintendo has produced spiritual successors in the form of the Paper Mario series and the Mario & Luigi series for various consoles. However, if you haven’t had the pleasure to play the original SMRPG, you truly do owe it to yourself. Combining Square’s mastery of role-playing games with Nintendo’s most popular franchise was truly a brilliant idea and one that most likely will never be replicated in the future.
Super Mario RPG is available now on the Wii & WiiU’s Virtual Consoles