Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga

A mix of platform and RPG gameplay with a lot of jumping


The Lowdown

Pros: Creative RPG gameplay, excellent graphics, nicely remixed music

Cons: A bit too easy, control takes some time to learn

Purchase at Play-Asia
With the success of Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario another Mario styled RPG was inevitable. The latest Mario RPG installment takes elements from both games and expands upon them like any good series. Also like the Mario RPG series this game features a twist on the typical RPG, some humor and can be enjoyed by players of all ages.

Mario and Luigi starts the game with the Princess losing her voice to a baddy from the Bean Bean Kingdom. Every time she tries to speak explosives come out. Toad rushes over to Mario's house to help Princess Peach. While at the castle Bowser is just about to kidnap the Princess when he finds out the Princess can no longer speak. Of course Mario and Bowser duke it out, with Toad explaining how to fight. If there's one thing other creative gameplay games can learn from Mario and Luigi is how it melds in tutorials. When you're fighting Bowser Toad explains how to give extra damage on your attacks by hitting "A" as you're about to jump on Bowser's head and how to dodge attacks by jumping. If you haven't played a Mario RPG game before, the game emphasizes timing. Nintendo added an old school gameplay component that tests your reflexes to the RPG genre in Super Mario RPG. The timing component really gives the game a more than your typical RPG feel. Battles become much faster when you master giving a few points of extra damage and when you dodge attacking enemies.

Aside from jumping around in battles you'll be doing a lot of jumping on the overworld map, almost as much as a platform game. However, it takes a little while to get used to the control scheme. Whoever is in the front jumps by pressing the A button and whoever is in the back jumps by pressing the B button. To even climb a set of stairs you'll need to press forward A and then B so both of the brothers jump up one step. It takes time to get used to the rhythm of button pressing and at times you'll find yourself frustrated with it. For instance if Mario has just jumped over a chasm and Luigi doesn't make it and falls in you'll need to go all the way back down to get Luigi. You can't continue forwards unless you have both Mario and Luigi. The control scheme gets a little better when you gain special jumps like the high jump and spin jump (which you can switch from your basic jump by pressing L) because the special jumps automatically bring move both Mario and Luigi. Besides jumping over pits you'll be jumping to hit the myriad number of question mark blocks. These blocks contain valuable items like mushrooms and syrup, which replenish HP and MP respectively or coins, which is the currency of the game. Another use for jumping is to jump on the overworld enemies. All enemies are seen on screen so you can choose if you want to fight them or if you want to avoid them. If you see an enemy you can jump on its head to cause some pre-emptive damage for all the enemies in that battle.

Mario and Luigi features some great visuals on the GBA. Besides Mario and Luigi you'll see many other Mario characters like Goombas, Koopas and even the Hammer Brothers. There are also plenty of new enemies and friends that you'll run into like the Cactus-like Hoohoo citizens. Both Mario and Luigi aren't recycled from the same sprites like in some of the Nintendo games. Instead they both have individual and different animations. The designers even took the time to include facial expressions and some body language which the characters use while talking to other characters and in response to their environment. Even the enemies have vivid animations. They have expressions when they successfully attack and when they're hit. All of the little details make the game feel like a cartoon, which appears to be the style the designers were going for. The background visuals are a little bland, but you won't be paying too much attention to them since you'll be focusing on your timing.

The sound in the game is standard Mario fare. You'll recognize remixed tunes from other Mario games and a couple of new tunes that fit the Mario style. Some of the remixed tunes include Bowser's theme and the Warp Pipe theme from Super Mario Brothers 3. It's a Mario game what else can you expect? The sound effects are quite impressive. Voice clips have been included in the game like the ones included in the Super Mario Advance series. The difference is there are many more sound bytes. In a GBA RPG you wouldn't expect Mario or Luigi to actually hear them say anything, but they do. The sound bytes are neatly blended as when you would expect voiceovers. Even though the majority of sound bytes are incoherent blobs of speech, they're still cool.

If there's one downside to Mario RPG it is the level of difficulty. Once you master all the timing tricks like giving extra damage, jumping on the enemies heads before battle, dodging and how to get extra coins the game becomes much easier than any other RPG. Old school gamers will have no problem mastering this aspect of the game and will end up breezing through it. That's not to say that it wont be fun through, but the game doesn't have the same amount of length as your standard RPG.

Mario and Luigi is a winner. If you can get past the cutesy graphics you'll find a game that can appeal to everyone. While the game's story lacks depth it makes up for it with humor. There are a lot of Luigi jokes in the game, one is where Bowser can't remember his name so he calls Luigi Mr. Green. Mario and Luigi acts like a tribute to the Mario series melded in the mask of an RPG.

Import Friendly?

The game is being released in the US on November 11th. If you're importing the game and do not read English you may run into problems quickly since there is a lot of text associated with the game.

US Bound?

As stated above its being released on November 11, 2003.

Overall

If you're a fan of the Mario series you'll enjoy this game for sure. If you're a die hard RPG fan looking for an epic adventure, this isn't it, instead it's a break from the standard RPG.