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Super Mario RPG

The 2008 Wii Role-Playing video game

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Still Mario's Best Non-Platforming Adventure

  • Jun 30, 2010
Mario was usually accustomed to going on platforming adventures, chasing Princess Toadstool and saving her from the clutches of the evil Koopa King: Bowser.  In 1996 someone must've gotten a little annoyed with the prospect and decided that Mario needed a bigger adventure.  And it was one that couldn't be contained in a mere sitting.  Super Mario RPG launched in 1996 taking the gaming world by storm, and was one of the games that gave the Super Nintendo a fond farewell.  To this day it's still one of the most unique games Mario has ever had, if only because it's one of the only games that dares to go beyond simply saving a princess.

You wouldn't know that from the start of the game, however.  It begins in typical Mario fashion.  Toadstool is enjoying herself at Mario's Pad when suddenly Bowser swoops in out of nowhere and kindaps her.  Mario then immediately rushes off to save her.  Going through Bowser's Keep you find Toadstool and Bowser.  After a fairly simple and straightforward battle Mario is about to save Toadstool when suddenly there's an earth quake and a giant sword descends from the clouds and plunges right into Bowser's Keep... throwing Mario, Bowser and Toadstool to different parts of the world.  Mario is, fortunately, thrown to his own pad.  It appears there really is something so much more going on than simply trying to stop Bowser.  Mario is in for the adventure of a lifetime.

For most gamers, this is perhaps the best introduction you could ever hope for to the JRPG.  That's Japanese RPG.  In 1996, many a Mario fan was disappointed to buy the game, only to find out it wasn't typical Mario fare.  That is to say you didn't go running around and stomping on goombas or collecting mushrooms in the traditional sense.  Since the JRPG wasn't exactly mainstream (it still isn't) most people had to take a moment to step back and realize that the game they were playing wasn't some weird "non-Mario Mario" game... it was simply in a very different genre. 

Toad is there to help you through it at the beginning.  The battles you fight in Super Mario RPG aren't random.  They're all contact based.  And it's traditional turned based stuff.  In battle you have four options to choose from, each assigned to the face buttons.  A lets you select a standard attack.  X lets you choose between items, Y lets you choose a special attack and B gives you the option to either defend yourself from the next attack or run away.  It's so simple anyone can pick it up and play.  The battles are also fairly fast paced.  The game isn't too challenging at all. 

The story takes things off to a great start.  There isn't too much dialog in Super Mario RPG, but the story is at least coherent and amusing.  Even comical at times (okay, comical most of the time).  It even incorporates many of the standard Mario elements.  Mario can roam around and jump around if he wants.  Instead of potions restoring your HP you use mushrooms.  Instead of MP you have FP for Flower Points.  There are hidden chests too.  You'll also collect coins which you'll actually use to spend.  It transitions into the RPG genre really well.  It's not all standard JRPG fare.  In short, it can appeal to Mario fans... if they're willing to take the time to sit through Toad's tutorials to learn the game.  It also makes sure you can't get lost and that you always know what to do.  Super Mario RPG is linear, but not without some sidequests or without it's fair share of secrets.  There are hidden bosses, hidden items and weapons and hidden locations.  You'll also find a lot of good Easter eggs such as Link and Samus at some points and even a boss that's ripped straight out of Final Fantasy IV... using the elemental crystal's of Final Fantasy!  This is because Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was one of the men in charge of the game.  The Final Fantasy influence is impossible not to see (it IS Square, after all), but even better is just that Super Mario RPG isn't exactly a big adventure... but it stuffs A LOT into it. 

There are also a large assortment of characters that will join Mario.  This is perhaps what fans have loved about Super Mario RPG the most.  The fact that you get two original characters and an unlikely ally.  Mario will be joined by a marshmallow like boy named Mallow.  A doll that comes to life on his conquest to fix the Star Road named Geno.  He'll also be joined by Princess Toadstool herself and even King Bowser.  The adventure turns out to be good if only because it's so different.  And it still manages to be fun even to this day.  It's done in such a way that JRPGers can enjoy it for simply being a JRPG, while newcomers can enjoy it because it's not intimidating enough to scare them away. 

At this point in gaming, Mario was known for having some pretty bad spinoffs (Mario is Missing... ugh!), but Super Mario RPG wasn't one of them.  Perhaps what stuck out a lot was the games visual presentation.  Sprites have never looked this good on a Super Nintendo.  Donkey Kong Country was remarkable to look at, but Super Mario RPG had a charm about it that was hard not to like.  It's not fully 3D.  It's isometric 3D.  Meaning it gives you the illusion that you're looking at something in 3D.  But it's still colorful and beautiful.  And it's got a lot of detail.  Somethings can look a little pixelated, but Super Mario RPG makes sure to milk every last ounce of strength the Super Nintendo has.  Not in beauty... but power.  It's the largest the game you can find on the system because it's using just about every resource it can muster.  What you get from this is a good looking game, but that can also do a lot of things such as render several sprites at once, be as colorful as it is.. and be as long as it is without being crushed under its own weight. 

It's the gameplay, however, that stands above everything else in Super Mario RPG, though.  The battle system utilizes a nice touch with giving the player "timed hits."  When you attack pressing the A button at the right time will cause the player to do more damage.  Likewise, you can do the same with special attacks only with pressing "Y".  Although some special attacks require other means to do them.  Some, for example, require you to hold the Y button for power, rotate the control pad, or mash on the Y button for maximum damage.  It keeps you paying attention and it works. 

The music stands out as well.  Some of the tracks are remixing music from other Mario games but an overwhelmig majority of it is actually original.  Although there is one track lifted directly from Final Fantasy IV thrown in there (sorry fans of Final Fantasy VI, there's no shout out to that particular game).  It's hard not to enjoy the soundtrack, although it does get a little repetitive.  They loop too quickly and sometimes it feels like they didn't dump enough music in.  But we'll be okay with that.

Super Mario RPG may be a fantastic game, but it didn't fall into the hands of too many gamers.  The game was largely a success but in 1996 it had the unfortunate timing of coming out while gaming was progressing forward with the Nintendo 64 and the Playstation.  Like several Super Nintendo games released in 1996, it was passed over for the more powerful systems.  Which meant that some gamers just never got the chance to really enjoy this gem of an RPG.  With the Wii's virtual console, however, it's a good time as any to relive (or discover) one of Mario's best adventures. 

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June 30, 2010
I don't remember playing this one for the could I have missed it!?!? Great write-up!

EDIT: Ah, it's on the virtual console! I never played the original version, and I haven't shopped in the VC store in a while. :-P
More Super Mario RPG [Wii] reviews
review by . December 19, 2008
Super Mario RPG was Mario's last SNES game, and his very first RPG adventure. In this game, Mario, along with his new friends Mallow (a marshmallow-looking character who thinks he's a frog) and Geno (a living doll), longtime girlfriend Princess Peach, and even his main adversary Bowser, race to defeat Smithy and his mechanical minions while collecting the seven stars that have the power to grant wishes. When I first got this game in 2002 after playing and enjoying Paper Mario, I was instantly hooked! …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #1
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this video game



Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: SquareSoft
Console: Wii
Genre: RPG
Release Date: June 24, 2008
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