Review by RageBot
"United they stand, divided they're not."
This game is the third Mario-based RPG. By that time, no solid sub-franchise was established yet (That, of course, was changed one year later, when TTYD was released). For their third game in the series, as well as the first one on a handheld console, Nintendo changed the scene once again. Collaborating with yet another company, Alpha, Nintendo decided to make a game based on Mario cooperating with none other than his shadowed brother, Luigi.
The story is actually a lesser part of this very action-oriented RPG. At the start of the game, two ambassadors from the Beanbean Kingdom, which shares a border with the Mushroom Kingdom, come to visit Princess Peach. They offer a gift, which turns out to be a trap that steals Peach's voice, and replaces it with a set of explosive syllables (Uh, don't ask). Mario rushes to the Beanbean Kingdom to get Peach's voice back, with a little help from his nemesis, Bowser, and his cruiser. Luigi actually doesn't want to join his brother, but he is lifted unto Bowser's ship by mistake!
Once in the neighboring kingdom which was obviously created solely for this game, the Mario brothers ventures onward into the land where everybody's faces are green. With the help of Queen Bean and the handsome Prince Peasly, the jumping plumbers are determined to take down Cackletta and Fawful, the two fake ambassadors, as another cataclysm is drawing ever near. Oh well, just another day in the life of a video game protagonist.
The game revolves around cooperation between the Mario Brothers. You control both at the same time, one acts with the A button, the other with B. Each has a set of commands, that can be picked via R for the lead character, and L for the back character. Finally, you switch between the lead and back characters with Start. That means that accessing the menu and the only way to pause the game, is via the Select button. It takes time to adapt to this unique control scheme.
As I mentioned, each of the Mario Brothers has a set of commands, and they are a little different. Each brother comes with a regular jump, but throughout the game, they learn special jumps, as well as obtain hammers, gain a kind of magic (fire for Mario, thunder for Luigi), as all sorts of co-op field abilities. For example, Luigi's special jump is a high jump, allowing the brothers to climb up higher ledges. Mario's special jump is a spin jump that allows the brothers to stay in the air longer, resulting in a better horizontal range. Similar differences can be found in the hammer and magic co-ops.
Cooperation is the key in battles, too. Unfortunately, it's also where the control scheme gets really messed up. Usually in an RPG, the A button selects a command, while B cancels it. Not here. In this game, A controls Mario and B controls Luigi. To cancel a command, press the left arrow on the D-pad, then press the brother's face button.
Anyway, each brother can jump, wield his hammer and use magic in battle, to hurt the enemies. Each attack has its Action Command, just like in every Mario RPG. However, reducing damage is a little trickier. instead of blocking an attack, you must DODGE it via jumps or the hammer. Dodging must be precise, and late-game enemies has attacks that leave barely a moment's chance to dodge. You must learn the attacks through and through before succeeding. Oh, and enemies deal a lot of damage in this game.
Exclusive to this game are co-op commands, or "Brother Commands". They cost Brother Points, this game equivalent of Flower Points from the Paper Mario games, and mana from almost every other RPG. When choosing a Brother Command, you must execute a series of button presses correctly. To aid you, lesser version of the commands are available. Those act as guides to execute the commands perfectly, but they deal far less damage.
As mentioned, this enemies deal a lot of damage in this game, and their attacks are hard to dodge, making this game tougher than expected, based on the previous two titles. To aid you, the debilitating item limitation has been lifted. You can stack up on as many items as you want, and you'll need them. Aside from mushrooms and syrups, you can obtain nuts, which heal both brothers' HP at once. You'll need them too.
Equipping protective gear is back from the original Super Mario RPG, although you can't change your weapons. Armor can be exclusive to Mario, Luigi or can be worn by both. Badges are back from Paper Mario, but they are merely accessories in this game. Each brother can equip one badge, and they can increase your BP and attack, while armor changes your HP and defense. They also get you some attributes, such as the ability to jump on spiked enemies.
Other than the problematic control schemes for field and battle, the game has another problem: it's rather monotonous. Each area consists of platforms that must be jumped on, getting ever higher, all of them look the same. There is some variety towards the end of the game, when you get more skills and co-op abilities, but the first three or four hours can be boring. Also, that is about a quarter of the game. Yes, this game can be completed within 15 hours. That is the shortest RPG I have ever played. However, comparing it to other games on the console, such as Zelda: Minish Cap and Metroid Fusion, 15 hours are a decent time to finish it.
This game is a worthy addition to your collection, but there are better games, too. I'd rather play TTYD, the original Super Mario RPG for the SNES, or Bowser's Inside Story as the first in the series.
Final grade: 8.1/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 06/22/12
Game Release: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (US, 11/17/03)
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