Review by Dbzmaniax
"'It's a me, Mario!' 'And Luigi!'"
'It's a me, Mario!' 'And Luigi!'
Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is a RPG (role-playing game) designed by Alphadream Corporation and published by Nintendo. It was released in November, 2003. In this game you control both Mario and Luigi on a quest to Well, read on and you'll find out.
The Mario RPG series all began back in 1996, on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, when Squaresoft (now Square Enix) and Nintendo co-produced a classic, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. This game remains to be loved by many gamers till this day, almost ten years later.
The next addition to the Mario RPG library was on the Nintendo 64, with the unorthodox Paper Mario. While not as good as its predecessor, this game is still great and was a strong addition to the 64 lineup, and would latter lead to an even better game on the Gamecube, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga was strongly influenced by both its Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 predecessors.
The gameplay in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of the best that I've played. This game takes the best from both Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Paper Mario.
This game is divided into two parts, the world map and inside battle.
Pretty much everywhere in the game is all on one big map with many areas. All except places like caves, houses, dungeons, underwater, etc. It isn't like a Final Fantasy or Tales of Symphonia type world map where to get to a new area you would have to travel on a huge, world map (and a larger then life main character) with random battles and then teleport into the area, nor is it like a Chrono Cross or Baten Kaitos where the world map is all in one pretty screen and all you have to do is select the area you want to go to, and then BOOM! You're there. To get from Part A to Part B in this game you're going to have to work for it, or take the easy way out and use a pipe (however this is only an option once you have visited the area). On the way to different areas you're bound to meet tons of enemies. This would have gotten very annoying at parts in the pipes weren't there to give you a helping hand.
What makes this game special is the Actions. This isn't one of those RPG where you can't do anything outside battle except walk or run. The developers added a little more action into this game. Now as you already should know (from the intro), you control both Mario and Luigi in this RPG. On the world map you can have one character in the front and one in the back (swap by simple pressing Start). At the beginning of the game Luigi and Mario both learn a new ability. These abilities make up a huge part of the game and are essential to get to new areas and to get items from the Item Boxes. These abilities are called Solo Actions (performed by the Brother in the front) and Bros. Actions (performed by the Brother in the back). By the end of the game both Mario and Luigi will have many abilities at their disposal, whether it's hitting each other with a hammer or running through cracked walls at high speed. You'll find that there are times that the Brothers are separated. This makes the game slightly harder and you won't be able to use any special actions.
Item Boxes make a comeback in this delightful RPG. Be warned however, not all of these are not all normal boxes like the ones you've been accustomed to from the classic Mario platformers. Sure there are some that need no more skill then a jump (or a few jumps) to reach the hidden bounty, but there are also others that require you hitting the block first with Mario then Luigi, the Mario, etc, or even a fun tennis type mini-game block that causes you to hit the block between Mario and Luigi at ever increasing speeds (I've never hit it past 25 times). These can get annoying sometimes but none-the-less it's better than the same Item Boxes over and over again.
Mario and Luigi can buy items from shops (well obviously, it's an RPG), such as mushrooms to heal HP and syrups to heal BP (Bros. Points). You can also buy trousers and badges, these have various effects on the Brothers, and usually it's increasing their stats, such as Strength and Defense, but sometimes they have special effects such as allowing one of the Brothers to jump on spiked enemies. Using these can add an extra sense of depth to the game and you may find deciding to give up a desired effect for more defense or strength.
Mini-games aren't so mini in this Mario RPG. Many, many, many and did I mention many times you'll find yourself playing essential mini-games to continue on with the story, meaning if you find a mini-game you're finding very hard you have three choices, 1. Stop playing, 2. Try, try and try again (I found myself doing this on many occasions) or 3. Let someone else have a go at it. You'll encounter the first mini-game very close to the start of the game where both Mario and Luigi have to work together to jump over a rope, if you can't win, you can't pass. Although they may be hard, these mini-games are a refreshing addition to the game and give the player a change of pace, the good thing is that you can go back and play some of the when you feel the need to.
Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga comes packed with a mini-game that can be accessed from the game menu (it also comes with all the Super Mario Advance games). A very sweet package indeed, for it comes bundled with the arcade game that put Mario on the map and introduced Luigi, that's right! The 1983 classic Mario Bros with much better graphics. If you already own some or most of the Super Mario Advance series, you'll probably think to yourself, Not again!', but if your like me and don't have any SMA games, then this is a pleasant addition to the game. Sadly this is the only place to get multiplayer action, it would have been interesting to see Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga with a Co-op Mode, but I guess many people won't want to spend hours on end playing a game together.
Now that we've gotten through that, it's time to discuss the battle system. The battle system is similar to the other Mario battle system. In Superstar Saga you have four commands to choose from, Attack, Bros. Attack, Items and Run. The Attack menu lets you choose from your Solo Actions, such as jumping and using the hammer. Pressing the A button right before you attack will get you a boost in damage given.
Bros. Attacks are special attacks in which both Brothers work together to hurt the enemy, such as Luigi batting Mario into an enemy with his hammer. You better get you're timing right or else you've just wasted a turn. Using these attacks can make the Brothers lose BP. The only gripe I have with these attacks can make boss battles too easy, many times not even having to use any normal attacks until you BP wastes, which will rarely happen if you enter battle with full BP, and if it does happen all you need to do is replenish your BP or just finish off the weakened boss with Solo Attacks. I don't think I used 10 BP replenishing items in the entire game, (I probably have more than 70 stocked) and I barely leveled up my BP. I won't get into Items and Run because they're obvious enough.
As in most RPG's winning battles will give you money, experience and items. After a Brother gains a certain amount of experience he will level. All his stats will gain some points automatically, plus you can choose one stat to get extra points in, from 1 5. Although this may seem as a small addition it can add a huge sense of depth into the game, giving you the opportunity to make your Brothers different, for example, my Mario was my heavy striker and the faster of the Brothers, while Luigi was made to take damage with very high defense. If you don't go out of your way to train your characters will probably be around level 36 40 at the end of the game.
Some people that have played this game may be puzzled why I gave the story such a high mark. It is very shallow and there isn't much depth, which in my opinion, is perfect for a Mario game. The story begins by an ambassador from the Beanbean Kingdom offering Princess Peach a present. The gift turns out to be a gas from the evil Bowletta that knocks out Princess Peach and steals her voice. Toad then runs to Mario's house and after a small ruckus Mario will go running out, dragging Luigi with him. The enemy Bowser offers to help.
Mario later gets onto the Koopa Cruiser (Koopa Trooper would have been better) and Luigi, there only to see off Mario, gets put on the Cruiser to join in the adventure with Mario. Some more stuff happen, including the Cruiser getting hijacked by Fawful, one of Bowletta's servant (who knocks out Bowser) and fights the Mario Bros. After the Fawful will explode the ship and the Brothers will jump off and land on the border of the Mushroom and Beanbean Kingdom. That's all that I'm going to reveal.
While this may seem shallow and predictable, like I said it is perfect for a Mario game. There are a few major twists here and there, and while they aren't anywhere near as big as the one in Baten Kaitos (if you've played the game you know which one I'm referring to), they do the job. The story also wasn't as predictable as I expected it to be. Some stuff that I thought were certain to happen didn't happen.
One thing that really adds to the story is the amount of humor involved, which for some strange reason, often involves Luigi in tears. You will find yourself laughing many times throughout the game.
Another thing that adds to the game is the few cameos involved in the game such as Birdo from Super Mario Bros 2 and the 8 Koopa Kids from Super Mario World. Many of the monsters are making cameo appearances such as the infamous Goombas and Piranha Plants.
So, all in all, not what you would want from a more conventional RPG, but close to perfect for a Mario game.
The graphics in this game are excellent for a GBA Mario RPG. The graphics are quite cartoony with a ton of animations for many characters in the games, especially Mario and Luigi. You can easily tell the creators put a lot of effort into making this game look as good as possible and adding many small details here and there, such as all enemies having different animation for different types of attacks. Most of the enemies in this game have fresh, looking unique attacks, with nice looking
The environments are highly detailed and very pleasing to the eyes, with a ton of variety, whether you're strolling on the sunny banks of the beach, hiking up mountains, taking a nice walk in the grassy plains, or exploring a dark cave (just to name a few). This game certainly won't leave you begging for better graphics, with each area having its own unique look. All in all the graphics are some of the most well done on the GBA.
Now on to the sound. The music in this game is made up of both new, original songs as well as some old tunes for that feeling of nausea. No matter what tune however, they all sound great. I mostly played this game wearing my headphones late at night, and I did not once have the urge to turn off the sound. The boss themes are also great.
The thing that makes the sound really stands out in the voice acting. No, not your conventional style of voice acting, just some remarks made by the Mario Bros. as well as the other main characters. They are just short remarks like Mario say Hammer!' when you select his hammer command on the world map, or the Brothers saying each others names when they are reunited after being separated.
The battles in this game, for the most part, aren't too difficult. It's very simple and you'll be cruising, killing most enemies in one or two moves. The boss battle aren't really very hard and you should rarely lose, just remember to keep a large stock of healing items, usually for HP, or else you'll find yourself in tons of trouble. This isn't one of those win without using any items' game. The battle system relies very heavily on the use of healing items. However the game is very difficult when the Brothers are by separated and you'll find yourself running away from many battles, especially later on in the game.
Now as I said the battles aren't too difficult for the most. There is a point in the game, close to the end, when the difficulty gets turned up a notch and you'll find the enemy battles get harder; however the boss battles are still pretty easy, with healing items at hand.
The last boss battle in the game in extremely hard. You'll need tons of items to win and you'll probably have both characters die a few times if you're not careful. It wasn't hard enough to cause a game over, but I came close to it a few. And it is longer than most other boss, which were pretty short. This battle went on for at least 15 minutes, and the funny was I didn't even know that this was the final boss, let alone a very major boss.
Well when I played through this game I didn't do many (if any side quests), but the game should take you a fair bit to complete. It isn't as time consuming as a more epic RPG, but it should take you at least 18 hours to complete if you rush through it. I completed it in 22 and half hours.
As for the replay value you probably wouldn't have much incentive to play through this game again, it's one of those one time games. However this is my opinion and I suppose it will be different for each person. I'm sure there are many people out there that have, or wouldn't mind playing this game for a second, but as for be I'm waiting for Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time for the DS. The only reason, I myself can find for giving the game a second shot is to complete all the side quests, however there aren't many.
All in all this an excellent light hearted Mario RPG for the Gameboy Advance that all Mario fans should look into, whether you like RPGs or not. If you're an RPG fan you should also consider this game. It doesn't have the grand feeling of a more classic RPG but is still a fun, quirky game and will be a great addition to any library. Oh yeah! I wouldn't recommend renting this, as you won't get very far before you have to return, your best bet will be to buy. Once your done with the game, I assure you won't be regretting that choice (and if you do, that's your tough luck).
Thanks for reading this review (longer than any essay I've ever done). Hope you enjoy this game as much, or more than I did.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/12/05, Updated 03/27/06
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