Review by zoradude

"By far the best Mario RPG to date."

Introduction
The mid 90's. Though I was very young at the time and can not recall it to well it was something to this effect. Nintendo was king of the video game world, Square was king of the RPG video game market. The two got together to create one of the best titles ever made for its time. Straying from the original Mario story and creating something new in the world with amazing RPG elements known as Super Mario RPG. To this day it is still ranked high in the gaming world with the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time which is considered the best game ever to many people.

After a while Square stopped making games for Nintendo and moved on to Sony. Mario RPG fans were worried and hungry for another helping of the fat red man in a RPG setting. Paper Mario then came along for the Nintendo 64. While it was a nice twist to the Mario RPG series, many fans myself included did not enjoy it as much as the original. It was a great game but failed as a direct sequel.

So once again Nintendo decided to test themselves, and in my opinion it paid off! Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Gameboy Advance is the best Mario RPG to date.

Story - 7/10
The story for M&L is great. From the get go it gives off the feel of Super Mario RPG. The game starts off with Princess Peach awaiting the arrival of the ambassador from the BeanBean kingdom to talk about what... We don't know. Anyway, the ambassador turns out to be an evil witch named Cackletta in disguise. Cackletta steals Princess Peach's voice and replaces it with literally an explosive voice, causing Peach to make massive explosions around her every time she talks. As whacky as it sounds its humorous and it works in the game.

From there a faithful Toad rushes to Mario's house and we see yet another funny cut scene. This time Toad rushes into the house and bathroom where he catches a glimpse of Mario taking a shower. After a short scene Mario who is dragging Luigi head off to the castle. Here we find a confused Bowser who explains to Mario he must get Peach's voice back so he can capture her. At this rate she would explode his castle.

From there the story does not go much more in depth. Cackletta needs Peach's voice in her pursuit of taking over the world. There is one minor plot twist later on that sadly puts the story line on the track of a more original Mario tale, but it is nothing amazing. Overall, the story while simple and cliche offers some very funny moments that can make you laugh aloud if you enjoy watching Luigi take some punches especially.

Sound - 7/10
The music is not the absolute best in this game. Some tunes are nice and catchy while others are really bland and don't even fit the mood of the game. The fully intact Mario Bros. arcade game is included with M&L. The music is solid featuring some of the old sound effects, great addition.

Sound effects on the other hand are wonderful for the game, more specifically Mario and Luigi. They have lines in the game but are really weird compared to the other characters. They say random things some understandable while others make no sense. Either way they can communicate this way and brings more character development into the two brothers. Some of my favorite moments of the game come from hearing the two talk, cheer in glory, or scream in terror.

Graphics - 9/10
The graphics for this game are pretty simple, nothing tests what the GBA can really do, but more importantly, this works. The entire game, maps and battles are done in 2D with very colorful graphics. The scenery is nice to look as are the people. I really love the BeanBean kingdom in the Mario world and I would love to see more of it in Mario titles such as we see the overused Super Mario Sunshine characters and settings in other games such as Mario Kart DS, Mario Party titles, and so on. The people are very interesting I am not really sure what half of them are either. The name BeanBean basically makes you think you are dealing with some jelly bean people or something but the characters for the most part don't look like it. While some do there are others such as the mountain people that look like weird cactus things.

That aside the graphics are well done but nothing testing the GBA's capabilities like a few other games have and even succeeded in doing. Crisp, clean, colorful.

Gameplay - 10/10
Everything that makes a good Mario RPG and more is back in this game. While the playable characters in the game has taken a massive hit down compared to Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG it is for the better. In Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga you take on the role of just Mario and Luigi, but this stems the most fun gameplay from a Mario RPG title yet.

The world map is just as average as any other RPG, but with a twist I will explain in the next paragraph. You move through the world and fight enemies as you encounter them, though battles do take place on another screen. There are a few side quests to do, loot to be gotten from floating bricks, and puzzles to be solved.

As for what you actually do most of the time, old school Mario fans rejoice. This game involves lots and lots of The Mario Brother's signature move - jumping. A lot, and I mean loads of things in this game require you to jump onto them. The game feels very platform like in terms of the world map. Though there are no bottomless pits that make you die when you fall into them, it is possible to fall down a ledge from very high up and have to re-climb the entire place.

Now, this alone does not make the entire part of the world map adventure. As much as we love jumping on ledges and such they decided to expand it even more. There are many field moves that can be used. The first is an extension of the jump. Early in the game this is obtained. With Mario in the lead of the party by hitting the L button to select it from Luigi's ring of commands Luigi can hop onto Mario's head and bounce the two up to higher spots. Switching Luigi to the front of the group and hitting L on Mario's command ring gets you the tornado jump thing. Mario hops onto Luigi's head and the duo can hover a short period of time. Those are two things you will be using the most out of combat, there are others which include lightning, fire balls, and smashing things with hammers but those are not incorporated into the game as much as the insane amount of jumping you will do.

The battle system, that is something of a different color. Something wonderful in fact. It alone is what makes this game far superior to any other Mario RPG title. There are no random enemies in this game; those are replaced with enemies actually appearing on screen as many other games Mario RPGs included do. This alone offers a chance to give you the edge or the enemy the edge in a battle.

There are a total of four ways to start a random battle, it gives you the edge enough to sometimes cut down a battle's length in half, on the opposite side is can make the battle last a tiny bit longer. The first way is just your average intro to a battle. This is how all boss battles begin. You touch the enemy and off the battle starts. The next way is the negative way. If whoever is in the back of the group gets attacked by an enemy that Mario Bro will be stunned for a short while unable to protect himself in battles.

The other two ways to start a random battle give you an edge. The first is the yes, you guessed it, jumping. Jumping on an enemy before a battle starts causes a decent amount of damage to all enemies on the screen at the start of a battle. It can easily cut an entire battle down by a turn. The second is the use of the hammer on enemies. This like the one negative you can encounter, will stun the enemies upon the start of the battle. Though it is a nice addition I advise jumping on enemies if you can to start a battle. It makes them much, much faster.

Now as for combat itself. It is really addictive; battles never really grow old at all. The battles are very simplistic yet complicated. You have your normal HP and BP (Bro Points, basically a mana pool), attacks, Bro moves, and items.

Attacks and Bro Moves are broken down into three more categories, by the end of the game that is. In attacks you can jump on the enemy, use the hammer, or shoot a fire/lightning ball based on the brother, and once again the action command is brought into the game. You will do more damage by hitting the A button for Mario and the B button for Luigi as they attack.

Bro Moves are a very nice addition to the game as well. Mario and Luigi have a total of 6, 3 each. 2 involving jumping, 2 involving the hammer, and the last 2 use their fire/lightning balls. Bro Moves are basically combos that can be done at the cost of BP. You do a few timing commands such as ABA at certain times to execute the attack for max damage.

One last thing to note about the combat system is completely dodging the enemy's attacks. Instead of just blocking by hitting the action button as an enemy attacks Mario and Luigi can completely dodge the attack if your skilled enough and even counter to do extra damage to the enemy.

Extra
As I mentioned before the arcade game Mario Bros. was ported to this as an extra game you can play. It is almost worth buying the game alone. I beat M&L in about 20 hours, but have spent a good 7 to 10 hours on Mario Bros. It really is that addicting for anyone wondering. It is so simple yet enjoyable. The port has been completely redone yet still left the original game intact, it is an absolute amazing port. The graphics are updated, the sound is updated, and even the sound effects are updated. But the sound effects for example are the same heard in the original game but done better.

The gameplay is pretty simple, enemies come through pipes and you must bash the block they are on to turn them onto their backs then run up and give them a good kick in the butt. Simple yet fun, I am in love with them for porting this over to this game. It feels really random being in the game at all but I don't care in the least.

Conclusion
This is hands down in my honest opinion the best Mario RPG to date. While the graphics lack compared to the epic look of Super Mario RPG and the odd but fun look of Paper Mario the gameplay and story line are much more developed and just plain fun. The world is also a tad bit smaller then you could hope for but it does not hurt the game.

Though the sequel is out now, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, it fails incredibly hard to other Mario RPG titles. This game is the game you are looking for if you want a fun Mario RPG. You can complete the main story in about 20 hours but even with the lack of replayability the 20 hours spent playing it are fun ones. Also the addition of the arcade Mario Bros. can keep you playing for as long as you want. This game is a keeper.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/23/07


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