Review by Flaming Homer
"The Most Fun Mario RPG Yet"
Mario had always been known as the fat little pixelated plumber out to save his princess from the evil koopa king Bowser until the day in 1996 when Nintendo and Square released Mario's first role playing game: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo. Super Mario RPG combined on screen characters and battles to produce one of the best battle systems on the SNES. By attacking or getting hit by an enemy, you enter a battle which starts with you attacking if you hit the enemy or vice-versa if you got hit. Along with a memorable battle system and a great story for a Mario game, Super Mario RPG became one of the most renowned SNES RPGs ever. With the passing of the SNES and the debut of the N64, Nintendo again made a Mario RPG: Paper Mario. With less traditional RPG mechanics and a more Mario like feel, Paper Mario was a hit with all types of gamers.
Plot: In the GBA Mario RPG title Mario & Luigi, the game takes place mostly in a new country known as the Beanbean Kingdom. In the beginning, everything is well in the Mushroom Kingdom when an ambassador comes to visit the castle. Suddenly revealing her true identity, the ambassador throws off her disguise and says she is Cackletta. Along with her evil henchman Fawful, Cackletta steals Princess Peach's voice and replaces it with explosives. Toad runs over to the Mario brother's house and gets them to try and help out. With each word causing massive damage to the castle, Mario sets out to get Peach's voice back. What he doesn't know is that he is being helped by his rival, Bowser. Getting lost in the crowd, Luigi somehow gets shipped aboard Bowser's ship and is stuck with Mario in another adventure. Upon landing, Mario and Luigi set off on their epic journey. As with all Mario RPGs, humor plays a big role in the story. With every chance they get Nintendo puts in a joke or two about our favorite characters. Overall, the plot is solid for a Mario game. It might not be the most emotional heart jerker out there but its humor and ability to make you get lost in all the characters makes this one of the best, if not the best, stories in a Mario game.
Game Play Mechanics: Being an RPG, Mario & Luigi's combat is turn based semi random battles. Before each encounter, you have the opportunity to strike first, to do this you must jump or hit the enemy in the over world with your hammer; doing this will cause you to damage the enemy without them retaliating. If by chance you get hit by an enemy's spikes or projectile, it will damage you without you being able to hit back. If you just run into the enemy, the battle will start like in any RPG. A staple of the Mario RPG series is the button touch blocking and increase damage. Simply hitting A right before you get hit will save you from massive damage or inflict greater damage to your opponent. In battle, you have the option of attacking in many ways; these include jumping, hammer, hand, and Bros. Attacks. Jumping is the basic attack but doesn't work against spiky enemies. Hammer will attack with your equipped hammer. Hand attack will cause Mario to use fireballs and Luigi to use lightning. A new edition to the Mario RPG series is the Bros. Attack. This attack uses both brothers turn and use bros. points. Along your journey you will earn many different bros points. Like in Paper Mario, these attacks use a series of button presses to cause the most damage possible. By using a Bros. Attack a certain amount of times it can be upgraded to advanced, in this mode it causes more damage but it will not tell you which buttons to press. Along with battle moves, Mario & Luigi adds lots of new over world moves to the mix. These moves include the normal jump and hammer, but also add a variety of bros. related combos. These moves use one character to alter the other, once such example is the high jump, Luigi will jump onto Mario and they will both go flying across huge gaps. Mario & Luigi makes good use of basic RPG game play and expands it through the use of double player moves. With a diverse attack list and a multitude of weapons and clothing Mario & Luigi is never boring in the game play department. With that said, compared to some other RPGs this game isn't as expansive in equipable items and level up stats, of course the interactive game play largely makes up for it.
Graphics: For a GBA game, Mario & Luigi shows what the GBA can do but by no means pushes it graphically. Mario RPG, while not an ugly game, is by no means high up on the graphics scale. Every room filled with bright colors and details, Mario & Luigi lives up to the Mario standard by portraying a believably fantastical environment. While this game isn't the best looking, its art style is amazing. Much like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Mario & Luigi goes light on what you may see as base graphics (LoZ: TWW is actually very complex graphically) and goes more for the art. With very cartoony representations of Mario and the gang, Mario & Luigi has a large variety of enemy design from what is expected. The graphics are not bad by any means but they just leave a little room for improvement which could have been entirely possible with the GBA hardware.
Sound: As with most GBA games, Mario & Luigi isn't too great in music and sounds, but for a GBA game it is very good. Mario & Luigi features a variety of music, most of it being new due to the new setting of Beanbean Kingdom. Although the music is new, it is very similar to the style of most Mario games with its catchy beats and upbeat tempo. The sound effects are also very good for a GBA game, with every sound imaginable that could be in this game I have found that most are. The music and sound effects leave Mario & Luigi feeling as a fully complete RPG from that stand point. Aside from better music which I don't think is capable on the GBA hardware, there is nothing that needs improving.
Replay Value: Most RPGs get their replay value from the different ways you can level up and equip characters. Due to its deficiency in weapons and armors, Mario & Luigi doesn't have as much replay in this aspect. Another problem is how the humor tends to stay in your head so things won't sound as funny the second time around. With a 20 hour main story, Mario & Luigi should take a while to complete. As with most games, it's best not to replay right after finishing it. With some time, Mario & Luigi regains most if not all of its appeal. With many ways to defeat enemies, Mario & Luigi can keep you playing for hours after you've beaten the main quest. As with all Mario GBA games, Mario & Luigi comes with Mario Bros. Arcade. Mario Bros. is the old Mario arcade game where the object is to avoid and destroy all enemies my flipping them over and jumping on them. While this is fun, there comes a point where it's just really difficult. If you enjoy the game and are always looking for a way to master a game then this will add tremendous amounts of time to the game. Although being rather shallow, Mario & Luigi make up for that by having an extra game and many fighting options.
Overall: Mario & Luigi combines a strong central story and interactive game play to give RPG and Mario fans a true gem. With its above average music and sound, Mario & Luigi jumps to one of the elite GBA RPGs. Wonderful art direction and replay value pull Mario & Luigi into the realm of must-haves for any Mario fan. This game is strongly recommended to all gamers and will not disappoint.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/22/05
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