Review by MetalHarbour

"Mario and Luigi star together in a fantastic Paper Mario-esque GBA game"

My thoughts on… Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Developer: Alphadream – Publisher: Nintendo

Mario & Luigi is in the same vein as Super Mario RPG (SNES), Paper Mario (N64), and Paper Mario 2 (GCN). That is to say, all are role-playing games with Mario as the main character. However, unlike the others mentioned, this particular game features Mario and Luigi teamed up for the first time in a new adventure in quite a while. This game is not necessarily for all RPG fanatics since it is bit on the easy side and rather short, but for most everybody else this game is an absolute must own.

Mario & Luigi uses a very attractive and colorful style somewhat similar to Yoshi's Island (SNES). Everything is very bright and cheery with very colorful enemies and environments. Since the game is on Game Boy Advance the characters are not truly 3D models, but more like 2D characters with the ability to move in more directions than forward and backward. If you've played Mario RPG you'll be quite at home with the character design. There are few moves that the Bros. can perform that have interesting visuals, but some of the enemies have rather interesting and well done attacks. The bright graphics go well with the breezy attitude of the game.

Really good graphics all through the game – 9/10

The music seems like a combination of remixed classic Mario tracks and brand new tracks. In either case, the sound is really clear and of very good quality. However, since the game is rather short, there really isn't a whole lot of variety. Some stages have a really repetitive track that gnaws at your sanity, but outside of that the music is really good. A funny little addition is the “talking” that the Bros. sometimes utter to indicate conversation. Since these two are notoriously short of speaking parts in that past (Mario in particular) the Bros. have created their own language of funny sounds like “oodioodeyo”. Not really a major thing, but pretty funny at times.

A good mix of tracks, but not really much variety – 8/10

This is where Mario & Luigi really stand out from the pack. The player must go through a wide variety of environments to get to where they need to go. The enemies are visible on the screen (no random encounters) and with effort you can sometimes use your hammer or your jump to get a first strike in before the fight begins. Battles consist of using either solo hammer/jump/hand attacks or more damaging Bros. Attacks. The fights are not particularly hard, but the bosses certainly need some strategy and thinking on your part. The one thing that is certainly required is a good sense of timing. Timing is key in this game to get the most out of your attacks and to have the most success evading enemy attacks. If you don't have a good sense of timing, you are going to be spending a lot of time healing and fighting. In addition to the enemies crawling around on the screen, you also may encounter occasions when you need to utilize your special out of battle techniques. These include using Mario's ‘fire hand' to race from one place to another, or using Luigi's high jump to get to otherwise inaccessible platforms.

The puzzles in this game can be hard to figure out at first, but you can also usually figure them out without a huge amount of trouble. I only had to refer to an FAQ on a handful of occasions. Some puzzles involve retrieving special items, some involve negotiating mazes with the Bros. apart from each-other and getting reunited. Many puzzles require using your special out of battle moves like Luigi hitting Mario with a hammer and shrinking him, or visa-versa and Luigi burrowing underground like a Monty Mole. There are some pretty funny occasions all throughout the game and no shortage of laughs and headaches.

There is equipment to be gotten, but you probably won't have to really consider what equipment you've got. Clothing can be purchased that will modify your stats, and badges can be acquired that do the same. Both of these must be purchased from one of the two stores in the world. You can't get anything other than your hammers (at least I never did) so don't bother looking.

Leveling up is a vital part of any RPG, and the way Mario & Luigi accomplishes this is rather unique in my experience. When you level up, Mario or Luigi's stats will be increased a set number of points, but then Lakitu will appear and give you an opportunity to add bonus points to your stats. You can only add them to one category per level, but these roulette selected bonuses can really be helpful. In the early stages of the game you will likely only get bonuses of 1 or 2 points, but later you may get increases of 4 or 5. I believe that the system punishes you if you select the same category over and over by keeping the bonuses in the lower numbers. But you don't want to keep adding to one category anyway do you?

Unique puzzles and plenty of unique situations – 10/10

Like so many Mario/Luigi games the story is simple and revolves around the kidnapping of Princess Peach (or as I prefer, Toadstool). However, this time she has been taken by somebody other than Bowser. While Bowser is in this game, he as himself plays a relatively minor role. However, in another way he plays a very important part. The evil witch Cackletta steals Toadstool's voice in order to awaken the Beanstar of the Beanbean Kingdom. The original quest of the boys is to get her voice back. However, they also get involved in a journey to repair the Beanstar and a few other things. The story may not be that in depth, but the way it plays out is fantastic. The cast of characters (especially Cackletta's toady Fawful) are highly amusing and there are even a few cameos thrown in for good measure (but I'm not saying who or where).

Not much meat, but the cut you get is ultra-high quality – 9/10

As good a game this is, there really isn't enough to get you playing it again real quickly. Once you make it through, there doesn't seem to be any (or at least not many) extra things to go back and get. Things happen in a pretty linear fashion so you can't really miss much. There don't seem to be any super special weapons or mini-games to collect or play, so once you're done you're really done. Even so, this is certainly one you'll want to keep around for future playing.

A once a year kind of game: not enough in it to play again in two weeks… too much to never play again – 6/10

Mario & Luigi does a great job of bringing the brothers together in a joint venture to save the known world. There is a whole lot to love about this game; great visuals, hilarious characters, neat battle system. This game is also pretty short; about 20 hours or so (which I count as a good thing). This game is just a load of fun that doesn't require a great investment of time or attention. In short, everybody who enjoys a fun filled adventure should get this game. Did I leave anybody out?

A fantastic and funny romp through the wilds of the Beanbean Kingdom. Don't get left behind!
Total Score – 8.4/10 (but I'm rounding it to 9 because it's worth it)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/05/05

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