Review by comebackking1

"Is Mario RPG really legendary, or just seven stars out of ten?"

Super Mario RPG was definitely a game that dared to establish new boundaries. Never before had such a well-established character been taken from the genre that made them so indelible to many, and thrust into a brand new one. With RPG king Square by his side, could Mario recapture the magic that raised him to the pedestal of icon in the platforming genre, or would the burden of a new genre prove too much for our premier plumber?

The story behind Legend of the Seven Stars unfolds with Bowser *gasp* predictably kidnapping the princess and Mario storming Bowser's castle to rescue his damsel. This, however, is where the story breaks from tradition, as an extraterrestrial being invades Bowser's castle and begins to use it for his own evil intentions. It's up to Mario to recover the seven stars, save the princess, and rid the Mushroom Kingdom of the evil presence. Along the way he will team with the Princess, a tadpole named Mallow, a mysterious figure named Geno, and even unite forces with his arch enemy Bowser! My minor gripe here is that Luigi is nowhere to be found, but it's well enough.

The writing in this game is top notch. The translation is flawless, and the story flows really well. There are a plethora of jokes, comical moments, dramatic scenes, and references to Mario's past that will light up many a gamer's face. Although the game generally comes off as light-hearted and less serious than standard RPG's, it still suffices as a legitimate and enjoyable experience.

Mario RPG contains some platforming elements in addition to the standard RPG fare. Save for a world map, the action takes place in a three-quarter, isometric view with 3-D character modes. In typical fashion, Mario traverses different environments by running and jumping his way through forests, towns, a volcano, and numerous other locales. These action segments, if you will, are mostly done well, although sometimes a jump from one moving platform to another can be difficult to gauge, due to the unorthodox view. It's not very problematic in the grand scheme of it all, but you will encounter the problem a time or two.

Battles are initiated by coming in contact with an enemy or by reaching a boss. The fights take place from the same perspective as the platforming segments. The combat is turn based. Each character has the ability to attack, defend, use items, or perform a special attack. What's unique to this game is the ability to augment physical attacks or nullify incoming attacks by timing a button press. Physical damage from a well-timed attack will increase, and likewise it is possible to absorb little or no damage from an incoming attack if timed correctly. It's an ingenious feature that other RPG's could certainly benefit from. Special attacks are unique to each character, such as Mario's famed jump or fireball attacks, Mallow's or Peach's magic attacks, or a terror attack by Bowser. Special attacks consume flower points, and the more powerful or useful the tech, the more flower points they consume. Much akin to physical attacks, special attacks can also be intensified by timing the press of a button. The battle item selection is fairly basic; you can recover health, flower points, or increase your attack or defense. There are also attack items that you can use to deal damage to your foes.

Mario RPG is an RPG at heart, but it's tailored toward those who are relatively green to the genre. It offers just three categories of equipment for each character: weapons, armor, and badges. Badges offer an array of different benefits ranging from stat increases to protection from various spells or ailments. Characters level up and increase their stats in just five categories: attack, defense, magic, magic defense, and max HP. It's a simple enough for just about anyone to understand, but it may be off-putting for veteran role-players

As stated before, the action takes place in a three-quarter, isometric view. The characters and environments are 3-D models, and they look and animate very well. Classic mushroom kingdom foes look as good as they ever have, and some of the bosses are simply fantastic. On the whole, the graphics are quite pleasing, and though some of the 3-D looks a little crude at times, they do nothing to detract from the overall look of the game.

The audio department is where the experience falters a bit. The sound effects of Mario jumping, the classic 1-up sound, and the various characters voices are all well done and full of nostalgia. The soundtrack, however, is very light-hearted, and frankly it's just not that great. Don't get me wrong, there are some decent tunes in here such as in the boss fights, but it lacks the one or two memorable tracks that most great games exhibit. The battle winning theme is particularly underwhelming and just not typical of a Square developed RPG. It's not terribly detrimental in the grand scheme of things, but a catchier soundtrack could have made the experience so much more.

Experienced RPG players will probably find Mario RPG to fall a bit on the easy side, but newcomers may find a decent, but never overwhelming challenge. It's decently lengthy, yet there's rarely a dull moment, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of filler or fetch quests. The storyline itself is quite linear. There are, however, several sidequests and secrets to both prolong the experience, and offer plenty of replay value.

Legend of the Seven stars is an enjoyable RPG experience. It combines nostalgia with a well-written, entertaining story and top notch graphics to produce one of the more memorable games of the 16-Bit era. A weak soundtrack, and some lack of difficulty keep it from being a masterpiece, but make no mistake. Mario RPG is an excellent game that no Mario fan, RPG lover, or self-respecting gamer should miss.

Final Score: 8.5 (rounded to 9 for Gamefaqs)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/04/08

Game Release: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (US, 05/13/96)

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