Mario's been jumping around in video games since Donkey Kong back in 1981 so it's pretty amazing to me that it took him this long to get his own RPG. I mean by this point he'd already started his racing career in Super Mario Kart, played Yahtzee in Mario's Game Gallery, practised medicine in Dr. Mario and shown off his artistic side in Mario Paint; the guy's a real renaissance man.
He wouldn't get around to trying his hand at street fighting or, uh, partying until the N64 era though, which was actually just months away at the time this was released. As far as I know, this is the final Mario game on the Super Nintendo. It may well be Square's final game released on the console as well, in North America at least.
Final Fantasy VII with them. In fact it took six years for them to get over their issues and start working together again.
You know the more I look at this animation, the less it looks like a morph to me. I think they're actually rotating a 3D model here, with 'SQUARE' on the front and 'Nintendo' across the top.
Here, I'll show you what I mean:
It might seem like I'm more interested in examining the opening logos than the actual gameplay, but that's just because I am. I don't know what it is about this game, but I've been finding it very easy to avoid playing it up to now. It's weird because I like Mario games and I like RPGs, so I'm not sure why putting the two together puts me off.
I realise it's difficult to stop a eight-foot tall well motivated fire-breathing dragon turtle, but they're not even trying. They could at least get a few of those little mushroom folks kitted out with suits and dark glasses and get them to watch the perimeter.
Final Fantasy 7 in development at this point and Nintendo were working on Super Mario 64; you can see elements of both of those games showing up here first.
Here's another interesting observation: I'm about to get swarmed by armoured turtle guards. It's almost like Bowser's smart enough to have the bare minimum of security around to protect him from his enemies.
Final Fantasy-style turn based JRPG battle system, except to keep things interesting Square had decided to map each menu option to a different controller button this time... and then didn't mark them. So here I am pressing each button in turn just to find out what they even do.
Right, I know what I'm doing now: I'm going to press A twice each turn until the enemies are dead. I've got a 'Jump' special attack available as well, but if it uses up 3 of my 10 MP each time I use it I think I'll be better off saving it for Bowser.
I've always thought it was strange that they decided to change the look of the controller and system for the North American release. For some reason Nintendo apparently came to the conclusion that Americans wouldn't take their SNES controller seriously if it had primary colours on it, so they changed the buttons to... lilac and purple.
A FEW BATTLES AND A HALLWAY OR TWO LATER.
You know, I've think I've figured out what's bothering me about this battle system: Mario's not dancing! Back when I played Superstar Saga I found that the guy just wouldn't stand still.
|Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA)|
I do know this much, this Mario & Luigi series of RPGs was never meant to follow on from Super Mario RPG, but the Paper Mario games were. In fact the first game was meant to be called Super Mario RPG 2, but it seems that Nintendo's feud with Square foiled that plan.
Well the joke's on him, because that pipe in the ceiling may have just saved Mario's life (or his roof at least). Also this place looks surprisingly clean and cosy considering that rainwater is apparently funnelled directly onto his bed.
Anyway I've still got a princess to rescue, so I guess I'll be unhooking our hero now and the sending him right back to the castle again. Assuming that Mario's not dead.
Final Fantasy, with no Mushroom Kingdom overworld for me to wander around. Sadly.
The sword explains that this is merely the first step towards world domination and then wrecks the bridge leading inside the castle so that I can't get in. The shiny metal bastard.
First though I must learn Mario's secret critical hit technique! By pressing 'A' again at the moment that Mario's about to strike I can inflict more damage! I can do the same thing when they're attacking me to boost my defence, but unlike with the critical hits there's no sound effect to tell me it's worked so I haven't a clue if I've been timing that right. Kind of annoying really.
Alright then, to adventure!
There's one up there now in fact, harassing Toad (who ran off ahead on his own like an idiot). Though I suppose it makes sense that the idea of co-operation is an unfamiliar concept in the Mushroom Kingdom, as the main characters apparently spend most of their free time as vicious rivals (see: Super Mario Kart, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros. etc.) In the preceeding decade of Mario platformers the closest he's come to a team up I can think of is when he rode around on his sentient dinosaur friend's back like he was a horse in Super Mario World, only to drop him down a chasm first time he needed an extra boost on his jump.
Man, look at that artwork; apparently when you're making games for blurry 90s CRT TVs you don't have to bother tidying up your pixels.
SOON, FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD.
Oh by the way, as this is a Super Mario RPG they've given me a jump button that I can use to jump-punch floating treasure chests, or leap onto flowers. Makes it just a little bit different from the typical JRPG.
Hey man are you sure you don't want to team up? I'll give you a fair share of the XP.
Oh hang on, this is a flower tab. It seems that my flowers act as mana, fuelling my special skills, and this item raises my maximum flower points so it seems like a fairly decent reward, assuming it's permanent. I'm hoping it is anyway because I'm going to use it up right now.
Actually it turns out that I do have to fight a pair of them, alone (because that asshole Toad still refuses to help me out).
These two weren't much trouble for me in the end (possibly because that game over earlier scared me into grinding for a few extra levels) and I even got a hammer of my own as a reward! Oh yeah, it's gonna be Donkey Kong all over again once I get this thing equipped..
Sorry lady, but you're a mushroom and I'm a plumber, it'd never work out.
Funny how I'm going off to see a chancellor, not the King like almost every other JRPG I've played lately, despite the fact that his daughter has just been kidnapped (again). Actually it's a bit weird now that I think about it that I haven't seen a king (or queen) around in the Mushroom Kingdom and they have a princess ruling in their place. You know, I'm not sure they ever really established that Mario and Peach were romantically involved, just that they like each other a whole lot... so what if Mario is actually her dad, the true king of the Mushroom Kingdom, and he's just been looking after his daughter this whole time?
Yeah yeah, I know there's probably a hundred things that contradict that theory. For one thing they look nothing alike; she doesn't even have his moustache.
MERE MINUTES LATER, IN THE ROYAL THRONE ROOM.
Also, what's the deal with the charades? What happened to Mario's voice? The guy talked all the time in the cartoons, you can see him talking on the Super Mario All-Stars title screen, and he was voiced by official-video-game-Mario-voice-actor Charles Martinet in Mario Game Gallery a year before this. He may not say anything in his platformers, but there's never been any doubt that the guy can talk.
He's acting out the entire intro level here by the way and man he's really putting his heart into it, flinging himself all over the throne room. I'm starting to think that Bob Hoskins wasn't the ideal choice to play him in the movie after all; they should've stuck a moustache on Jim Carrey.
The Chancellor is disturbed by my story and tasks me with an important mission: to go and rescue the Princess. Well duh, but some actual direction might be nice. I guess I'll just have to go wandering wherever the road takes me then.
This guy Mallow claims to be a frog, but I've got my doubts. For one thing he looks like a cloud and it rains when he cries. He's crying because someone stole his Grandpa's coin and he wants to team up with me so we can go get it back. Well I was actually kind of busy rescuing the nation's ruler and stopping an alien sword invasion, but hey this sounds kind of important too. Sure, I'm up for it.
I'm sure that I'm supposed to be using these yellow blocks to get out, but I can't jump high enough to get onto that raised bit of ground, and headbutting them from below does nothing. I can't even jump off the enemy's heads as that always takes me into a battle.
Damn, I'm actually going to have to check a walkthrough for this.
TWO MINUTES ON YOUTUBE LATER.
You know, isometric platformers tend to be pretty terrible in my experience, as you can't judge your height or position accurately from this angle, but I have to admit... this game is as bad as any of them at it. Can't wait until I get back on the ground again.
No epic boss fight just yet though, as he's too quick on his feet for me to catch him. I'm going to need another plan.
AND SO I DID THAT THING I JUST SAID, AND THEN...
No wait, don't use the healing mushroom, I just spent ages knocking those 60 hit points off you! Well fine, I've got health mushrooms of my own if you really feel the need to drag this battle out. I don't have a whole lot of flower power left though; turns out that Mallow and Mario both share the same mana bar, so I've been draining it at double speed.
Eventually I managed to take the thief down with a devastating series of 'A' button presses, with the occasion 'X' thrown in when I needed to use a healing item, and so Mallow got his Grandpa's coin back at last. Back to Mushroom Town, there is much to celebrate!
I'm all for pacifism and making sure that security doesn't come at the cost of freedom, but when your neighbour is an evil fire-breathing monster who routinely kidnaps your head of state, it may be a good idea to formulate a better defence plan than "Eh, Mario will sort it out."
I'm not saying I won't sort it out, it's just that I don't like being taken for granted.
I'm taking that to mean that this is a 'pay what you want' deal.
I'll grab some of those accessories as well, because I'm loaded and I could always use a little extra spring in my step.
Alright, I could spend forever trying to clear out this town of enemies, but it seems that the only way to clear them out for good is to take them out at the source: the Princess's castle. To the throne room once more!
AND SO I WENT TO THE THRONE ROOM ONCE MORE.
Though I'll probably be stuck using all my mana to fuel Mallow's HP Rain skill and keep my team from dying. If I deal overwhelming damage to an enemy I often get instant health recovery for the character who landed the killing blow, but it's not something I can rely on.
And so our heroes saved Mushroom Town and journeyed onwards to the... Kero Sewers? Actually the characters didn't do that at all, because I suddenly have an inexplicable urge to turn this off immediately. Funny that.
So what did I think of the critically acclaimed and universally revered Super Mario RPG after playing the first hour or so? Well I think it's best that I just say that I liked it more than EarthBound and a little less than Chrono Trigger perhaps, and hope that you don't check those posts to learn what I mean by that. One thing that all three games definitely have in common is that none of them were released on the Super Nintendo in Europe, which seems absolutely crazy to me. I realise that this came out right at the end of the SNES's lifetime, but how is a game called Super Mario RPG not going to rake in cash just on its name alone?
To be honest I actually found the game to be fairly likeable and well made, though it's not really a universe I'm dying to spend more time in. The gameplay seems very solid for what it is, the soundtrack is catchy and some classic Mario tunes show up, and the graphics... well it looks better in motion at least. I get why they went with 3D rendered artwork, but the way they've used it makes it look like a rushed third party GBA game at times and the garbage pixels around some of the tiles seem almost like JPEG compression artefacts.
But I don't want to hate on the poor thing. It seems like a nice enough game, so I'll give it a star.
Anyway, who even cares what I think? What do you folks think about the game? Or my site? Or anything else that seems halfway relevant? Comments are welcome.