Welcome to EXPlay, (Explain & Play) the review series where we care not for scores but tell it how it is when it comes to every game we get our hands on, whilst also taking the time to include some lengthy gameplay, to give you the reader, the chance to shape your own impressions and views whilst watching and reading.
In this explanatory review, we’re covering Super Mario RPG by developer ArtePiazza.
Super Mario RPG (The Explanation)
There probably isn’t much that I could say about Super Mario RPG that you haven’t already heard, or that hasn’t already convinced you to buy the game. For me the Super Mario RPG comes with a lot of nostalgia surrounding the game and the period in life I was in back in 1996. Growing up, the SNES was my main go-to system for most of my childhood formative years. There are a multitude of games that stick out to me as some of Nintendo’s best albeit with a little bit of bias.
Over 27 years later, we are met with an updated remake of the classic Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (in the United States). A lot of what made the classic RPG which brought Nintendo and Square together to build an impressive and groundbreaking game on the SNES, has been carried over to the remake. Right from the start, it was easy to see the love and care that had gone into remaking the SNES classic. It wasn’t hard for me to jump right in and fall immediately in love with the game and the updates. If you don’t want to read my initial thoughts, though you should, you can skip to the end where I tell you just to go out and buy it now. Super Mario RPG will go down as one of those must-own Switch games, even late in the Switch’s long-standing lifespan as it soon enters its 8th year of delivering portable/hybrid gaming to the masses.
First up, the visuals. Super Mario RPG maintains the game’s original isometric world and level design. Many RPG games use this view of their game world and it was nice to see that Super Mario RPG maintains that for the remake. What you will notice right off the bat, and from previous Nintendo Direct and trailers, is that the game has a high-quality level of detail in the 3D models and world Mario and friends will inhabit that is closer in look and feel to the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. While tLoZ:LA takes a toyetic approach looking like plastic action figures placed in a game, Super Mario RPG’s world consists of beautifully detailed worlds where enemies roam the map giving you the opportunity to run or engage in battles.
Along with the overall world aesthetics, Super Mario RPG’s updated UI includes some new game mechanics as well. In the bottom left of the screen, there is a gauge that fills with each move you land, increasing when you land combos, and while you successfully defend against enemy attacks. Once this gauge is filled up you can use it to summon a Toad companion, or later in the game, a cut scene for a variety of team-up moves that are rendered in full 3D. These cut scenes also boil over into the mini and main boss encounters. There is no denying the beauty found in Super Mario RPG which overall reminded me of how Mario Odyssey, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Pikmin 4 look gorgeous on the Switch.
The Super Mario RPG story starts pretty basic with Mario, once again, tasked with saving Princess Peach from Bowser. But after entering the castle and quickly defeating Bowser, the castle is attacked by a sentient sword, Smithy, leader of the Smithy Gang. When he crashes into the castle, Mario is sent flying back to his house and the adventure quickly kicks off. Mario tries to go back to the castle to find Princess Peach, but the bridge falls and now Mario must try and find another way.
Once you are back at your house, Toad tells you to go meet with the Chancellor of the Mushroom Kingdom. Toad also teaches you about the game’s basic fighting mechanics and sets you on your path. As you see enemies walking, flying, and swimming around the open path you can engage with them in a turn-based fight. The early battles have you fighting as Mario, but as you will see from my EXPlay you soon add Mallow to your party, and later fan-favorite Geno, Princess Peach, and even Bowser.
With each character addition, your party can attack, defend, heal, and use special abilities against the enemies you encounter. Series staples like Gombas and Koopas find themselves in the battles, but you will encounter new and unique characters throughout the campaign. As you fight the order in which you attack enemies can be important. Timing of your attacks and special moves also plays a part in the overall strategy where hitting the A button during a timed window can lead to a knockback attack that affects the other enemies on the battlefield. I am not great at the game’s timing mechanic, though I did find myself getting used to watching for the [!] prompt and my team’s animation cue as to when to hit the button. Timing your button presses increases the amount of damage dealt to enemies, or can make enemies miss or lessen their attack power. Understanding and getting good at the timing can be key to surviving a battle and winning.
After each encounter, you and your party are awarded EXP which counts down to their next chance for leveling up. You may also be given items during battles. Early in the game, I encountered two Hammer Bros. and after winning the match Mario picked up the hammer that was left behind which I could equip and use during battles. You may also be given a chance to risk doubling your EXP or coins in a small mini-game where you need to follow the Yoshi egg and select it to double your upgrades. So far I have not lost one of those mini-games.
Speaking of mini-games, Super Mario RPG had me playing a few other mini-games. After being forced out of one area I was sent down the Midas River. The river portion of the mini-game was broken into two sections. One section had me fighting against the current with the B-button and moving left and right to gather coins and the elusive green frog coin. After completing the first section it was time for hopping from barrel to barrel while also gathering coins floating overhead and avoiding fish that would jump at me. I know from experience that several areas like this require you to move Mario around the level gathering coins and other special items. I am looking forward to seeing how these look in the updated visual style of Super Mario RPG.
Super Mario RPG has a lot to discover. In typical RPG fashion, there are items to purchase like shirts, pants, and rings. These items can be found within the game levels or purchased at stores you will find along your journey. Some items can only be assigned to certain characters, but others, like the rings, can augment the abilities of any of your party members. As you find items you will want to equip them right away and mix and match to find the best overall stat boost for your team.
Even from the first 2 or so hours into the main game, I can already tell that the love and care for the Super Mario RPG series original is flowing through this remake. If you have not yet played the original Super Mario RPG or need that nostalgic ‘hit’ to remind you of the late 90s, Super Mario RPG delivers on all cylinders. The game world looks so good in the new 3D art style. Paired with beautiful cut scenes and a full orchestral soundtrack, this game is sure to be on everyone’s holiday wishlist and might even make some Nintendo game of year lists in the already packed year that Nintendo has had in 2023.
I didn’t even talk about the game’s writing, which has translated pretty much word for word in the new game. There are a few areas that I have seen people complain about that got an update which seemed to douse some of the game’s original humor, but overall, the story and lines of writing are still present. Much of Mario’s “writing” is done through gesture-based pantomime which in itself is pretty humorous. Standout characters like Bowser have some great quips, especially as he goes back and forth from being helpful to somewhat mean or reflective on his relationship with Mario over the years.
If you made it this far in my EXPlay review, I hope it is evident how much I am gushing over Nintendo’s latest arrival, Super Mario RPG. Do yourself, Geno, and Mallow a favor and go pick this one up. You will not be disappointed with this game.
Super Mario RPG (The Gameplay)
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Role-Playing, Adventure
No. of Players: 1 (Single System)
Release Date: NA|EU: November 17, 2023
File Size: 6.4 GB