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Super Mario RPG (NS)

Super Mario RPG (NS) - Review

by Stephen LaGioia , posted on 26 December 2023 / 7,401 Views
  
For myself and many others growing up in the proclaimed “golden age of gaming” of the mid-90s, Super Mario RPG was an introduction to the role-playing genre, and a suitable one at that. It brought that charming, kid-friendly Mario ethos, fused with fun combat, rewarding progression elements, and a rich RPG framework that Square Enix (then just SquareSoft) was and is known for. The Switch’s polished remake enhances and (at least somewhat) builds on these elements, reminding gamers just what makes this Mario journey so special. While coloring in a bit of needed depth, the overall experience remains inviting and accessible both in terms of presentation and gameplay. The result is a faithful remake that's a love letter to fans — as well as a great vehicle for younger, first-time players to experience this memorable RPG.
  
Remakes of older titles often bring vastly revamped visuals to the point of losing some of the original’s charming, distinct art style in the translation. However, Super Mario RPG’s isometric layout fits the remake’s improved graphics and vibrant aesthetic like a charm. The result is a whimsical Pixar quality, rather than the cruder, quasi-3D visuals that make up the original. While lacking a bit of character or nostalgic charm of the SNES romp, this polished presentation complements the adventure, and allows the cheery vibe and silly humor to stand out more. The graphical overhaul is punctuated by some dynamic CG cut scenes, including cool animations when triggering special moves in combat. The mix of detailed textures/lighting and the colorful, cartoony nature of the visuals proves fitting for this Mario epic, which sees the humble plumber and his friends set out to defeat the giant sword tyrant Smithy and his gang.
  
 
The new soundtrack is also refined via all-new classical compositions of old tracks by way of live orchestral recordings. The music still captures the delightful melodies from the original, but is given the modern treatment of dynamic instrumentation and far better sound quality. That fine-tuned balance of nostalgia and modernity is a good representation of this ‘96 Mario adventure at large. It should be noted that players can opt to play the classic 16-bit music for their whole 12-15 hour journey, which I initially embraced. Yet, after basking in my musical trip down memory lane for a while, I preferred the lovely new compositions included — they mesh far better with the spruced-up visuals.
  
Old school Mario RPG players will be happy to recognize most elements of the original in-tact and better than ever here. This includes almost everything, from the rich & distinct settings of the Mushroom Kingdom and the aerial & atmospheric Nimbus Land, to the solid turn-based combat, to the enjoyable minigames. The journey with Bowser, Peach, as well as the doll Geno, and cloud boy Mallow, proved just as fun as it was playing on my blurry tube TV as a kid. 
 
 
Refinements and additions aren’t abundant, favoring subtle boosts in areas that (usually) benefit from them. These include a few quality-of-life changes and other tweaks that make this oldschool RPG more accessible, like quick access to items and Storage Boxes. The game offers a new "Breezy" Mode which can be toggled on or off at your discretion, though for the most part the default campaign is rather simple on its own. An autosave function is added, along with the already-featured Save Point Blocks. The Signal Ring, which chimes when one of those tricky hidden treasures is near, is thankfully offered far earlier. The game also brings a Pokedex-style log for monsters Mario and crew have clashed with, as well as a Scrapbook that highlights major quest beats. For my money, it’s better not to fix what isn’t broken, and the game wisely doesn’t tinker with the winning formula too much. 
  
An admittedly nitpicky change I didn’t like are the inputs for accessing one of the four combat options (Attack, Item, Special, Other), which correspond with a particular button (A, B, Y, X) for each selection. By default, the game now has you press the action button (A) to proceed through all of these options once you’ve pulled up that menu, whereas the original had you press the corresponding button each time to follow through a command. It may seem small, but when you’ve weened yourself on the original game for decades, little tweaks like this can stand out and feel jarring. I was thankful to soon learn, however, that this input can be reverted to its original form.
  
   
One aspect where the gameplay is strengthened on a notable level is the battle system. Given the linearity and relative lack of customization elsewhere, this is a welcome change. Sure, Mario can still jump, wield amusing weapons like giant shells, and take on fun minigames (like Yoshi races and goomba Wack-a-Moles to get coins), but the meat of the experience is the combat — and that's more true than ever in this remake. While still quite straightforward with its turn-based system, a few elements are added and more clearly outlined, injecting some intrigue and rewarding gameplay. The once-novel “Timed Hits” feature is back and more clearly conveyed through an exclamation prompt, though this is only shown early on. 
  
Added to this is the ability to deal area-of-effect damage for certain powerful, well-timed hits, as well as a chain system that's fed at a rate contingent on how well you time and land hits. These neat inclusions extend to the blocking system, which incentivizes players to study the unique patterns of each foe to deflect damage and take advantage of perks. Stringing together combos offers a fun way to stay engaged in battle, and grants slight advantages through certain stat buffs. These buffs vary depending on the party member used, and include boosts like a Magic Attack increase for Mallow and Defense boost for Bowser. Other little details are tossed in, such as blurbs outlining if a foe is near defeat or if a particular move is strong against a given target.
  
 
The new Action Gauge is a key addition, and is built through successful Timed Hits. Once it’s filled, players can utilize a potent Triple Move, which has the three active party members combine their powers to launch a devastating special move. On top of all this, players can swap out party members mid-battle, which comes in handy given how distinct each member is in their abilities. It’s also useful when clashing with tough foes that unleash, say, a pesky Mushroom status condition that renders your fighters vulnerable and unable to attack. These added bits make grinding sessions far more interesting, and keep repetitive, chore-like fights to a minimum.
  
New combat features typically work in favor of the player, making an already simple campaign even easier, despite adding entertainment value. However, the game does throw in a few tougher “Special Enemies”, and seems to vary the timing of enemy hits (as well as weapon hits) even more, adding a bit of challenge. Also included are a sprinkling of post-game challenges that offer tougher variants of bosses. These fights typically force players to use more involved tactics in battle and add some longevity to a campaign that’s otherwise a tad slim.
  
 
Being a polished remake of an already delightful experience, Super Mario RPG is a can’t-miss offering for veterans and newcomers alike. RPG newbies should appreciate the smoothing of its rougher edges, while returning players will no doubt like the added battle features which add some depth. The remake impresses most in terms of a spruced-up presentation and (relatively) more involved combat dynamics, but still adheres closely to traits that made the original so appealing. Some refinements and QoL improvements give the game a sensibility more bound to the current decade, but the pacing and linearity can still feel very ‘90s in some ways — for better and worse. While feeling more “evolutionary” instead of “revolutionary” overall, this enriching Mario journey is still as memorable as ever, and makes a terrific swan song for the Switch.

VGChartz Verdict


8
Great

This review is based on a digital copy of Super Mario RPG for the NS

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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9 Comments
Hynad (on 26 December 2023)

It is indeed as very well made Remake of the original. The visuals feel authentic to what the SNES intended to look like, if it had been possible to be made in 3D graphics back then. Everything feels right, and they didn’t go overboard to update it by adding needless stuff on top of the OG, for better or worse. It feels like playing the OG for the first time again, and that’s what I was looking for.

Now waiting for the best Mario RPG of them all: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.

  • +12
Tober (on 26 December 2023)

Never played the first outing, but I played this one and it's a real charming experience.

  • +7
Qwark (on 27 December 2023)

It's a nice remake of a classic, I wouldn't mind having some Mario and Luigi (superstar saga) being remade for Switch (2), with the same graphical style.

  • +4
eddy7eddy (on 26 December 2023)

Loved how this Remake ended, waiting for a Hard mode if posible, to play it again.

  • +3
2zosteven (on 26 December 2023)

this game should be a 9+ on fun alone!

  • +3
VAMatt (on 02 January 2024)

I bought it a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't played it yet. Hopefully I'll get to it in the next 90 days.

  • +1
SanAndreasX (on 31 December 2023)

Love this remake.

  • +1
coolbeans SanAndreasX (on 02 January 2024)

It loves you back. :)

  • 0
Zeruda-Hime (on 28 December 2023)

I am loving this game, it's really funny and the "normal mode" is enough for me. Lol
I would like play as Peach...😭😭😭

  • +1