Title:

  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Genre:

  • JRPG

Developer:

  • Square

Publisher:

  • Nintendo

Release Date:

  • March 9, 1996 (Japan), May 13, 1996 (USA)

System(s):

  • Super NES

Box Art Credit:

  • GameFAQs (I think)

Systems Used:

  • Snes9x

Extra Notes:

  • Downloading the Player's Guide from Retromags is highly recommended

On Wikipedia:

This is one of those titles on the "A" list to add to this growing list of games, a Super NES title that featured Mario and his friends meeting new friends and new enemies in a collaboration with Square.

Today, it'd be difficult to mention Super Mario RPG without bringing up a later effort by Square and properties that aren't their's, Kingdom Hearts. Now, I haven't played KH, but the storyline (a Square-style RPG crossed with Disney elements), I admit, sounded intriguing in middle school, but now the idea of a less-effeminate-but-still-goofy-looking Cloud Strafe knockoff fighting with Disney Animated Canon characters just sounds like a fan fiction author's wet dream (and it probably is).

Super Mario RPG however, is a different issue entirely. This is kind of a prototypical full Super Mario adventure before Nintendo started diluting it with its own characters, style, and obsession for nostalgia. Super Mario RPG is a great introduction into turn-based RPGs. There's no random encounters, enemies will wait as long as you need to as you decide what moves everyone is going to make, and is generally rather forgiving. The only problem is that dying and a save point doesn't remember anything, so you can forget about everything—experience, money, items, story developments, that all disappears. I suppose with that, you could do a no-death run but that seems pretty risky and there's no in-game reward for it.

Mario informs the Chancellor of the news.
(from Emuparadise.me)

I was introduced to Super Mario RPG in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where my love of Nintendo was cultivated originally (interestingly, it was also the home state, if not the home city, of one of my favorite defunct webcomics, Brawl in the Family, though that was largely after I had moved on to Steam). I don't actually remember playing SMRPG all that much in those formative years, though I do remember maybe circa 2004 we tried playing it and got through Bowyer (not to be confused with Bowser) before freezing. Another memory was trying it again in 2006 when an surprisingly memorable Christmas at home had me really into "GO MARIO GO", a YouTube video that combined a number of commercials to a theme of the Desert theme in Super Mario Land. Somewhere in the middle of this video (3:00), it intercut to the Japanese commercial of Super Mario RPG, featuring claymation and a singing Piranha plant trio. It depresses me to know that by fall of this year, the Wii will be old as Super Mario RPG was back then, though it will never feel that way because of the fact that I was a child-to-teenager then and a teenager-to-young adult in the latter.

Back in those optimistic days (and the Wii was released that same holiday season, too...it was a good time to be a Nintendo fan again) I once asked someone on a Nintendo forum I was on the time (the first forum I ever joined) what the translated lyrics were (who knew some Japanese) but he just replied that the lyrics were really, really stupid and didn't translate it.

The game is played in an isometric pre-rendered style where Mario can move in 8 directions, and the first chapter follows more or less the storyline of most every Mario game ever. Mario bursts into Bowser's castle, and in a slight deviation of the bridge over lava, defeats Bowser while fighting on chandeliers. Never mind the fact that Mario just jumps up to the chandeliers, then on the way down, they appear to be falling endlessly, Mario rescues the Princess Peach Toadstool (it's the last game to refer to Peach as exclusively as such, but for the sake of consistency, I'm going to refer to her as Princess Peach) but that's interrupted when a sword (with a talking hilt) descends from the sky and sends all of them flying. From there, you'll need to collect seven stars of the Star Road (this is an RPG, these sorts of things are boilerplate) to win, though the 7th one is held by the final boss.

Don't tell me it's not cool to have Peach, Bowser, and Mario ALL team up.

This is the second game to feature Peach as a playable character and the first to feature Bowser, though you won't get to control Bowser until about maybe halfway through (Peach comes a bit later). Joining you a bit earlier is Mallow, a "tadpole" from the nearby Tadpole Pond (from the on-set it's obvious that he's not a frog, which makes the scene where his frog grandfather reveals that he isn't a tadpole, and by extension the "Sad" song, hilarious). Soon after, you'll meet Geno, who is a doll brought to life size by a figure from above, named "♥♪!?" who explains the plot.

Geno is a bit of an interesting character and reading about Geno in old Nintendo Power magazines (back in 1996/1997) reveal that he had a lot of fans, so much so that there was some demand that Geno be featured in his own game, much like how Wario got to be an (anti)hero in his own right, turning the Game Boy SMB spin-off "Super Mario Land" into "Wario Land", which lasted up until around the early 2000s when it was superceded by the WarioWare series (I hope to cover those games soon). However, regardless of the ownership issues of Geno (with the whole Square split-up), it's a good thing Geno never saw the light of day in another video game again. See, by the time 1996 rolled around, Luigi was practically written off as a viable Mario character (all Luigi got was a cameo in the main credits, and it was probably widely believed that licensed disasters like Mario is Missing killed Luigi's credibility), but starting with the GameCube era and accelerating in the mid-2010s, Luigi, Toad, and Peach started to appear in their own games with varying results, so be careful what you wish for.

This was so much so that in December 2015, playing it and listening to its music flashed back to Louisiana, down to its decaying Interstate highways. Of course, it's been almost five years (has it been that long?!) since I visited my uncle's actual house (which was sold in 2012), so I have to make do with my more recent Lafayette trip which brought back fond memories (not all that fond, really...the only thing I remember doing really interesting is visiting an Albertsons in the first time in four years), but that's enough on that now. As I played further into mid-January 2016, flashbacks of the Louisiana Welcome Center near the Sabine River (now gone) and a nearby cul-de-sac I used to enjoy walking down near my uncle's house came to me. All that sort of thing brings a tear to me eye that you, my dear reader, will never know of.

Anyway, a fact related to the "first RPG" aspect is character switching isn't as complicated as the dozens of characters in other RPGs. There are just five characters you need to worry about, and in general, don't have to do a lot of switching. You start off with and always have Mario, then Mallow joins (initially he's pretty useless but once you equip him with weapons and he gets levels up, he's a good party member), then Geno joins, and only after Bowser joins you, do you have to deal with character switching. From there, you might want to switch out Geno for Bowser (optional), and then switching out Mallow for Peach once you build up her healing powers (non-playing party members still get XP), and equip her with a Lazy Shell so she's practically invincible.

There's also a "Hidden Treasures" sidequest, though it's not recommended on the first play through because one of the treasures is an event that happens fairly early on in the game and if you miss it, it's gone forever and you'll always be missing that one. Probably my biggest complaint of the game as it is besides the extremely limited shelf space in terms of items (you don't get to keep multiples of the same item in the same slot) is the controls in the overworld. It's fun being able to move around in eight directions on an isometric plane, but trying to jump from platform to platform is a challenge.

Super Mario RPG is truly one of a kind. I would highly highly recommend it even though it is a bit on the easy side. It's rewarding, funny, and over all a wonderful title, which is why I chose not to reveal the best lines or plot developments (and besides, the five characters are spoiled in the opening sequence if you chose to watch all of it). It's also one of a kind because of how no other Nintendo title comes close to it...it was the last Nintendo/Square collaboration before they parted ways. Despite that, Super Mario RPG 2 was drawn up for the Nintendo 64, which ultimately became Paper Mario, which was neither similar nor nearly as good. There's one more hidden paragraph that does have some spoilers.

December 31 2015

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