Super Mario RPG review: Faithful remake of a daring adventure
While the Super Mario RPG branding had been abandoned for Nintendo’s RPG titles featuring the mascot character in favor of the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi franchises, a remake of Legend of the Seven Stars is releasing this month. But does it stand the test of time, and has Nintendo made any notable improvements?
In 1996, a collaboration between Nintendo and Square led to a more ambitious title, which placed Mario and his friends in a world that drew many inspirations from Square’s Final Fantasy series. Releasing to many positive reviews, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars has entered a legacy of being one of the most popular Mario games of all time.
So given its age, its popularity, and the fact that the original wasn’t released in Europe at the time, it is no shock that Nintendo has decided to give the classic RPG a much-needed facelift in 2023.
Super Mario RPG remake: Key details
- Price: $59.99/£49.99
- Developer: ArtePiazza, Square (original release)
- Release Date: November 17, 2023
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Super Mario RPG release trailer
In Super Mario RPG, a giant sword crashes into Bowser’s castle, displacing Mario, Princess Peach, and Bowser across the land, as well as the Seven Star fragments. It’s up to Mario and his friends to save the land and recover the missing star fragments.
Similarly to the original game on the SNES, Super Mario RPG has you journeying to the different areas of the overworld and battling enemies in your quest to recover the Seven Star fragments. These locations differ in theme, taking you deep into rocky volcanic caves, through maze-like forests, and across the skies themselves.
If you’ve played the original title, or any turn-based RPG for that matter, you’ll be familiar with how Super Mario RPG remake works. You travel across an overworld, visiting many different sub-areas that have their own share of enemies and bosses. Along the way, you’ll pick up special items and power-ups that enhance the combat.
A visual and audio marvel, for better or worse
The first and most obvious change regarding the remake is the touch-up to the graphics, utilizing more modern, detailed 3D visuals as opposed to 2D sprites from the original.
Whether or not that’s an improvement is going to be down to individual preference. 3D graphics feel more modern, and will likely help the game be more approachable to newcomers and younger gamers. However, there’s no denying those crisp 2D renders from the original game helped Super Mario RPG gain a unique identity.
It’s a shame Nintendo didn’t try to emulate this in the remake by bringing in a more refined pixel-art style — something that the publisher has not really explored in recent years.
Still, even with this caveat, Super Mario RPG on Switch looks gorgeous. The original game’s vibrant colors have been converted well onto the modern platform. And especially on the OLED, everything in both the foreground and background really pops out.
On the other hand, Super Mario RPG remake shines in the music department. Original composer Yoko Shimomura has returned to develop new tracks for the remake, with them having their own modern spin on the beloved classics.
While I was less impressed by the game’s visuals, the soundtrack shines brightly. And if you’re not a fan, you’re even allowed to toggle on the original music from a menu setting.
A more approachable RPG experience
Most of the more substantial changes in Super Mario RPG come in the form of new accessibility options and playstyles, which assist new players in getting to grips with the systems on offer. They also provide new choices when it comes to different combat scenarios.
During any battle now, performing any ‘Action Command’ causes a meter to slowly fill up as you execute successful moves. This includes attacking, blocking, or using your special attacks. When this meter fills up, you’ll be able to enact a gauge move (or triple move if all three party members are available) which sees your party perform an attack that decimates opponents with massive damage.
In my testing, these moves seemed to not necessarily dole out any additional damage than the regular special moves. However, they did negate some status effects and buffs opponents had, which made it a useful tool in dealing as much damage as possible.
In general though, despite some enhancements to the combat, the game is still quite tough. The original was famously difficult depending on your leveling choices and previous experience with RPGs. In that regard, the game feels largely unchanged and players after a challenge may still find one here.
On the other hand, newcomers and less experienced RPG gamers who may need a bit of a leg up when it comes to these challenging battles can activate a “Breezy” mode difficulty option. This tunes down some of the stress, as well as tweaks the number of items you can hold.
It’s a fantastic addition that makes the game more approachable to those who are struggling with the initial early stages. It doesn’t affect anyone who wishes to stay on the default difficulty level, and you can switch between both modes at any time — meaning if one battle is particularly daunting, you can briefly switch over to Breezy mode and then switch back once you’ve beaten it.
In terms of other improvements to the remake, a better user interface allows more useful information to appear on the screen. A help menu is also accessible at any time within battles, and a few additional control options are available too.
On the whole, it feels very much like the original Super Mario RPG you know and love from 1996, with some additional improvements to help modernize it. While there are some awkward qualities to it as a result of being a game designed in the mid-1990s, such as those clunky minigames that remain largely unchanged — the game is a must-have for Mario fans.
The Verdict — 4/5
A new lick of paint and some enhanced accessibility improvements bring the Super Mario RPG remake into the 21st century. While the game was already a great outing back in 1996, new players should have no problem jumping into Mario’s first RPG title, hopefully opening the door for next year’s Paper Mario remake and potentially more RPGs later down the line.
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