developed by AlphaDream/published by Nintendo
1 Player/Cartridge (3 save slots)/GameBoy Advance/2003.11.17
Mario first jumped into the RPG genre with Squaresoft’s classic Super Mario RPG: Legend of the 7 Stars for the Super Nintendo. Many of the developers that worked on that title, including its director Yoshihiko Maekawa, formed the company AlphaDream, and they’ve retooled the general formula with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. This was the first game to allow direct control of both Mario and Luigi simultaneously. It would prove popular enough to warrant a pair of sequels on the Nintendo DS.
An emissary from the neighboring BeanBean Kingdom arrives at the Mushroom Kingdom Palace, and quickly reveals herself as Cackletta, a horrible witch who promptly steals Princess Peach’s voice. Unfortunately Cackletta has also stolen the legendary Beanstar, which grants unimaginable powers to whomever possesses it. With their reputations at stake, it’s up to Mario & Luigi to once again save the day. They’ll have to travel to the strange BeanBean Kingdom to sort things out.
The BeanBean Kingdom is just as diverse as the more familiar Mushroom Kingdom, and will set the stage for a variety of entertaining scenarios. You’ll traverse mountains, forests, deserts, underground and underwater passages, castles and dungeons, and a number of towns populated by a strong cast of memorable characters with personality to spare. The story and dialog has been expertly translated and is surprisingly funny – perfectly suited to the melodramatic adventures that await you. Even small details, like the names of places or items, match the mood of the game perfectly (a favorite of mine are Luigi’s Scandal Workpants, named so because they allow Luigi to take his turn ahead of Mario).
As the title suggests, the game stars gaming’s two most recognizable characters, and at first it can be a little tricky. Players control both characters at once – Mario leads and Luigi follows, but both are assigned to the A & B buttons respectively, allowing them to perform specific actions (such as jumping) individually. They’ll gain a pair of hammers to knock down walls (or each other), as well as special combination moves allowing them to navigate increasingly complex mazes.
Luckily the game sports a standard overhead perspective and not the sometimes annoying isometric view as seen in the original Mario RPG, facilitating all the platforming you’ll be doing. As usual Mario or Luigi can get the upper hand in a battle by preemptively bopping an enemy on the map screen, and likewise enemies can flummox the heroes with an unexpected sneak attack. Battles require more interaction than standard RPGs, because players must tap buttons assigned to Mario or Luigi with precise timing to score critical hits or dodge enemy attacks.
It’s an easy game to pick up and play and will last about 20-25 hours with little or no level grinding, which is just about right for this type of game. If the humorous dialog and animations don’t keep you playing, the enjoyable mixture of platforming and action-based battles surely will. The only problem is a somewhat uneven difficulty and lengthy battles (especially bosses, which go on for several turns too many). Still, it’s rare to see such a unique RPG and it’s one of the best available in the GBA’s library, making it a must play for fans of the Mario Brothers.
Quick Run Down
- Interactive battles are more fun than standard RPGs
- Smooth character and monster animations
- Well-written, genuinely funny English translation
- Introduces new ideas into the standard Mario Universe
- Boss Battles overstay their welcome
- Mario & Luigi’s gibberish voices may get annoying
One Sentence Review: A comical, highly animated adventure that will please both Mario veterans and RPG fans.
One Word Review: Hilarious!