ESRB: Everyone 6+
“Mario’s first portable RPG becomes a blast for any gamer to remember for a long time.”
Mario was always the most popular and recognized video game character ever, eventually earning him his very own RPG on the SNES being Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. And just five years later, he became flat and well-introduced into the Mushroom Kingdom, resulting in another game Paper Mario for the N64. Both have been a true success to pure RPG fun while other series like Final Fantasy and even Dragon Warrior were all about games of “chess”. Has the Mario RPGs become comparable to those two series? Not likely, but still Mario RPGs are just fun.
Two years after the birth of Paper Mario, a new Mario RPG Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Game Boy Advance was born, a combination of Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario, with a hint of a lot of new stuff. And marking this as the very first Mario RPG with Luigi being a playable character, Mario would need more than a hand to saving the day like he always does. Are there any new villains? Check. Is the plot epic? Check. And will you have a blast? Maybe, but more likely you will. So, check.
In terms of environment, the introduction nearly reenacts Paper Mario’s beginning scenes as the bros go to Peach’s Castle for something. But in Superstar Saga, the story opens with some ugly-warlock lady Cackletta and her right-hand minion Fawful, going to Peach’s Castle and stealing her voice for her own nefarious purposes. That’s when one of Peach’s servants Toad rushes to the Mario Bros’ house and calls them for the incident at the castle. Upon arriving there, Mario kicks Bowser’s butt and the people near the princess just rushed out of the castle as the princess’ voice has been replaced by some words of literal explosion. And finally, after the Bros board Bowser’s ship to chase after the voice-nappers, the adventure for the bros has just begun.
On Superstar Saga’s over world screen, it still plays the same as Paper Mario, with the addition of Luigi being involved too. Pressing the A button causes the lead brother to jump or do something else while the same goes for the backseat brother when his button B is pressed. Unlike other jumping RPGs, you’ll need to keep an eye on both brothers as the one in the back cannot react automatically. So that means in order to jump over pits and spikes, you’ll have to press A and B at the same time as you go over. Later on, the brothers will be given hammers and even hand powers to use on the over world screen to solve some puzzles or turn the tides against some enemies in battles. And later after getting one of those utilities, you will be able to use them on both brothers to utilize more puzzling techniques. Luigi will jump on Mario and spring high into the air or Mario will hammer Luigi to the ground and he can go under things or even dig up some stuff.
Engaging in battles by touching enemies is the same as for all Mario RPGs, unless otherwise if either you or the enemy get the upper-hand by using attacks on each other. Should you jump on the enemy? You will conk your enemies with damage before the battle starts. If the backseat brother gets hit by an enemy instead of stomping on it, the backseat brother will be stunned for the turn of the battle, unless if the brother goes first. Anyway, during battles the enemies cannot dodge, but you can. The A button controls Mario while the B is for Luigi. You are given a set of commands to choose from: Solo, Bros, Item, and Run. Solo lets the brother attack the enemy individually. Bros gives the brother access to his own Bros Attacks. Item opens the list of items for the brother to choose from. Run just gets you to press A or B, depending on who’s running, while sacrificing coins to escape from battles. Bosses always restrict this, so running from them is not an option. The objective for each battle is by defeating the enemy party before moving on. Being victorious will earn you coins and Experience Points for each brother (and sometimes, items).
Get enough EXP and the brother levels up. Each brother has their own stats: Hit Points, Bros Points, Power, Defense, Speed, and Stache. Hit Points gauge the brother’s durability before kicking it. Bros Points gauge the brother’s usage of Bros Attacks. Power determines the amount of damage the brother will cause to enemies. Defense determines the amount of damage the brother will resist from enemy attacks. Speed will determine who goes first in battle. Stache (or Mustache) determines the liability of doing a Lucky hit, causing more damage than normally. Each of the stats will get a slight increase upon leveling up, and then you get to increase one of them some more through a roulette slot. The numbers in the slot decrease gradually by increasing that stat continuously through each level up, but leaving it alone to increase others will increase it. So there’s a balance you must take to effectively beef up your brother’s character. There also stat-increasing items in the game that will let you cheat through exercising the brothers for tougher battles ahead. It’s nothing like steroids or anything like that, so using those items are safe for the brothers.
In some occasions, the brothers will have to split up and solve puzzles individually. The brothers face off enemies alone during those times and earn EXP as a single fighter, but they will share the same items, even when they’re far apart from each other. Plus, you will have to do something separately in different spots to progress on. For instance, Mario will hit the switch with his hammer while Luigi jumps over something simultaneously. Those are not simple as those require hard puzzling to overcome. And eventually, you will encounter these fun 2-D Side-scrolling areas that bring memories of the Super Mario Bros game for the NES to here. Touching enemies will kick you to the checkpoint or the beginning of the area. It is fun for once, but those areas could have use more tweaking (like heightening the jumps higher) and there could’ve been a few more of those areas to suit us well.
And one last thing about the main game play is the Bros Attacks, where the brothers attack the enemies in tandem for acrobatic effects, for the cost of the brother’s Bros Points. The Bros Attacks are done through button pressing and failing will cause something funny to happen. If you’re practicing the Bros Attacks, you can also set the modes for each Bros Attack in battle by pressing L or R. Mode 1 will activate slow motion mode and show the buttons you have to press at certain times. Mode 2 removes the slow motion and Mode 3 removes both of them while taxing the cost of Bros Points. So if you’re very skilled at this, you can set the mode to 3 while saving a few Bros Points off. Sometimes, when you execute a Bros Attack enough times, the Advanced Bros Attack will be unlocked for that Bros Attack, where you take an alternate route in that Bros Attack to do alternate or additional effects, but the higher the mode that is done in for the Bros Attack, the more often you will unlock them. Advanced Bros Attacks are very unique and by far, one of the best features I’ve ever seen in a Mario RPG.
Are there side quests? There are tons. The beans you collect in the game can be brewed into drinks that help increase your stats without having to level up. You take those beans and get the drinks from E. Gadd’s Café, the café being run by some bean guy and E. Gadd from Luigi’s Mansion. There are seven drinks to brew in this game and for each drink you brew for your first time you will get one of the seven prizes for doing so. You must find out for yourself. And later on in the game, you will help this lady with T-shirt designing, which is pretty fun in entertainment. You get shoot spouts of water at the flying coloring bombs to design the T-shirt. You get a surprise for completing the T-shirt designs. There also much more than those two side quests there, but it’s best to not spoil it.
There are also tons of mini games for enjoyment and are (possibly) the best ones that the Mario and Luigi series has to offer. You will guide the brothers through a mine cart ride whilst collecting jewels, surf the waves on Luigi’s flat body, feed each of the two Piranha Plant walls with items fast-paced, and much more! They are very fun and they offer rewards as always! You won’t be disappointed.
If the mini games and the game play aren’t enjoyable enough, the humor in Superstar Saga stands out as the most hilarious in the Mario RPGs. There’s slapstick, dialogue, and much more! And the story is pretty good for a Mario RPG, though it could’ve been longer...but overall, Superstar Saga is pretty dang good.
Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of the best Mario RPGs ever made, but not close to the king being Paper Mario. This game may have little flaws, but nonetheless it’s still a good buy. Go online and order this now!
Score: 9.4 out of 10