This review was originally uploaded to Nintendo Scene on 5th October 2017.
I will happily admit that I was a huge fan of the GameBoy Advance; it had a few stellar games, but sadly wasn’t quite up to the calibre of other Nintendo platforms in terms of an overall game roster. One of the huge breakthrough hits on the console in my opinion though was Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. On that note, one of the great moments of E3 2017 was the announcement of a remaster of this GBA classic for Nintendo 3DS this year and now the game is upon us, how exactly is the game?
The story of Mario & Luigi is incredibly in depth, considering that it’s a Mario game. Mario (and with immense hesitance, Luigi) are summoned to Peach’s castle as she has been attacked by Cackletta from the Bean Bean Kingdom and had her voice stolen. The result of this, humorously, is that Peach then has explosive, violent language instead in an obvious indication of her now using foul language in the form of symbols that drop to the floor and explode. As this infliction would likely cause damage to his castle, Bowser demands that the heroes find a way to return Peach’s voice so that he can return to kidnapping her. To further this demand, Bowser offers to take Mario to the Bean Bean Kingdom himself, with Luigi once again being inadvertently dragged along.
The premise and it’s execution is remarkably tongue-in-cheek and self-referential, resulting in genuine humour. Luigi has an air, throughout the story, of having been dragged along into whatever it is Mario happens to be doing, often even saying no to requests from the denizens of the game world before Mario agrees to them. To push this further, Mario is constantly praised by everyone they meet, whereas Luigi is generally derided or ignored entirely. Also, within this remaster, the player can play through the tale of Bowser’s Minions as they attempt to fight through the Bean Bean Kingdom to find their missing King. Overall, the plot of Superstar Saga is entirely ludicrous, with some of the most cleverly written characters and scenarios of arguably Mario’s entire history.
The gameplay of Mario & Luigi closely follows the blueprint laid down by the SNES classic, Super Mario RPG. So, expect isometric exploration of locations, complete with platforming challenges and areas that are slowly unlocked as you go on, then momentum and perspective shifts for the turn-based battles. The main controls are centred around moving the heroes with the analog stick with the brothers each mapped to their own button. All Mario actions are mapped to A, with Luigi being controlled with B. This not only applies to jumping around the world, but also applies to any of the other abilities that are unlocked throughout the game (such as the fantastic ability to bury Luigi under the ground to tunnel under fences). An addition to this game that wasn’t in the original is an in-depth map that can be constantly on the touch screen’s display. I cannot understate how fantastic this addition is, as the original version could be somewhat confusing in layout. Not only this, but the map is detailed enough for the player to plan their route through it in advance, negating frustrating mistakes being made in the progression through the areas.
The enemies as you’re exploring are, for the most part, entirely avoidable should you choose to do so or (a preferred tactic) can be attacked as you explore to give an advantage in battle. This should be carefully considered though, as attacking the enemy with the wrong move will start the battle with harm coming to Mario or Luigi instead of the enemies. The battles then play out in a turn-based set-up with the functions of each brother mapped to their individual button. The unique aspect of the combat being that all attacks can be enhanced and almost all damage to the brothers can be negated by pressing the related brother’s button at the right points. Each brother has a BP pool as well as their Hit Point counter, which can be used for team attacks using both brothers and requiring a sequence of button presses to execute them properly. Even better for the player is that if one of the brothers gains a level at the end of a battle, the player can choose one of the stats to add additional points to (including the hilariously titled “Stache” stat, which is linked to luck in battles).
All of the gameplay mechanics in the game can also be altered by gear that can be purchased or found throughout the game. What these do are entirely dependent on the item, but can include giving the player a barrier that allows several attacks on one of the brothers before they take damage or giving them a sharp increase of power for the first few turns. As well as this, there are various consumable items that can restore the HP or BP of the brothers (as well as other things). Needless to say, the amount of content in this game in terms of gameplay and the sheer amount of flexibility afforded to the player in terms of character progression is staggering, and that’s not even including the other main mode in the game.
Included within the game is the Bowser’s Minions game with it’s equally fantastic story, that can be accessed via the touch screen at any point in the main game. The mode follows Bowser’s minions, led by a commander who happens to be a Goomba with a flag on their head, fighting through waves of enemies to find Bowser after he goes missing in the main game. The gameplay of this mode is incredibly simplistic, playing out as a low input real-time strategy title. In fact, the only real inputs of the player in this mode take form in the menus before the battles (in which the player can choose and select units for the next battle) and in a similar context pressing way as the battles in the main game. Bowser’s Minions, overall, is little more than a distraction from the main game from a gameplay standpoint. However, given the level of polish given to its simplistic mechanics, and the fact that the humour of the main game transfers over, make it a thoroughly enjoyable one nonetheless.
Aesthetically, both Superstar Saga and the Bowser’s Minions mode are both spectacular. Keeping to the cartoony sprite work of the original, whilst giving the entire game a complete graphical overhaul. This means that the game looks bright, colourful and full of character with every location and character seeming well rounded and unique. The music, for me, is the main draw of Superstar Saga with all of the original music being slightly remixed for this remaster, including the phenomenal battle music tracks (seriously, Google them). Also, the humorous voice tracks for Mario and Luigi that are just Italian-sounding disjointed noises never cease to bring a smile.
So, should you buy Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions? I could not give a more emphatic yes to that question. The game has something for just about everyone and an immense amount of charm and character to boot. Furthermore, the ability to lower the difficulty at any point makes the game a fantastic title for children to play too. In all, the light-hearted and comical nature of the whole affair shines through which, when coupled with solid and easy-to-learn mechanics, creates a game that simply cannot be missed (even if you have played Superstar Saga before).
Thank you to Nintendo for kindly supplying this title for us to review.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions is released Friday 6th October 2017 on Nintendo 3DS in both retail and on eShop.