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Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Posted by Archived.

When the Game Boy Advance originally launched in June of 2001 there was one Mario game released Super Mario Advance, a port of the original Super Mario Bros. 2. Since then, there have been three more Mario Advance games, all ports of older Mario games, and Mario Kart: Super Circuit, which was basically the original Mario Kart from the SNES, but no truly original Mario game for the little handheld. Finally, Nintendo has given us a totally brand spankin' new Mario game, and while it's an RPG and not a traditional 2D Mario game, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of the best games of the year, not just on the Game Boy Advance, but on any system, period.

Story

Mario & Luigi might just have one of the oddest storyline ever in a Nintendo published game. It seems the Mushroom Kingdom isn't alone in its own little universe. An emissary from the Beanbean Kingdom comes to visit Princess Peach, but Cackletta (that's the emissary's name) actually has come to steal the Princess's voice. Replacing the voice with explosives that blow up when Peach attempts to speak, Cackletta flees back to the Beanbean Kingdom. Toad runs off to get Mario for help, while Bowser comes to the castle to kidnap the princess. In her current state, though, she'd blow up Bowser's castle. So Mario, Bowser, and, reluctantly, Luigi team up to go to the Beanbean Kingdom to retrieve Peach's voice. If that sounds weird, it should be, and it gets weirder still. The story is very, very funny and it would be a shame if it was ruined for you. So, I won't.

Gameplay

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, while developed by different companies, is the spiritual successor to Paper Mario, which was the spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG. Unlike conventional Japanese RPGs, Mario & Luigi does not employ the random battle method. Instead any character which can be attacked is seen on the main world screen. This is very welcome, as when closing in on the end of the game, or just venturing through territory which was played through, it's nice to be able to avoid enemies which would just be one hit kills with no challenge. At the same time it also presents a challenge in the general world having to avoid enemies to a degree. If an enemy is jumped prior to the battle, then Mario and Luigi can even get a quick couple of damage points. On the other hand if the following person is hit, that person can be unconscious until their turn.

The other difference from the generic RPG is that battles need active input and attention at all times. Whereas most RPGs the player inputting a command will just have the character do the specific move, in Mario and Luigi extra damage points can be attained by pressing A or B, dependent on being Mario or Luigi, respectively, at the correct moment. Similarly on defense, paying attention is key. By timing button presses correctly, the brothers can dodge or even counter attack their opponent.

During battles the A button always controls Mario while the B button always controls Luigi. Sometimes this can get slightly confusing, and it's annoying to take damage because of pressing A instead of B. On the other hand this is rarely an issue, and something which is picked up very quickly once playing. For general attacks either brother can jump on people, or use other attacks, including hammers, once those things are learned. They can also choose to use items to regain some health points or Bros. points. These are used for team attacks which cause more damage than normal attacks. There are three different levels of Bros. attacks with each successive level giving greater damage. The difference is while learning using a lower level causes less damage but makes the button presses for the attack easier to learn. Once the button presses are learned, it's a good idea to up the attack level to get greater damage. One final option to do instead of fighting, is to run, though that will cost Mario & Luigi some coins. They also gain experience in different statistics as they defeat enemies. This is what truly makes the game an RPG. Normal stats such as health, bros., etc. are all there. The only odd stat is 'stache power, which is basically luck, reworked for the Mario universe.

While battling is a main component of the game, and fun in its own right, the battles can get slightly tedious closer to the end as it seems some attacks are just better than others. To keep things interesting, occasionally some attacks will help certain enemies, but in general using one or two Bros. attacks is the best idea. Battling is far from everything in the game. Exploring Beanbean Kingdom is a blast in its own right.

Controlling Mario and Luigi is done simultaneously with both characters on screen at (almost) all times. No cheap character swapping when one character is needed over the other. There is a lead character and a follower. The A button always controls the lead with B always controlling the follow. Start can swap Mario & Luigi from front to back and vice versa, though select would have been a better choice, with start being used for the pause menu instead of select. There are also different things that they can generally do, such as jump, hammer, etc. These are changed with the L button for the back and R button for the lead. All these buttons can get confusing sometimes, but it never gets to a point where Mario or Luigi is damaged or dies because of it, so it makes no difference.

Mario and Luigi can also team up to do special things in the general game world. Some puzzles can be truly head scratching for a second without getting too annoying. Some of the most ingenious stuff comes when the brothers are separated towards the end. Some great puzzling and great adventuring.

Like mentioned earlier, the biggest star in the game is its humour. While all this was mentioned with the story, it's worth mentioning again. The game is laugh out loud funny. The funniest game I can remember playing since Conker's Bad Fur Day or any of the classic Lucasarts games like the Monkey Island series. It may sound weird to be saying about a Game Boy Advance game, but there were times a scene would have me laughing for a good minute or two just from the dialogue. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga also makes plenty of "in" references for those of us who know our Mario and Nintendo history. Characters such as Birdo and the Hammer Bros. make cameos. The game lasts a good twenty hours and the humour continues throughout. Also included is the classic Mario Bros. arcade game. For those who already have any previous Mario Advance gamepak, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga can link up with any of those for multi-player game in this game mode.

Visuals

Mario & Luigi does not feature their classic look. Instead Alphadream Corporation has come up with their own little look for the two of them. It's nothing dramatically different, but still noticeable. Generally this look works really well, except for when upgrading a character level. Then the sprite has a close up and looks slightly pixelated when too close. Otherwise, all the classic characters enjoy the new look and they all feel right. The new characters from the Beanbean Kingdom also fit well into the universe graphically. The environments are obviously brand new for a Mario game, but also go the extra mile to look nice and spiffy. Some areas are dark and gloomy while others are happy, with one area purposely mirroring what a village in the Mushroom Kingdom would look like.

At the same time most of the special visual effects are in the battles. Stars popping up when things explode, and other visual effects help bring a flashy look to all the battles. The animations for all the different attacks for both Mario, Luigi and opponents also impress. Each enemy also gives off a different animation to clue in whether it will attack Mario or Luigi. Both a nice graphical touch as well as helpful to gameplay.

At the same time all the animations in the game world are great and even humourous. Mario can hammer Luigi into the ground, while Luigi can pound Mario into a mini Mario. Other times Mario will put Luigi on fire, or Luigi will shock Mario. During cutscenes Mario or Luigi will react to other NPCs with great animations. All these just add to the overall humour of the game.

Audio

The music from the game incorporates both classic Mario music as well as new themes. Both work equally well. In underground sequences the classic theme from World 1-2 from Super Mario Bros. is used. One of the funniest instances of the game is at the beginning when Toad walks in on Mario in the shower. If you listen closely, Mario is humming the Mario Bros. theme in the shower. The new music is awesome as well. It's just as catchy as the old music, if slightly less rememberable once the Game Boy is shut off.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga might also hold the record for most speech in a Mario game. While that's sad since the Gamecube can hold much more sound than a Game Boy Advance cartridge, that's not to downplay the voice work in this game. As with the rest of the game the voices are absolutely hilarious. Hearing Luigi yell MA-rio, when Mario falls in battle is just quirky. Also for the first time, Mario and Luigi speak in their native Italian. Not that I understood a word, but it was discernible as Italian. Very cool.

This game gets an N-Philes score of A+.

While it may not be the original 2D Mario game everybody is asking for, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga still might be the best Mario game available to play on the Game Boy Advance. That's including every single 2D Mario game ever made. The story itself drives this game, but the gameplay is no slouch, either. Whether in battle or just the game world itself this is my favourite game of the year on any system. If you own a Game Boy Advance buy this game. If you own a Gamecube and don't own a Game Boy Advance buy one and buy this game. If you own a Gamecube and don't want a Game Boy Advance buy a Game Boy Player and buy this game. You will not be disappointed.

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Game Info

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga Box Art
  • Genre: RPG
  • Developer: AlphaDream
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Players: 1

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