Over the years Mario role-playing games have become a staple in the Mario franchise and rightfully so. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was arguably the title that drew the limelight to the Mario RPG franchise with its humour, colourful interface and cleaver puzzles. Looking back this game was a crowning moment for Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance.
Superstar Saga starts off in the familiar Mushroom Kingdom but moves over to the Beanbean Kingdom for the most part as our hero Mario and his brother, “that other green guy”, are called to task. Our favourite ruler, Princess Peach has yet again been captured by the infamous Bowser… no wait that isn’t right? Taking a turn from the traditional story Bowser in fact JOINS Mario and Luigi on their quest to save Peach’s… voice! Yip, quite an odd story but it makes perfect sense once you get into it. Bowser really wants to kidnap the Princess but her voice has been stolen by the devious Cackletta and every time the Princess tries to murmur a sound her vocals are replaced with explosive text characters. This forces Bowser to join the plumber bros. in order for him to safely capture Peach.
The game mechanics are what you would expect from an action-filled RPG. Puzzle sections, turn-based combat and vast environments are plentiful and at no stage feel mundane due to the excellently written story topped with quirky, laugh-out-loud humour. Mario & Luigi are both controlled using the D pad and are independently triggered by the A and B buttons. Both brothers start out with a simple move structure but this progresses throughout and can be cycled through by using the shoulder buttons.
While the graphics are comprised of (what now looks like) retro-looking sprites, they are both detailed and particularly well animated providing a unique twist to each character. The environments are vast and colourful, and they offer the typical pallets we’ve come to expect from a Mario title; forests, dungeons, underwater and deserts just to name a few. Each one of these various environment have plenty of hidden secrets and numerous puzzles to make the adventure worth the while.
The original classic score can be expected in all Mario titles if we’re honest. The traditional sound effects blend in well with the new, more dreary, sounds of the treacherous Beanbean Kingdom. The audio clips themselves are short and looped as you would expect due to the hardware limitation at the time, but this is done in an almost poetic way where you are stimulated to focus on the way the sounds ad to the environments rather than the audio itself. Considering this limitation there is an impressive amount of voice clips helping to give personality to the vast cast of characters.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a stand-out addition to the Mario RPG category. It has all the humour you would expect from a Paper Mario title and at the same time holds its own as far as turn-based action goes. If you are after a break from Mario’s traditional platforming endeavors take a trip into the world of Superstar Saga and get lost in a well-thought-out, unforgettable story with plenty of puzzles and action along the way.