When Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars first launched on the SNES in 1996, it marked a momentous occasion: Mario’s first foray into the role-playing genre. Developed through an unprecedented collaboration between Nintendo and RPG titans Square, Super Mario RPG became an instant classic thanks to its humor, heart, and refreshing gameplay innovations. Now, over 25 years later, Nintendo has released a meticulously faithful remake of this beloved title on Switch. Staying true to the spirit of the original, it offers just enough modern polish and thoughtful gameplay tweaks to revitalize Super Mario RPG for both nostalgic fans and a new generation.
At its core, the remake strives to retain the irreverent charm that made Mario’s debut RPG stand out. The whimsical story, eccentric cast of characters, and comedic writing have been preserved nearly untouched. However, the switch to 3D visuals and new cutscenes help further bring its zany personality to life. Under the hood, combat and progression systems remain straightforward and accessible to RPG newcomers while introducing welcome quality-of-life upgrades. Timing-focused attacks now gain splash damage bonuses and cool down skills for stringing together excellent timing. The pace blazes by, with battles cutting out the filler. All of this replenishes the spirit of the original game while smoothing out rough edges.
For all its upgrades, this is still undeniably Super Mario RPG through and through. The fixed perspective camera, pre-rendered style backgrounds, and significance of timing in attacks immerse you in its era. Occasional warts like unbalanced combat and perspective challenges amplify the nostalgia. Ultimately, the remake strikes a delicate balance between preservation and reinvention, thoughtfully enhancing Super Mario RPG for an inevitable new generation of fans longing to experience Mario’s unexpected RPG debut.
A Fresh Coat of Paint With A Retro Perspective
Visually, Super Mario RPG’s remake marks a significant evolution while retaining its retro spirit. The graphics have been completely overhauled with vibrant, smoothly-animated 3D models and environments. This high-definition treatment lets you appreciate the finer details, from the stitching on Mario’s overalls to the goblin-like features of enemies like Mack. Backdrops pop with color, from the lush greens of Mushroom Kingdom’s forests to the eerie waterways of Kero Sewers. The new cutscenes look especially great, capturing the humor and charm of the cast through expressive animations.
However, the visuals merely modernize rather than reimagine. The camera angles remain fixed in their pre-rendered perspectives. While characters are realized in 3D, the environments retain a stylized, compressed shape. This fusion of old and new visual styles sparks nostalgia while presenting Super Mario RPG’s silly world in the best possible light. Still, some consistency is lost between the richly detailed character models interacting with flatter, less dynamic environments. There’s a sense that more creative risks could have reinvented its visual flare rather than playing it safe.
Furthermore, significant technical issues plague the graphics in the late game. Menu navigation, especially the monster encyclopedia, suffers from severe framerate drops and lag – an immersion-breaking glitch considering how much time you’ll spend in menus. Given the remake’s pristine appearance elsewhere, it’s an unfortunate blemish.
For all these nitpicks, the remake still succeeds at revitalizing Super Mario RPG’s charming aesthetic and cementing its unique place in time. The fixed perspective camera angles instantly transport you decades back, and the compression creates an intimate storybook feel. The visuals walk a masterful tightrope, neither abandoning the retro stylings nor leaving them untouched. While a bit more ambition could have pushed boundaries, the remake uplifts the original graphics gracefully.
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A Symphonic Tribute to a Legendary Soundtrack
The excellent soundtrack has always been one of Super Mario RPG’s defining features. This remake pays reverent tribute to the original music while infusing it with new life. The score has been gloriously re-recorded with live instrumentation, transforming the MIDI-powered tunes into fully orchestrated arrangements. You can instantly toggle between the remastered and 8-bit SNES tracks with the press of a button. This makes it easy to appreciate how the new versions retain the spirit of the original compositions while adding welcome depth and nuance.
New layers of strings, brass, and percussion create a more robust, cinematic sound without losing the whimsical personality woven into each track. The battle theme perks up with driving percussion and wailing horns, while the boss fight music amplifies the urgency through thundering timpani beats. Even the simplest themes like the distinct opening and closing melodies benefit enormously from the live instrumentation. Listening to both versions back-to-back highlights just how thoughtfully the remake’s soundtrack preserves the catchy melodies that made Super Mario RPG’s score so hummable and unforgettable.
Much like the visuals, the approach to updating the music focused on enhancement rather than reinvention. This allows you to re-experience the soundtrack as you remember it, only elevated. The soaring new arrangements will likely sound even better during key story moments or intense boss encounters. While hardcore fans may be divided on remixes of beloved retro music, this soundtrack retains the familiar melodies that sparked nostalgia while giving them the rich orchestral treatment they deserve. It offers the best of both eras in one package, beautifully capturing Super Mario RPG’s unique place in time.
Endearingly Weird Writing That Withstands The Test of Time
Considering Super Mario RPG originally released in 1996, the quirky, humorous writing and colorful cast of characters are shockingly memorable even by today’s standards. This charmingly weird story represents a fusion of Nintendo and Square’s signature storytelling sensibilities. While the basic plot follows Mario on a good versus evil quest to restore wishes by recovering the shattered Star Road, the journey is distinguished by its sheer oddity and sense of humor.
Mario’s supporting party members like Mallow, Geno, Bowser, and Peach have fully-realized personalities and backstories that complement the flat hero. Signature Square Enix whimsy arrived in full force through these new allies. Mallow’s status as a cloud boy mistakenly raised by frogs often elicits a chuckle. Meanwhile, the spirit inhabiting the Geno puppet dishing out finger bullet barrages demonstrates the writers’ knack for hilarious juxtapositions. Even familiar faces like Bowser and Peach shine in atypical roles as either hero or capable healer respectively.
Beyond the main party, Super Mario RPG flaunts an eccentric, darkly comic rogues gallery. Memorable oddballs like knife-juggling clowns, the wedding-obsessed Booster and Valentina duo, and the anthropomorphic weapons of the Smithy Gang all exude the signature kookiness Square Enix integrated into Mario’s world. Their silly antics drive much of the story’s humor and prevent any narrative lulls. The new cutscenes only amplify their already expressive personalities.
While the story follows a conventional good versus evil framework, it’s the unfiltered weirdness and boundary-pushing humor that make Super Mario RPG’s writing incredibly memorable. Critics often deem the offbeat tone inconsistent, but this unrestrained wackiness is central to the game’s enduring charm. The writing stands the test of time precisely because it was unafraid to take risks and complement Nintendo’s family-friendly sensibility with doses of absurdity. After all, not many Mario games deal in subjects like torture or murder. For better or worse, the writing embraces eccentricity in a way that retains its magic after decades. The remake wisely preserves this anarchic spirit that made the original so special.
Satisfyingly Simple Battles Marred By a Lack of Challenge
Super Mario RPG’s turn-based battles immediately stand out through timing-focused attacks and defense. While combat is straightforward enough for RPG novices, excelling relies on skill rather than statistics. Landing an attack or blocking damage at the perfect moment triggers rewarding feedback. The remake also introduces splash damage and chaining bonuses that amplify the importance of timing accuracy. This satisfying skill-based system ensures encounters never feel like rote exercises.
By integrating commands seamlessly into the flow of combat, battles proceed at a brisk pace. Most random encounters wrap up in under a minute. Streamlining the process allows the vibrant attack animations and enemy designs to shine. Stringing together multiple well-timed attacks fills up the new Triple Move gauge. These cinematic skills showcase the party’s signature abilities, like Mario unleashing a deadly fireball barrage. While visually dazzling, Triple Moves tend to lack strategic purpose when standard skills often outdamage them.
Unfortunately, while the combat mechanics themselves hold up remarkably well, the challenge is near non-existent. The wide variety of foes pose little threat, outside of the rare unblockable attack. Thanks to overpowered healing abilities and items, players have little incentive to switch up tactics or party members. The stakes feel low when health bars barely budge. As a result, there is little need to dig into Super Mario RPG’s admittedly thin progression systems or analyze enemy weaknesses. Combat serves as a vehicle for humor and charm rather than a meaningful test.
For a modern audience accustomed to intricate systems and demanding RPG challenges, Super Mario RPG’s brisk, unbalanced combat may disappoint. An optional hard mode could have rectified the lack of difficulty for veterans. However, these flaws are also a testament to how forward-thinking the original combat mechanics were. Now as then, timing-focused battles deliver an immediacy and satisfaction that turn the simple into the sublime. While the remake’s additions improve moment-to-moment gameplay, applying a developer’s hindsight touch to difficulty and balancing could have modernized combat further without sacrificing spirit.
Platforming Takes A Backseat In Super Mario’s First 3D Adventure
It’s easy to forget that Super Mario RPG actually represents Mario’s debut 3D outing, arriving mere months before the release of Super Mario 64. However, platforming plays a secondary role, with traditional RPG exploration and light puzzling taking center stage. When platforming does appear, it exudes a nostalgic charm despite feeling dated at times.
Mario’s movement has a signature momentum and weight, for better or worse. His jumps feel hefty and lack the precision of his more modern 3D adventures. While this leads to occasionally finicky platforming, it also recaptures the retro challenge veterans remember. The fixed isometric camera can exacerbate depth perception issues on jumps, but also amplifies that throwback sensation. There is some cognitive dissonance from seeing Mario’s first crack at 3D platforming, but that only adds to the game’s novelty.
Beyond platforming, the condensed environments encourage leisurely exploration over rapid progression. Entering new areas unveils puzzles like maze navigation and pushing blocks to uncover secrets. The quests to collect each Star Piece take on light dungeon crawler qualities as well with gated progression. While not labyrinthine, these moments allow Mario’s RPG adventure to retain the satisfying sense of exploration central to his platforming roots.
Despite Super Mario RPG’s release at the dawn of 3D games, its platforming and puzzles embrace simplicity over ambition. Yet therein lies the nostalgic joy for those who lived through the transition to 3D. It offers just enough platforming to create variety, not define the experience. What seemed dated and clumsy then now reads as charming.
A Surprising Variety of Minigames Keep The Pace Moving
Super Mario RPG smartly sprinkles dozens of minigames and side activities throughout the adventure to provide amusing diversions between story beats. These range from recreations of Mario Party-style minigames to interactive storytelling vignettes. While light on complexity, the minigames lean into accessibility and replayability.
No two minigames feel alike, ensuring they always surprise. One moment, Mario is barreling down a waterfall to collect coins, the next he is racing Yoshi in a super sprint. Some minigames play with the RPG premise, like button mashing to prepare ingredients for a chef. Others feel directly lifted from the Mario Party series, like dodging piranha plants to collect gems. The writing integrates them smoothly into gameplay – a character may challenge Mario before providing key information.
Most minigames last only a minute or two, leading to a risk of them feeling like distractions. However, they pace the adventure perfectly by breaking up longer story sequences. They allow the humor and personality of the cast to shine in ways combat cannot. The bite-sized nature also makes them highly replayable and low pressure. While not every minigame hits, the diversity ensures you’ll remember the highlights.
Above all, the minigames and side attractions channel Super Mario RPG’s playful soul. They encapsulate how anything goes in Mario’s wacky RPG debut – even a genre-bending adventure has room for activities with no purpose beyond fun. By providing brief but memorable diversions between central objectives, they amplify the gameplay variety and kinetic pacing that help Super Mario RPG stand the test of time. Sometimes a respite is all it takes to put a renewed pep in your step.
A Joyful Blast From The Past, Warts And All
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars represented a bold creative risk in 1996, and its Switch remake captures lightning in a bottle again by remaining daringly faithful to the original. Rather than overhaul it into a modern game, the remake leans into nostalgia to lovingly recreate one of Mario’s most eccentric adventures. While this comes at the cost of some necessary improvements, it allows the irreverent spirit that made Super Mario RPG so memorable to thrive once again.
By embracing flaws like unbalanced combat and dated platforming, the remake effectively transports you decades back to a special moment in Nintendo history. The technical limitations become part of the charm rather than issues to solve. However, this approach also limits its accessibility for a new generation of players who expect more challenge and depth. Super Mario RPG thrives on personality and variety over polished mechanics. The remake had opportunities to smooth out rough edges for today’s audience while preserving quirkiness, but ultimately chose a purist approach for better and worse.
And yet, the strength of the original shines through. The vibrant world, offbeat humor, and enduring soundtrack hold up masterfully. Modern touches like improved visuals and cinematics only elevate these strengths. Super Mario RPG marched fearlessly to its own beat in 1996, and still stands out as one of Mario’s most amusingly weird quests. This faithful recreation celebrates the hallmarks of an influential outlier rather than sanding it into a generic experience. For those who lived through its release, this time capsule to the daring early days of 3D gaming is an absolute joy.
Super Mario RPG
Super Mario RPG's faithful remake is a nostalgic blast from the past that retains the original's offbeat personality but makes no effort to modernize its dated design. This is a museum piece that plays like a time capsule to 1996, warts and all. While the throwback experience will utterly delight fans, some newcomers may be less forgiving of its aged gameplay and difficulty balancing. Still, it's a unique title worth revisiting just to witness Mario’s most amusingly weird quest.
- Faithful recreation of a beloved classic.
- Retains the original's offbeat personality and charm.
- Vibrant visuals and expressive animations.
- Outstanding re-recorded live orchestral soundtrack.
- A variety of entertaining minigames and side activities.
- Dated gameplay mechanics and design.
- Lack of challenge in combat.
- Technical issues with late-game graphics.
- Limited modernization efforts.
- May not appeal as much to newcomers expecting more depth and challenge.