Preview: Super Mario RPG – My Nintendo News

Preview: Super Mario RPG - My Nintendo News

When Nintendo first revealed that SNES games would be coming to Nintendo Switch Online, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was likely at the top of several people’s wishlists. The critically acclaimed title combined traditional turn-based combat with isometric 3D platforming and adventuring in a unique fusion that would go on to inspire both the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series. But rather than bring the game to their online subscription service, Nintendo have instead opted to fully remake it for the Switch. After having spent a few hours with it, I can safely say that Super Mario RPG is shaping up to be everything that fans of the original release could have hoped for in a remake, and more than maintains the high quality we have come to expect from first-party titles.

Super Mario RPG begins with the simple premise that anyone who has played a Mario title before would recognise; once again, Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, and it is up to Mario to rescue her. Wasting no time, the game throws you into the final battle with the King of Koopas himself, and of course Mario prevails. Unfortunately, the Princess is not saved thanks to the untimely arrival of Exor, a giant sword and part of the Smithy Gang, who crashes into the castle and sends our hero flying. In order to save Princess Peach, Mario needs to find a way back into Bowser’s Castle, but this is only the beginning of his troubles, as the arrival of the Smithy Gang has had dire consequences. Mario soon finds himself on a much greater quest to save the world by gathering seven star fragments to restore the damaged Star Road and end the threat of the Smithy Gang. 

Despite its high stakes, Super Mario RPG tells a light-hearted tale that is heavy on visual comedy and witty dialogue that had me chuckling more than once in the opening hours. As a silent protagonist, Mario is reliant on gestures to express himself and he is surprisingly animated and expressive, often with humorous results. As an established hero, Mario is well-known by the inhabitants of the world, and talking to NPCs often results in them asking for proof of his identity (usually a jump is enough) or asking him why he hasn’t already resolved all the problems going on, and what he expects them to do about it.

Super Mario RPG is a fairly linear game, and areas are divided into stages that you move between on a world map similar to the Super Mario World games. There are often hidden chests and items in areas but this is a more story-focused experience, without the deluge of errands and side quests you’ll find in other RPGs. This keeps the narrative moving at a good pace, and your next point of call is clearly flagged on the world map so there is no need to aimlessly wander and talk to every NPC that you meet to try to puzzle out where you’re supposed to be going next.

Exploration is done from an isometric 3D perspective in small interconnected areas, similar to 2D titles in The Legend of Zelda series. The path to the next screen is usually straightforward, but you may occasionally need to navigate some platforms in very light platforming sequences, traverse back and forth different areas and elevation using warp pipes, and find switches to remove obstacles in your way to get there in a very typical 2D Mario style. Nothing here is overly taxing, but it encourages exploration, and going off the main path will usually reward you with a treasure chest containing an item or piece of equipment. 

Combat is the other half of the gameplay and is primarily turn-based; you’ll select an action from a number of commands on the menu, and then your opponent will do the same. You can attack normally with your equipped weapon, use special moves that consume Flower Points (FP) that are shared between each of your party members, use an item, defend, or attempt to escape. To make things more interactive, you can also perform Action Commands for some of these actions by pressing the A button at the right time (indicated by an exclamation mark) to enhance that ability. For example, when doing a normal attack, you’ll do increased damage to your target and also damage other enemies. You can even do this during your opponent’s turn to reduce the damage from their attacks, or even negate it entirely. The window of opportunity to do this is very narrow, but the reward is immensely satisfying, and it can turn the tide in battles against multiple enemies and bosses in particular. 

Initially you’ll only have Mario to play with, but you’ll quickly encounter Mallow, an extremely odd-looking tadpole, as well as Geno, a possessed doll who will help shed some light about the bigger picture behind the game’s story. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that fits them into the niche roles you would expect of an RPG (Mallow’s strength is Magic, for example, making him the perfect Mage/Healer character) and has their own special skills, equipment, and stats that you can increase how you choose when leveling up. 

Super Mario RPG features two difficulty options from the start, which you can swap between at any time in the menu. The Breezy difficulty makes battles easier by giving you more experience points and allowing you to hold more items, although it doesn’t make the timing for Action Commands any more lenient. The game also features several tutorials in its opening hours as it introduces new mechanics to the player, although you can opt to skip these if you’re already familiar with the game. There is also an extensive Help menu that goes over numerous aspects in greater detail, and the Scrapbook keeps track of key story moments, making this a very accessible title.

As you might expect, Super Mario RPG has been given a significant visual overhaul to bring it more in-line with modern visual standards, with areas being faithfully recreated in a more colourful and detailed style, yet maintaining the charm and aesthetics of the original that will make them instantly recognisable to those who have played it. The game also has small cutscenes, usually when introducing significant new characters. Unfortunately, these aren’t voice-acted, which is a little disappointing given their brevity and the infrequency that they appear. In what is otherwise such a high quality title, it feels slightly odd to watch cutscenes with only subtitles to tell you what the characters are saying, but as none of the in-game dialogue is voice acted, this is a minor issue. 

The game also features a remixed soundtrack, filled with stunning orchestral pieces that capture the melody they were based on but add a completely new dimension to the atmosphere of the game’s many locales. If this isn’t entirely to your taste, or you’re simply nostalgic of the SNES original, you can change back to this at any time in the menu, although the remixed soundtrack will still play at certain moments in the game regardless. 

I am very much looking forward to continuing my adventure in Super Mario RPG, and can confidently say that this is shaping up to be a fantastic way to experience the game, whether you’ve played the original SNES title, or it’s your first time diving into Mario’s first RPG. There have clearly been several quality of life improvements made to the game in order to make it as accessible as possible (with the most notable being the Breezy difficulty option) but the inclusion of the original soundtrack clearly shows that Nintendo want this to be a nostalgic experience for returning players too. Be sure to check back on My Nintendo News for our final review of the game shortly before its launch on 17th November 2023.

A copy of Super Mario RPG for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK.


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