Having a birthday in the summer pretty much means you’ll get presents about every 6 months, which is really nice when you’re a kid. May of 1996 saw the last Mario game for the Super Nintendo, and I was lucky enough to get it for my birthday. Super Mario RPG was an amazing experience, developed by Square (of Final Fantasy fame), and published by Nintendo. The game featured isometric perspective with 3D-esk graphics that still hold up today.
The game started like any other Mario game, with the Princess being kidnapped by Bowser. Mario promptly goes to the castle to rescue here. During the battle with Bowser, a giant sword falls from the sky, shattering star road, crashing into the castle and ejecting the various characters. Mario, still tasked with finding the Princess, heads to Mushroom Castle for guidance.
Mario RPG’s battle system took the old idea of a turn based system, and added a new twist of timed attacks. The players controlled three characters in battle. Each had their own style of attack, where when pressing the attack button again made the attack deal more damage. The same was true for spells, defense (allowing you to defend more), and items (heal more, etc.). I love RPG’s where they incorporate an element that keeps the battles from devolving into simple button mashing. Yes, the attacks still worked without the timed press, but were much more effective with them. Enemies were always seen on screen, allowing players to avoid unnecessary battles, and even giving you the chance for a preemptive strike by jumping on them before hand.
The game introduced two new characters into the Mario lore; Mallow a boy raised by frogs who thinks he’s a tadpole (spoilers, he’s not); and Geno, a doll like character that was possessed by spirit from Star Road to assist. Eventual Bowser and even the Princess herself join the group, bringing your team up to 5. This was the first time as far as I know that Bowser was playable, and first since Mario 2 on the NES for Princess.
Players made their way through the land, fighting the Smithy gang to retrieve all seven titular stars before finally heading to Bowsers castle for the final star piece. The villains of the game were either of the typical Mario type, as Bowser’s army joined forces with Smithy, or the mechanically themed newly created Smithy gang. One of my favorite were the Axem Rangers, a clear knock off of the Power Rangers. Even for a joke they gave a tough fight. Known for hidden quests, deep within Monstro Town, after completing a few random tasks, players can fight Culex. Culex looked very much like a Final Fantasy character, though he was created specifically for this game. He was by far the hardest battle in the game, even stronger than the final boss. I whopped ’em.
A few Nintendo easter eggs were thrown in as well. One had Mario accidentally return to his original 8-bit self after stepping out from behind a curtain. One of my favorites was after awakening in an specific inn, Link was in the bed next to you, sleeping. Talking to him would only play the item discovery music from his game. Finally, going to a bed in the Mushroom Castle at a very specific moment would show Samus from Metroid “resting up for Mother Brain.”
This game is a classic, and sadly marked the last time for 6 years that Square worked with Nintendo, opting to develop for the Playstation instead. I’ve played through this game countless times back when I had more. It can easily be found on the Wii/Wii U Virtual Console, and is a must play. As Seven Stars was developed by Square, contracts prevent Nintendo from making a sequel, or using any characters created for the game (Mallow, Geno, Smithy, etc.). The series continue on in spirit though, with the Paper Mario series for consoles and the Mario & Luigi series for handhelds. Both series are amazing, and continued some of the gameplay mechanics and traditions of the original, but the original always stood out as something different to me. Something special.
Have you play Super Mario RPG? What about the sequel series? Comment below!
“…….” – Mario