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Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga Package Art
  Alpha Dream

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Nintendo has a short, mixed history with RPG’s in the United States. Sure, there are those long running series they put out in Japan that we are barely getting a taste of here in the States. Otherwise, there are the two Mario RPG games, Earthbound, and the Legend of Zelda series. Mario & Luigi, the newest follow-up in the Mario RPG series, once again uses a hybrid action-RPG format that has the most important elements of a Role Playing Game and the most important element of a Mario game, namely the jumping. However, without the proven design of Squaresoft or the unique style of Paper Mario the lingering question was whether the more or less unknown developer, AlphaDream, could pick up the reigns and do the series justice. Does the series have the muscles to really leap off the Gameboy Advance screen or will this be another game to throw into the sub-par pile next to Luigi’s Mansion and Super Mario Sunshine.


Abandoning the pre-rendered sprites of Super Mario RPG and the original graphical style of Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga uses a well-animated, sprite based engine. The overall look is bright, colorful, and cartoon-like. All of the character animations, in battle and out, look excellent. Mario and Luigi’s movements, gestures, and outrageous reactions are smooth and clean. Another great aspect of the visual presentation is how unique each area looks. To avoid giving away any of the story, all the different areas have a special style fitting the culture of the people. The design scheme works out really well and gives the game a visual flair and consistency that ties in to the story excellently. Although you could dismiss this game as having a “kiddie” appearance, the depth and quality of the visual presentation go a long way towards showing that the word “mature” can mean more than just violent or realistic.


The music in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is good, but the sound effects are even better. The music creates an excellent ambience that works well with the action. It is typical of the music in every Mario game: upbeat, happy, and simplistic. You’ll get the happiest songs when the grass is green and some darker music when that’s the mood of the story. The sound effects do more to enhance the story of the game than anything in recent memory. Most of the effects are out of the Mario vault, but the comic reaction of the character, who thankfully say less than they have in any of the Mario Advance remakes, shows again how nonverbal gibberish or silence can be funnier than bad sound bites. Overall, the sound effects show off the tongue-in-cheek nature of most of the jokes in the game quite brilliantly.


To begin, let me warn you, with one exception, this game is nothing you haven’t played before. Now that I got that out of the way, this game is extremely entertaining. For the majority of the game you will control Mario and Luigi at the same time. This might sound confusing but it is simple enough. The game takes place in two different fields of play. The over world is how you move around the different regions in the game; it controls like a standard action game and has the player control Mario and Luigi simultaneously. Here, the brothers are glued together and cannot separate. A makes Mario jump, use his hammer, do a special maneuvers and B makes Luigi do likewise. At first, it’s hard to deal with the fact that you have to press two buttons to jump, but it isn’t so bad. The worst thing about controlling both characters is that it forces the gamer on a linear path, as you can no longer make a well placed jump and get to a new area. Granted, this fits the typical progression of an action-RPG game, but it made the game feel more restricted than Super Mario RPG.

Touching an enemy sends you into a turn-based battle. In battle, both characters control the same, using a standard RPG menu and either the A or B button to enter an action. Like the previous Mario RPG games, Mario & Luigi bases the strength of an attack on the character's attributes and a timing mechanism. When you pick to jump on an enemy, pressing A or B precisely as you land the jump will cause it to do more damage. With Brothers attacks, which utilize both characters in more damaging and complicated attacks, this timing is taken to a higher difficulty level. Depending on the attack, you must press several consecutive buttons at the right time. This can be done in slow motion with the button to press appearing on the screen or in real-time with no hints. Hintless, real-time makes the attack stronger than in slow motion, but it is also much harder to get the timing right. A well-timed button press can also makes the brothers avoid an attack. The timing keeps the game from being as slow as the battles in a typical RPG, since you always have to pay attention to what’s going on. Overall, Mario & Luigi advances the time based battle engine enough to keep it novel when compared with the other games in the series.


Like all four Mario Advance games, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga includes Mario Bros. that supports a one to four person link-up. The game can be linked with any of the Mario Advance games for a multiple cartridge link mode. Some multiplayer modes related to the single player mode would have been nice, but I guess this version of Mario Bros., which most Nintendo fans should already own once or twice, is better than nothing.


Reviewing this game was difficult. Not because I had a hard time deciding whether it was any good (that was obvious in the first fifteen minutes of play), But because I constantly had to fight for control of my Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga cartridge with a 12 year-old girl and a 36 year-old man. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a great example of the unique, satisfying gameplay that typifies the Nintendo Difference. While you won’t find a single gameplay element that wasn’t used in another Nintendo game, outside of the ability to control both Mario brothers at the same time, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga brings these elements together in a unique, original manner that tells a quirky, fun story. The game might be something you can fly through quickly, but you’ll enjoy every second of the journey. I recommend this game to everyone and encourage you to pick up this under-promoted gem.

final score 9.5/10

Staff Avatar Mark Martinez
Staff Profile | Email
"Unless you're being ironic, turn that off."

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