Back in 1996, Nintendo created the original Super Mario RPG series which gave birth to many of the best games at the company. I am quite a big fan of the RPGs with Bowser’s Inside Story being my favourite one to date. As the series has grown from strength to strength and changed over time, the latest Super Mario RPG is the perfect opportunity for fans to take a look back at where it all began. If anything, the game oozes nostalgia thanks to its classic pre-rendered environments and retro art style while at the same time modernizing the characters for the Switch.
This is a full remake, of course. A game from back in 1996 would be a difficult task to remaster given the SNES version is so dated now. However, this remake does a fantastic job of reviving much of the original’s mechanics and worlds to modern standards. It all starts when one day Mario takes a trip to Bowser’s Keep to save Princess Peach. The adventure seems to be just another day in the life of Mario versus Bowser until a giant sword falls from the sky and pierces the ground.
As a result, Mario gets roped into saving the world and this time, Bowser joins him in his fight. You see, the sword is named Exor and is a member of the Smithy Gang who have now invaded the kingdom. The sword opened the portal between the Mushroom Kingdom and the “Smithy” dimension which means nasty Smithy Gang members led by the antagonist, Smithy have also invaded the kingdom.
These Smithy Gang members have one goal, to turn the world into a mechanical contraption and rule the lands with weapons. Mario now has to run around the Mushroom Kingdom collecting star parts to rebuild the Star Road, which was broken as a result of the giant sword falling from the sky.
If this all sounds like an over-the-top JRPG from Squaresoft that’s because it really is. The entirety of Super Mario RPG has been heavily inspired by classic RPGs from back in the day and if anything, is darker and grittier than any of the later games in the series. Even the whole “Smithy” approach was unique to the game and unlike other Super Mario characters and themes, hasn’t been revisited since back in the day.
Super Mario RPG is a role-playing game. It takes the pages out of a traditional RPG book by including earning experience points to level up, attacking enemies in a turn-based combat system, managing gear and stats and slowly gathering a party to help you along the way. There isn’t much new here for those hoping to experience a new Mario RPG and for the most part, this game plays true to the original in almost every single way.
Of course, the visuals have been completely reworked. Every environment, character and asset has been built from the ground up to look modern while also capturing the same magic as the classic game. So much so that you can put the two games side-by-side and they look identical. Enemies are in the same place, rolling hills take up the same spot and even the attack effects are one-to-one. Of course, they look gorgeous on the Switch thanks to the modern coat of paint.
Along the way, Mario meets Geno who is a living doll and Mallow who is a talking cloud (who looks like a marshmallow). The story in Super Mario RPG doesn’t get overly complicated and you kind of know what you’re doing within the first hour of the game. However, the ever-expanding back stories of the cast do help give some groundwork to their existence in the game.
The same story elements expand into the different NPCs I met along the way. Each new environment was met with a new underlying narrative including monsters who felt misunderstood and didn’t want to be scary monsters and even talking plants.
Environments are also open for exploration and I could move Mario about across platforms, jump around to reach items and enemies and solve puzzles along the way. The exploration helps bring all of these locations to life and it honestly wouldn’t be a Super Mario game if I couldn’t “boing boing” all over the place. It isn’t perfect though. This isn’t a Mario platformer game and at times, exploration felt a bit clumsy. The camera perspective also worked against you especially when moving about tight walkways and over treacherous terrain.
Where Super Mario RPG does shine is in its turn-based combat. This is an RPG of course and the relaxed combat definitely took me back to my childhood. Mario and his gang can all attack enemies but deal extra damage if you perfectly time a press of a button. The same can be done for blocking attacks too. The timing also changes for each attack and party member so mastering it also takes patience. There is a prompt that pops up for each opportunity but by the time it shows, I was too late. The real challenge was working out when the prompt would show and timing my attacks and block to that.
The combat also relies on using all the party members and I could swap between the backup members at any time. It helped me strategize my attacks depending on who worked best for the encounter. I also knew I had a backup if a boss got too tough and wiped some members out. It is incredibly enjoyable. These RPG mechanics are sorely lacking in RPG games these days (looks at Final Fantasy XVI).
I wouldn’t say Super Mario RPG has the deepest of combat mechanics. Attacks are simple, the item roster doesn’t go beyond a page, and levelling up and deciding what stats to spec into is pretty straightforward. This does show the game’s age in a way. It is simple and lets me focus on the world and the story. Which is a good thing. I believe all Mario fans should experience the story at least once in their lifetime.
Super Mario RPG makes things even easier with a casual game mode difficulty so if you find the game a little challenging, you can make things much easier. Another great way to simply get through the story.
Even with its remake paint, Super Mario RPG does feel a bit dated though. Certain mechanics are overly simplified and the exploration does get a bit tedious after a few hours. However, that doesn’t mean the game isn’t charming. Nintendo has done an excellent job bringing it to life and it marks the perfect opportunity to experience the classic.
This Super Mario RPG review is based on a code sent to us by Nintendo. The game launches on 17 November only on Switch. It starts at R1185
Super Mario RPG is an excellent remake of the classic 1996 SNES game that oozes charm and nostalgia. It is family-friendly, has one of the quirkiest stories in the series and makes for an enjoyable time. Whether you’re new to the game or replaying it, there’s a lot to enjoy here.