Isn’t it wild how Nintendo just casually dropped the remake announcement of Super Mario RPG—one of the most iconic SNES turn-based RPGs of all time—in the first fifteen minutes of their June Nintendo Direct? “Smashing!” as Nigel Thornberry would say! I mean, Super Mario Bros. Wonder was in the same presentation, but that didn’t stop fans of the original from shedding over 25 years’ worth of nerd tears. Myself included.
One of the biggest concerns I had going in was the difficulty. Those who’ve experienced the 1996 version of Super Mario RPG know how much of a cakewalk that game was, as players could move from fight to fight without much fuss. Unfortunately, the same problem has returned 27 years later, even more potent than before. Just a warning: do not play this game on the new Breezy difficulty, as you will be positively bored to death by mindlessly mashing the attack button. You’ve been warned!
That being said, even if this remake’s overall difficulty is still quite easy and the party’s special ability sets are rather limited, it’s still fun timing actions for extra defence or damage to each opponent, and switching out teammates for different effects when using the new Triple Move limit breaks. I would prefer if the turn-based battles were a bit more strategic and challenging, as opposed to how proficiently a person can react. Albeit, there’s still just enough tactical depth and challenging optional/post-game bosses to keep all player types invested.
Some of Super Mario RPG’s modern and original ideas have mixed together extremely well too. For example, as Mario and his friends are fighting, they’ll build up a combo chain if they time their actions correctly. As it keeps rising, they’ll continually raise the Triple Move gauge and receive party-wide stat bonuses, as well as individual character buffs like ‘Attack/Defence Up!’ a ‘Once More!’ extra action or a ‘Lucky!’ message. The latter lets players double their coins or experience points at the end of a battle by correctly guessing which egg Yoshi is in, shell game style. And just like the equipment and special ability layouts, it’s all very simple and clean. However, it collectively helps to emphasise the action-based nature of the game; rewarding players for a quick trigger finger and recognising various animation patterns that can even change depending on a character’s equipped weapon.
The developers have also included several quality-of-life changes which have made a noticeable difference. Being able to fast-travel between previously visited locations is a small but welcome tweak, while not having to toss out excess items and automatically moving them to storage is another. A bestiary, the aforementioned Breezy mode, auto-saves, stunning cinematics, more descriptive/digestible menus and a toggle between the original/arranged soundtrack are other neat additions that players will surely appreciate.
The expressive 3D animations, colourful world design and newly orchestrated music by Yoko Shimomura are also very easy on the eyes and ears compared to the original, offering plenty of exploration and Mario-themed mischief to experience. As throughout the story, Mario and his crew get up to all sorts of weird and wacky adventures which certainly keeps things entertaining. One minute he’ll be mine-carting around like the Banana Slamma. The next, crashing a wedding to save Princess Peach. It’s all very oddball Nintendo, and I’m all here for it.
I also love how much platforming, puzzles and mini-games the original release featured. This is one aspect that set Super Mario RPG apart back in 1996 and its influence is still felt today. The famous plumber will usually find himself leaping over a horde of enemies with careful precision, instead of fighting each of them individually. Or, he might be found jumping over a collapsing bridge with awkward gaps in between, as Bullet Bills rapidly approach from the front. Albeit, not everything works well. Sometimes the answer to a puzzle is frustratingly cryptic, or the way forward can be a little strange for no particular reason. Players won’t come across these scenarios too often. But when they do, their bodies won’t be ready.
From the SNES to the Switch, Super Mario RPG is the remake fans have been waiting for. The 3D graphics perfectly encapsulate the essence of the original, with vibrant colours, varying vistas and expressive animations, all at a silky smooth 60 FPS. The battle system is also a lot of fun, featuring several new additions like the Triple Move limit break mechanic and action commands that can damage the entire enemy party. However, this version is oftentimes way too easy, with no real challenge in sight until players reach the optional bosses and post-credits content of the game. That being said, the level of charm and puzzle-platforming prowess will easily keep the audience amused. Factor in a few modern, quality-of-life features with some stylish cinematics to savour, and you’ve got yourself a super solid RPG of Mario-themed proportions.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
For a game that was released all the way back on the SNES in 1996, Super Mario RPG has held up exceedingly well. The battles feature a simple turn-based-meets-action-command system that’s a little too easy overall, though still enjoyable enough for any RPG player to jump into. Couple this with some silly storytelling, charming presentation, varied puzzle-platforming, as well as a few new quality-of-life aspects, and you’re in for an awesome time. Just don’t expect everything to be as squeaky clean as today’s RPG juggernauts.
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