Mario is off on another adventure, and this time Luigi is along for the ride too! Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is Mario’s first portable RPG, and the first installment in a trilogy of portable action-adventure Mario RPGs spanning the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS. Unlike Super Mario RPG and the Paper Mario series, the player can control both Mario brothers simultaneously in this game. Through the use of hammers, fire, lightning, and the all-powerful jump, Mario and Luigi will travel to a neighboring country to save the day for the umpteenth time.
The story goes as such: It was a sunny day in the Mushroom Kingdom when the Goodwill Ambassador of the Beanbean Kingdom visited Princess Peach. But this ambassador’s visit was hardly filled with goodwill. Pulling a trick from the Joker’s handbook, the ambassador’s aide presented a dangerous jack-in-the-box to the Princess, before revealing their true identities to the now-incapacitated Princess. Now it is up to Mario and Luigi to travel to the Beanbean Kingdom with the cooperation of the Koopa King himself to find the evil Cackletta and her minion Fawful, and bring back Princess Peach’s stolen voice.
The brothers are back again, in RPG form!
The characters you meet include classic characters like Princess Peach and Bowser, cameos from characters who haven’t appeared in games in a while such as Professor E. Gadd and Birdo, as well as brand new characters such as Popple and Prince Peasley. Every character is well-written and there is plenty of interaction to keep things going.
The Mario & Luigi series is a one-of-a-kind. Saga sets the stage with fluid controls for controlling the Mario brothers simultaneously. The brothers walk single-file on the overworld. Whichever brother is in the front performs actions such as jumping or hammering with the ‘A’ button. The brother in the back performs actions with the B button. The shoulder buttons can be used to switch between actions. The controls feel very natural. However, there is one flaw with this control scheme. You see, in order to switch the order of the brothers, a simple tap of the SELECT button is all you will need. However, during certain scenarios, you may find yourself pressing SELECT a lot. While climbing HooHoo Mountain, you will be needing to use Luigi’s High Jump and Mario’s Spin Jump . . . a lot. And later on, you will be pressing SELECT, L and R a lot, as you switch the order of the brothers and switch the actions of the brothers. So, the button pressing can become quite tedious. However, the controls can feel natural during the times you aren’t climbing mountains and traversing other strenuous landscapes.
Combat is clearly a turn-based format. But unlike most RPGs, this combat system is more skill-focused than luck-focused. Where in most RPGs like Pokemon or Final Fantasy, you can defend yourself from enemy attacks, but you still take damage, and usually use up your turn in defense. But in Superstar Saga, you can defend yourself from taking damage at all, and even counter most attacks. It all depends on skill and timing. Also, the concept of striking first, or getting a “preemptive strike,” isn’t luck-based either. You can actually attack your enemies before the battle begins on the overworld using skill. This adds a level of strategy that is usually replaced with luck in other RPGs. Even attacking requires more skill than just selecting a move. Action commands make good timing, albeit easily achievable timing, a requirement for defeating enemies. By the end of the game, the brothers will be using jumps, hammers, fire, lightning, and a variety of combo-style attacks called “Bros. Moves” to defeat everyone from the lowliest Goomba to the evil Cackletta.
That is one scary foe!
This brings us to the level-up system. When a character levels up, all the stats go up, just like most RPGs. But then there’s the bonus wheel. During each level up, after all the stats go up, friendly Lakitu shows up with a roulette wheel. With this wheel, you can add a bonus number to whatever stat you see fit. With this, you can strategically build up certain stats individually for each brother.
Overall, this game is a true winner. The story of Mario & Luigi reaches new depths while implementing a truly unique gameplay system that will have you begging for more. Even a gamer who does not like traditional turn-based combat may find this to be very enjoyable. And like I said, this is the first in a trilogy of games. In other words, this is just the beginning of something great!
If you are the kind of person who needs a grade, I would give this game a B+. The story is hilarious, and it is home to a few surprising twists. The gameplay is solid with a natural flow. However, there is the issue of tedious switching around brothers. This problem was fixed and improved upon in the sequels, but as for this game, it does present a problem. The combat system is a very solid one. It is a turn-based system, but it gives the player more control of the outcome. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga does not disappoint, and will leave you happy that there are sequels to play when the game is over.
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-Second best story in a Mario RPG game -Arguably the best battle mechanics IMO - I love the Bros. Attacks and the dual player mechanic. A for Mario, B for Luigi. It's amazing to me how much they get out of that. -Second best music in a Mario RPG game -Great graphics -The only game (series) to my knowledge that truly makes Mario and Luigi feel like a team, like the brothers that they are
The only think that really holds the game back, at all, for me are that the game's scope doesn't feel as big as Super Mario RPG (which is something I found missing in the Paper Mario games), and that the platforming feels pretty clunky. Other than that, this game is a true gem. My second favorite GBA game. Great review.
This is pretty much one of my favorite games of all time, and it revolutionized the RPG in my eyes. It was like someone finally decided that you could have fun gameplay at the core of your RPG. With a LTTP-like overworld.
Reflex / timely counters in an RPG are possibly the best thing that happened to turn-based combat. Something so mundane as selecting "Auto" or just "a, a, a, a, a, a" until you can't press anything else is now replaced by precision. Awesome.
Do you find it weird that Luigi has a higher jump here, as well as both Super Mario Bros. 2 and The Lost Levels, but it isn't really reflected in ANY other games (that I know of)? He can't jump higher in New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, I can tell ya that!
Also, the Hammer is a weapon used A LOT in these Mario RPG-style games, but we haven't seen (again, as far as I know..) Mario use a Hammer in a side scroller or another "big" Mario game since with the Hammer Bros. Suit in Super Mario Bros. 3! Whats up with that?!
EDIT- Lastly, are those "Luigi Socks" Super Mario canon? I can't believe it, I won't!!
I've never played this game, a fact for which I should feel some shame. I somehow managed to miss it's existence at the time, and never had opportunity to go back. Sounds like I should make it a priority!
This is probably the last game I impulse bought at retail. Grabbed it off the deserted GBA shelf way after the DS was popular, and I played it on my DS Lite. Excellent game, though I think Bowser's Inside Story is the better game, by a hair.
Nice Review! I would give this game a 10, one of the best games I've ever played and I like it better than the sequels (though I love all 3). I didn't have an issues with the bros. switching or any of the controls or mechanics.
@Zero I disagree on the skipping of Partners in Time, it's a fantastic game.
Well, it's a good game, but it's kind of more of the same? Only not as good? I'm just saying that if someone hasn't bothered with the sequels they don't really need to play that one, whereas BIS is a much more unique experience.