I was talking to a friend online a few days ago, and they were annoyed to find out that shortly before the new Shantae game was to be released they suddenly decided to delay the European Switch release by about a week (no idea why, the Switch isn’t region locked). They then found some arse who justified this claiming Europe got Yoshi Woolly World earlier than the USA…at which point I proceeded to shout a bunch of obscenities at this idiot (who wasn’t in the chat, the person in the chat was telling me about them) since Europe has had a LOOOONG history of getting games far later than the USA and some even not at all (heck while writing this a bunch of people in America are enjoying PSO2 which hasn’t even gotten a European release date yet). We are very far away from a point that Europe could be close to being said to have gotten preferential treatment. So today we are looking at a game that is widely beloved as one of the best JRPGS around that never got released over here.
Now before people start calling me out on breaking my own rule about having to legally own this, I do legally own this, and a European copy. You see when the Wii virtual console was active they started doing special events where they would make acquirable games that weren’t released in certain regions. The moment this was announced every Euro gamer metaphorically grabbed Nintendo and shook them yelling “GIVE US SUPER MARIO RPG!”
JRPGs had issues selling in the West, to the point a lot never got released and those that did were then even rarer to get released in Europe. This included basically every Final Fantasy game till FF7 on the PS1 (oh but Yoshi Woolly World made up for all those countless beloved games apparently… sorry still mad at that arse, we had to wait months for Smash Bros Brawl). Anyway Square and Nintendo got together and made an RPG that was partially a gateway to the concept for people but also a wee bit different.
Super Mario RPG is as said, a turn based RPG like classic Final Fantasy, but starring Mario and Mario characters in Mario’s World. You start out like most Mario games, Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach… who I think was still called Princess Toadstool over here. But right after that a giant sword with a face crashes into his castle, sending everyone flying. This sword reveals he’s working for someone called Smithy who wants to take over the world. So you go on as the silent protagonist (cause all NintendoRPG protags are silent) out to find where Peach (I’m calling her that as saves time) gain the help of new friends Mallow and Geno (please leave your demands for him in Smash out of the comments we have all heard them) and even teams up with Bowser and later Peach to find the starts that were sent flying by Smithy’s entry into your world and defeat the evil guy (fighting his minions as you go through the world).
Those that have played turn based JRPs will know what you’re getting in for here. Each character attacks in turn depending on their speed. They have special attacks that use up some power meter that you have limited amounts of. You can recover health through either certain characters specials or some items. Enemies can also inflict status ailments that can be cured by certain specials (Peach is basically the White Mage) or items. You have limited amounts of item space though unlike modern JRPGs.
Each character has their own unique type of weapons (though there are a few different ones for each) and this is where Mario RPG in turn based battles stands out from most JRPGs at the time. You see though you can just attack and be done with it, you have the ability that by pressing the right button at the right time, you can increase the amount of damage you do. What’s more you can block damage as well by pressing the buttons at the right time before being hit (this feature would be passed onto all Mario RPG games). Special attacks too are affected by button input so you’re a lot more active than you would think during a turn based fight.
Outside of the battles, Mario explores the Mushroom Kingdom this time in an isometric pre-rendered art. This means he’s not just moving left and right. In areas with enemies rather than a random encounter (those who have played JRPGs know what I mean). The enemies wander around the world too. They will try to attack you if they see you but you can choose to avoid them.
The game has a characteristically Mario sense of humour that, much like the battle mechanics, would go on to become a iconic element in future Mario RPG games both the Superstar sagas and the Paper Mario series.
We must however talk about the music, done by the very talented Yoko Shimomura many of the tracts are well remembered especially the forever hummed Forest Maze.
Sadly with the virtual console no longer active the game is currently unable to be purchased. I am hoping with the SNES games now appearing on the Switch, Super Mario RPG will eventually get on there as finally sitting down to finish this game during the lockdown helped me get through some of the rough early days. My only hope is that the Forest Maze tune isn’t going to be stuck in my head again after writing this.