Super Mario RPG has always been this legendary game be it with Mario fans, rpg fans or game fans as a whole. Now remember this game never got released in Europe because of the oncoming N64 and the invalidated fear that Europe wouldn’t accept Jrpgs (something FF7 proved wrong and makes you wonder how much money they could have made). But for areas that did get it, it was a big hit and talked about with reverence. Sadly, a sequel would not occur since Square and Nintendo had a falling out going into the N64 generation. But the idea of Mario RPGs did not die. We ended up getting 2 series. First was Paper Mario (which also didn’t get released in Europe… sigh) and the other was for Nintendo’s then next gen handled the GBA.
Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga is the first game in the Mario and Luigi rpg series and widely thought of as the second best one (Bowser Inside Story is tops). Like the other Mario RPG entries (Original and Paper) outside of battle you explore the world from a top-down perspective. While RPG only had you control Mario and Paper had you control Mario with one partner to use in field abilities, Superstar has you control both Mario AND Luigi. One brother is the leader and the other follows BUT they have different buttons for actions such as jumping. You can swap Brother with a button press as you also get different duo abilities that help you explore the overworld/field/non battle area.
The battle system expands on what the other Mario rpgs play in the turn-based method but with you needing to do actions to mitigate damage or enhance yours. However, unlike the others it’s possible (and in many ways encouraged) to completely avoid damage or even counter doing damage to the enemy when they tried to attack. Like outside of battle, you control both brothers and each use a different button. There are 2 basic abilities Jump and Hammer but as you play you also unlock special brother actions with will have you do a sort of mini game style action that if done right will maximize your damage (also you can maximize your basic attacks too with proper timing).
Mechanically the RPG elements are also still here. You get experience from battles which will cause you to level up. On leveling up your stats will increase but you also get to choose a bonus stat to increase which will be a number from a slot machine which can be done with cunning timing. The other way to increase stats is by equipment. Better gear means better stats and sometimes additional effects. (Sad such simple and enjoyable progression is rare these days in favour of overly complicated stats that often need you to google optimization)
But I’ve missed one of the major elements. The story.
Right away Peach is assaulted by a strange witch from the Beanbean kingdom. When Mario gets there, he gets into a fight with Bowser which serves as a bit of an introduction to the battle controls. Luigi is constantly overlooked by major players and Bowser won’t even recall his name till the 4th entry. You fly off to the Beanbean kingdom to find this strange witch and get Peach’s voice back. This is accompanied by some rather amusing writing. Luigi and Mario will make some noises when apparently talking but other than that they give no written dialog (a standard of Nintendo protags). The story is also surprisingly long as many times when you think it would come to an end you to your surprise the story opens a new element that fits naturally and this happens more than once. At no point will you feel “oh is it not over yet?” with a loud sigh. A remake was released in 2017 for the 3ds with additional features. I however do not have this version so cannot comment on it in too much detail but means getting the game does not mean having to hunt down the original and a working GBA or original/light DS.
The Mario RPGs are often well loved for a reason and this being the first entry in the Mario and Luigi line is once more a great game to experience. Mario isn’t the only character to leap into RPGs but unless Capcom release a collection of Battle Network we’re unlikely to see me review those…. well, I have Star Force…. and probably could hunt down those games…. maybe one day.