Kosher Kuts: Super Mario RPG

When I was eleven, I really did not like RPGs. Chrono Trigger’s plotline was too confusing and Final Fantasy seemed too complicated. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the genre. A glimmer of hope resurfaced when I heard about a new RPG starring Mario. Not only Mario, but also a few new characters were present … and Bowser was a playable character? I read about it in Nintendo Power, rented it at Blockbuster, and brought it home soon after returning the rental. Long after I have sold many other Super Nintendo games and moved on to other systems, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars has remained ingrained in my memory. With the recent introduction of the Wii and its Virtual Console line-up, this game is now available to a whole new generation of RPG fans. Does this eleven-year-old RPG withstand the test of time?

A byproduct of a Nintendo and Square (before Enix merged with them), the game begins with the typical Mario melodrama: Princess Peach is abducted by Bowser and the plumber in red has to storm the Koopa Castle to retrieve her. Just when Mario is about to save the day, a strange sword cuts through the sky. The titular stars scatter throughout the Mushroom Kingdom and Bowser, Mario and Princess Peach are similarly cast out of the castle. Slowly, Mario begins to find out that the coming of the sword has brought a wave of new, villainous creatures into the Mushroom Kingdom. Your mission as Mario is to find Princess Peach and quell the invading menace.

While this game has the normal accoutrements associated with an RPG, there are noticeable differences. Like Chrono Trigger, enemies are not met by random encounters. You can choose whether or not you want to fight an enemy by running into or away from them. When you do battle, the menus are each assigned to different buttons on the controller. It feels a little more intuitive than other RPGs, but if you are used to the Final Fantasy layout for the controls, it may require some time to adjust. There is also a timing element to attack and defense. If you press the A button when you are about to hit an opponent, additional damage is dealt. This process can be used on the enemy when they are about to attack you to reduce damage. Special attacks often have unique conditions that are explained when you initiate the attacks. The better you follow these directions (holding down or pressing Y rapidly), the more effective your attack.

Despite the ability to pick and choose many of your battles, the game is fairly linear. It’s basically one big fetch-quest with a number of little fetch-quests and mini-games to break the tedium. Areas in the game are colored lavishly but have a look of generic familiarity. However, the game’s characters each exude a unique personality regardless of their place in the story. These personalities blend humor and seriousness within the plot without becoming too complex. Music in this game is as diverse as the characters. Songs from different areas are so catchy, you might even find yourself backtracking to these areas just to hear the music again. The end product of Super Mario RPG is an enthralling experience that will sustain your interest until the bitter end. Although the game is reasonably long, it is relatively easy to beat as long as you fight a reasonable number of enemies within each area you travel. The replay value for the game stems from how much you enjoyed the game itself or whether you wish to master any or all of the mini-games it offers.

With the Wii’s Virtual Console picking up steam with new additions on a weekly basis, Super Mario RPG should become available to a new generation of gamers very soon. If you’re hungry for this game now, you would probably need to spend $15 to $20 for the game on Ebay and nearly $40 on Amazon. My suggestion is to scour your local flea market or find an independent video game shop that still sells SNES games. This game struggles with some generic-looking scenery and a slight dearth in gameplay variety, but it rebounds with a wonderful battle system, cast of characters, and a plot and musical score that will draw you into the Mario world like its platform-based predecessors. It possesses the qualities of excellence that games old and new, RPG or non-RPG, should aspire to.

The Final Kut

Mazel Tov!

  • The battle system integrates timing and does away with random encounters
  • A diverse and beautiful musical score
  • Decent quest length

Oy Vey!

  • Might be too easy for some