The Super Nintendo era was filled with many games that are now considered classics, such as Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario World. Another title that was considered special was the result of a Nintendo and SquareSoft team-up: Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars. As the original release was a collaborative effort, it was definitely surprising to fans that Nintendo announced it would be remaking the title for the Switch platform.
But is the new remake a Super Star, or should it be flushed down the pipe and into the sewers?
The most immediately apparent update of studio ArtePiazza’s remake is the fresh coat of paint it has received. This new version of Super Mario RPG looks great, with almost every aspect becoming fully 3D, (whereas the Super Nintendo release was only partial 3D). The characters have an almost “chibi-like” style to them, which might look a little odd at first, but does grow on you. Another new addition are cutscenes, usually whenever you encounter a boss or a new party member. These are wonderfully animated and give Super Mario RPG something a little extra that wasn’t in the original. While there are few problems with the remake, visually, there are some noticeable frame drops in certain areas.
The game's graphical facelift looks great, especially with the added cutscenes.
Those who played the original will notice that the soundtrack has been fully remixed for the remake. Yoko Shimomura, who did the original game’s score, has helped with these new remixes. Of course, the music is absolutely fantastic and many of the songs have been stuck in my head since playing. You still get the same vibes from the newly arranged soundtrack, but the benefit of modern technology can make it sound a lot better and, in this case, it certainly does. If, for some odd reason, you’re not a fan of the new soundtrack, you can opt to change it back to the original - always a nice feature to add in cases like these.
The sound is also nicely handled, with all of the typical effects you’d expect to hear from a Super Mario title. There is always something nostalgic and satisfying about hearing the coin-collecting sound, or the iconic Mario jump noise. Oddly, however, these sounds do not play during the actual cutscenes. You will sometimes see a boss character visibly doing something, like roaring, but there’s no sound effect at all. It makes one wonder if there is a glitch with these, or if they simply chose not to add them.
If, for some odd reason, you’re not a fan of the new soundtrack, you can opt to change it back to the original - always a nice feature to add in cases like these.
Super Mario RPG starts out similarly to most Mario games, with Princess Peach being abducted by Bowser and Mario heading off to save her. But after putting a stop to Bowser’s evil plan once again, a new foe will appear. A gigantic sword crashes into Bowser’s Keep, sending everyone flying off to different regions. This eventually culminates in Mario questing to find the Seven Stars, rescue his friends, and put a stop to the new threat plaguing the land. There is a story there, but it’s not exactly thrilling, which may come as no surprise to anyone who has played a Mario game. It’s a step above the narratives of the standard Super Mario platformers, of course, but it doesn’t reach the heights of other story-centric games.
The gameplay, of course, is where Super Mario RPG really shines - a progenitor of the timed-attack battle system that many other RPGs use to this day. Whenever you choose to attack an enemy, or whenever an enemy strikes you, there is an option to press a button at the right moment to either boost your attack strength or, respectively, mitigate the damage done to you. One of the remake’s new additions is an on-screen warning, advising you on when to time your attack or defense. This is definitely nice for newcomers, and once you have gotten used to the timing, this helpful addition will disappear. As in the original release, a perfectly timed block negates all damage.
Perfectly timed attacks will deal damage to every enemy in a battle.
There are several new mechanics. A perfectly timed attack will now do splash damage to all of the enemies in battle. So, for those who become really good at the battle system, it’s possible to whittle down the health of all enemies as you attack a single one. One of the biggest additions to the remake is the new “Triple Attack” mechanic. As you time your attacks and blocks during battles, you will see a combo counter appear on the left side. As it reaches certain thresholds, you will gain buffs depending on the members in your active party.
As the battle continues, a percentage gauge in the lower left will gradually fill. Filling the gauge completely allows you to perform a special attack. At first, you are restricted to a simple Toad Assist because of a lack of party members, but once your party grows, that will change to a Triple Attack. The Triple Attacks, unleashed via a colorful cutscene, all have special properties - either doing damage or buffing your party in some manner. This really adds an extra dynamic to battles, especially since it incentivizes the correct timing for offensive and defensive maneuvers.
Triple Attacks are a fun new addition to the battle system.
AtrePiazza has implemented several welcome quality-of-life features to Super Mario RPG. In the original, inventory management was a huge problem, as you could only carry so many items before you were full. In the remake items each have their own stacks, so you are no longer burdened with having to toss out items to make room for others. As an example, the basic Mushroom can be stacked to 10 in your inventory, with any more you grab being placed in storage at Mario’s house. Another nice feature offers the ability to switch party members in combat, ala Final Fantasy X. Yep, you can even switch out a KO’ed character for someone fresh, if you want, and the newly swapped-in character can get their turn right away!
“Special Enemies” can also be found while exploring the game world. These are ostensibly more powerful versions of the standard enemies, although in actuality they mostly just have more health than their normal counterparts. All of their attacks are the same, so if you have the timing down, then they shouldn’t really give you much trouble. You can’t control when you encounter these Special Enemies, either, as some areas seem to make them quite common. Unfortunately, the reward for them isn’t really anything special, despite their name, as they just give you a Frog Coin.
Another nice feature offers the ability to switch party members in combat, ala Final Fantasy X.
The only problem with all of these great new features is that it makes the Super Mario RPG remake seem much easier, even when compared to the original SNES release. Even playing it on Normal, the game doesn’t really do much to punish you. You do run into some enemies and bosses later on that pile on the damage, but as you are just able to switch out any downed party members, that only goes so far. There’s a “Breezy” difficulty option to make the game even easier, although this might make it a great entry point for those who aren’t familiar with RPGs in general.
Thankfully, if there is any challenge in the game, then it comes after finishing the story. One of the new modes offers the ability to fight certain bosses again, with them being much more difficult. Some of them even have puzzle-style elements, where you need to figure out a method to winning - as a simple, straight-up fight might not work. These encounters are much more fun, because they present more of a challenge than anything in the main campaign. It also adds some much-needed extra playtime. This is welcome, as Super Mario RPG’s gameplay is enjoyable.
The boss rematches do add some semblance of difficulty.
Super Mario RPG is a faithful remake of the Super Nintendo classic, in some ways better and in some ways a little worse. Even when playing on Normal, the game is just too easy and just plowing through the story cuts off a little of the game’s longevity. However, for those who have nostalgia for the SNES original, this adventure is still a blast. It is also a great entry point for those unfamiliar with RPGs or perhaps a younger audience.
Super Mario RPG is a faithful remake of the 1996 classic, which adds several new gameplay features and some welcome quality-of-life updates. While the revisioned graphics, sound, and music are amazing, the storytelling is still very basic with a challenge that is somehow easier than the Super Nintendo original. However, if you can stomach the price, which is a bit high considering the overall package, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here.
Jarrod started writing walkthroughs for games in 2002, and has been playing games since he was three years old, on the original NES. He is a huge fan of JRPGs and platformers, with Chrono Trigger being one of his top games of all time. Other hobbies include doing puzzles and listening to music.