It’s a big year for Mario and his friends, and it isn’t over yet. The remake of the SNES classic title Super Mario RPG is only a few weeks away, and after spending some time with the game ahead of release, it’s pretty easy to say that it’s going to be a hit with new and old fans alike. It’s the rare kind of remake that preserves the heart of the original in every way that matters, while bringing welcome updates in the form of modern comforts and graphical advances, making it one to look out for – if you’re into RPGs, of course.
Super Mario RPG is, though it might feel superfluous to say it, an RPG at heart. The game was originally developed by Square, and took a lot of inspiration from titles like Final Fantasy, and a lot of that pedigree shows through. It went on to inspire the gameplay style in more of Mario’s adventures, and will feel more familiar to players of the Paper Mario series than those who may have spent more time joining the plumber on his classic platforming jaunts.
The plot, at least at first, is an age-old tale in the lives of Mario and Princess Peach. She’s simply enjoying her day, is kidnapped by Bowser, and when Mario immediately attempts to rescue her, things go pear-shaped. What starts as a simple ‘save the princess’ plot quickly turns into a ‘save the kingdom and perhaps the world’ scenario, due to a hostile takeover of many parts of the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond by the nefarious Smithy Gang. Their boss, Smithy, makes Bowser look pretty tame, and it isn’t long before unlikely alliances are made between the Mario characters we all love in order to save the things that are important to them – whether that be safety, freedom, love, or power, everyone has something at stake.
During his quest, Mario and his ragtag squad are forced into combat against new and old foes, with each of his allies bringing their own skills to the table. Some fight with brute force and make great attackers, some are strong defenders, and some focus on wielding magic, and it’s up to you to balance your party effectively to take on each new group of enemies. As they defeat foes, your party will gain experience points that then allow them to level up, at which point it’s up to you to decide whether to lean into their strengths, or pour some points into their less-developed traits.
Being a true master of the battle requires swift and precise timing, with extra damage or resistance being offered to those who can tap the button to block or execute an attack in time. Sound and visual cues are important when it comes to getting it right, and it’s only with practice that you’ll learn when to strike to get the most out of your attacks. Given your heroes learn new attacks as they grow stronger, this is a constant learning exercise – but it does keep what could become a repetitive experience from growing too stale.
Like most RPGs, the game isn’t easy – but it does offer two difficulty options to allow for some customisation of the experience. Even ‘breezy’ mode isn’t exactly breezy, but it does make the game more accessible to those who might be fans of Mario but a little new to the genre, meaning anyone can jump in and play. After a bit of a slow start, you’ll be tutorialised on most of the things you need to know, and help is always available. In another welcome update, the game now autosaves between areas (and makes some self-aware jokes about this new feature) so losing doesn’t feel too punishing.
The game – or at least, as much as was playable in the preview, which encompassed the introduction and first few hours of adventure – is such a faithful recreation of the original that long-standing fans of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars won’t find too much here in terms of new content. But that’s not a bad thing. It retains a weird but sort of unique sense of humour that makes it feel like a timeless classic, and I’m certainly excited to join Mario and his weird bunch of buddies, including Bowser, Peach, and original characters Mallow and Geno, and see what the rest of the game has in store.
Super Mario RPG releases on November 17th!