Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of the cutest and most endearing games I’ve ever played, on the Gameboy Advance or any other console.
Not only that, it’s also a damn fine RPG as well.
Essentially picking up where Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario left off, (and then picked up again…) Superstar Saga is a far cry from the traditional console RPG.
Name another RPG that has EXTREME JUMP ROPING!
As it’s title indicates, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is a game that follows the exploits of the 2 plumber brothers as they work together to recover Princess Peach’s voice (it was replaced with word bubbles that turn into bombs) from an evil witch of the neighboring Bean Bean Kingdom named Cackletta.
Pictured: The Hemaphroditic Bowser/Cackletta hybrid known as "Bowletta." You can't make this shit up...
Along the way, the player assumes control of the 2 brothers throughout the entirety of the adventure, acquiring and putting to use a number of interesting and unique powers that can be used in tandem to accomplish any number of crazy (but often necessary) feats.
Not sure if playing leap-frog during a life or death battle is all that "necessary," but oh well, to each his own.
It should be noted that the story and gameplay of Superstar Saga are top of their class in every regard.
In particular, like most sprite based RPGs, I found the interplay between the vocalizations, scripting, and pantomime of the various characters to be among the best I’ve encountered in any game, period.
Seriously, every character has at least some sort of trademark nuance or quirk to their movements, speech, or sound effects that makes them, and indeed the entire game world, come alive.
That being said, let’s get to the gameplay.
Being as the source material is grounded in the Mario canon, it’s only appropriate that the game include a great deal of platforming and coin gathering to go with it’s turn-based combat and level grinding.
While I love Diablo as much as the next dork, I thank the heavens that Mario hasn't tried to bite off it's mechanics. Yet...
The key innovation that Superstar Saga brings to the table, and indeed all Mario RPGs prior and since; is the hands-on approach to gameplay elements that are typically automated in most RPGs.
Said elements are no more apparent, than in Superstar Saga’s highly detailed and interactive combat system.
Monsters are encountered on the overworld map, not as random battles, but in the form of fast-moving and aggressive character sprites that maneuver the landscape.
Once a battle begins, the player assumes control of both Mario and Luigi in a turn-based fashion.
From there, timed button inputs are required on the part of the player to effectively attack and defend.
For the love of God, push the "B" button to not die!
Every enemy attack in the game has a means to be avoided or defended in some way, provided the player has the timing and reflexes necessary to do so.
This effectively makes the difficulty of the combat in Superstar Saga a product of the players skill, rather than the stats of his characters.
Being as I’m really an RPG guy these days, I for one really appreciated this.
By the way, thank you Demon's Souls for shitting all over my previous statement.
While the game was far from difficult, the battle system kept the boredom and tedium at bay for the most part, leaving me with a terrific and off-the-wall story to enjoy.
Trust me, if you’re looking for a way to indulge your inner child and feel like a 9 year old all over again, try playing Superstar Saga; you won’t be disappointed.
Anyway, this post was supposed to be about music, so what’s say we get to it shall we?
Superstar Saga, like virtually any Nintendo product, has a wonderful soundtrack.
Composed by the prolific and talented Yoko Shimomura, the whole soundtrack is very well-rounded, and more importantly; thematic and appropriate to the setting and mood.
Superstar Saga is a colorful, light, and “bouncy” game, and the soundtrack was tailor-made to suit those feelings.
Defne Adj. "Bouncy": Any game that includes a sequence wherein 2 Italian plumbers do battle with a barrel of sentient cola.
Despite this, the game is still an RPG nonetheless, and thusly features a wide array of battle themes, not to mention a few boss themes.
While every track of the game is deserving of special notice, the Best Boss Music in Superstar Saga is…
Rookie and Popple:
This track plays whenever Mario and Luigi do battle with the wily thief named Popple, and his new protege, “Rookie.”
The fun part of these battles, comes from the fact that the “Rookie” is in fact Bowser; albeit a Bowser with amnesia.
Scratch that. Amnesia and a pimp-ass hat.
Despite the memory loss, whenever the player attacks Bowser in these fights, a little light bulb will flicker on in his head, and he’ll suddenly bust out some decidedly Bowser-like moves.
I guess you could call it a case of muscle memory winning out over mental memory.
Anyway, this track was only played a handful of times in the game, but I found myself happy to hear it every time it did.
It’s far more energetic than the standard boss theme, and better composed for that matter; but in some ways I feel that Popple and Rookie’s reduced frequency of occurrence in-game is part of what makes it stand out so much.
Despite many of the other Best Boss Music entries listed on this blog being of the more epic or dramatic variety, Popple and Rookie earns it’s spot purely off of it’s fun-factor.
Let it be known, that which makes us happy is often that which is most important to us.
Tune in tomorrow for another real post!
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