- Nintendo Switch
- ESRB Rating
- E (Everyone)
- Plartformer, RPG
- Release date
- November 23, 2023
With a billion-dollar hit movie and multiple original titles being released, 2023 has been the year of Mario. Now, the Nintendo and Square masterpiece, Super Mario RPG, originally released in 1996 and spawned two “Mario RPG” series for a total of eleven spiritual sequels, gets a remake that gives it the respect it deserves.
- Visuals and audio are faithful to the original
- New features add to the experience without taking anything away
- Minor performance issues
Super Mario RPG
Arte Piazza, the developers responsible for the Dragon Quest remakes, helmed this remake of the 1996 classic turn-based JRPG first developed by Square-Enix for Nintendo and released in the U.S. as “Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars.”
Mario players once again set out to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser only to discover an even meaner foe, Smithy, has taken over Bowser’s castle and is using it as the beachhead for an interdimensional invasion. One of Smithy’s lieutenants shattered the star road into seven individual stars, and without it in the sky, peoples’ wishes can no longer come true.
To save the day, Mario must team up with both new and familiar characters, including a runaway Princess Peach and even his now down-on-his-luck archnemesis, Bowser, to reunite the seven stars and expel Smithy from this dimension.
Players control Mario as he treks across several continents, searching for the seven star fragments, which have all inconveniently fallen into dangerous places and attracted the attention of boss-level enemies.
Play On, Player – Gameplay
As a turn-based RPG, the action is menu-driven rather than driven by action, and the game still manages to reward player reflexes with the “Timed Hits” system. Hitting the “A” button at the right moment during an attack will greatly increase the damage done, and likewise, figuring out the right moment when being attacked will greatly reduce the damage taken. It’s a simple mechanic, but it’s extremely effective at keeping the player engaged in the game’s multitudinous battles.
A “Mario” game wouldn’t be a “Mario” game without its platform elements. However, the traditional ¾ isometric view and Mario’s overly twitchy motion make it difficult to judge jumps, meaning even the most seasoned players will find frustration with what would be simple platforming in any other Mario title. This is one of many aspects where, for better or worse, the remake remains fully faithful to the original.
The minigames in Super Mario RPG are, unsurprisingly, reminiscent of some of the minigames from other Square RPG contemporaries, such as Final Fantasy VI (1994). To give players a chance at better finish times, higher scores, and bigger rewards, most, if not all, of the minigames can be repeated as needed.
ArtePiazza did a fantastic job preserving the look of all of the minigames, but of particular note is the minecart minigame, which still resembles the Super NES “Mode 7” rotation and scaling effect. If you know, you know.
In addition to the copious mini-games, Super Mario RPG is sprinkled with puzzles that must be solved for game progression and obtaining special items. Players who aren’t dirty rotten lowlife pond scum cheaters who would never dream of Googling the solutions might want to have a pad and pen handy to help with some of the puzzles because, in true old-school fashion, the game doesn’t just “remember” clues for you when trying to solve a multi-part puzzle. Forget or neglect to write it down, and it’s back to the beginning to re-examine the clues.
For the Nerds In The Hizzy – Graphics
When Super Mario RPG (1996) came along, Nintendo and Square used the best technologies available to them at the time. The game cartridge was built with the SA-1 enhancement chip, which is like an additional CPU that triples the clock speed of the SNES, among other things.
The graphics were pre-rendered on a high-end workstation and digitized as sprites, giving everything a smooth, rounded 3D appearance. Character movement was super smooth and almost artificially quick, perhaps in an attempt to maximize the additional processing speed of the SA-1.
For this remake, the spirit of that visual style was carefully preserved. The character models all have plenty of rounded geometry, and although they’re now being rendered in real-time, they still move in the slightly awkward, slightly too fast way that gave the original game such a distinct feel.
I’m Forever Yours, Faithfully – Sound
Composed by Yoko Shimomura, the iconic music of Super Mario RPG (1996) was just as top-notch as every other aspect of the game’s design. was. Shimomura has returned for Super Maro RPG (2023), and every single composition has been remade, reorchestrated, and respected to such a degree that, if you were a fan of the original, you might be tempted, at times, to think this is what it sounded like all along. Even better, the game menu has a setting to switch back to the original SNES soundtrack at any point.
What Did They Mess With?
A testament to the effectiveness of ArtePiazza’s minimalist approach is that it’s easy to forget that Super Mario RPG is a remake at all. That being said, changes have been made.
In the original, many of the more important story beats were conveyed by various characters performing comical pantomimes of previous events, which were really just moving the same character sprites around the screen. While the remake preserves most of these perfectly, and they’re just as funny as they ever were, certain significant events, such as Mallow’s Introduction and chasing Croco the Thief around Mushroom Town, have now been transformed into fully animated cutscenes.
In addition to sprucing up the graphics and sound, there are several subtle quality-of-life improvements. Players can now travel to any previously visited location directly from the map screen rather than having to trek all the way back to an exit from the area like in the 1996 version. This is an enormous time saver.
As the story progresses, your party will grow; however, only three party members can actively participate in battle at one time. When your party size grows beyond three, the additional members will be held in reserve. In the original game, reserve characters could only be swapped outside of battle. In this remake, however, reserve characters can now be swapped into your active party right in the middle of battle rather than just between fights. This makes it much easier to recover from a mistake if you are fighting something with a large type advantage and forgot to choose the right active party beforehand.
Another minor addition is a “Breezy” (easy) mode, although the default difficulty is not very punishing to begin with.
One of the best improvements in Super Mario RPG is the new post-game content that was added to give the game some replayability. In this version, after the credits roll, you’ll be invited to go back and play through a new cutscene where, now that you’ve restored the Star Road, several bosses have had their wishes come true, making them considerably more challenging and offer even greater rewards for defeating them.
Even the secret Final Fantasy boss has a new form. Beware. These bonus boss fights are very hard. You will not be able to brute force your way past them. Each can only be defeated by a boss-specific strategy that takes time to untangle. Even if you are a filthy cat-turd-eating cheater and look up the solutions, you’re still in for a challenge.
You Had One Job
Although it is very rare, the game suffers from occasional slowdown and frame skipping. This happened only two times during our playthrough and lasted for a combined total of only five or so seconds, but it was noticeable. Given the simple geometry of the characters and environments, it’s difficult to understand how any part of a game like this would still be unoptimized at release.
This remake brings an RPG classic to a whole new generation who may have missed out on it. While it no longer stands out as a state-of-the-art experience, the original design was one of the most highly polished JRPGs of all time, and this light-touch remake allows that to shine through unhindered by its modern reinterpretation. Super Mario RPG is one of the most enjoyable JRPG games ever made and should not be missed.
There are no woke elements in Super Mario RPG.
- Although it’s not the ultimate objective, Mario does, in fact, rescue Princess Peach. Princess Peach joins the player’s party as a usable character but isn’t portrayed as anything other than feminine and supportive of Mario. Her powerful healing abilities, like “Group Hug,” are far more useful than her offensive capabilities.
- There’s a comedic scene where two male characters try to kiss Princess Peach, but she sees it coming and jumps out of the way, so they miss and end up kissing Mario on the cheeks instead, but this is done for comedic effect; they’re revolted when they discover what happened. If the writers wanted this to be woke, they would have implied that one or both of them found it unexpectedly enjoyable.
- The main antagonist, Smithy, is a living weapon, and all of his henchmen are living weapons. The goal of his conquest is to turn everything into weapons. If you squint and cock your head, this might look like an anti-military or anti-civil-defense agitprop, but Mario and the entire crew use weapons, including Geno, whose weapons are literally guns. Furthermore, Smithy is just a cranky, angry guy who doesn’t really resemble any real-world person or ideology.
Simon is a science fiction author, tech blogger and retro gaming enthusiast. He lives in the US Midwest with his two sons and wife of 26 years. Though he doesn't consider it a religion, he is unabashedly Christian. His heritage is primarily Native American and Scott/Irish. He is an outspoken libertarian (in belief, not necessarily in party) and values the principles of freedom and individual sovereignty above all else.