There is only one game that comes to mind when I think of that one game that I absolutely have to play again and again, more so than many others. Super Smash Bros. is a game I love to play with my cousins all the time, but surprisingly, that is not the game that came to mind. Neither is Phantasy Star Online, one of my favorite RPGs that I used to spend hours upon hours grinding in. I have many fond memories of many video games I played often throughout the years, but this game is one that I must play over and over, because I feel a special connection with it. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is that one game I played as a kid and continued to beat, year after year, and still get that urge to come back to.
This game, my favorite game of all time, is the one I choose to write about in this blog. Super Mario RPG has been with me since I was little kid. It has been there alongside me, watching me grow up. It used to taunt me as a kid, knowing how young and naÔve I was. The gameís difficulty was one of that I had never experienced before. I had never played an RPG game like Super Mario RPG before. I was used to playing platformers and side-scrolling shooters. The RPG mechanics in the game needed to take time and patience to understand. It continued to taunt me. It knew I would never be able to collect all of the Seven Stars and beat Smithy. It knew Iíd fail miserably, and I did. I failed numerous battles along the way. I even wanted to quit. I wanted to quit and save myself the shame from losing battles I had no way of winning.
But I couldnít let Mario and his gang down. After each unsuccessful bout, Iíd grow more determined to reach Smithy and put an end to him and his shenanigans. And eventually, I did. I beat Smithy and saved Star Road again and again and again and again.
Itís been about 2 years since my last play through of Super Mario RPG, and Iíve recently decided that now is a great time to jump back into that universe and take down Smithy once again. Iím currently playing through the game as of writing this blog in order to help refresh my memories of this wonderful game. My god how joyful this game makes me.
For my monthly musing, I want to discuss why I keep coming back to this game by breaking down the five key ingredients that makes this game so special to me: Characters, Gameplay, Visuals, Audio, and Story.
The characters of Super Mario RPG are unique and special to the story. Each individual character has been given a fleshed out background thatís critical to the story. It doesnít take a genius to figure out that Mario is the main character in this game. However, unlike his previous games, Mario is given a voice, except, without actually having a voice. He is able to interact with other characters through means of body language. He never ceases to make me smile each time he uses his body to communicate with others. For the first time, Mario was given a personality and it made me enjoy the game, and the character, even more.
The same goes for Peach and Bowser. We finally see the way they both live their lives at their respective homes. Peach is the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom and must be protected at all times. She is forced to stay in her fancy castle at all times, so that she doesn't get hurt. Bowser runs his own army of minions at his castle constantly trying to figure out how to best Mario. Both characters feel more alive and real then ever before which allows for an even deeper connection with them.
Other unique characters that are introduced and are a welcome addition to the game are Mallow and Geno.
Mallow is your typical character that has trouble transitioning from being a kid to becoming an adult. When you first meet him, heís crying because he lost his grandfatherís coin to a bandit. He tries to keep himself from crying, but ends up crying up a storm (literally). Throughout the game you see him learn more about himself in ways I choose not to spoil for those who havenít played the game. He eventually becomes that brave young man he always wanted to be, and once he reaches that point, itís such a satisfying moment. Mallow played a very important role in the story, because he feels more like a friend to Mario, rather than another party member, which makes him such a loveable character.
Now Geno is just one badass character. In his introduction, we see him as a star spirit flying around a room with toys laid on the ground. He decides to take the form of one of the dolls, Geno, and begin his adventure of finding the seven stars to repair his home, the Star Road. Now what makes Geno such a badass is his kickass attire and his ability to fight using his hand-cannon. He can also perform awesome special abilities that can obliterate enemies and buff up your party. Heís one strong character and is definitely a fan-favorite. I donít blame him; heís one character I love having in my party.
Super Mario RPG is considered to be an action turn-based role-playing game. At first glance, it may look like your normal turn-based RPG, complete with selecting commands for your team members and waiting your turn. However, this type of gameplay was given an additional function. Whenever youíre in battle and youíre attacking or about to be attacked, itís imperative that you press the ďAĒ button with correct timing so that you can either do more damage, or have the enemy do less damage on you. Itís a really simple function, but it keeps the battle more entertaining and engaging than your typical turn-based RPG. You want to be able to time you and your enemyís hits perfectly. It can definitely shape the way a battle turns out.
You gain experience after each battle that levels up your characters and allows you to unlock more special abilities for them. Special abilities are flashy skills your characters can use to attack the enemy, buff your party, or debuff your enemies. Whatís really cool about using special abilities is that the same concept of staying engaged during the action still applies. For instance, one of Mario special attacks requires you to repeatedly press the ďYĒ button to spam fireballs at the enemy. The faster you press ďYĒ, the more damage you do. There are many other controller inputs that are required when in battle which made this turn-based RPG unique for its time.
When youíre not in a battle, though, you are exploring the game world through the use of Marioís handy platforming skills. Itís only natural that the game contains platforming segments considering most Mario games before this one was a platformer. Mario is best known for his jumping abilities, especially by the many characters you meet with in the game. Youíre able to run, jump, and climb your way around the game world, searching for treasure and items that can help aid you on your adventure. There are even segments in the game that are sort of like mini-games. Thereís a part in the game where you have to collect couns hopping between barrels while flowing down a river, another where you're riding in a mine cart inside of a mine, and one where youíre on an island full of Yoshis called Yosíterís Isle and youíre competing in races against other Yoshis. Itís all super fun and awesome.
This game does a great job changing up the gameplay, causing for a varied and enjoyable experience.
Super Mario RPG contains some of the best visuals ever produced on the SNES. The world is colorful and vibrant, which makes each and every town you visit feel alive and real, especially with 3D modeled characters walking around towns and running stores and inns. There are many locales in which you visit throughout your journey and all are given a unique look. You visit places like castles, sewers, forests, mines, ghost ships, volcanoes and even a city in the sky. Each locale is created to draw you into its world to allow you to subconsciously visit it with your imagination. (Iím not crazy).
The enemy character models also help immerse you into the world as well. Each locale contains its own theme, and the enemy character models abide by those themes. For instance, when youíre in the dark sewers, you battle against rats and ghosts and when you fight in the forest, you fight against mushrooms and those caterpillar things from previous Mario games. A lot of the boss characters look really good and are creatively designed. Youíve got bosses like Johnny, Czar Dragon and the weird but surprisingly lovable Booster.
The visuals truly shine when youíre in battle though. Not only do the character models physically touch each other when attacking(*cough* Pokemon), but each Special ability lights up the battlefield with nice special effects when used. Mario is able to unleash gigantic fireballs from the palm of his hand, Bowser can summon huge monsters to storm the battlefield, and Mallow can summon different weather-inducing powers. All of this not only makes battles fun and hectic, but it also makes battles a joy to watch and participate in.
The music of Super Mario RPG really gets stuck in your head. And thatís a good thing! Everything from the battle music and the tunes you listen to during town travels is just amazing. Nintendo and Squaresoft did an amazing job with the music, because it captures the setting and overall atmosphere of wherever itís taking place. I never get tired of listening to the battle music each time I enter a battle. Itís very upbeat and instantly puts a smile on my face. I catch my self humming it once Iíve finished a fight, and itís the first tune I think of when I think of the music in this game. You spend the majority of the time fighting in this game, and Nintendo/Squaresoft couldnít have created anything more suitable and enjoyable to listen to.
Here are three of my more favorite tunes that are in the game:
This is the first time that a Mario game had been given some type of story. I had played pretty much all of the Mario games that were released before RPG by the time I got to this game, and while I enjoyed my experiences saving the Princess from the evil King Koopa/Bowser, I was thrilled to be able enjoy a new experience with my favorite video game character in a game where he was given a fleshed out story and a real purpose other than saving some chick from an evil horny dragon, turtle, lizard thing over and over again.
The story of Super Mario RPG begins like every other Mario game. Bowser captures Princess Peach and Mario is tasked with saving her from him. As soon as Mario believes he has rescued Peach, a new foe drops smack dab into Bowserís castle sending Peach and Mario flying away and kicking Bowser out of his home. This new foe is a giant sword called Exor and he is a part of ďSmithyís GangĒ. Smithy and his gang have broken through a place above the sky called Star Road, where peopleís wishes go to be granted, and causes seven star pieces to fall from the sky, spreading out in multiple locations around Marioís world. Smithy wants to collect all seven star pieces and rule the world, but itís up to Mario, and whoever he can round up to help him, to stop Smithy and save Star Road, and essentially his world too.
Now I know the basic premise of the story isnít the best story in the world and sounds very clichť to other stories that have a hero tasked with stopping an evil foe, but itís the smaller stories within Super Mario RPG that I really enjoy more. Mallow and his growth as a character throughout the story really was an enjoyable experience. Learning about Geno, who he really is and how he plays this big role in the story added more breadth to the overall story. Even Bowserís little story arc of seeing him losing everything and having to resort to working with his most hated rival in order to have a chance at redeeming all that he had lost made me feel bad for the guy.
What also helped push the story along was the humorous writing. Despite its more mature than usual story, Super Mario RPG is a hilarious game. The writing is always presented in a way that doesnít make you skip through lines of text in order to gain control of your character again. Iím playing through it for the umpteenth time and still continue to read through the text because itís still enjoyable and makes me chuckle. The writing is so well done for each character that you can distinguish each characterís style. In some games I feel that the writing for each individual character is so similar that I have trouble connecting with the characters, but this game makes sure that each character is unique by their actions and by their words.
These little story arcs and the hilariously great writing helped the game as a whole by being more engaging and it added deeper meaning and further insight into what became a very satisfying story.
Super Mario RPG is the product of everything I could ever want and need in a video game. The game has a wide range of unique characters that are all fleshed out and worth investing your time and emotions into. One of the aspects I truly look for in a game is if it can provide a fun experience for me from start to finish, and this game passes that test with flying colors. The gameplay is fun and varied and I never get bored of it. Iím also treated to a beautifully modeled world and characters each and every time I boot up the game. The same goes for the music. Iíve carried the sweet melodies of the music of this game with me for over a decade now and still enjoy it. And finally, thereís a fun and entertaining story that keeps me fully engaged as if it were my first ever play through each and every time I play the game.
I love this game more than this blog could ever express it and I couldnít have asked for a better game that keeps having me come back to it, over and over again.