Review: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions


Not Fawful

I missed out on Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the longest time. As a huge proponent of Mario RPG, I was saddened to hear that Nintendo and Squaresoft wouldn't be partnering up again, and that instead, we'd be getting a new subseries, Mario & Luigi.

Later on, I warmed up to the idea of a mad witch named Cackletta and the new setting of Beanbean Kingdom, and it became a fond memory -- one I don't mind revisiting again on 3DS.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions (3DS)
Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: October 6, 2017
MSRP: $39.99

This is the one that started it all. The drove of "Mario & Luigi" games you see every so often? It all began with Superstar Saga, itself derived from bits and pieces of Super Mario RPG. You have your out-there, new villains, the "working with Bowser" premise, new lands outside of the confines of the Mushroom Kingdom, light overworld platforming, the timed contextual damage and defense bonuses that mix up standard turn-based combat -- it's all present.

So is the silliness, though it is trying a little harder than Mario RPG did. Much of the writing, especially some of the one-dimensional baddies, is trying a little too hard. When it works though it works, as the whole idea of Luigi only coming along because he's forced against his will is so in-character and funny to watch. It's shooting for the moon with the script, but mild chuckles is mostly where my reactions lie. Mild chuckles, mind, that can be sped-through (the fast-forward feature will come in handy if you're coming back into the fray).

Veterans will recognize a swath of changes, from the innocuous (a Wiimote wheel in Mario's house) to the major (the new "updated" visual style). The former alterations are mostly fine, but I'm not so big on the re-touched visuals. The Game Boy Advance's art style was a magnificent, underappreciated era for pixel art, and I don't mind going back to it or seeing it pop up in the news. The 3DS engine is a little bland at times, especially when it comes to environments, which run the gamut from sterile to dull (and no 3D to boot, if that's your thing).

Combat can get like that too, especially since you're basically just controlling Mario and Luigi, who have the same set of attacks for most of the game. Timed attacks work so well, it's easy to see why they'd keep using them, but there's only so many times I can queue up a variation of the same jump attack, jump magic, or hammer swing until it becomes rote muscle memory. On the flipside it is on-brand, because while contextual button pressing isn't something I need in every RPG ever, jumping over a fireball mid-attack in a turn-based game just feels so right with a Mario spin.

I was of two minds replaying Superstar Saga again. It does so much right, but part of the reason why I was drawn to the original was the art style -- which has lost a lot of its pep. The real thing I need to talk about here is "Minion Quest," also known as the "Plus Bowser's Minions" part of this cart. It's a completely optional side show that unlocks roughly five hours in by way of the pause menu.

There's no direct exploration here (think old school Mario "select-a-level" maps), you just move from combat to combat with light RPG party management in-between. Oh, and the lack of agency isn't just felt with a lack of exploration, but the actual fights are mostly automatic. You can influence it a bit with contextual attacks and tactics (governed by an MP/Coin meter), but it's mostly just a case of "plan your army and let them loose."

The tried and true Nintendo combat triangle returns (ranged beats flying, which beats melee, which beats ranged), and said tactics/magic can be employed by a captain, the first of which is a melee-centric Goomba. Over time you'll get more party members, different versions of all three types, a light amount of items to boost individual XP levels, and a handful of spells, but that's basically the gist. While this might be enough to make you stop reading right here, I found it to be a fun diversion, and the entire idea of controlling minions just clicked for me.

The writing runs with the silly pushy minion motif, and while actual developments and meaningful exposition are leaner than a soy hot dog, it's all very cute. I'm hesitant to even call it a gaiden -- it's more like a series of sketch comedy bits stringed together. There's meat there though with a hefty amount of missions to burn through, some of which are sidequests that require a beefy party. Before I knew it I had spent several days on Bowser's Minions alone, completely oblivious to the fact that I had to finish Superstar Saga.

For many, tacking playable goons onto Superstar Saga won't be enough to revisit the world of Beanbean Kingdom mostly because the campaign is still the same uneven adventure it was before. But even though many will see the minion angle as a throwaway, I loved creating and molding my own little army bit by bit, and found it to be a worthwhile distraction.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions reviewed by Chris Carter



Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures



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