Retro Review: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Love at first sight.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team releases today in North America. Given that, I decided it’s time to look back at the first game in the Mario & Luigi RPG series, Superstar Saga. Those who have been following me here for a while will know that I love this game to bits. Nay, I don’t just love it. It’s my favorite game of all time. And here’s why.

Superstar Saga is an interesting endeavor by Nintendo and AlphaDream. AlphaDream, if you don’t know, is a Japanese company made up of many ex-Square employees, and were responsible for the cult-favorite Tomato Adventure for GBA. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga marks the third time Nintendo is putting Mario in an RPG-style game, after Super Mario RPG for SNES and Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64. It’s obvious that AlphaDream took these previous two games as inspiration for Superstar Saga, but they also took Mario (and Luigi) in a completely new and unique direction.

What makes Superstar Saga different from most other RPG’s? A lot of things. Here, let me tell you.

The overworld. The game has a very active overworld environment. Players control both Mario and Luigi at the same time in sections that require you to use each character’s different abilities to get past platforming challenges and solve puzzles. For example, one part of the game requires Mario to light Luigi on fire in order to have him charge through enemy turtles that block your path. My favorite ability comes around in the latter half of the game, where Mario has to smash Luigi with his hammer to transform him into a surfboard.

The battle system. First and foremost, there are no random encounters. Whew! That aside, though, there’s just something about Superstar Saga’s battle system that feels so intuitive and satisfying. Each battle is like a minigame, where you have to time your button presses to attack and counterattack. Yes, this game has a counterattack option. Back in 2003, that was mindblowing. You also have the option to use “Bros. Moves,” powerful attacks that requires players to input a specific set of commands with the correct timing to do massive amounts of damage. And seriously, these moves are so cool.

The humor. Of course, I can’t talk about a Mario & Luigi RPG without talking about the humor. This game is genuinely surprising and funny, especially Luigi. Seriously, that little green Italian plumber is the laughing stock to pretty much every character in the game. No one recognizes him, and the amount of emotion packed in those little animations of his are just plain ridiculous! References to other games through in-game dialog also add a nice touch in the game’s presentation department.

The variety. Each enemy has a different way of attacking, and thus your strategy must change from battle to battle. The timing on one enemy may be completely different from the other. Some enemies are weak against hammer attacks, while others are weak against elementals. Attack patterns will also change constantly, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for signs to determine the timing of both your attacks and your counterattacks. The bosses also carry a surprisingly large amount of variety between them; one boss actually uses his own Bros. Moves against you!

The minigames. What if you’re a bit worn out on the RPG elements of Superstar Saga? Why not take a break in the arcade where you can play some minigames, like Star Stache Smash, which features a guest appearance by Geno? Or how about the hammer jump, which is essentially an extreme version of jumprope? You’ll never get bored in Superstar Saga’s universe, trust me.

And one more thing. The music. It is fantastic. It’s nothing less than what you’d expect from Yoko Shimomura, who was responsible for scoring magnificently-sounding games as Street Fighter II and Kingdom Hearts.

Okay, I’m rambling now, but you get the point. I have nothing to say against this game. Like, nothing at all. Seriously. Go do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. It’s the perfect example of a great and accessible RPG. It’s the perfect example of how RPG’s should be made.

Unfortunately it’ll also make Partners in Time feel mind-numbingly dull. But that’s a blog for another day…


Do you guys have any memories of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga? Share in the comments below!


2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

  1. […] You can read my review for Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga here. […]

  2. […] You can read my review for Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga here. […]

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