Super Mario RPG Command System Inspired by a Laptop-Style "Children's Toy"
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Each Mario & Luigi entry strives for evolution
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has now been released across the world on the 3DS, the latest in the popular if somewhat niche series. It's not necessarily the biggest-selling series in Nintendo's library, but it feels like one of its most valuable; it incorporates familiar characters in a Universe of its own, with a sense of humour and style that helps to set it apart from the crowd.
This RPG series' roots can be traced to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the Super NES, which was an entirely fresh and surprising Mario entry at the time. The AlphaDream series brought Luigi into the fray in a more important role, or course, but the series retained the Action Command system introduced in the Super NES title, but with evolution always on the agenda. AlphaDream Producer Yoshihiko Maekawa explained the inspiration for the original idea and how it's evolved in an interview with IGN.
The first time anyone encountered an action command battle system like that was in Super Mario RPG, which I was in fact involved with. That was very much inspired by a children’s toy that was available in Japan at the time. It was like a large laptop with these buttons that would play music. You had to press the buttons with good timing to the music. It was that idea, having gameplay built around timing button presses, that inspired me to hybridize these two genres of game, to get a little bit of action and RPG into the same game.
Having Mario just be turn-based was something that didn’t feel very Mario to us at the time, when we were experimenting with it. Once we included these action commands, we did feel like we were bringing the more traditional Mario action gameplay feel, but melding that with an RPG.
Then, once we moved on to the Mario & Luigi series, I think there was another interesting evolution. That was that you could then start to dodge enemy attacks entirely, which you couldn’t do before. You could only reduce damage if you had good timing on a button press. “From the second and third installments of the game forward – and this is something we went back and forth on a lot with the battle planner at the time – we decided that it shouldn’t just be the buttons. You should also be able to use the direction pad and the circle pad. Now you can even use the gyro sensor for this function as well. I think that’s the evolution that’s brought us to the state it’s in today.
In comments sure to please fans of the 16-bit RPG, meanwhile, Maekawa-san and Nintendo Producer Akira Ohtani were asked about bringing back some of the original characters in the Mario & Luigi series. After Ohtani-san admitted that thought could be given to revisiting the past while continuing to evolve the series, Maekawa-san explained why returning characters such as Geno and Mallow could be worth consideration.
In this game, in Dream Team, we were able to bring back some characters from the first game in the Mario & Luigi series, that had appeared in the Beanbean Kingdom. These characters tend to be sort of minor characters that show up in less important areas, but they do have a few lines, and so you get to learn a little bit about what they’re up to now.
I was wondering if that might be some way to approach using Geno and Mallow in a future game, so that we’d still be able to look for fun new ideas like Mr. Ohtani was talking about. We wouldn’t get bogged down, but we could still provide a view of these characters for fans who really want to see one.
Have you delved into Mario & Luigi: Dream Team yet, and what do you think of these comments on the evolution of the battle system and returning characters? Let us know in the comments below.