(GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Double trouble

Back in 2003, Nintendo had already released two excellent Mario RPGs; Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Paper Mario. Rather than immediately making a Paper Mario sequel, the company decided to add a third completely different game to the line-up. While the previous games were developed by Squaresoft and Intelligent Systems, this time Nintendo went with AlphaDream, a relatively new developer that only worked on two previous games. As the resulting Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has since had three sequels, you can already guess that this collaboration ended up being a success for all concerned.

Just like in Super Mario RPG, Bowser initially seems set up to be the main villain, as is to be expected of a Mario game, but this soon changes — just a few minutes into the game he's kicked aside for new villains Cackletta and Fawful. Cackletta isn't seen all that much and is a fairly standard villain, but Fawful pops up frequently and has become a fan favourite mostly due to his hilarious, strangely constructed sentences and metaphors. The game's setting also quickly moves to that of the Beanbean Kingdom rather than the Mushroom Kingdom; although there are still some familiar faces, most of the characters and enemies are completely new.

For the most part, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga doesn't stray too far from its predecessors. It's still a comedic, turn-based RPG in which you primarily use hammer and jump attacks, and certain small quirks, like the well-loved timed hits that allow you to deal extra damage, make an appearance here as well. There is one major difference though, which is quite evident from the title — this time it's not just Mario who plays a starring role, but Luigi as well.

As you move around, you can control both brothers — the one in the back will automatically follow the one in front, but their actions are controlled separately, meaning that if Mario jumps Luigi will not jump as well; you'll have to hit a different button for him to do so. Throughout the game both of them will learn additional moves, some unique to one brother, so in some cases it'll be required to have a certain brother in front — this can be done with a simple push of the start button.

In battle this is quite similar to those aforementioned RPG predecessors, with Mario, Luigi and enemies all taking turns to attack. As mentioned, the timed hits make a comeback, and you've also got Bros. Attacks at your disposal that let Mario and Luigi do extra strong combinations that allow you to make multiple timed hits in a row.

One cool feature, meanwhile, is that there's no 'blocking' in this game — instead, attacks can be completely avoided by jumping or hammering at the right time, meaning you either take all or none of the damage. All of the enemy attacks have some sort of small hint as to when to make a move and which brother will be hit, so figuring out the enemy's tells as fast as possible is a key strategy. Of course, if you're not so good at dodging there are always healing items!

Another feature that Superstar Saga takes from its predecessors is the sheer diversity on offer. While the meat of the game is the main quest, there are plenty of minigames, side-quests and collectibles that you can go out of your way to complete and collect. As usual for an RPG these tend to get you special items and equipment, so if you're having a tough time it can be wise to explore.

Despite coming out somewhat early in the Game Boy Advance's life, Superstar Saga has some attractive graphics and music — the latter is to be expected, as the soundtrack was composed by none other than Yoko Shimomura, who also produced the soundtrack for Super Mario RPG and many, many other games.

One interesting note is that the original release of this game included a remake of the original Mario Bros. arcade game. While there are many as of yet unreleased games on Virtual Console that people suspect to be in limbo because they include other games (such as Donkey Kong 64), this is not one of them; the remake is actually there, in its full glory. Of course, Mario Bros. might not be the greatest of games, but this version has a nice graphical overhaul and features much more responsive controls, so it can be a pleasing change of pace from time to time.

Like the other games in the first batch of Game Boy Advance titles on Wii U Virtual Console, Mario & Luigi offers some welcome graphical options, namely the ability to turn smoothing on or off, and switch between full-screen and "original resolution", somewhat resembling the Game Boy Player with a black border.

The icing on the cake is that there's no boring, newly made instruction manual — you can call up a scanned version of the original manual on your GamePad, which you can keep displayed while you continue playing. Of course, all of this is on top of the standard restore point feature. Let's hope we see these features included with all future GBA games.


While the fact that you control two characters might make Superstar Saga slightly confusing at first, it is surprisingly easy to get used to. The main adventure is quite lengthy and unique due to the dual brother and battle systems, and if you can't get enough there are always side-quests to seek out and minigames to replay for a high score. Mario and Luigi's amusing animations and "voice acting", plus the game's great sense of humour, will also keep you smiling from ear to ear. This might be the first game in the series, but AlphaDream hit the jackpot right away - it's still among the best.

From the web

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User Comments (70)



Maelstrom said:

One of the best non-platformer mario games ever. It totally deserves that score

And, btw thanks for posting a screenshot of the final boss (major spoiler).
Might want to remove that.



NintyMan said:

This is still my favorite in the Mario & Luigi series and one of my favorite GBA games. Absolutely hilarious and fun. I loved that you can dodge enemy attacks.



DarkCoolEdge said:

These games look bad on WiiU. Not as bad as I thought they would but it's obvious their place is 3DS' VC.



Spoony_Tech said:

@DarkCoolEdge Really, I was surprised how well they look both on the tv and gameplay! Plus you can smooth out the graphics. They did a nice job at least with Advance Wars as that's the only one I bought.



JustinH said:

Great game, and a ton of fun on Wii U. Map the Start and Select buttons to Y and X and you'll have a good time.

@Maelstrom Half of these screenshots are from fairly late in the game. I'm kinda surprised.



Agent721 said:

This sounds fantastic! I love the fact that the original manual is included. That should be the standard for all VC releases. Now if they would also show the original packaging, that be even more awesome.



ekreig said:

What @Spoony_Tech said.

After all these years, the final boss music still pops into my head while reading this. Unbelievable. This one will be a huge no-brainer once I finally get a Wii U.



sinalefa said:

So should I play this before Dream Team? It would be my first time playing this series.



Spoony_Tech said:

@sinalefa Yes, most definitely. Its imo the best in the series with the low point being Partners in Time. Its still a good game just not as good as the rest.



Spanjard said:

@Dark-Luigi Your Avatar is so awesome! sorry, just had to say it.

Never played any GBA game, except advance wars a bit. Also never played anything in this series, so I'm eager to find out if I like it.



Than64 said:

I loved this game when it came out and I look forward to purchasing it for the Wii U VC. I am curious to learn if the vibration feature was implemented in this version. Back in the GameCube days when you played this game on the Game Boy Player, the cartridge knew that and it would vibrate the GameCube controller.



BearClaus said:

Here's a tip: this game is even more fun if you equip Mario with the Great Force accessory you get from brewing bean brews.

I beat the desert boss before he could attack!



TreesenHauser said:

I wanna get this and I almost did when it became available, but I went with Metroid Fusion instead. Given the great review score, I might go for this next time I decide to download a GBA title.



KryptoKrunch said:

Incredible game, definitely my favorite GBA game ever. Can't wait to play this on Wii U with a nice backlit screen.



DreamOn said:

@DarkCoolEdge No way do they look bad! On pixel perfect mode these games look beautifully crisp. If people are ashamed of pixels then I can see why they'd want to hide them with a small screen. Anyone who appreciates pixel art will particularly find GBA games on 1080p TV a really neat thing because of the fewer therefore larger pixels than SNES games display in a TV.



TG1 said:

@Uberchu Are you going to be trolling on every GBA review NL posts? I'd rather play this on 3DS too, but seriously, c'mon! This is a review of the game, not Nintendo's digital policies.



Dr_Corndog said:

Only ever played Partners in Time. The battle system was cool, but battles tended to take too long. It also wasn't that funny, though I heard Superstar Saga is much funnier.



Dpishere said:

The Mario and Luigi series of rpg's are actually some of my favorite games in the genre. I have not played Superstar Saga or Dream Team but I loved Partners in Time and Bowser's Inside Story! I need to play the other two ASAP!



PinkSpider said:

So many 9 out of 10's for GBA games, it was a great handheld system. Golden sun should get a 9 as well and that game comes out on my birthday



Kid_A said:

10/10 game for me. One of the finest RPGs of all time, and one of the few truly great comedies in gaming.

Also, I was skeptical about how these games would look on Wii U. Turns out it was needless. The game looks fantastic, as good as any SNES game. The only thing that suffers is the sound. Great music, but it sounds a little tinny.



K-Gamer said:

Tried Dream Team, had to return it, game was good but they did so much wrong with it, the handholding was really aggravating. Game had loads of potential, could of turned out like this.



rjejr said:

Bought Advance Wars instead as I've always wanted to play that, and I just got the code for Seven Stars which I still need to play, but some day.



LetsGoRetro said:


Id recommend playing it immediately. It's every bit as essential to the Nintendo gamer experience as SMB3, SMW, Mario 64, Zelda, Super Metroid, you get the picture. It goes toe to toe with any classic old or new and is a must play ASAP



LtAldoRaine said:

Absolutely wonderful game, still my favorite Mario & Luigi.

@K-Gamer Can't say I blame you, the beginning of that game is unbearable. Nintendo has to stop the handholding. The game does get really good after a while, though. And none of the other three Mario & Luigi games have that problem.



Senate_Guard said:

Still one of my top 5 games of all time! I've owned it for 10 years, and still find myself replaying through it! I still say this is the best Mario & Luigi entry; partially because it was the first of its kind. Also this was the first time we saw Luigi being a goofy, offbeat sidekick before it was the norm.

If you ask me, Cackletta >>> Fawful



DerpSandwich said:

I really enjoyed this game when it came out. I'm still a little bitter toward the series for basically replacing Paper Mario as the proper RPG series, but I really look forward to playing the other three games. I've been meaning to get to them for years, and the demo for the 3DS one was a blast.



FJOJR said:

The fact that it tool place outside the Mushroom Kingdom was a great change in the Mario universe much like how I enjoyed the island paradise of Isle Delfino and the vastness of space in Mario Galaxy.



Dezsi said:

I love this game very much. This series is just terrific, really. I sincerely hope that many more will experience this gem of a game.



MagusDiablo said:

@LtAldoRaine None of the other Mario & Luigi have handholding? Of course they ALL have, and that's not bad AT ALL. All you guys gotta do is remember that you are not the only one playing the game. There are a LOT of people that never actually played the game, and they need to understand the system in order to have fun. Chill out, guys.



MagusDiablo said:

@Spoony_Tech i can't see any actual difference between the four games. All of them are incredibly funny, and the stories are awesome altogether. I went through a LOT of trouble to find Partners in Time and when I finally got it, it was an excellent experience. And not being the only one: there are a lot of people that think that Bowser's Inside Story is the worst of them...



LtAldoRaine said:

@MagusDiablo Yes, they have, but Dream Team goes overboard with it. There is a time that Starlow comes and asks if the player knows how to use mushrooms. You choose "No", and she says: "Are you sure? Mushrooms can be tricky." I mean, seriously? The other ones have tutorials and such in the beginning, but the first two hours or so of Dream Team are a huge tutorial. The other ones let the player off to do their thing much earlier. I know there are people who need those tutorials, but there is a balanced way to do it. Dream Team doesn't do it. It's like on Skyward Sword, on the Sandship, you see a door that is very obviously the boss door but Fi has to go and stop the gameplay to say "There's a 99% chance that something important is behind that door" or something. Is much more rewarding when a game teaches the player how to play by actually playing the game and experimenting, not spelling out every single detail.



MagusDiablo said:

@LtAldoRaine I gotta be honest here, I always follow these tutorials. Not because I need them, but I don't wanna fell like a stranger to the new things in the game. I experienced this on a completely different game, Super Mario 3D World, where I had no idea I could get inside a spinning shell. I only learned that post-endgame. And I think that, even though the tutorials are longer, they don't kill the rhythm, and aren't that annoying. And since I played both the normal mode and hard mode on M&L:DT I didn't feel this downside, even on the second playthrough.



LtAldoRaine said:

@MagusDiablo Well,lucky you for having the patience. I'm holding back a bit on my Dream Team Hard Mode playthrough because I think the start of the game is so boring.



MagusDiablo said:

@LtAldoRaine Don't do that, really. The Hard Mode is actually very good. It changes a little the mechanics of timed attacks and it gets harder to get the combos. It's a good addition.



LtAldoRaine said:

@MagusDiablo I look foward to it, especially because I found the normal playthrough a bit on the easy side. When I started Hard Mode I actually managed to die on a tutorial battle, so I think I won't be disappointed.



Geno92 said:

I played it on the GBA at least five times, now I am playing through it again as we speak on the Wii U. Playing it on the TV is like playing it on the Gameboy player I never had : (

Geno makes his cameo appearance in the little fungitown arcade, probably my favorite part of the whole game.



jj87 said:

This is just like Mario and Luigi Dream Team. The moves are identical.



IronMan28 said:

The Mario and Luigi games are great, they all have tons of laughs. I'm glad they put this out because I haven't played it yet.



Troggy said:

Out of all the Gba games, this was the one I was looking forward to most. I may consider grabbing it at some point.



Maelstrom said:

@Unca_lz Have you played the game?
The villain is a combination of Bowser and Cackletta, and the combination does not happen until halfway (to 2/3) through the game. It is completely unexpected
End Spioler



SparkOfSpirit said:

This game is great, as are all the other games except the second one. Man, Partners In Time was so boring and dull.



Tsusasi said:

Amazing game, btw… having so much fun playing this and Advance Wars. Looking forward to Golden Sun tomorrow.



Henmii said:

This is still one of the best in my opinion! The way Mario and Luigi interact with each other during puzzle-solving AND battling has been done the best in this instalment!



pukka-pie said:

I don't understand all the fuss, it's just a mediocre little JRPG. The combat is actually pretty terrible, every fight is frustrating thanks to the awful dodging system, the boss fights are overlong and boring. The plot is a yawn too. It's decent, but if it wasn't a Nintendo game it would be long forgotten, and really it belongs to the past. Regretting spending £6.29.

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