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Game Review

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Liam Doolan

The Mario RPG that started it all

There are very few areas of life the Mario franchise hasn't at some point explored. Mario himself has been a doctor, an amateur kart racer and later on in his career was recognised as a professional athlete when he competed at the Olympic Games in the 100 metre dash against Sonic. Quite simply – he's a jack of all trades.

In 1996, Squaresoft (now known as Square Enix) – the creator of the long-running Final Fantasy series and the brilliant Chrono Trigger – released the first ever Mario role-playing game on the Super Nintendo in Japan and the US. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was also the final Mario entry released on the aging Super Nintendo. Europe was eventually able to experience this masterpiece, produced by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto, when it was released as a digital game (with minor alterations linked to localisation and seizure concerns) on the Wii Virtual Console in 2008. With the downloadable iteration of this title now once again available to the masses – this time on the Wii U eShop – how does this classic hold up?

Like other traditional role-playing games, Super Mario RPG is divided up into two segments – exploration and turn-based battle sequences – as you travel back and forth between areas on an overworld. As expected with a Square developed title, many of the design cues are inspired by the Final Fantasy series. Square has done an excellent job adapting the Mario series to the role-playing genre, whilst at the same time adding many of its own unique touches featured in its own games.

Legend of the Seven Stars starts in a similar fashion to other Mario games when Princess Peach (Toadstool) is kidnapped by Bowser. The story takes a twist when a sword known as Exor crashes into Bowser's keep, followed by the the evil Smithy gang invading the world and stealing the seven star pieces of Star Road which help grant wishes to world's inhabitants. Before you know it, Mario is fighting alongside a party of allies including Bowser to restore the level of chaos to its original state, find the whereabouts of Princess Peach and recover the seven star pieces.

Story aside, Super Mario RPG enters familiar territory by immediately throwing players into interactive turn-based battles against enemies such as Goombas, Koopas and lesser known foes across famous locations such as the Mushroom Kingdom and even sewers & seaside towns. Additional role-playing experiences are woven further into the experience, with inns to stay the night at, tool shops where Mario's team can stock up on mushrooms and various other elixirs – or even buy a new set of pants for added protection (in battle). Similar to other RPG titles, item and equipment upgrades occur regularly. Adding to this are puzzles to solve in each environment and other events such as mine cart rides to enjoy along the way.

This is all held together by the lively residents of the world who make interesting, odd and helpful observations – and even humorous quips. Additionally there are cameos from some of Nintendo's other characters, along with a few references to the Final Fantasy series for good measure. Treasure boxes are also littered throughout the world, channelling classic brick-breaking Mario experiences.

The core role-playing experience featured within Super Mario RPG is relatively straight forward. The player begins the game with Mario who then recruits additional party members along the way – levelling them as a team. Enemy encounters are visualised in each area Mario and his allies explore, rather than frustrating random encounters; this won't , however, stop enemies going out of their way to attack the party from the other side of the screen. When Mario and an enemy engage, a battle sequence is initiated. These battles are turn-based and play out with all the usual RPG elements such as having to deal with status ailments and deciding whether or not to attack, defend, use special magical attacks or items, or run away.

The stand out aspect of these battle sequences is the interactive nature, with the ability to have a direct influence on the outcome of the fight with well-timed button presses. Rather than relying on party members' invisible stats to decide which side wins, the player can time button presses to help enhance the damage of an attack, or weaken an enemy blow. Mario, for example, can shoot multiple fireballs, and the more times the specific button is pressed the more damage that is dealt; with his jump ability he can time a press to have more impact. More moves for each party member are also unlocked over time. These timed action hit commands apply to all party members and fall under four separate categories – timed hits, star hits (maximum damage), continuous hits and rotational hits. When a party member gains a new level, players can upgrade one of three stat points – attack and defence, HP or magical attack and defence.

The platform style of game environments and battle scenes are supported by isometric 3D rendered visuals. In 1996 this was considered a technical feat that pushed the Super Nintendo to the limits and captured the Mario universe like no previous game in the series had. By modern standards, the visuals do look somewhat jaded but can still be classed as unique – buildings, characters and environments are both vibrant and lively. The music featured in Super Mario RPG is thanks to the efforts of Japanese composer Yoko Shimomura (known for her work on Capcom's Street Fighter II:The World Warrior); the songs and sound effects all slot in perfectly with the Mario universe. Shimomura even managed to incorporate arrangements from both Koji Kondo (Super Mario Bros.) and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy series) into the game – creating one of the best Mario soundtracks to date.

Conclusion

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is not only a brilliant game in its own right - it's a history lesson in how the Mario role-playing series began. Anyone who has played the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series should play Square's original title that started it all, if they haven't already. Super Mario RPG paved the way and inspired both of these series, and for that reason we should be eternally thankful to Squaresoft.

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User Comments (85)

Mister_Wu

#2

Mister_Wu said:

Well, actually, now we should call the developers AlphaDream/Square, as SMRPG's two directors and the executive producer on Square's part now work at AlphaDream, with the external help of Super Mario RPG's composer Yoko Shimomura!

MikeW

#5

MikeW said:

Really hope this game arrives soon on the North American virtual console!!!

Lizuka

#6

Lizuka said:

Been in such a mood to replay this lately. Shame it probably won't be out on the Wii U in the US for about three years.

Iggly

#7

Iggly said:

I remember getting this from Club Nintendo, though I stopped playing this after awhile since I'm not a huge fan of the Wii U's virtual Wii mode. If it comes to the Wii U eshop in NA, I'll probably upgrade since I'd prefer to play this on the Gamepad.

Clownshoes

#8

Clownshoes said:

I'd gladly buy this on VC, if NOA wasn't run by a team of incompetant monkeys. MY body is ready - for reggie and co to get fired.

Expa0

#9

Expa0 said:

The soundtrack is excellent, but otherwise I find the game pretty unremarkable.

ericwithcheese2

#10

ericwithcheese2 said:

I'm not a huge RPG fan, but this is one of the only ones I ever finished. Such a great game and an amazing use of the Mario Universe.

russellohh

#11

russellohh said:

I've played this on the Wii U every day this week! I can't wait til it gets full gamepad support, but at least we have it on VC.

callmeking17

#12

callmeking17 said:

I wish they would remake this game, or come up with a sequel. This game is seriously that great and I find it amazing that both Square Enix and Nintendo have neglected it for so long. It could have been, and potentially can be, a series of its own.

naut

#13

naut said:

No idea why people love this game so much. Dreadfully boring. If you want a quality Mario RPG, Paper or M&L is the way to go.

ParkaTron

#14

ParkaTron said:

yeah, thanks nintendo, for another great virtual console title released, in europe!
i swear NOA doesnt give us anything. -_-

GustavoMaciel

#15

GustavoMaciel said:

It still looks REALLY good... if you're playing on a CRT. The pre-rendered graphics suffer a lot when shown on a high resolution LCD.

Angelic_Lapras_King

#16

Angelic_Lapras_King said:

Come ooooooon Square Enix support! I've seen you've release Final Fantasy VI Advance and 1+2 Advance in Japan, care to bring all that here too? :3

Li_Bae

#17

Li_Bae said:

Amazing game in its time, but I don't think this one has aged nearly as well as FFVI, Chrono Trigger, or even Secret of Mana. 7/10 for me - still good and worth a revisit, but nothing to write home about.

Seacliff

#18

Seacliff said:

By all means this is a good game, and if you hadn't played it yet... do it.

However, I feel that this game hadn't aged well. Even for it's time I felt the story and characters were quite bland, the gameplay is simple and really easy (yes, I get that's the point), however the pre-rendered 24 bit graphics look nice.

I would recommend this game, but I feel that outside of a few exceptions like Sticker Star, every Mario RPG after this one was an improvement to this.

GeminiSaint

#19

GeminiSaint said:

The graphics aged quite badly on this one.
Then again, I always liked Mario's other RPG series (Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi) better.

grumblebuzzz

#20

grumblebuzzz said:

I'm one of about 3 people in the world apparently that isn't into this game at all. Too much Squaresoft and not enough Mario for my taste.

mowerdude

#21

mowerdude said:

I got this game for free from club nintendo and I still haven't got to play it since it requires you to have wii classic controller to even start the game Nintendo of America need to get in gear and start releasing these vc games on the Wii U eshop instead of all the ios shovelware crap.

Pod

#22

Pod said:

I never got around to playing this game for real, so maybe now would be a good time.

Superryanworld

#23

Superryanworld said:

@Clownshoes I don't think Reggie and co are lacking intelligence. It's just that the top brass is made up of business executives that have no real interest in gaming. The vc selection in NA alone seems to point to that. Anyway, Reggie's been around since 2003. I don't see him going anywhere. If anything, the top brass in Japan probably think's NOA has been doing a great job with pleasing the fan's.

whodatninja

#24

whodatninja said:

This is still the best Mario RPG.

"Europe PAL Version" - Does such a thing exist? I never came out originally in Europe!

NintyMan

#25

NintyMan said:

Super Mario RPG is a very good RPG and is certainly a classic. The bright, colorful visuals and soundtrack are what really stand out to me. I don’t know if there’ll ever be a game like this again, but it’s cool to see how this game influenced both Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi with its RPG elements and original characters not seen in regular Mario games.

Yosher

#27

Yosher said:

I find it a little ironic that this came out in Europe first now, after America got the original SNES release first and Europe wasn't able to play it until TWELVE YEARS LATER.

Regardless, hope you Americans get this soon on VC as well, for those that want it! Truly an amazing game.

abbyhitter

#29

abbyhitter said:

Still have this on Super Nintendo. I got free from Club Nintendo on the Wii VC. This is definitely a SNES classic that I grew up with in the 90s along with the DKC trilogy.

SupremeAllah

#30

SupremeAllah said:

Two things I hated about this game were the leveling system and the shared "magic points" or star points or whatever the hell they called them.

The leveling system forced you to really make certain characters either all physical or all magic based, because trying to do both ended up with underpowered people.

I did like the game itself though, these things aside. I remember trying desperately to find out how to access the Casino.

RantingThespian

#32

RantingThespian said:

As great as the Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi games are, they still cannot match the gameplay, story, magic, and fun of SMRPG. It's criminal that there has never been an actual sequel!

n64memories

#33

n64memories said:

I've been meaning to buy this on my Wii for ages but just haven't got round to it. This has reinvigorated my desire to own it and play it.

Clownshoes

#34

Clownshoes said:

@Superryanworld
If reggie isn't the problem, then how come EU has such a superior VC catalog? Why would "top brass" give them more than NA? It seems to me like it would be the responsibility of the region president to get things like that in motion. So until i can see different, i'm calling reggie out on the lack of VC choices in NA.

Dankykong

#35

Dankykong said:

I played this on my Wii and it was really difficult to get into even with Paper Mario being my favorite Mario RPG. At times it's even hard to look at because the textures are so busy that you're not sure what you're looking, if it's important or just a loud background. I'd still personally give it an 8 or 9 though.

Superryanworld

#36

Superryanworld said:

@Clownshoes I agree with you. It all starts with Reggie. I truly believe a change in management is long overdue. I just think NOA's shortcomings are due to having clueless people at the top. Why release another version of street fighter 2 or contra 3 on vc when games like Mario rpg and zero mission are available in other regions? NOA just doesn't get it.

I also believe Nintendo of Japan is part of the problem. If the head branch doesn't care about listening to fan feedback, then how could they possibly be aware of the majority of disappointed fan's in NA? I believe that's part of the reason Reggie has been with the company for as long as he has.

VanillaLake

#37

VanillaLake said:

This game was not available in Europe until its Wii release in 2008! I liked it but the camera was a bit loose. I'm not sure that I need the Wii U "upgrade" (the game was already 60Hz).

Mario-Man-Child

#38

Mario-Man-Child said:

I have it on Wii. I must give it a go. I think I played it fo 5 minutes. I absolutely loved the GameCube Paper Mario game.

Lizuka

#40

Lizuka said:

Personally think the only Mario RPG that's been a threat to this one is Thousand Year Door. The first Paper Mario is a pretty worthy follow-up, but has too many points that drag it down I think and the gameplay's a bit too simplistic. Still a ton of fun though.

The Mario & Luigi games... Eh. I replayed Superstar Saga recently and thought it held up, but while good I wasn't that huge on it. Partners in Time I remember not really liking but am planning to replay soon, Inside Story I was bored with for most of it and I gave up at the point when Mario and Luigi leave Bowser's body. Never bothered getting Dream Team.

CatMarioTime

#41

CatMarioTime said:

Yo you guys should stop being overloaded hormone preteens, NOA for a long time had earlier releases, let Europe have a turn aight? This is coming from an NA resident. Don't be whiny babies just because y'all can't re-purchase a game for the umpteenth time.

oats-81

#49

oats-81 said:

I remember playing this in a tent where we ran an extension cord and muscled a mid size CRT tv to the backyard. Summer of '96- such simpler times. We were stuck on those power ranger star guys.We beat em' though. This game needs a sequel. .......Backyard camping and video games.

TheLobster

#50

TheLobster said:

This was the first RPG I ever played. When Pokemon came out two years later I was primed and ready because I loved this game so much.

Polyaqua

#51

Polyaqua said:

ive always wanted a portable version of this.

seeing as it was planned but canceled as part of the GBA "Super Mario Advance" series.

i am infinitely sad that us in NA don't have this for Wii U VC yet.

i even bought a "Supa Boy" cept, it couldn't read the cartridge all that well due to the two extra bits, like if you look under the "skirt" of a yoshi's island cartridge. wasted $80 there. you know, JUST to play mario rpg.

i dont know why i am obsessed with this game as much as i am, probably because it is completely fantastic.

RantingThespian

#53

RantingThespian said:

@maukenboost PM and M&L are great series. I have played all of them except for M&L Partners In Crime, and loved them all (or really liked when it comes to Sticker Star).

However SMRPG is something else. It just has something that those other games have yet to tap into. Maybe with a possible renewed partnership with Square and the NX, we will finally get a game worthy of being called a sequel to SMRPG.

3MonthBeef

#55

3MonthBeef said:

This game packed in a lot of treats. It's the perfect summer getaway. And who could forget the Culex battle?

4estGump

#58

4estGump said:

Honestly, I preferred this gameplay to the Paper Mario series. Different in its own right, but still a better dynamic IMO. Imagine this gameplay with a Zelda or Metroid RPG. Interstellar!

FRANKLIN_BADGE

#60

FRANKLIN_BADGE said:

@RantingThespian I get the exact opposite feeling. While I admit that Super Mario RPG is a pretty awesome game, there is something amiss that quite doesn´t allure me as the PM and ML series do.

I respect the game for cementing the basis for the 2 aforementioned series, but I recently played it once more, and somehow it feels a bit... dated. Then I played the first Paper Mario on the N64 and it still feels outstanding even by today's standards, somehow I prefer the approach intelligent systems gave to the new series, it plays much less clunky, not to mention that I liked the approach of dividing the game into 8 chapters instead of square's approach of rushing through the seven stars, one after the other. That kinda ruined the experience for me.

Mister_Wu

#65

Mister_Wu said:

@RantingThespian Remember what I have written above. Both SMRPG directors and the executive producer on Square part now work at AlphaDream. Even Yoko now compose music for the Mario & Luigi series! At the moment, I don't even know how many of the original SMRPG developers work at Square Enix!
And to clarify, one of the directors of Super Mario RPG doesn't intend to make a sequel soon:
http://kotaku.com/dont-count-on-a-new-super-mario-rpg-any-time-soon-989543461

efaulk84

#66

efaulk84 said:

Does this also have the original manual scan? There are a few Luigi jokes in that if I remember right. My brother had a lot of the great SNES RPGs. I have bought practically all Square Enix games on the Wii and would love to upgrade them so I could play them on the Gamepad.

aughra

#72

aughra said:

Such an amazing game. I remember following this game in Nintendo Power. After reading all about, it was a day one purchase for me.. Well at the time a day one purchase for my mom for me ha.

Baker1000

#73

Baker1000 said:

Played this when it first arrived on Wii VC years ago. Can't remember a great deal but it was enjoyable. Didn't stick in my mind as one I'd play again though.

Mister_Wu

#74

Mister_Wu said:

@efaulk84 Unfortunately no, like all other SNES Wii U VC games, the manual is the digital one accessed through the "HOME" menu. Nintendo started with the manual scans on the GBA games and then went on with the DS and N64 games. I too would like the scans, the original manual are beautiful and are a source of precious information which is not always easy to find.

ggnorekthx

#75

ggnorekthx said:

Super Mario RPG is my favorite game of all time. The rest of my favorites are jumbled mess, but this one game is the uncontested champion.

Always wondered where the hell Paper Mario came from, because games in the same vein as this would have been so much better.

Haiassai

#76

Haiassai said:

This was one of the first games that got me into gaming. Superb music, one of the best Mario stories, plenty of caveats (for my younger self) to discover... I await the day that Square Enix and Nintendo get their act together and make a direct sequel.

Vinny

#78

Vinny said:

I'm playing it right now. The reaction system is one of the most creative gameplay additions on a turn based RPG and I'm glad it's still used in its successors.

The music is incredible, the combat is very fun, the dialogue is pretty funny and of course, the original characters like Mallow and Geno are great. I'd say they are one of the Mario RPGs greatest strengths.

While there isn't a direct sequel, PM an M&L are great successors and take much of what made the original great.

Wittgenstein

#80

Wittgenstein said:

I find the battle system... dated. If I could just get used to it I might enjoy the game, from what I've seen the story is fantastic.

StarDust4Ever

#81

StarDust4Ever said:

@Polyaqua SMRPG worked just fine on my Supaboy. I think it depends on what board revision you get. Kirby All Stars didn't work and that one uses the same chip.

They all run flawless on a genuine Super Nintendo or Super Retro Trio clone.

MrPuzzlez

#83

MrPuzzlez said:

I think this game was one of my first RPGs back in the day... Yes it was easy, but it was most DEFINITELY fun! I still have the tangible cartridge and the release on the Wii VC. Since I ported all of my old games to my Wii U, it's no biggie. Also, Small Spoiler for those who haven't played it, the Yoshi race is rigged too much against you for the fact that the timing is off because the game is on an emulated system. Kinda sucks...

Dpishere

#84

Dpishere said:

The first time I played this was on the Wii and I definitely feel that it has held up marvelously throughout the many years since its original release. I will be upgrading this one to the Wii U version without a doubt.

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