The Super Nintendo. The single greatest achievement of Mankind (maybe... possibly... it's definitely up there on the top 10). Not only a small technological wonder at it's time, but it's amazing 700+ cartridge game library remains a true treasure cove to find the some of the best 16 bit games ever made. Among the many genres, one that became increasingly popular in the est as the machine completed it's regular life cycle were Japanese RPGs. And that's is where Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars entered my scope.
What adventures await inside this box?
Let's spin the time machine to a couple of decades ago. I was a European PAL gamer. Do you know what that means? It means most my games run slower, with black borders, even more expensive and JRPGs where nothing more than pictures and text on legendary British magazine Super Play. A JRPG would offer far more hours of entertainment to the player for the same price than say an arcade game port. Between Squaresoft and Enix, business on Super Famicom was good. Oh yes, in this strange reality, Square and Enix are rivals, always trying to outdo each other with each new RPG on the market, with Squaresoft having the advantage of getting most of their games localized... to America at least, creating huge spikes in popularity of the genre that way.
...is that a giant sword on top of Bowser's keep? What mushrooms am I on!?
Skip to 1996. Late generation games where about, showing off impressive feats never believed possible with the current hardware. One of the games that paved the way for unconventional graphics was Rare's Donkey Kong Country (who cameos here as an enemy by the way). By rendering 3D models on SGI workstations and taking 2D screen shots of every frame, Rare was creating amazing animated sprites and amazing backdrops to play around with them. This graphics technique is the base of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars style. The game itself is an unlikely collaboration between Nintendo and Squaresoft, with the objective of creating an whole new RPG experience with familiar Nintendo characters. A big risk considering most people where absolutely in love with Yoshi's Island crayon style visuals. It also took on an isometric perspective which does make some jumping areas way more tricky then they should be, but it is a fair trade-off considering the immensely rich world the game presents to you.
Don't get too excited, Yoshi is on vacation and you can only briefly ride him. Sorry to get your hopes up.
That is truly to me what makes or breaks a JRPG: How good is the world presented for you to explore? How interesting are the NPCs? How challenging are the enemies and dungeons? Are there many secrets and side quest to tackle? Squaresoft got all of this covered due to their extensive back catalogue of JRPGs and Nintendo would never let a bland game with their characters come out on the shops, right? (the CDI never happened, people!) No matter where you pick this, it's a winner!
Mandatory Mode 7 Mine Cart section. Every game in the 90's had to have one of these. It was the law.
I don't really want to give the plot away just in case that like me you never played this before. The adventure will take you to both familiar and amazing new places like Nimbus Land high above the clouds, possibly me favourite area of the game. The dungeons are simple in layouts so you will probably never really get stuck anywhere. The objectives are always clear so you know where to go and what to do to in order to advance the plot. Was this perhaps on purpose in order to bring younger games to the genre? It's quite possible. It's a JRPG by the numbers then, but with very high quality production which remains obvious on both graphics and sound department. Really catchy music here, especially the battle theme which I found myself often whistling when not playing the game.
Ten-hut! SPOILERS: Bowser is on your team in this game.
As a PAL gamer it as devastating when the American version came out and months later the European release was cancelled. No one could have really believed possible that after such a successful joint collaboration Nintendo and Square would feud and separate ways after Final Fantasy VII jumped from Nintendo 64 to Playstation. Those relations would take many years to repair. Nintendo did continue the series, dividing it into the Paper Mario series and the portable Mario & Luigi series. Neither was the quite the same RPG as this game, one that was denied from me and almost every gamer in PAL territories.
This might seem like an unfair fight and it is... for Kamek and his goons that is because by my side is Mallow, that cloud looking fellow on the right and he is the most powerful magician in all the land... when he reaches level 30, that is.
Eighteen years later I corrected that mistake. I have already completed many JRPGs on SNEs and loved them all very much,such amazing and rewarding experiences. But there are still a few check boxes cleared and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was one of the biggest one. I'm really glad to check-mark it this year. It remains a truly unique Mario outing and I can heartfelt recommend it to anyone who like me fondly longs for the simpler days of 16-bit gaming.
When I sensed the end game was near I decided to record the whole thing. It could have gone wrong really fast, I had no clue what I was about to fight, no clue on strategy and wasn't even sure if I was properly equipped but hey, that was the fun of these games: never knowing what was ahead. If you never completed this game, you might want to give this video a miss, it's Super Mario Spoilerific!
Would I buy It today for Wii U?
Maybe! As I explained before, I didn't move my previous Wii contents to my Wii U and as such, when Nintendo gets this game to Wii U I would have to pay full price for it again. As such, I recommend you do get this game if you never played it before, it's great value for money even today. Not a fan of JRPGs? Well, this might be your gate way drug into that very, very rewarding genre.
Thanks for reading all the way here. Any memories to share on this game? Hit those comments below. Catch you on the bounce! ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ
Previously on Games of Summer 2014: Inventory Management Is The True Horror
Next time on Games of Summer 2014: Never Leave Eurasia Alive!