A Masterpiece of the 16bit Era
An artile dedicated to Super Mario RPG, and the reasons behind its greatness.
I'll be the first to admit that the Super Nintendo had a multitude of classic games which were important and iconic to all of our childhoods. Heck, I'd be lying if I said I didn't absolutely love Super Metroid, Link to the Past, or Mega Man X. They however, don't achieve the same level of appreciation or adoration as Super Mario RPG. Just starting off by saying I know its not as important to everyone else as it is to me, but through this article I hope to change your mind. That being said, I want to say that though is only my second article, I hope from your helpful criticism, and my passion for the game I am able to create a little masterpiece of my own.
As far as video game history goes, I'm sure you're all familiar with Nintendo's (and arguably the world's) most recognizable video game character, Mario. The original games are quite rudimentary in nature, and were not as popular as Super Mario Bros, the major NES release. The concepts were unique at the time, but consisted mostly of jumping and hopping your way to save the princess from a giant turtle dragon yadda yadda. Though this is not an article on 8-bit Mario and his impact on video games, it is definitely note-worthy how influential he really was to the industry.
With that background in mind, it is obvious to most that Mario essentially launched Nintendo into the household name it is today. A plethora of sequels emerged for the NES, and after the SNES was released, Mario games would become a major staple for that system as well.
With the Super Nintendo's life nearing its end, and the world turning to a new age of Video Games, Squaresoft and Nintendo created a game that would live on in gaming history.
It's Full title is: Super Mario Rpg: Legend of the Seven Stars (bit of a mouthfull eh?) Released in 1996, SMRPG was a mix of 3-D Platforming with turn-based combat. The game used an isometric view to create a vast 3-D world in which Mario and his environments were beautifully animated. This pseudo 3-D style was very effective for its time and arguably created the best looking Super NES game ever.
Super Mario RPG breaks away quite strongly from the fairly formulaic Mario games of the past. One of the most obvious deviations from past games is the storyline. The game begins not unusually with Princess Toadstool being abducted by Bowser. As Mario you begin your adventure right in Bowser's castle, and proceed quite rapidly to confront the Koopa King himself. It is during this initial exchange where the the plot similarities end. As Mario thwarts Boswer for the umpteenth time, and ascends to victory, A giant sword comes crashing down from the heavens, plunges into Bowser's castle, and sends our 3 major characters flying in separate directions. This iconic image of the giant sword (later identified as Exor) protruding from Bowser's keep would come to form the title screen for the game, and be immortalized for many as the games major antagonist. We will see however, that this would not be the case....
After landing (conveniently) in his own home, Mario (through toads guidance) journeys to Mushroom Kingdom to meet with the chancellor. It soon becomes apparent that many of the robotic monsters which now inhabit Mushroom Kingdom are servants of the ambiguous 'Smithy' who has taken residence in Bowser's Keep. As Mario journeys farther into the unknown he meets allies that accompany him on his adventure, and offer valuable insights and Magic. The first of these companions are new creations which have not appeared in previous Mario games. Both Mallow and Geno are introduced into the game fairly early and quickly become an integral part of the story.
Mallow a "tadpole" from Tadpole Pond is out doing errands for his grandfather when he encounters Mario. After recovering his Grandfather's lost wallet from a deviant reptile, Mallow stays with Mario on a quest to find his real parents.
Geno informs us that Smithy crashed through a celestial structure known as the star road, and its "Star Pieces" have been scattered across the kingdom. As an envoy from space, Geno inhabits the body of a doll to assist Mario on his quest to repair the Star Road and defeat Smithy. I know what you're thinking, "A doll?!" believe me, Geno packs a major punch.
Without dragging on too long, Ill quickly sum up the story by saying that on his way to defeat Smithy, Mario and his compatriots (who later include the Princess and ego Bruised Bowser) meet and defeat Smithy's generals, and capture the stars that they are after. Square/Nintendo does a great job in enemy design and opted to include many of the classic Mario enemies such as Goombas and Koopas, while at the same time adding a variety of unknown enemies who spice up the scenery and combat.
Some of these new characters have small roles to play, but many, including the child-like Booster, interact quite heavily with our heroes and often times with comic results.
While enemy and level design are both important things to mention, the dialogue and storyline are also top-notch. Having a silent protagonist A-la Link is a great choice because Mario's gestures and actions add to the Role Playing elements and give the game a huge amount of comic value. Among other things, the game cleverly spoofs many pop culture icons in its character design, and comically references other childhood memories. For example, Mario battles everything form a giant cake, to a group of Power Ranger ripoffs.
Aside from the great story, innovative battles, and enemy design, Super Mario RPG offers the gamer one of the greatest soundtracks of its day. While there are plenty of classic Mario tunes throughout the game, its the original compositions which truly give this game a magical touch. From the first time you here the Boss-Battle music, to the enchanting (and mesmerizing) forest-maze, the tones and rhythms will more than hold your attention.
As with many RPGs before it, this game encourages exploration. Even after you defeat Smithy you will find plenty to do. Mini-games, Frog-coins, treasure chests, and mini-bosses are all hidden throughout Mushroom Kingdom and if you hope to find them all, be ready to dedicate some game time. After hours on my SNES I still wasn't able to find all of the hidden treasure chests and to this day cant get 100 consecutive jumps on an enemy. Aside form the main storyline, such side-notes as Grate Guy's Casino, or Midas River can really eat up your time. As you master the art of barrel jumping, or blackjack you can hope to earn frog coins and purchase rare items. If you're really daring, try taking on arguable the hardest boss in the game, Cluex. Straight out of square's Final Fantasy franchise, Cluex is sure to challenge even the most confident adventurer.
In closing, Its important to note that while each element of the game has its charms, it's when everything comes together that this game truly deserves a spot in the Video Game hall of fame. From the fight with the first goomba, all the way to the battle with the diabolical santa which is Smithy, Super Mario RPG enchants and astonishes. I know not all of you share the same connection I had with this game, but during my childhood this game always made me happy. I hope that through this article you have felt or understood why this game is so important, and I encourage you (if you can) to buy a copy or download the game for the Wii's Virtual Console.
Thanks so much for reading!