Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga
[Game Boy Advance] [Alphadream]
Mario and his many chums, foes and everyone in-between have made appearences in literally hundreds of Mario spin-off titles over the years. From sports games, the Mario Kart series, even Mario Picross. The pesky plumber's also appeared in several RPG titles over the years, three separate series' to be precise. The first was the Square-developed Super Mario RPG for the SNES, a game that never saw release outside the states until it hit the Virtual Console a few years ago. Second was the N64 bash at a Mario RPG known as Paper Mario, which spawned two sequels and an upcoming 3DS game. The third RPG series is quite possibly the best, known simply as Mario and Luigi. And what better way to celebrate the upcoming Mario 3DS titles than to review the first game in the series; Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Game Boy Advance.
Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga borrows many ideas from the previous Mario RPG titles, but implements them into a clever system of co-operation. It's called Mario and Luigi for a reason you know, because throughout the entire game Mario and his not so far behind brother are working together. No characters other than the two plumbers will join your 'party' in battle, and more often than not you'll be mixing each others' skills to solve puzzles in the overworld and battle your enemies. Speaking of which, throughout the game the two plumbers will unlock different abilities that can be used in the overworld or in battle, some of which are slightly varied for each plumber (Mario gains fire abilities while Luigi is granted lightning abilities) while others stay the same (both brothers can equip the same hammers). By a simple press of the L and R buttons, you can switch between Mario and Luigi's abilities at any time and use them to solve puzzles which open up new areas in the overworld and dungeons. The abilities you unlock are quite a bit like Zelda's items in that you can use them to open up previously inaccessible areas.
The abilities you unlock also come into play whilst battling enemies in Superstar Saga. The battle system is turn-based but is made pretty unique thanks to the special moves known as Bros. Attacks. These moves require you to press the A button when Mario performs an action and the B button when Luigi performs an action in a sort of quicktime event sequence. These moves are tricky to master, but once you've got the hang of them and use them a lot they'll gain an 'Advanced' version which allows a slight variation of the Bros. Attack that proves to be more powerful (and difficult to perform) than the regular ones. You can also make your Bros. Attacks easier to perform at the cost of more Bros. Points (MP). The co-operation aspect of Mario and Luigi makes the series different from its counterparts, as does the humour.
Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is easily one of the funniest games ever released, with the two sequels apparently even more hilarious (I ain't played them yet, so I'm yet to find out). Sure, the Mario RPG and Paper Mario games have their fair share of funny moments but nowhere near as many as the Mario and Luigi titles. This is mostly due to Fawful, the main baddie's right hand man in the game. This crazy character spits out some ridiculously silly dialogue every time you see him, kinda like Vince Noir or Howard Moon of Mighty Boosh fame, except ten times more insane. Some people won't find Fawful funny at all, much like the two stand-up comedians I just mentioned. It takes a certain sense of humour to take in and snigger at, but when you do find it funny - It is pretty damn funny. Take this quote as an example: "I am the great Cackletta's most best pupil, who is named Fawful! I am here, laughing at you! If you are giving us the chase, just to get your silly princess's voice, then you are idiots of foolishness! Princess Peach's sweet voice will soon be the bread that makes the sandwich of Cackletta's desires! And this battle shall be the delicious mustard on that bread! The mustard of your doom!"
The mustard of your doom indeed, Fawful.
The basic plot of Superstar Saga involves a mysterious character and her right-hand (Fawful) stealing Princess Peach's sweet voice and replacing it with bombs for a more than evil cause. You really couldn't make it up, but somehow the developers have. Mario and Luigi team up with Bowser to chase after their new foe, who turns out to be a resident of the Beanbean Kingdom where the whole game takes place. Beanbean is exactly what it says on the tin, a world inhabited by talking beans, much like the Mushroom Kingdom is for talking mushrooms. Throughout their adventure the Mario Brothers will meet various wacky Beanbean inhabitants to help them on their quest, much like in most other RPGs. Later on the plot thickens and turns in to a surprisingly epic and extremely fun outing, but spoilers are pretty much non-existent here on my Blog! Go spoil the ending somewhere else...
In short, Mario and Luigi is one of the funniest RPGs ever released, and currently my favourite Game Boy Advance game. The co-operation aspects mix the game up enough to make it original and different from the other Mario RPG titles, and the game also includes a pretty pumpin' soundtrack to add another layer of awesome to Superstar Saga (the final boss theme is particularly awesome). And so, I give this game a respectable 90%.
(Apologies if this review seemed a little low in comparison to my others, I kinda had to rush it before the 3DS comes out!)