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Home > Review Archive > Video Games > Results: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
by Dave Long
December 18, 2003

He ain't heavy, he's my brother!

Reviewed for GBA.

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GamerDad Seal Of Approval - 6+.  Click to learn more about our review seal. More fun than a barrel of monkeys

If you've never played a role-playing game starring Nintendo's famous plumber, now's your chance. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of Nintendo's strongest offerings this year on the Game Boy Advance and it's been optimized for play on the Game Boy Player too. If you've ever played Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64, you know what to expect. If not, imagine the world of Super Mario Bros. crossed with a Squaresoft RPG and you've got an idea what to expect.



The game's story begins with a baddie from the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom coming to visit Princess Peach in her castle. Peach's voice is stolen and replaced by an "explosive vocabulary" that literally causes huge explosions when she speaks! Bowser (Mario's main nemesis for years) decides that he's not going to kidnap Peach again until she gets her voice back because she'd blow up his castle and he can't have that. So Mario and the reluctant Luigi are called upon to join Bowser on a trip to Beanbean Kingdom to get Peach's voice back. It's an absolutely absurd premise that fits perfectly in a Mario game and if you haven't figured it out from that description, the writing is definitely one of the best parts of the game.

The writing is so good you will laugh out loud often while playing. It's not just the writing that sets this game apart from other RPGs, it's also the physical comedy. Luigi is used as comic relief throughout the game and has many memorable moments playing second fiddle to Mario or just looking for respect. Both he and Mario have tons of personality in their tiny sprites as do the rest of the cast. If only all games had this kind of polish in their presentation and storytelling. The text is nicely rendered and very readable which is sometimes a problem in games on the small screen but not this one. It's guaranteed that the game will stick with you long after you've finished it due to its story and graphical polish.

No RPG would be complete without lots of combat and Mario & Luigi gives it to you Mario-style crossed with Final Fantasy. In turn-based fashion, you'll deal blows by jumping on the heads of your enemies or smacking them with a hammer. Here the game adds some welcome twitch mechanics to the mix. Push the button at the right moment and you might increase the power of your attack. You can also push a button to fend off enemy strikes and instead deal damage to your foes on their turn. Normal attacks can be supplemented by Bros. Attacks that use what would be magic points in other RPGs. These combine both brothers to deal heavy damage.

The combat is always exciting and it's also uniquely strategic. You'll have to evaluate your enemies to determine the best way to take them out. You encounter everything from sharp heads preventing you from butt stomping bad guys to Dr. Mario style viruses. It definitely helps to have some background in the older Mario games to know the weaknesses of the various enemies. Boss battles are similarly strategic affairs and most are truly among the best RPG-style boss fights you can find.



Mario and Luigi are always controlled by one button each in a nifty control scheme. The learning curve for using B and A buttons to alternate between them can get confusing at first, but with repeated play it becomes second nature. They'll gain a lot of different powers throughout the adventure allowing them to access new areas of the map. The story is fairly linear though so don't expect to spend a lot of time exploring off the beaten path. That's not to say there aren't some well-hidden and nifty secrets though. It's especially fun to check everything you find because there's a lot of Mario in-jokes and historical stuff from previous games lying about everywhere.

There's not a whole lot to complain about in this one. There are a few spots where the ability to save anytime would be welcome. As a portable game, you often have to quickly put it aside and there's a sleep mode like in most Nintendo produced titles but it's not ideal. Better management of the player's ability to save would be optimal. There's also a lack of challenge early on but with such good writing and the game played out in a brand new setting, it's easy to forgive the easy battles.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is exactly the kind of game that can make anyone a fan of Mario and his adventures. The little plumber's run and jump games are often difficult for folks to finish but with an RPG, you don't have to rely on your gamepad-fu to win. Smart players will find plenty of strategy in the battles and the action crowd will enjoy the timing and precision of combat. Everyone will laugh out loud at the crazy antics of Mario and his friends. This is one Game Boy Advance game that just about anyone should enjoy.

Kid Factor:Lots of reading in this game as with any role-playing game. There's nothing objectionable and all kids will enjoy the story as will adults. There's a pile of references to past Mario games and they make nostalgia fans happy. Meanwhile, there's a very strong game to enjoy here too the likes of which we only see once every few years from Nintendo. Pick it up!




Reviewer Recommended Ages: 6+
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: E-Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Reviewer: David J. Long
Score: 4 1/2



Click to learn more about GamerDad's Kid Factor review section. Lots of reading in this game as with any role-playing game. There's nothing objectionable and all kids will enjoy the story as will adults. There's a pile of references to past Mario games and they make nostalgia fans happy. Meanwhile, there's a very strong game to enjoy here too the likes of which we only see once every few years from Nintendo. Pick it up! Kid Factor by Dave Long

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Home > Review Archive > Video Games > Results: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
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Game Info:
Platform(s):
GBA

ESRB rating:
E - Everyone

Score:




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