Nintendo is on a roll with the 3DS right now. Despite the belief the Switch would mark the end of Nintendo’s ‘other’ handheld, the 3DS has been going great guns. Just last month saw the release of Metroid: Samus Returns.
This month is starting off with RPG gem; Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions.
Although it’s a remake of a GameBoy Advance game, the original was first released 14-years ago.
Suffice it to say, there are lots of Nintendo fans who’ve either never played it or have forgotten playing it altogether. Fortunately, or not depending on your viewpoint, I fall into the former category.
I never played Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga when it was released. I feel like I missed out on something pretty special.
Getting to play it now, with enhanced graphics and audio and an all-new secondary quest, is a pretty great consolation prize though right?
Super Mario RPG
After Paper Mario on N64 and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Nintendo stopped making Mario RPGs for console. Superstar Saga came before Thousand-Year Door, but the point is, without it, we may not have the great handheld Mario RPGs we do.
Superstar Saga follows the ideas set up in Paper Mario. Peach has been kidnapped, Bowser is a hilarious doofus, comedy is king and Mario has to come to the rescue. The battle mechanics are lifted, almost wholesale, from Paper Mario, with one key difference; Luigi. In Paper Mario, Mario was on his own and had some assistance from partner characters like Goombario and Kooper.
With Luigi along for the ride, the Mario Bros. are able to dish out some pretty hefty damage. Like Paper Mario, Mario and Luigi can jump on enemies, hit them with hammers use items and deal huge damage with special attacks. Like other Mario RPGs, pressing the attack button at just the right moment will inflict additional damage. Pressing the buttons at the right time is key to the special ‘Bros.’ attacks.
Not a frat party
Selecting a Bros. Attack consumes Bro Points that can be replenished by Syrups. Each Bros. Attack requires specific button inputs, in time to successfully complete. Luckily, they’re all fairly straightforward and the prompts are always on your bottom screen. You’ll want to save your BP for boss fights though. It’s a bit of a waste to use them on standard enemies.
Also like Paper Mario, if Mario or Luigi can jump on an enemy in the field or whomp them with a hammer, they’ll do bonus pre-emptive damage. It’s a very good strategy to always try and hit first. The battles are never really difficult, but getting them over and done with so you can get back to the story is always an objective. That’s not to say the combat isn’t good, cause it’s great. The story is just whacky and wonderful enough to pull you forwards and away from combat.
In Superstar Saga, Peach’s voice has been stolen by the evil Cackletta and her loyal soldier Fawful. Mario and Luigi are of course outraged, but not more than Bowser. He is incensed that the woman of his dreams, the one he was planning to kidnap, now has no voice. He demands Mario and Luigi help him foil Cackletta’s fiendish plot like they always do to his own.
It’s in the story that Superstar Saga and, really all the Mario RPG titles, come into their own. There’s this irreverent, weird and witty humour to the whole affair. A sort of self-awareness and self-deprecation that’s really unNintendo. It’s a joy to behold.
Minions Quest. Not those yellow bastards
New to the 3DS remake is Minion’s Quest. A secondary adventure that runs parallel to Mario and Luigi’s. It sees Captain Goomba commanding an ever-growing army of minions, in an attempt to rescue Bowser from Fawful.
It does away with any exploration and turn-based battle. Instead, it’s more like StreetPass Battle/Warrior’s Way. Battles are automated and players need to select the appropriate units to defeat their enemies. There are three types; melee, flying and ranged. Melee is strong against ranged, but weak against flying. Ranged is strong against flying and flying is strong against melee.
It’s explained in-game like a pyramid. Very much the way strengths and weaknesses work in Fire Emblem. Players are given a preview of what enemies will feature in the next battle and must build a team of eight minions accordingly.
At first, it seems like a pretty benign distraction from the main adventure. After a while though, I was hooked. The same ridiculous humour is on full display as Captain Goomba is oblivious to his lack of respect and command. It’s also actually pretty fun and cute to go behind the scenes and watch as Bowser’s foot soldiers go about their duty.
It’s the gameplay that had me coming back again and again though. While I had no direct control over the battles themselves, putting together just the right combination of units and smashing the enemy was a joy. Over time your Captains gain additional powers like rallying your team and calling reinforcements too. And you’ll need it. Damn, does Minion’s Quest get tough.
I feel pretty, oh so pretty
The original on GBA was no slouch when it came to visuals, but after 14-years an upgrade was required. Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions adopts the watercolour, sprite style of other Mario & Luigi titles and looks the goods. Characters are expressive and colourful and the backgrounds and scenery are every bit as cartoonish as you’ve come to expect.
The sound design is also top notch. I found myself walking around humming or whistling battle or world map music every day. The adorable (though just a little racist) Italian nonsense that Mario and Luigi speak made me smile every time too. Charles Martinet you bloody legend.
This remake is more than a straight port and it’s more than a standard remake. It’s a pretty big overhaul of an already very well put together game. The updated graphics and audio make full use of the 3DS and make a worthwhile journey. The gameplay is every bit as good as it always has been. Mario RPG fans are in for a treat whether they’ve played it before or not. Minion’s Quest is an utterly addictive, strategic battle game within an RPG. It extends the life of the gameplay and helps fill in some back story too.
What’s not to love?
It’s been a bumper year for 3DS and this could certainly be the cherry on top. It’s well worth a look and will likely keep you entertained for a good many hours.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions was reviewed on 3DS using a digital code provided to PowerUp! by Nintendo.
Game Title: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions
The Bros. Bruh - 9.5/10
Turn-based bouncing - 7/10
Bowser the foil - 9/10