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Developer:
AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: GBA
Release Date: November 21, 2003

by Eric Arevalo




Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is an excellent RPG full of humor and excitement. Intelligent Systems gave us the equally impressive Paper Mario for N64. AlphaDream now continues the grand legacy of exciting RPG games set in the Mario world with Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga for GBA. Each of these games have been developed by different companies but all have had their own unique qualities. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of those GBA games you don’t easily forget because of its beautiful graphics, intense gameplay and its very humorous and well-crafted storyline.


Princess Peach is in danger once again. This time it is not because of Bowser but the cruelty of the evil witch Cackletta. Cackletta steals Princess Peach’s beautiful voice for use in her plans to rule the world. Even worse it seems that her words now turn to explosive bombs when she speaks. It will be up to Mario as well as Luigi to save the day once more. Mario and Luigi will have to go to the nearby Beanbean kingdom where it is said Cackletta plots her next move. Do not rule Bowser out of the equation just yet because he helps you at the very beginning for his own reasons by taking you to the Beanbean kingdom in the Koopa cruiser. What is Bowser’s role in the scheme of things? Will Cackletta rule over all and will the princess get her voice back? You will have to play yourself to find out in a well-crafted story that takes many surprising twists and turns!


Yes, you heard it correctly, Luigi, who has always remained in Mario’s shadow, now has a major role in the adventure. Both Mario and Luigi will have to work together because it is through teamwork that they will be able to solve the many clever puzzles along the way. Each character is controlled individually, Mario with the A button and Luigi with the B button. It’s not like other RPG games where one button controls all characters at the same time. This control scheme is necessary because there will be times when you have to control both brothers at the same time, like in battle where both of them are being attacked and both must dodge the attacks. This control scheme can be a bit confusing at first but you will eventually get used to it.


The only playable characters in the game are Mario and Luigi. That is just fine as you will have to master many unique and special moves for each brother. For example, in order to jump to higher places Luigi must jump on Mario’s shoulders. In order for Mario to enter small areas Luigi must hit Mario with his hammer to turn him into mini Mario. In combat you can use Bros. attacks, jumping, hammers and eventually an elemental power to defeat your enemies. In battle teamwork is also important in unleashing Bros. attacks against the enemies, which are special and powerful moves which require both brothers to unleash. One Bros. attack in battle has Luigi using his hammer to hit Mario like a golf ball against the enemy. Another one has Mario jumping on Luigi’s back to get an increase in jump power when landing on an enemy.


I was impressed by the design of many of the different types of boss battles because you will have to understand how they attack before you can defeat them. There is once instance where you will have to go up against a huge Piranha plant but can only defeat it by understanding the meaning of the different colors it changes to in battle. Later, you will have to go up against an enemy that is made up entirely of soda. Regular battles with enemies also require strategy as certain enemies require different tactics to be defeated. Some enemies such as the spiked ones are better dealt with by hammers than by jumping on them. Yes, as in other Mario RPG games you can find special badges along the way, which are accessories that will upgrade your stats in many areas. One badge will let you do double damage on spiked enemies. You can find badges, health items, as well as armor in village shops that you come across in your journey.


Of course there are many other special moves that you will discover as you are playing. Eventually the puzzles and battles become more interesting because the brothers gain an elemental hand power with Mario controlling Fire and Luigi controlling Thunder. Many puzzles will be tied to the proper use of these new abilities such as opening passages when certain objects are touched by Thunder or fire. With this new elemental power the brothers gain new moves and Bros. attacks that they can use together. One move has Mario scorching poor Luigi’s back side with fire which causes him to speed up with Mario following ever after him.


There are many different regions that you will traverse in the Beanbean kingdom. You will journey across a forest, a desert, a beach area, a university, an underwater area and many others created in stunning detail that makes you appreciate the power of the GBA to provide such visuals. There is one area that has waterfalls cascading down a mountain in the background or the desert that shows little puffs of dirt being blown by the wind. Many little details such as this are scattered throughout the game. The familiar RPG trappings are here, Mario and Luigi go up in levels when enough experience has been gained and they can level up in attack, defense and other stats. You are also given the chance to apply a certain amount of random points to one specific area that you choose as a bonus.


Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga offers over 30 hours of exciting gameplay across many different regions. What will keep you playing through all that time is not just all the neat moves or the excellent graphics but the well-crafted and humorous story. One of the things that is often overlooked in RPG’s is the writing, the quality of how the story is presented and the conversations you have with characters. There is one character, Fawful, Cackletta’s evil assistant that at one point mentions something to the brothers like, “You will be the mustard on Cackletta’s sandwich of doom…” This and other lines impressed me because it shows that the team handling the witty and humorous dialogue knows that there are many of us that appreciate this type of detail instead of games with poor dialogue meant to appeal to general audiences. You will also appreciate the humorous expressions that appear on the characters in certain situations such as when Luigi begins trembling with fright when he is told he must go on a quest alone to find a cure for an injured Mario.


There is not much to find fault with in this game beyond the initial frustration with controlling both brothers. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one GBA game you just have to purchase this holiday season with its well-crafted story, beautiful graphics and very exciting gameplay!


Final Grade: 96%


                  
Just RPG Award of Excellence!



Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga Official Website




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