Let me start off by saying I never got around to playing the original version of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Whatever the circumstances were it somehow flew underneath my radar and my first Mario & Luigi game was Partners in Time for the DS. Suffice it to say I was extremely happy to find out that a remake was being made for the 3DS (even if it wouldn’t include the 3D feature), but I’m happy to say that the game holds up even to today’s gameplay standards and the visuals look as good if not better than the recent Mario & Luigi titles. It also comes with a bonus game mode called Minion Quest: the Search for Bowser to sweeten the deal that much more.
The story is pretty much classic Mario and mainly used as a backdrop for the great gameplay and side characters. After being summoned to the Mushroom Palace to intercept and stop Bowser from stealing Princess Peach again, the Bros. and Bowser witness the Beanish witch, Cackletta and her minion, Fawful, steal Princess Peach’s voice and replace it with explosives. Bowser then decides to team up with the Bros. to save Peach with the intention of stealing her once her voice won’t blow him up. Mario, Luigi, and Bowser then fly to the Beanbean Kingdom with Bowser’s airship and thus starts their journey and high jinks.
Considering I never played Superstar Saga at its original release I was kind of worried the overall gameplay would feel a little archaic, but fortunately it still seems to hold up perfectly. There were a few times where I could tell that this was the first in the series by how much they would stop and really explain the team work and the separate buttons to control each character. Since I am now a seasoned Mario & Luigi player this kind of slowed down the momentum in spots and some of the puzzles were a bit easy since I understand how the Bros. work together.
The battle layout is, again, largely the same as the rest of the series and from what I could find has received a nice visual and layout upgrade. You have your standard jump attack where you can press the attack button again just as you hit your target to trigger an additional jump. You have your hammers and elemental attacks as well; Mario gets fire and Luigi gets electricity. The main thing that makes these team up games great are the co-op moves or “Bros. Attacks” where one of the Bros. will essentially use the other to help power their attack. There is a nice range of different types of attacks and each attack has an unlockable more powerful version and you will have to determine which attack will do the best against the target you’re currently facing. It helps add a bit of depth to the combat with certain enemies and boss fights that may be immune to certain attacks.
This being a RPG you will gain experience points for each battle and level up. Most of these stats are pretty typical to the RPG genre, but of course they are renamed to fit our heroes. HP (Health), BP (Bros Points), POW (attack power), DEF (Defense), Speed (How often you can attack), Stache (Luck). Leveling up will distribute a set of points between each attribute, but what is nice here is that you will then be able to choose a category to get some extra points in by timing an “A” button press with a slot machine of numbers. This is a good way to maybe boost up some lower leveled stats quicker.
What I love about the Mario & Luigi games are the outrageous characters and humor and I’m glad to see that even in the very first game of the series they have a ton of it, if not more. There is a ton of fan service in this game that had me cracking up throughout, especially focused on Luigi. Luigi is definitely the butt of the joke more often then not, characters not knowing who he is, being called “Green Mario”, etc. The dialogue is hilariously superb. Luckily for Luigi, he does get quite a bit of the spot light to saving the day and is equally used in all puzzles and battles, so don’t feel too bad for him.
The graphics of the new version look smooth and polished. Compared to the old version, it is definitely a much needed upgrade. Everything has been reworked and some designs are even more in line to the Mario Universe standards now. Now it isn’t 100% perfect visually considering the hardware, but it does a very good job at keeping everything fairly clean and eliminates some aliasing. If there is one thing I am a bit disappointed about is they didn’t bother adding 3D, which seems strange considering the battle intro’s have icons flying towards your face and such. Not sure if this was a specific decision or some sort of issue implementing the 3D feature, but is seems to be a wasted opportunity.
As far as sound design goes, there obviously isn’t any voiced dialogue as is tradition for a Mario game, but all the sound effects and music are well done and high quality. It’s funny listening to Mario and Luigi mumbling Italian to each other which I don’t remember them doing that often in the rest of the series. The sound track has a great variety of whimsical and intense battle tunes to fit each scenario; whether it’s a silly pun or fighting a big boss the music fits the scene perfectly.
Not everything in Superstar Saga is perfect however and most of my gripes come down to some mission designs. There are multiple times where progression seems to run right into a wall after the mid point of the game. It almost feels like it was intentional to somehow just pad out some game time. About the midway point you will be tasked to collect the Bean Star fragments around the map you have already been to, but it doesn’t stop there. You will then be tasked on another fetch quest to collect 7 fruits around the map to then collect one of the fragments. It’s not particularly hard, it’s just sort of frustrating and I wish they would have thought of a more intriguing way to increase game time than multiple fetch quests.
Minion Quest: The Search for Bowser
As if there wasn’t enough work put into this remaster, there is an entire new side mode called Minion Quest: The Search for Bowser. This story unfolds alongside the main Mario Bros story and it involves Bowser’s minions battling the enemies of the Beanbean Kingdom to rescue Bowser. If you play Superstar Saga first you will recognize the main characters as the first two Goomba’s you fight, after the fight they are thrown in a barrel quickly to be forgotten until you start the Minion Quest. The opening starts with the two Goomba’s in the barrels with a short dialogue about the Goomba’s needing to make an uprising to show their true potential and thus they became Captain Goomba and Private Goomp.
The gameplay here is vastly different than the main game where you build and army to fight other armies. At first the gameplay seems pretty shallow and a bit boring during the opening few levels, but it quickly gains depth. Battles consist of your army fighting another in an automated rock/paper/scissors out come; melee>ranged>air>melee. You have to make sure you properly prepare your army for each battle to make sure you have the proper units to overcome your enemies. During the fights some units will perform a special power move that will require you to press “A” at the proper time similar to the jump attack for the Mario Bros. Playing as the captain also grants you a few special moves yourself. For example if you notice in time an enemy charging up for a power attack you can use you captains ability to shut down his super. I have to give them props for this addition. Not only is it a fun way to experience a different perspective to the main story, it actually is a ton of fun despite there not being a ton of depth to it.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions is a great example of how to do a remaster. Everything is reworked, updated, and looks fantastic, but still retains the charm of the original. Despite a few design problems with some annoying fetch quests and the disappointing lack of the 3D, this is one of the most fun experiences I have had with the Mario & Luigi franchise. On top of the fantastic remake they throw in an entire mode that adds brand new gameplay to the Mario & Luigi franchise and lets you experience the story from a different perspective. All of this wrapped up in a sweet $39.99 package makes this a great purchase for new players or those returning to the Beanbean Kingdom.
New Game Review – Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions is available now on Nintendo 3DS