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Super Mario RPG makes everything you love about the SNES game better – Preview

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Super Mario RPG lives once more, and although Geno didn’t make it into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a fighter, he is front and center in Nintendo’s next big game: a full, ground-up remake of Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars. 

Nintendo dropped the subtitle for its Nintendo Switch remake of the first ever Mario RPG, but in doing so has faithfully recreated a game that has delighted fans for decades. Super Mario RPG’s remake is still a couple weeks away from launch, but I’ve sunk some hours into it and came away with a pretty good understanding of the game and what you can expect. 

Here’s everything you might want to know about Super Mario RPG.


What is Super Mario RPG?

Nominally, Super Mario RPG is a remake of a fairly decent RPG from the Super Nintendo era, with a few extra quality of life additions here and there. If you’re expecting a gigantic overhaul or even a big twist, like Samus Returns on the 3DS or Final Fantasy 7 Remake, you’re going to be disappointed. 

The original Super Mario RPG was Nintendo’s first attempt at turning Mario into an RPG, something that would be followed up by Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi series. It was primarily developed by Square Enix back in the day, and you get the vibe that it was on a fairly tight budget — despite having a strong 3D-ish art style and a fairly well-developed story and level design, there was no open world to explore like other RPGs of the time, just a series of interconnected, but discrete, levels. 

The Switch version of Super Mario RPG takes that fairly solid foundation and does little more with it, fleshing it out with gorgeous cutscenes, a visual overhaul that delivers on the vibe set by the original, and adding little bits and pieces to the combat to make it a little more enjoyable. Make no mistake: this is the same game you know and love, just much prettier and on the Switch now. 

Wait, so there’s no new content? 

Well… it’s complicated. For now, consider Super Mario RPG a very straightforward, very faithful, very by-the-books remake — think The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, or Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe. The same as you know, just prettied up for a modern system and audience. 

That said, as I’ve mentioned there are new additions, and some changes from the original, too. Timing a perfect hit in combat now usually spreads attacks out to surrounding enemies, which can make battles much faster than in the original, and there’s a new Gauge Move mechanic that allows you to do huge special attacks depending on who’s in your party. 

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There have been a few tweaks to the writing, localisation, and characters too. One of the early examples of this is with Frogfucius, Mallow’s adoptive grandfather. In this new version, he’s been renamed to Frog Sage, which is a lot closer to the original Japanese name. Scripts have remained largely the same, but there have been a few tweaks basically throughout the entire game to update it for modern audiences. 

Just how faithful is this remake? 

Well, put it this way: when I was a kid, I absolutely sucked at navigating the Kero Sewers, one of the earliest dungeons in the game. I still suck at navigating the Kero Sewers now, but I looked up a SNES walkthrough for the dungeon and got through it just fine. There were some very minor changes, mostly in regard to enemy placement and return springs, but I got every item, fought every enemy, and navigated the entire dungeon based solely on a walkthrough that was written two decades ago. That strategy has held through most of the game, too (like when composing tadpole songs), so there should be plenty of information around if you get lost. 

Tell me more about these quality of life features.

The biggest addition for most players will be the difficulty settings. These have been detailed in the past, but the gist of it is that there are two difficulty options for playing through Super Mario RPG on the Switch: Normal, and Breezy. Normal plays pretty much exactly as the original did, though the combat changes are present here too so some aspects will be slightly easier than they used to be.

The Breezy difficulty makes things much easier, causing you to take less damage in battle, widening the window for timed attacks and blocks to make them easier to pull off, and a few more minor tweaks. Breezy does not mean you won’t die – if you’re not careful, you’ll still get your butt handed to you in tough fights – but it does make it much more approachable. The original was often a bit frustrating, but between new mechanics and the Breezy option, it finally feels fun to play 99% of the time. 

Okay but what about the soundtrack? 

Dear reader, the soundtrack is lovely. Yoko Shimomura is one of the best in the biz, and her original compositions have been lovingly arranged to sound absolutely phenomenal. And who did that arrangement? Why, Yoko Shimomura herself, of course. There are even some fully orchestrated pieces here and there, but I won’t spoil when those turn up — you’ll have to wait and see for yourself. 

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If you’re a long-time fan of the game and just can’t let go of the original tracks, you can switch back to them at any time, and they sound great too. Of course they do, it’s Yoko Shimomura. That said, the newly arranged tracks do sometimes have a very Kingdom Hearts-y vibe to them, even in tracks that didn’t really in the first place. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to your own perspective, but for me, it makes them even better. 

How does it run and look? 

Pretty great! The visuals try their hardest to capture the look and feel of the original’s pre-rendered sprites, and do an excellent job of that pretty much always. The performance is solid enough, the visuals are sharp and clear, and there’s very little presentation-wise that I would change. Nintendo seems to have put extra care into its cutscenes too, with some of the best cutscene direction in any Nintendo game when characters like Mallow and Geno are introduced, but even when we’re not cutting away to a pre-rendered cutscene, there’s some real charm to the animation and presentation that really is something special. 

Is Super Mario RPG for me? 

Probably! Honestly, I’d have a hard time not recommending Super Mario RPG to somebody, no matter their experience with the original game and the genre. Fans of the original SNES game will have absolutely plenty to keep their attention, and those who have never touched it will be able to experience the absolute best version of this game for the first time without losing anything, really, from the original. 

RPG fans are in for a treat, especially playing on the normal difficulty, because there’s a lot of strategy and the combat system is a treat, but newcomers will find a fun, approachable RPG that could be a gateway to more RPGs in the future. Generally, if you even halfway like Mario, you should probably play Super Mario RPG at some point. 

Super Mario RPG launches on the Nintendo Switch eShop and at retail on the 17th of November, and our full review will be available shortly before launch. You can find the best deals for the game in our Super Mario RPG Aussie Bargain Roundup.

All images provided by Nintendo.

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About The Author
Oliver Brandt
Deputy Editor, sometimes-reviewer, and Oxford comma advocate. If something's published on Vooks, there's a good chance I looked over it first. I spend way too much on games and use way too many em dashes.

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