In 1996, Nintendo and Square Enix teamed up to release what would go on to become the acclaimed Super Mario RPG, successfully combining Nintendo’s Mario franchise with Square Enix’s Final Fantasy style of game to become a cultural icon. It was such a gigantic hit, even if they forgot to make a PAL version, meaning Australia and other territories never got to experience its initial Super Nintendo release. Fortunately, that mistake has now been corrected, with Super Mario RPG receiving a modern facelift and global release on the Nintendo Switch.
While we won’t be able to comment on how it feels to play now as opposed to back then, from the endless hours of YouTube viewing, it is clear that this game has been able to retain all of the RPG elements that made it so great in the first place, all while receiving a graphical facelift and some improved controls to deliver one of the most unique Mario games ever made.
Retaining its charming and iconic visual style, these beautifully rendered worlds are infused with some glossy-looking CGI cut scenes that help make the game feel modern. The transition to the Switch has not compromised the essence of the original aesthetic but rather enhanced it, and the colourful environments and character designs are as captivating as they were back then. Adding characters outside of the traditional Mario lore, like the skeleton of a Mastodon and a living Birthday Cake (I’m not kidding!) all feel right at home here, and the modem makeover is simply superb.
Turn, Turn and Stomp
Super Mario RPG’s turn-based combat system is both accessible for newcomers and engaging for RPG regulars. You can use timed button presses during attacks to deal out double damage, and can also chain moves together to get a Triple Move, which is accompanied by a slick cutscene. The variety of characters, each with their own unique abilities, provides an impressive amount of balance, as you really get a sense of what each character can do best.
Bowser has a glove that he uses to throw Mario at enemies; this was by far my favourite to use, even when it was not overly practical. Mario has a hammer that he can use to bash enemies and the kicking of a koopa shell is also a highlight. Progressing in this game is pretty straightforward, and as someone who isn’t well-versed in RPGs, I found this really accessible without being too easy. Sure there are parts, particularly in the early hours, where you can breeze right through enemies without too much trouble, but by the final hours of the game, I had found a general rhythm along with combos that worked for me.
With its engaging combat, side quests, and hidden secrets, Super Mario RPG offers a satisfying level of depth and replayability. The main story may not be exceptionally lengthy, but this still took me about 14 hours to get through. There is also the ability to replay boss fights after you have finished the main story with an increased level of difficulty. Completionists will love the Monster List, with checkmarks you can use Mallow’s Thought Peek ability on. That being said, I can understand that this might not be for everyone.
Super Mario RPG’s story is a delightful departure from the typical Mario formula. The Mushroom Kingdom is threatened by the Smithy Gang, a group of sentient swords who take over the kingdom. This then forces Mario to team up with unlikely allies, including Princess Peach, Bowser, and Geno, to save the day. You need to collect seven-star pieces to defeat the sentient weapons and restore peace to the kingdom. It has a hilariously unhinged style of humour that was quite surprising for this genre, and surprisingly fits in really well. While the story may not reach the emotional depth of some modern RPGs, it is lighthearted enough and the humorous tone is a perfect fit for the Mario universe.
It’s the Remix
The soundtrack of Super Mario RPG is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time. From the catchy battle themes to the emotional melodies, the music complements the game’s atmosphere perfectly. The Switch version maintains the original’s audio quality while offering the option to switch between the classic and updated soundtracks easily in the in-game menu, catering to both purists and those looking for an updated take on the music.
I cannot recommend keeping the setting on the updated version enough. While the classic will please fans of the original, after consistently switching between both during my play, the updated beats are an absolute bop.
Super Mario RPG on the Nintendo Switch is a delightful journey down memory lane for fans of the original and a fantastic introduction for those new to the game in Australia and other territories where it was not released in 1996. While some aspects may feel a tad dated, the overall experience is a testament to the timeless appeal of this classic pairing of genres. With its engaging gameplay, charming visuals, and memorable soundtrack, Super Mario RPG is a must-have for the Nintendo Switch and a must-play for RPG enthusiasts and Mario fans alike.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Beautifully updated graphics; Addictive gameplay; General replayability
Lowlights: Short campaign for an RPG
Developer: Nintendo, Square Enix
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.