Review by ChillBoomstick
The superstars return to 3DS, even better than before
For the first ever remake of a Mario role-playing game, it was certainly surprising to see this game ever come into fruition, as many had thought AlphaDream went on to make the next brand new entry in this franchise instead. Of course, going into it, a new brand of expectations are set for old fans and the newcomers as well.
Being the first game in the widely loved Mario & Luigi series remade two generations ahead of it's original launch, it proves itself as a welcoming entry for people unsure of the franchise, and to look back upon what made this franchise so fun and awesome back then.
But just because it is a remake doesn't always mean it will be simply just better. There will be changes, and these will be the main primary topics of this review, and why I believe Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions to be the next claim to fame for JRPG fans owning a 3DS.
Now of course, in a remake, what will obviously be remixed the most is the graphics. Backgrounds and settings look even better than the GBA original, more lush and detailed than ever before, exactly what I and probably many others want from a remake like it. No stone was left unturned in recreating the Beanbean Kingdom.
But not everything will transition well, either. The character sprites are definitely hit and miss. A good few I thought looked better, but the original had superior spritework no doubt. But the effort they went to recreate that charm the best they could is admired.
There are some... Minor character changes as well, and it is bothersome for fans like myself to see some of the changes, but they don't get in the way of this game's quality, and if this does end being your first Mario & Luigi title, this should be no issue.
But speaking of characters, the stars of this show are Mario and Luigi, siblings controlled by the Circle Pad, the left and right triggers to change commands, and the A and B buttons respectively to use their specific actions, such as their jumps or hammers. Each brother being controlled by one button is a big part of what makes this series so unique, but that would sound lame if that was it.
In battle, the two buttons really shine. You use them for mainly three things; Counters, Dodging, and Timed Hits/Actions. Timed Hits are easy to understand and to pull off, you either press the brother's assigned button again before hitting a enemy for a double jump, when a fire or spark is fully charged, or when your hammer glows.
And when the turn shifts to the enemy side, you can either do damage to them in a variety of ways, or outright avoid the attack, and yes, almost every attack can be dodged in this game. But proper timing of both A and B is important, and every single enemy has their own counters and dodges you must learn to survive this game.
But that's just the basics. When you gain a new movement ability on the field, like high jumping off another bro, or even hitting them in the back with electricity, there is usually new Bros. Attacks to go with them.
Bros. Attacks are what you'll be using through most of the boss encounters, thanks to their powerful striking power. But they aren't as easy to pull off as a basic command to make up for it, using a series of A and B combos to make just one of these Attacks up.
Mastering them can be a bit tough at first, but you have both demos showing you how to perform them, and even a practice option to get your timing just right. And if they are still too hard for you, you can use an easier and slower version at the cost of more BP.
What is BP? Well, there are six stats to keep track of in this game. HP, BP, POW, Speed, Defense, and Stache. HP is exactly what you probably know it is, the tracker of how many hits you can take until the bro falls. BP is similar, but the more Bros. Attacks you use, the lower it gets until 0, but Syrups can restore those numbers easily. POW is your attack stat, and Speed and Defense are exactly what they sound like. Stache is special, as it raises both your Lucky Hit rate and can get you discounts for shops.
There are two ways to change your stats. The first is your standard level up system, and if you feel unhappy with a stat here, you can use a roulette to boost that stat up numbers 1-5, determined on how good the game sees that stat as. The second is through badges and gear, which you will find tons of throughout, eitherthrough shops, battles, or even minigames. The equipment pieces also have special abilities tied to them most of the time, so you could consider a stat decrease if a gear's ability seems useful enough to trade that off.
Overall, the battle system is great in this game. It never slows down, it never drags out, and remains a frantic fun time for all of the battles.
But that's only half of Superstar Saga, you will also be exploring a lot too. Whether it be platforming through the shining Stardust Fields, or using your Bros. Moves to their best in Hoohoo Mountain, the Overworld gameplay is a pleasure to go through.
It gets the feel of Super Mario down pat, especially with X now letting the Bros. both jump at the same time. But I think the Bros. Moves can be sometimes intrusive of that. They're not too annoying but a lot of times it can feel slowed down when I have to High Jump or make Mario mini somewhere. It helps with the puzzle elements a lot, at the cost of being slightly slow.
The issue however, are the main pacebreakers, the minigames. None of them are really too amazing or fun, some can be downright frustrating even. I never look forward to playing them, but this is something that holds true even for the original.
I must say though I am sad to see some of the "joke" overworld actions gone here. Since the Bros. shift position automatically when one of them needs to do a specific action, you don't get funny little bits like Luigi spitting out water when drinking from a fountain anymore.
What you do get though is the bottom screen, where you can tap any Bros. Move you have unlocked without having to shift through so many commands to find the one you need. It doesn't completely negate my complaint with Bros. Moves, but it remedies things a heck of a lot better than in the original, and for that I'm pleased. And if you don't need it, and seem to be a bit lost in a specific area, a mini map can replace the quick select.
And the overworld gameplay is wonderfully complimented by the world itself, the Beanbean Kingdom. Every area connects seamlessly, and none feel dull to explore, for the most part, with an awesome remixed soundtrack to back up this trek of beanish wonder. And if you need to get around fast, there are a lot of Warp Pipes scattered about for quick and easy transportation.
But how could I dodge over probably one of the best aspects of the series, the writing? The story itself is run of the mill for an RPG, but the characters make it way more entertaining than expected. Almost all of the main characters had me bursting in laughter from the wonderfully written script's tight jokes, and how deep these characters can feel at time as they develop with the game's progression. This is especially obvious in Bowser's Minions, or should I say Minion Quest, where the writing is at it's best I feel, knowing when to crack a smile, run a good gag, or get at your heartstrings.
Minion Quest is an optional side mode included, but it is not very deep, and no way would I recommend this as the reason to buy the game. As I stated, in terms of the writing, I love these characters, the story of a generic soldier, the regular Goomba, is told... So well oddly enough, and I never expected it to goes as deep as it did here. The story in Minion Quest is very good, and it is certainly the best aspect, and the reason to give it a shot and see it through.
Unfortunately, I think it falls flat... Everywhere else. Minion Quest is a simplified tactical RPG. But aside from a few skill commands every battle, it is nothing like the main campaign, and how it does things differently doesn't help.
Every battle is automatic, all you do is use your Captain Commands a few times to deny the enemy's Captain Command, or say try and boost your army to give yourself an advantage. Otherwise, just have to pray your team formation is better than the enemy.
This wouldn't be too terrible if it weren't for how things mainly go. You have to manage a lot of units... More than one team can handle. Even if you split your team by Captain Types, as I did, having to level each of the about 50-100+ Bowser's Minions you'll find across your journey to make sure your Squad is ready to face on the varying upon varying types of Enemy Squads? It is very obvious from this setup that grinding becomes required.
You can't just win the game with an all Melee unit team because there's plenty of battles with tons of Flying troops, you'll lose that fast. And if you try to vary it up, the formation you bring probably won't be as good for the next one, so you'll have to bring in new Minions, but then they probably won't be on par with your Minions, so then you have to replay a previous scenario to get them up to speed.
And even then, the Squad Level is mostly the determining factor. If your team is even a Squad Level short of the enemy, be prepared to grind them up, because unless Captain Commands are on your side, and if the enemy A.I doesn't decide to deny one of your best guy's special skill when it is about to be used, you are really not gonna win.
I did want to like this mode, but every battle begins to feel the same, as it really just comes down to 90% of the time the formation you bring into battle being the one the game wants and it being strong enough, to a point where a lategame tip just tells you to "raise your squad level". The EXP Beans you get from battles somewhat help this, but they are not enough, they really don't give nearly as much EXP as the actual fights do.
But, if you like the story as much as I do, try to stomach it if you play this. Don't rush it, have sessions between each world, and try to just think of the real reward: Seeing these Minions rise up to be the best they can be.
So, with the Bowser's Minions portion not being too good, is this game just a half-baked mess? No.
Superstar Saga is still the main attraction, Bowser's Minions just only slightly brings the score down. That is why I recommend that, if either a Mario or JRPG fan, or both, to pick up this game if you have a 3DS. It may not be the usual...
But I think this remake, even with the flaws it brings from the original and Bowser's Minions, will give you an adventure you'll never forget, and for the people who already played the original, this is the perfect way to re-experience the magic of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
Product Release: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions (US, 10/06/17)
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