Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Game Boy Advance

Review by Pete Dorr



Graphics: 8

Sound: 7.5

Gameplay: 7.5

Overall: 8

marioluigigba1.jpg (46017 bytes)Todays RPG's are all about captivating stories, eye popping graphics, and battle systems that need to be so good that we wont mind the countless hours we spend fighting in them. It's becoming harder and harder these days to find an RPG that can not only meet all of those above qualities, but execute them so well that its unlike any other role playing game that we have played before. In 1996 Squaresoft put out Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo. The fun battle system, interesting story, and bright, cheery graphics marked it as one of the best RPG titles of its time, and is still loved and enjoyed by many hardcore RPG fans today.

Five years later on Nintendo 64 Paper Mario was released. This time a new approach was taken, adding a slightly new battle system as well as the "Paper on 3D" feel of its graphics, and this is one of the best RPG's I have ever played. After I heard about a new Mario RPG coming out, I waited in anticipation to find out exactly how Nintendo could to p the near perfection of Paper Mario. How did it fare? Read on.

In Mario & Luigi you take the role of both brothers, fighting together, adventuring together, and for the first time ever, rescuing Princess Peach together. Its all done by a system similar to Ico on Playstation 2, as both brothers must help each other by using their own special powers to reach places they normaly would not be able to reach alone. Such powers include high jumping to hard to reach places, twirling each other over a large gap, and even bashing one another with a hammer to fit through or under small holes or gates.

While all of this might sound fun, its very irritating to pull off these moves, having to constantly switch between all of their abilities using the L and R buttons as well as use the A button to control Mario's abilities and the B button to control Luigi's abilities, you will find yourself constantly switching between their abilities to just make both brothers jump up a small step. While this might not sound that hard, it becomes too overdone when you have places where you must jump, high jump, swing across, and pound each other with the hammer all within about 10 seconds of running around, which puts a huge delay in how fast paced the game should be.

marioluigigba2.jpg (41268 bytes)The battle system is very similar to Paper Mario, only this time the only party members you will ever have are Mario & Luigi. Having only two characters is just fine, because in battles both brothers use fighting styles similar to that of Chrono Trigger, where the characters will interact and form combos that can only be pulled off when they are executed together. The attacks you use are all timed button presses that can either require little skill to do, as the game will help you out by doing the attacks in slow motion and letting you know when to press the right buttons, which in turn makes your attacks much weaker but much simpler to pull off, or you can play at normal speed with no button pressing indicators, allowing you to deal maximum damage.

The combo attacks are well pulled off in the sense that you really feel like you are contributing to the battle and not just pressing a button or two and watch all the action happen before you. Like almost all RPG's the bro thers have HP for life and BP which is basicaly magic points used to pull off combo attacks. You may also use items and run away from battles. At the end of each battle both characters are rewarded with experience points, which in turn help them level up, which raises their stats such as power, HP, defense, and speed to name a few. The best part about leveling up is the bonus stats that each character gets for each level.

These bonus points are controlled by the player, and can be placed in any of the stats to add extra points to that attribute. Once you select the attribute you want to add the bonus points to, a meter comes up that places a random number between 1 and 3 (when you first start out, the number will increase larger the higher your level to say 1-5 on level 20) and whichever number it stops on is how much extra stat points are added to that attribute. This allows for a larger variety for the player to customize each brother, like making Luigi's HP higher than Mario's but making Mario's attack power higher than Luigi's.

Like in almost all RPG's, there are different towns you can visit that have shops where you may buy equipment for Mario and Luigi to equip for higher stats, or items to use in (and out) of battle. Between these towns are places like forests and caves that are loaded with many different kinds of enemies that can be seen on screen before entering battle. One problem here is the the games camera view, which is an overhead top to bottom view of the game which in turn makes certain pathways very hard to notice and will have you running by many paths that could normaly be easily detected. While this is not a major problem, it could have been avoided with a better camera angle, or even a useful world map that was detailed showing paths that have not yet been taken.

marioluigigba3.jpg (42681 bytes)The story is not enough to make anyone want to buy the game for, or even play the game for. Its very basic, Princess Peach's voice has been stolen and has been replaced with actual bombs that explode when she talks. Mario is called in to find out who took her voice, and get it back for her. Bowser also needs Mario's help as he can not capture Princess Peach anymore because her bombs will wreck his castle. Luigi is mistakenly forced into this adventure with Mario when he is mistaken for one of Bowser's badies to help Mario with capturing the villian who stole Princess Peaches voice. Who stole the voice? Why do they want it? That is for you to find out.

The graphics pretty impressive, as they try to keep a cartoon feel by outlining items and characters with dark lines and adding in solid colors to everything. It looks just how Paper Mario would look on handheld, only without the 3D settings. Details are limited, and special effects are few and far between, but it is all made up by the games fluid and simply amazing animations. Each enemy is given its own personalized movement and attacks, plus they all run very smooth and look spectacular. Boss battles are simply some of the best animation to ever grace the Gameboy Advance. Most bosses are large, and move exactly how you would expect them to move if you were watching a cartoon in real life. While these graphics do not push the capabilities of the GBA such as games like Golden Sun, the animations make up for it.

The sound is what you would expect from a Mario game. The same tunes that loop over and over, and were somehow very catchy to listen to on the earlier in the series, but are not fun now. They become annoying pretty fast after listening to the same tune for over 30 minutes while in that one dungeon, cave, castle, or forest you are in. Luckily some of the original Mario tunes are included such as the cave theme from the original Mario Bros game, completely remixed. Battle music is good enough not to bug you too much, and I simply love the Boss Battle music. The sound effects now include Mario and Luigi to say very short one word phrases for things such as selecting their abilities. If you select the "Jump" ability Mario or Luigi will say "Jump", which also sounds very good. It's too bad the whole game was not in sound dialogue, but that's pretty hard to pull off on the GBA with its capabilities for audio.

Overall this game suffers from a few problems that are nit picky enough to make this game often irritating to play. While in no means in Mario & Luigi a bad game, in fact its a very good game, only some of its little problems turn into big issues a few hours into the game.


  • Battles are well done
  • Animation is top notch
  • Character customization is great


  • Switching between abilities is annoying
  • Camera view makes paths hard to notice
  • Sound becomes too repetitive
  • Does not live up to Paper Mario quality


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Last updated: Sunday, September 25, 2005 02:25 PM