I figured I'd start off the new format with one of my favorite games of all time. I refer to, of course, Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars. Released in North America on May 13th of 1996, SMRPG was the result of a collaboration between Square (now Square-Enix, the same company who produces the legendary Final Fantasy series) and Nintendo. The game is primarily an RPG as the title implies, but also contains elements of adventure and platforming. The battle system is turn based, with the inclusion of "Timed Hits."
Gamers in the PAL regions (read: Europe and Australia) would not be able to play this game without importing until released on the Wii's virtual console a whole 12 years later.
What kept this game under the radar for a lot of gamers is that it was released less than half a year before the N64 came out. This pattern will continue for other Super Mario RPG games (see: Paper Mario).
The story is tragically familiar. Princess Peach is off, alone, picking flowers, when Bowser swoops down from the sky and picks her up. Mario pursues Bowser to his castle. The game starts off at said castle, which proves to be a tutorial area. At the conclusion, Bowser is defeated and Mario grabs for the Princess...
And that's when the shit hits the fan. A giant claymore named Exor pierces the clouds, sending 7 stars flying in different directions, and impales itself in Bowser's castle, scattering the three inhabitants across the mushroom kingdom. Mario lands in his house nearby, and goes back to the castle, but the claymore destroys the bridge, leaving Mario stuck across the valley. This is where the story really begins. Mario speaks to the Toad Chancellor, who suggests he go and speak to "Frogfucious" for advice, who's name is as hilarious as his character is. Mario bumps into Mallow, a cloud spirit who believes himself to be a tadpole and disciple of Frogfucious, and they venture off together...
Eventually, Mario meets Geno, one of the coolest characters ever. Geno explains that he has been sent from the heavens to help repair Star Road, the remnants thereof are the colored stars scattered across the land. Each of these protagonists (and two others, who I won't name!) join Mario under the common goal of defeating Exor and collecting the pieces of the Star Road (and of course, saving the missing princess!)
What sets the game apart from the generic RPGs is the humor. SMRPG is chock full of ironic, hilarious moments, and contains plenty of facepalm moments. Even the enemies participate in dialogue that serves as comic relief! Well, in between beatin your face in! The level of challenge the first time through is just right. You'll never have to grind levels to beat bosses. The puzzles, while few and far between, are not easy. And for those of you who love searching every inch of the game, I bet you won't find the casino...
Furthermore, the musical score is phenomenal. It provides the right ambiance, and never gets annoying. Okay, maybe the battle music will get on your nerves, but it's not obnoxious. Take a listen to this forest maze music!
The name of this song is "Beware the forest mushrooms." That's because they attack you!
This game is chock full of secrets, more than enough to satiate the completionist gamer. Oh, good for you, you found the casino, but did you find the lazy shell? (For those of you that have, I actually found the fertilizer on my own, with no aid, and it was one of the most WTF THATS AWESOME moments I remember!)
The musical score is brilliant, the graphics are pretty nice for a Super Nintendo game, the challenge level is just right, there are puzzles, there is platforming, this is Mario at his absolute best. You owe it to yourself to play this game.
For those of you that have played it:
What are your opinions on this game? Any good memories?
Remember, try to avoid spoilers!