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Platform: GameBoy Advance
Genre: RPG / Platformer
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Alpha Dream
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Released: Q4 2003

 

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Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

Pros:

- Full of details for Mario fans

- Deep gameplay with very balanced execution

- Lots of game time

- Plenty of fun, especially the twin masseuses

 

 

Cons:

- Kills productivity

 

 

Related Links:

Review: Paper Mario (N64)

Review: Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Brothers 3 (GBA)

Review: Super Mario Sunshine (GC)

Action Figure: Luigi (Luigi's Mansion)

"Every GameBoy Advance owner should have a copy of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga in their game library."

 

Luigi has always received the short end of the stick.  He continually plays second fiddle to Mario’s heroics and although he doesn’t get top billing in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and you play both Mario and Luigi, there’s the feeling that Luigi finally gets his due to some extent.

 

mariol luigi superstar saga          mario luigi superstar saga

 

Superstar Saga (SS), besides having oodles of gaming goodness, explores Luigi’s bruised psyche as the plumbing brothers go off on yet another quest – this time to recapture Prince Peach’s voice, which has been stolen by the über villain from the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom.  Incredibly enough, Mario and Luigi team up with Bowser early on to set things right.  It’s a leap of logic for Mario fans, but it’s a strangely appealing setup.  Once they cross the border and get up to their elbows in the geopolitical conundrums of the area while recapturing Peach’s voice, Mario and Luigi find themselves drafted to stop a nefarious plan that may rip both the Beanbean and Mushroom Kingdoms apart.  The adventure is full of fun, particularly for fans of Mario – right back to the Donkey Kong days.

 

 

Gameplay mixes standard platforming with big doses of role-playing and turn-based combat.  There are quite a few instances of Mario and Luigi splitting up, but for most of the game you control both Mario and Luigi simultaneously via the “A” and “B” buttons.  It’s a simple control scheme that actually grows more complicated as you progress and acquire more abilities.  The magic of it is, is that it never becomes overwhelming, even during the trickier puzzles, mini-games or during combat.

 

SS takes its combat cues from Paper Mario (on the N64).  It’s all turn-based, meaning that every option can be considered during an attack.  Should you boost Mario’s heath with a mushroom or throw a 1UP mushroom to Luigi so he isn’t dead?  Use a Brothers Attack or use your hammer?  Or just run away?  I think I ran away from one fight, because the chance to defend against opponent attacks (and even mete out some punishment during an attack) makes getting killed a result of your bad timing and not because the AI is so good.  The combat is addictive to the point that I went out of my way to challenge enemies on the map – it also helps that defeating foes is the way to earn experience points.

 

mario luigi superstar saga          mario luigi superstar saga

 

Leveling up is the key to increasing your stats (including one category labeled “stache”) so that even the most powerful enemies fall that much faster.  There are other ways to increase the power of both Luigi and Mario.  Buying more durable and powerful pants (yes, pants) helps as does acquiring special badges that can mean the difference between an easy fight and certain death.  (The effects of each are effective only when worn.)  There are also a plethora of edible power-ups that imbue temporary effects to the eater.  In short, there’s a lot here to recommend itself to the RPG crowd.

 

But the player who will get the most from SS will have strong memories of Mario games gone by.  The development team plays around a lot with the Mario legacy, inserting situations, items and enemies that only Mario fans will truly appreciate.  For example, one wing of the Beanbean Kingdom’s university is a research lab dedicated to the question mark boxes from previous Mario titles.  Even if you don’t really “get” all the references, SS manages to be a funny game.  At one point, Mario and Luigi enter a “Relaxation Center” and have an encounter with twin masseuses.  Maybe there wasn’t supposed to be any double entendres but I couldn’t help guffawing over the dialogue.

 

On the presentation side, SS showcases some excellent animation.  It’s incredible the amount of expression the characters exhibit even though they’re relatively small.  The backgrounds and environments are pure Mario, even though the adventure takes place in a foreign land.

 

Every GameBoy Advance owner should have a copy of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga in their game library.  It comes highly recommended and it’s chock-a-block full of action, strategy, humor, mini-games, it'll take many hours to finish, and Luigi finally gets some props.  Buy!

 

- Omni

(February 8, 2004)

 

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