Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
|Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga|
North American box art
|Series||Mario & Luigi|
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, known in Japan as Mario & Luigi RPG (マリオ＆ルイージRPG Mario ando Ruīji Aru Pī Jī?), is a role-playing video game developed by AlphaDream and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. The first game in the Mario & Luigi RPG series, Superstar Saga was followed by three sequels: Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story for the Nintendo DS, and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for the Nintendo 3DS. The game was later re-released for the Wii U Virtual Console on the Nintendo eShop in 2014.
The setting of the game begins in the Mushroom Kingdom, but progresses to the Beanbean Kingdom for the majority of the game. In the game, Mario and Luigi combat Cackletta, the primary antagonist. The quest begins when Cackletta, with the aid of her assistant Fawful, steals Princess Peach's voice after adopting the guise of an ambassador from Beanbean Kingdom.
A role-playing game, it centers on a battle system different from that of traditional games of the genre, with emphasis on timing and more elaborate attacks. The game is whimsical in tone, with various in-game jokes and comical references to the heritage of the Mario series. Superstar Saga was generally well received by critics, and IGN named it the twelfth best Game Boy Advance game of all time in their feature reflecting on the Game Boy Advance's lifespan.
The gameplay of Mario & Luigi differs from most other role-playing games due its focus on controlling Mario and Luigi simultaneously. During overworld sections, the direction pad controls Mario's movement with Luigi following closely, while Mario and Luigi's other actions are controlled individually with the A and B buttons respectively. The game begins with them being able to jump independently, though they will soon gain access to hammers and a variety of other techniques as the game progresses. For example, Luigi's hammer can be used to squash Mario into a smaller size, allowing to access small gaps, while placing Mario on Luigi's shoulders allows them to act like a propeller and hover across large gaps. Various enemies roam the overworld, and coming into contact with these enemies initiates a battle. Landing a hit on the enemy while on the overworld allows the player to deal pre-emptive damage, while the opposite is also possible.
Battles in Superstar Saga are turn-based. Mario and Luigi can attack normally either by jumping, which can deal multiple hits but when used against enemies covered in flames or with spikes, Mario or Luigi will get hurt, instead of the enemy. Another attack option is the hammer, which is powerful, but ineffective against flying enemies. Similar to previous Mario RPG titles, such as Super Mario RPG and the Paper Mario series, players can time button presses to make their attacks more effective, such as earning an extra jump attack or increasing the hammer's power. Introduced in this series is the way in which Mario and Luigi can defend themselves during an enemy's attack. When an enemy attacks, the brothers will be able to either jump or use their hammer which, when successfully timed, allows them to dodge their attacks and even deal counter damage (for example: if they jump on top of a charging Goomba). Throughout the game, players can unlock Bros. Attacks, which use Bros. Points (BP) which requires players to cooperate between Mario and Luigi's actions to perform powerful combination attacks. Players can also use items such as mushrooms for healing, peppers for boosting stats and 1UP mushrooms for reviving fallen bros. Defeating enemies earns experience points which help the bros level up and increase their stats, with players given the option to further increase the stats of one attribute every time they level up. Players can further improve their stats by equipping new gear to the Bros., or making them wear badges that give them special attributes.
Like other Mario titles for the Game Boy Advance, Superstar Saga features the enhanced remake of the Mario Bros. arcade game. The game also supports rumble functionality when used with the Nintendo GameCube's Game Boy Player accessory.
Unlike most games in the Mario series, this game is not set in the Mushroom Kingdom. Instead, Superstar Saga introduces the Beanbean Kingdom, a neighboring monarchy to the Mushroom Kingdom. Despite this, traditional enemies such as the Goomba are present, as well as new enemies exclusive to the game. The predominant race are the "Beanish", although there are other species such as the "Hoohooligans" and the Yoshis. No locations featured in the Beanbean Kingdom, with the exception of Bowser's Castle, existed in any earlier Mario series games.
The playable protagonists in the game are Mario and Luigi, whose quest is to rescue the voice of Princess Peach, the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom. The voice is stolen by the game's antagonists Cackletta and Fawful. Throughout the game, Mario and Luigi must work with the Beanbean monarchy headed by Queen Bean. Both she and her son, Prince Peasley, offer Mario and Luigi assistance. The youthful Prince Peasley is a celebrity figure in his native Beanbean Kingdom.
Deviating from a tradition of the Mario franchise, Superstar Saga's central antagonist is not Bowser, but the Beanish witch Cackletta. Bowser aids the protagonists during a period of the game, but Bowser's body becomes possessed by the consciousness of Cackletta to form the creature Bowletta. Cackletta is aided by the assailant Fawful, who is often characterized by his comical use of language, as evidenced by his famous quote "I HAVE FURY!" and who is also the antagonist in the sequel Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Additionally, Mario and Luigi have recurring incidents with a thief named Popple and his sidekick Rookie (amnesiac Bowser), who engages both protagonists in conflict at various times throughout the game. In one case, Popple fights alone. In another, he uses an amnesiac Birdo instead of Rookie.
The game opens with Princess Peach's voice being stolen by the witch Cackletta and replaced with explosives. After being summoned to the palace by Toad, Mario and Luigi confront and subdue Bowser, who coincidentally was attempting to kidnap Peach. Bowser decides against kidnapping her and teams up with Mario to retrieve her true voice back from Cackletta, who has fled to the Beanbean Kingdom, with the intention of kidnapping her afterward when her voice would not destroy his castle.
Mario, Luigi, and Bowser fly to the Beanbean Kingdom via Bowser's airship, the Koopa Cruiser. Mid-flight, Fawful attacks the cruiser and blows it out of the sky. Bowser and the brothers become separated. On their journey, the brothers rescue Prince Peasley, who had been transformed into a monster by Cackletta. The brothers reach Beanbean Castle Town and step into a trap laid by Cackletta that drops them into the sewers. The brothers learn that Cackletta's goal is to steal the Beanstar, a mystical object inside the castle which once awoken with Peach's voice will grant all of her wishes. Cackletta takes the Beanstar and attacks Mario and Luigi with a mutated form of the Queen Bean during her escape. After defeating the Queen, Mario and Luigi travel to Chucklehuck Woods to retrieve the Chuckola Reserve, a soda which will restore Queen Bean to her former state. They encounter Popple, a thief also after the Chuckola Reserve, with an amnesiac Bowser as his accomplice. The brothers manage to obtain the Reserve, return to Beanbean Castle Town, and cure Queen Bean.
Mario and Luigi then travel to Woohoo Hooniversity, where Cackletta plans to awaken the Beanstar. The Beanstar is exposed to Peach's voice, which causes it to go berserk and flee. Mario and Luigi then battle Cackletta and defeat her. Cackletta is severely incapacitated from the battle, so Fawful sucks up her soul into his "vacuum helmet" to save her life. Cackletta then commands Fawful to attack, but he is stopped by Prince Peasley. The brothers locate the Beanstar but encounter Popple and Bowser again. After battling them, the Beanstar is again exposed to Peach's voice. The four grab onto the Beanstar in an effort to keep it under control, but it shoots into the sky. The Beanstar explodes into four pieces, which scatter across Beanbean Kingdom, and the brothers become separated from Popple and Bowser. Mario and Luigi backtrack and meet Peach as she arrives in Beanbean Kingdom, who inexplicably has her own voice. They discover that Prince Peasley had learned of Cackletta's plot and warned the Princess beforehand and Birdo, disguised as Peach, had her voice stolen instead. Bowser's arrival and presence at her castle had prevented Peach from revealing the plan to Mario and Luigi. Meanwhile, Fawful imbues a weak Bowser with Cackletta's soul, resulting in the twisted Bowletta.
On a trip to Little Fungitown, Peach is kidnapped by Bowletta, who demands all the pieces of the Beanstar in exchange. After restoring the Beanstar, Mario and Luigi travel to Joke's End to make the exchange. Bowletta refuses to hand over Peach, but Luigi, disguised in Peach's spare dress, ends up being taken in Peach's stead. He escapes from the repaired Koopa Cruiser, reclaiming the Beanstar in the process. The brothers return to Beanbean Castle Town, finding it under attack by Bowletta using Bowser's flying castle. The brothers and Prince Peasley fly up to it to stop Cackletta once and for all. Mario and Luigi battle past the Koopalings and Fawful before confronting Bowletta. Feinting defeat, she tricks the brothers and swallows them both. After waking up in her belly, the brothers battle and defeat Cackletta's soul, exorcising her from Bowser's body. The two are regurgitated and Bowser returns to normal. Afterwards, the brothers escape the castle before it explodes from a bomb set by Peasley. The explosion sends the castle falling into the ocean. Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toadsworth decided to head back to the Mushroom Kingdom after a long journey but before they can leave, Peasly brought a farewell gift for them to take home, which was Bowser. The gang then returned home.
Development and marketing
Superstar Saga, developed by AlphaDream, is said to take its inspiration from the Nintendo 64 game Paper Mario; the two games have similar graphics and gameplay. The producers of the game were Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Mario franchise, Tetsuo Mizuno, and Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo. The voice acting for Mario and Luigi in the game is provided by Charles Martinet, well known for providing the characters' voice in Nintendo's Mario franchise. The game's music was composed by Yoko Shimomura, who also composed the score for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
Superstar Saga was first revealed at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2003, where a playable demo of the game was available. In August and September 2003, a playable demonstration was also available at the European Computer Trade Show, the Games Convention, and Nintendo Gamers' Summit. To link in with the game's comic themes, Nintendo organized an official competition between October and November 2003 in which contestants would try to submit the best knock-knock joke to win a Game Boy Advance SP and a copy of the game. Nintendo employed comedian Kathy Griffin to choose the winner.
Superstar Saga received universal critical acclaim. The game's comical dialog and themes in particular were lauded by critics. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell commented that "each line of dialogue and identifiable cameo is handled with a loving sense of humour." Despite this, RPGamer's Andrew Long labelled the plot as repetitive, and the game's characters as "a tad shallow". While also appreciating references to the heritage of the Mario series, critics praised the game for avoiding clichés common in previous games of the Mario series.
The gameplay attained a mixed reception. Critics enjoyed the game's battle system, which deviated from role-playing game tradition. IGN's Craig Harris commented that "unlike most Japanese RPGs Mario & Luigi's turn-based battle involves the player at all times". Despite this novel approach to combat situations, some reviewers thought that the overall gameplay lacked innovation. GameSpy in particular criticized the game for an apparent lack of originality, commenting that "in terms of gameplay, there isn't much there that we haven't seen in the NES and SNES Mario and Zelda titles." Furthermore, some reviewers were disappointed by a perceived lack of difficulty in the gameplay as a result of targeting a younger audience. However, Cubed3 welcomed this approach, citing that "any gamer, be them veterans to the genre or complete amateurs, will find the title to be perfectly accessible." Edge and other gaming publications have criticized the controls for being occasionally confusing when considering the usage of jumping, hammers, and other combinations between the two characters.
A common concern among reviewers is the overhead perspective, which critics have bemoaned for preventing them from judging pathway routes and an object's location in relation to its background. Besides this, the actual visuals were generally well received, as well as the setting and animations. The audio was commended for combining both originality and nostalgia, even though it looped frequently.
In 2006, Superstar Saga was rated the 37th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list. In the same year, the game became part of the Player's Choice label. In 2007, the game was named the twelfth best Game Boy Advance game of all time in IGN's feature reflecting on the Game Boy Advance's long lifespan. As of 2007, Superstar Saga has sold over 441,000 units in Japan and 1.46 million in the US.
Nintendo released Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, the sequel to Superstar Saga, on November 28, 2005 for the Nintendo DS system. The plot and setting is relatively disconnected to that of Superstar Saga, as Cackletta has been replaced by the Shroobs as the primary antagonists. Although the game is set outside the Beanbean Kingdom, there are references to Superstar Saga in Partners in Time, such as the inclusion of Fawful in the sewers of Princess Peach's Castle in the game. The Bros. Moves have been retained in Partners in Time, although they involve an item system as opposed to the Bros. Points system that Superstar Saga has. A second sequel, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, was released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS, with Fawful reprising his role as a key villain. A third sequel, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, was released in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS.
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