Throwback Thursday: Super Mario RPG
Very few games influenced my childhood as much as Super Mario RPG. At the time, the game drew me in because it had Mario & Co. in it and it was made in collaboration with Squaresoft, who at the time had yet to release Final Fantasy VII, the game that would put them back on the map in North America. Still, I had experience with both worlds at the time, so it was natural that I’d be drawn to this JRPG.
Many years later, and I’m still drawn to Super Mario RPG, but for different reasons. If you’ve never had the chance to play this peculiar SNES title, I highly suggest you find an emulator and ROM of it, or dig up about $70 because that’s about how much a loose cart goes for these days.
And it’s worth every single penny.
Super Mario RPG seamlessly blends elements from Squaresoft’s work in the Final Fantasy series with classic Mario flare. The battles are turn-based, and the enemies have powers, but that doesn’t stop Mario from using his patented jump attacks to take down foes. And this time, the foes have changed for the badder.
Mario starts out fighting your standard koopas and goombas, but during a typical battle with Bowser, something sinister falls from the sky and embeds itself in Boswer’s castle as he, Peach, and everyone’s favorite plumber are thrown from the scene. Mario is quick to dust himself off, and springs into action to find out what sort of treachery is afoot.
The best part about Super Mario RPG is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, even though it’s made by two very serious gaming giants. For example, Boswer may be Mario’s main baddie, but he teams up with the stout Italian to get his castle back. As if this unlikely pairing wasn’t enough, we’re treated to a softer side of Bowser who’s all out of sorts about losing his domain. The biggest instance of this is when Boswer, the King Koopa himself, waxes lyrical in the form of…a haiku.
Giant lizards rambling off haikus isn’t the only bizarre thing in Super Mario RPG. There’s the star child who possesses the body of a doll to assist Mario, a character claiming to be a tadpole yet looks suspiciously like a giant marshmallow, and even a boss who looks like he came straight out of a Final Fantasy game. There are little nods to fans of both series sprinkled throughout the game, and finding them makes this already enjoyable game even more memorable.
Sure, Super Mario RPG may have some balance issues, but what JRPG (especially from the 90s) doesn’t have lots of grinding? Behind this sometimes annoying convention lies a game that is rewarding to play, and not that long to complete. Even if you skip a lot of the side-quests and optional bosses, the game should only take you about 20-30 hours to beat, and that’s very reasonable considering the length of Squaresoft’s JRPGs. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Bowser cry and get sentimental?
[Images via IGN]