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// review by SoyBomb

You can walk the walk, but can you Nok the Nok?

It's interesting to note that, in Mario's long-standing stomping career, he has spent relatively little time actually honing his craft. Every good hero needs some form of training and improvement. That's what an RPG is for. And that's what this game is for! Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars combines the familiar elements of the Mushroom universe with the ancient art of leveling up. Did it work out satisfactorily, or did it slither about like a gooey puddle? Let's find out!

Mario, plumber to the stars, once again has taken it upon himself to rescue Princess Toadstool after she has been captured by Bowser (you'd think she would get better guardians but such is not the case when too many Mushroom Retainers start joining unions and pine for higher wages) and taken to his keep (which is actually within simple walking distance of Mario's house apparently). But life often deals wild cards... Just as Mario is ready to untie the snagged princess after dealing a rough Bowser-bruising, the entire keep shakes violently, and a gigantic sword with an overbite crashes through the roof. Oh, that big bitch. Mario, Bowser, and Princess Toadstool are sent flying in different directions, and so Mario's real quest begins: locate the airborne princess and deal with a huge sword with eyeballs. Kyaaaa! Hop to it, Mario! No assistance from Luigi required.

Now as you probably guessed from the obvious title of the game, it's not your standard Super Mario game. (Good for you.) In fact, the only thing this game shares in common with other Mario games is the appearance of trademarks from the series (ex. mushrooms, flowers, Bowser, etc.). Otherwise, it's pure nouveau. It plays as a standard RPG, like Final Fantasy, where you engage in battles to earn both coinage and experience points, the latter of which helps you increase your battle level and become stronger overall. But unlike in normal RPGs, you can only reach a maximum of Level 30, and it's not difficult to reach that point by the end of the game, provided you take on some extra enemies in your travels. Every time you "level up", not only do your stats get a boost, but you get to select an additional boost of your choosing! Improve your offense/defense, your magic offense/defense, or add more HP to your meter! Nice. And the battle system itself is rather simple; in fact, it's the classic turn-based style! Yay -- no funny business is being pulled here. The A-button controls regular physical attacks; the Y-button takes care of magic attacks that consume FP (Flower Points); the X-button will allow you to use items during a fight; and the B-button defends. You can have up to three characters in play, and up to five will join your party. When a character is NOT being used, they will only earn half the experience points of the others, beating the notion that they should get none because they aren't doing anything. Of course, it's not all about the fighting... where's the love? Well, as is the case with all beloved RPGs, there's a whole lotta chattin' goin' on. Be sure to talk to people in a variety of towns and other social locales to get the most up-to-date information about what the heck you're supposed to be doing. Don't be afraid of mushroom folks, moles, or cloud people -- they won't bite! They just might like you!

The graphics in this game are very nifty, pre-rendered 3D-ish models with a 3/4-isometric point of view, which means that Mario can walk on a diagonal plane! Cool. The characters also seem to be rendered, and they look pretty damn impressive for the 16-bit ailing SNES. You'll certainly get your money's worth if all you wish for are fancy graphics. Square did a very good job handling this particular element. Additionally, I can give similar praise to the music in the game, which is very diverse to aurally illustrate the different regions, as well as the many different emotions displayed. I especially like the theme for Rose Town after Mario saves it from...well, I won't give that part away, but needless to say, it's a very upbeat tune! As a whole, you will not be disappointed with the visual and audio presentation in this game. Plus there's lots of cool extra stuff and mysteries to be found throughout the land... you might even find Link or Samus Aran making guest appearances!

So...Super Mario RPG, great success or utter failure? ...Great success, definitely. Square and Nintendo teaming up for such a massive (though not massively lengthy) adventure, one more epic than Mario is used to. This game is (tentatively) scheduled to be released on the Virtual Console for Nintendo's Wii, and I strongly urge you to purchase this game THE DAY IT IS RELEASED, for it is one title that will not fail to disappoint RPG fans (well, maybe hardcore RPG fans who like their games rough and tough, for this is not a difficult game) or Super Mario fans. Besides, where else in the video game universe can you get a NokNok Shell? Nowhere; trust me.

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