Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was a 2003 role-playing game by AlphaDream for the Game Boy Advance. I was introduced to role-playing games by one of my friends. He had a PlayStation, where role-playing games were really common. They were pretty rare on the Nintendo 64, so I hadn’t really played them. When I heard Nintendo was combining Mario and role-playing, I was really excited. I liked Nintendo games and had wanted to have my own role-playing game for awhile. Superstar Saga turned out to be a really good game.
In the story, Princess Peach’s voice was stolen by Cackletta and taken to another kingdom called Beanbean Kingdom. It was up to the Mario Brothers to explore this new land, defeat Cackletta, and recover Peach’s voice. Unlike most Mario games, Bowser was actually an ally in this game. Early on he helped the brothers on their quest, though later he became possessed and was an enemy against his will. I thought it was really cool for Bowser to not be the villain. I really loved the story in Mario & Luigi. It was way better than the typical Mario story of saving the Princess. While she did need to be helped, the details were really fresh. Mario & Luigi was filled with a lot of humor too. That was kind of the premise of the enemy, Cackletta. She was always cackling. Laughter was a prominent part of this game. I don’t normally like comedy, but it was great in this game.
Mario & Luigi had two types of gameplay, exploration and combat. In exploration, the player controlled both Mario & Luigi. There were many puzzles involved with getting not one, but both of them from point A to point B. There were some clever solutions to make this happen. I really enjoyed this. Most role-playing games had pretty boring exploration. The player just walked around talking to people, opening treasure chests, and occasionally flipping a switch. Mario & Luigi was pretty original in putting puzzles everywhere.
In combat, the gameplay became turn-based. Mario, Luigi, and the enemies all got a turn to attack. Again, the developers did something new here. Most role-playing games just had the player choose an attack from the menu and then watch the character do it. In Mario & Luigi, combat was not passive. The player had to execute all the moves well to do the most damage. For example, a simple Jump attack would do little damage if just activated. Instead, the player had to hit the button again exactly when Mario or Luigi had jumped on the enemy. This could do two to three times as much damage. Later in the game the player even got Bros. Attacks that involved pulling off a complicated set of moves by both Mario and Luigi for massive damage. The combat system was really hard at first but also really rewarding once I got better at it.
Now, there were two other role-playing games with Mario in them, Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario. Some elements of those games were also present here, but I think Mario & Luigi had the best of all those games combined into one. Mario & Luigi ended up being so good, it became a new series. Several sequels have been made, all with good reviews. In video games, it is many times good to combine old game mechanics in new ways. Combining Mario with role-playing was a great idea.