It’s hard to believe that it’s been about 14 years since the original Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was first released for the Game Boy Advance. A lot has happened in the world of gaming and a couple of new Mario & Luigi titles have been released since then. Nintendo seems keen on reminding players of where the franchise started with the Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions enhanced remake on Nintendo 3DS, but was it worth the effort to revisit the past?
Reviewing an enhanced version of a game isn’t always an easy feat if you never got to originally play it in the first place. Fortunately, the original Mario & Luigi game was so popular that it has resulted in more of these games being released on different Nintendo systems. This made it feasibly for most Nintendo gamers to have played at least one of them if they also happened to be keen on the role-playing genre (RPG) .
What is easily one of the better upgrades in this version of the title is the use of two screens to make it possible to not have to constantly break from the action. Both the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS are ideal solutions for complex games such as RPGs, where it’s necessary to look for information and perform various tasks by navigating menus. The addition of a second screen does wonders for the title, since it means that a lot of these tasks can be done at the same time as the game is being played.
For a title that was first released on the Game Boy Advance, Superstars Saga has aged extremely well, thanks to the makeover that Nintendo provided for this version. It basically feels like playing one of the most recent entries in the franchise.
There are plenty of other less noticeable features as well, such as being able to fast forward dialogue, that no doubt improve on what the original had to offer.
Given the increasingly complex nature of recent titles, it’s refreshing to play through Superstars Saga. The quality of the story doesn’t feel like it’s being occasionally brought down by forced jokes in the dialogue. It’s also a straightforward affair in that there is a clear goal in sight throughout the course of the story. What also works is the use of Mario’s long standing history to provide players with clever callbacks from remixes of familiar music to mentions of previous enemies. It’s easily the entry in the series that makes the best use of the Mushroom Kingdom universe.
Mario and Luigi learn various new abilities as they explore the many locations that their adventure takes them to. Being able to use the touch screen to quickly switch between these comes in handy. However, it still feels quite cumbersome to have to constantly change between them to even do most mundane tasks. The touch screen at least gets some good use by making it easier to also check other features such as maps and navigating menus.
The Mario & Luigi games don’t particularly offer the most complex battle system, but it’s still enjoyable to figure out its simple quirks. The best aspect of the turn based battles is observing how enemies fight and exploit any weaknesses to deal more damage or to dodge their attacks. Observation is also an important skill to use in most boss battles to know when it’s best to attack and how to go about doing it. What can sometimes be more of a distraction is how just about every aspect of combat makes use of button patterns players need to follow correctly, in order to deal a significant amount of damage. This can make for somewhat tedious battles when they go on for longer than usual.
Not that this title is just about fighting, since there are also some clever puzzle sections found throughout the adventure. These tend to make use of the various abilities that the characters learn and are a welcome distraction from all the fighting.
Players can purchase some upgrades such as clothes and items in places like shops or find them whilst exploring areas. When leveling up, players can choose to focus on adding points to one particular stat, such as strength. This means that players can just focus on one area and perhaps make it easier to play the game.
The areas that players explore are interesting because of how different they are from each other. The fact that it’s a different land also means that players don’t just see the usual Mushroom Kingdom landmarks yet again. Even if there are times when having to backtrack through these areas to complete objectives can get repetitive. Fortunately, there are handy pipes that can be used to quickly visit key locations. It would have been beneficial to have a few more of these to use, but it does help to have the choice to move between key locations.
Nintendo isn’t satisfied with just providing players with an enhanced version of the title that wouldn’t look out of place being marketed as a new title in the series. It also includes a side adventure called “Minion Quest” where some of Bowser’s minions come together to try to find their boss. The idea is pretty simple and boils down to managing the group of minions, since they automatically fight waves of enemies, but the concept and how its implemented is so unusual that it’s difficult not to find it endearing.
More minions join the squad with progression and they can also level up, although it can be repetitive to have to defeat previous enemies, in order to make the minions stronger. Regardless, it’s a novel idea to get to experience what it’s like to be one of the minions that Mario and his team defeat on a regular basis.
It certainly makes sense as to why Nintendo would spend a significant amount of time enhancing Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga after so many years. Not only does it give new players the chance to see why the franchise is still around after all these years, but fans can also experience it again in its shiny new form. With this enhanced makeover an old classic gets to be the star again and entertain a whole new generation.