Today, May 13th of 2020, marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of Super Mario RPG’s release in the US (it was released in Japan two months prior, in March of 1996, and wouldn’t be released in Europe until its 2008 release on the Wii’s Virtual Console, which at the time was a record for longest delay between region releases for a single title).
As far as I’m concerned, Super Mario RPG is one of Nintendo’s finest achievements, and has steadily remained an all-time favorite of mine for these twenty-four years. If you ask me, it’s still the best damn RPG ever.
Sadly, despite being one of the most acclaimed and beloved Mario games of all time, it’s one of the very few that never received a direct sequel (it did inspire the wonderful Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series, but none of them quite recaptured the same magic as the originator). And it’s basically the only Mario game to not have its characters or world elements carry over to subsequent games (save for a cameo or two). But that hasn’t stopped fans (myself most assuredly included) from hoping and begging Nintendo and Square to bring back this beloved game either through a sequel or simply resurrecting its characters for new titles.
Seriously Nintendo, just put Geno in Super Smash Bros. already. We’ve only been asking for it for twenty years! I don’t mean an insulting, slap-to-the-face Mii costume. The actual character as a playable fighter. You can’t stop adding those Fire Emblem swordsmen that no one asked for. Why not add another character people have actually wanted and asked for for years?
Anyway, happy anniversary to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars! A Legend indeed.
I reviewed Super Mario RPG as my special 300th video game review. You can read my 10/10 review here.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally here, and it’s yet another jewel in the crown that is the Nintendo Switch. Although it may be premature of me to say this, given I haven’t tried out all of its modes yet, but Ultimate may very well be the best Super Smash Bros. title yet.
Like any sequel to a multiplayer title, the gameplay hasn’t exactly changed much, but something about it definitely feels smoother. It just feels right to control. It’s hard to explain, but it seems like every returning character I’ve tried feels more fluid to control than they did in past games, and the newcomers are just as smooth. The gameplay may be the series’ trademark “sumo rules” take on the fighting genre, but it just feels so polished.
Another big improvement over past games is the Classic Mode. As much as I appreciate Super Smash Bros for 3DS/Wii U trying to make Classic Mode into something bigger, it never really enticed me to try it out with every character. But here in Ultimate, I find myself wanting to complete Classic Mode with every new character I unlock. The beauty lies in its simplicity, as Classic Mode sees each character go through six fights, a bonus stage and a boss enemy, with each character’s opponents being vague (or literal) little callbacks to their own games.
For example, Ryu’s version utilizes stamina rules to reflecting the traditional fighter nature of Street Fighter. Meanwhile, Mega Man’s journey ends with a battle against Dr. Mario who, once defeated, becomes Mewtwo, subtly referencing the final fight against Dr. Wily in Mega Man 2). And in perhaps my favorite example, Dr. Mario’s fights are against triple opponents, with each bearing a red, blue and yellow color scheme in reference to the viruses from the classic puzzler. It’s just simple, fun and addictive.
Admittedly, the Adventure Mode, dubbed ‘World of Light’ is one I have yet to play. I’ll get around to it, but honestly, Brawl’s Supspace Emisary story mode was kind of a glorified means of unlocking every character. So I’m not exactly rushing into the story mode when everything else is already so much fun. So no opinions on World of Light for now.
Much to my pleasant surprise, it was actually really easy to play against my friends online! I know, that seems shocking considering this is a Nintendo game that isn’t Mario Kart, but playing against friends is actually accessible. That alone gets huge brownie points from me. I also haven’t experienced any lag issues when playing against opponents on a broader online scale, so that’s also an improvement from its predecessors. I have heard some people say the specific searches for quick online matches aren’t very accurate (one-on-one proponents experiencing repeated multi-man matches and such), but I haven’t tried that myself yet so I can’t comment. But the sheer easiness of playing against friends alone feels like a godsend, given all the hoops you usually have to jump through for such features in Nintendo games (I’m looking your way, Splatoon 2).
Then, of course, we have the characters. The title’s main selling point is that every past fighter from Super Smash Bros’ history is present. And with a small batch of newcomers, as well as ‘echo fighters’ we have about 70 characters (depending on how you count Pokemon Trainer). That’s a pretty hefty lineup of characters. And while the roster isn’t perfect (Geno isn’t in it), there really is such a wide variety of characters that, no matter what your play style is, you’re bound to find multiple characters you like. I personally have quickly become a King K. Rool man (hey, if Super Mario RPG isn’t represented, I’m going with my other favorite SNES title, DKC2).
All in all, I find myself having trouble putting Super Smash Bros. Ultimate down. In a weird way, it doesn’t feel quite as “massive” as the past few entries in terms of what it adds compared to what came before, but it does feel better. It takes the best bits and pieces of past Super Smash Bros. games and makes something that feels like one of those ‘special’ Nintendo releases on par with Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.
Well, the final Super Smash Bros. Ultimate-focused Nintendo Direct before the game’s launch has come and gone. And, well…that was it? I mean, really? That’s it? To use an old (and pretty disgusting) phrase, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was about to win the race, and then crapped its pants right at the finish line.
Look, I have no doubts that – mechanically speaking – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will still be a very fun game. It has a solid foundation to work from, and it really can’t be too bad in terms of gameplay if it sticks to what the series does best (Brawl was also a very fun game, even with the tripping). But the forty or so minutes it took for the Direct to begin and end made Ultimate go from my most anticipated game of the year, to one I’m simply going to play and review. And that’s kind of sad when I think about it.
Let’s get the big bad out of the way first: Geno is not in the game. Despite being arguably the single most requested character to join the series for well over a decade, he’s still MIA. And I know people will say I’m just being sour over the character I wanted not making it, but here’s two things: 1) This is a series built on fan-service, so being bummed out about your favorite character not making it is actually a reasonable disappointment (provided that the character in question was a likely possibility, which Geno very much was at this point). And more importantly 2) It’s not like I’m the only one who wanted Geno. Like I said, he’s been possibly the most requested character for years, rivaled only by Ridley and King K. Rool, who collectively became known as the “Big Three.”
Look, I think it would be awesome if Muddy Mole were added to Super Smash Bros., but I also know I’m just about the only person who thinks that. So no harm no foul with that omission. But Geno? Pretty much everyone and their grandmother wanted him at this point, and after giving fans what they wanted with Ridley and King K. Rool, people actually expected Geno to make it in. So now it all feels like a cruel tease, especially after that Mii Fighter costume debacle last time around…
“But Geno’s too obscure! He was in one game! He hasn’t been seen in years!” is what the detractors (AKA people who apologize for everything Sakurai does) would say. But none of those arguments hold a bit of weight by this point, considering K. Rool and several other characters hadn’t been seen in years, obscure characters have been part of the series since day one (EarthBound, Ice Climbers), and the fact that a character like Dark Pit is in the game at all means relevance clearly isn’t an issue. Hell, if anything, the demand for Geno over the years has actually made him more relevant than ever. Besides, Ultimate is the fifth (technically sixth) installment in the Super Smash Bros. series. We got all the most recognizable characters out of the way long ago, now was the time to get crazy with the fan-service. Instead Ultimate only went halfway.
Again, if we were talking about a character I wanted, but I know I was alone in wanting, I would give it a pass. But when a character has actually grown more iconic because people want him in Smash Bros., wouldn’t you think they’d prioritize such a character? As stated, if we weren’t teased with a Mii Fighter costume in the last game in might not sting as much, but after that mess, it feels like the fans were practically owed the character.
It’s not just Geno’s exclusion, but other characters that people have wanted for years also got left in the cold. Isaac from Golden Sun is still an Assist Trophy. Again, people would say I just regret the omissions of my favorite characters, but I’ve never actually played Golden Sun (it’s on my to do list), so I’m not talking about personal history or want here. But I sure as hell know he’s been one of the more requested characters over the years, certainly more so than many characters who are already there (did anyone really want three different Marth clones?), so the fact that the Direct just casually showed Isaac still stuck in his Assist Trophy position and just expected people to be cool with it is kind of insulting. I mean, could they have at least made a bigger deal about him somehow? It basically just screamed “you want this character? Yeah, we don’t care.”
Yet even more notable omissions include Skull Kid and Dixie Kong (the latter of which having no excuse for not having been in the series for some time already). Two prominent, highly requested characters from two of Nintendo’s biggest series. But, y’know, screw them. And yes, I know, from the beginning, Sakurai said there wouldn’t be too many newcomers this time around. But you would think, with fewer newcomers, they’d actually put the most requested characters front and center. At the very least, had Geno made it, I’m guessing the other exclusions would have been a little easier to swallow, considering it would mean we’d finally be getting the “Big Three.”
What makes the omissions sting all the more is the final lineup of newcomers in the Direct. Ken from Street Fighter makes sense, but it’s kind of hard to get too excited over a clone of an existing character. What makes less sense, however, is that the final ‘new’ character was revealed as Incineroar from Pokemon Sun/Moon.
Look, I get that Pokemon is Nintendo’s big money maker, and I’ve said in the past that Pokemon (along with Mario and Zelda) is one of the few series that could have as many characters as it wants and it would be hard to argue against it. But THAT’S the final character you decide to reveal? Incineroar isn’t even as popular as fellow Sun/Moon starter Dicidueye, who would have been a more unique character anyway. I mean, I’m not totally opposed to Incineroar, but to be the final character in the starting roster? Talk about a popcorn fart of a reveal… Would have been better off revealing Incineroar months ago and ending with the Belmonts and K. Rool.
Since I mentioned the starting roster, it is important to note that Sakurai has promised that, through the first year or so after Ultimate’s release, a quintet of DLC characters will be released, each coming with their own stage and selections of music. So there is hope yet for Geno, Skull Kid, and Dixie (not sure on Isaac though, given that they kept him as an Assist Trophy). But still, wouldn’t revealing someone like Geno (after already having Ridley and K. Rool) been the perfect final character? Incineroar just seems so…unceremonious.
There is a downside to the DLC, however, in that the five characters are still a mystery. So while we can all be hopeful that those aforementioned fan favorites will make the cut, after having the rug pulled from under us time and again from the Smash Bros. series’ character choices, it’s kind of hard to get too excited. I mean, if Geno couldn’t make it even after teasing everyone with the Mii costume, it’s more than a little bit of a kick to the crotch of the fans.
Speaking of the DLC, however, there is one inclusion that might be even more questionable than Incineroar’s baffling presence as the final reveal… Piranha Plant is going to be a DLC fighter shortly after the game’s launch. Thankfully, it’s separate from the other five mentioned mystery DLC characters, but yes, a standard enemy from the Mario series gets in before the handfuls of characters fans have been requesting for years. That’s… that’s just insulting. I mean, I think Waluigi is a pretty lame character, and I think his requests for inclusion is little more than a joke taken too far. But at least Waluigi is a character! I think he’s earned a spot before a basic enemy like a Piranha Plant, no matter how much of a staple they are to their series. And if we’re throwing in standard enemies now, why not add the Waddle Dee with the bandana, since people at least wanted him? It is the most baffling inclusion, and not in a good “I wasn’t expecting that!” kind of way, but in a “wow, no one asked for that…” kind of way.
Sure, the Direct also revealed things like the new Story Mode, titled ‘Spirits.’ And I know some people are excited for a story mode. But in a game like Super Smash Bros., a story mode isn’t exactly the selling point. I’m sure more people would have preferred to see more of their requested characters make it into a series all about providing fan-service than they would like a story mode out of a fighting game. I mean, Brawl’s story mode – Subspace Emmisary – became pretty infamous for being a means to unlock the characters, and then completely forgotten about afterwards. And while the Spirits mechanic has some appeal, I again state that people would have probably preferred more newcomers over it.
Yeah yeah, Sakurai apologists would just write me off as being salty about the exclusions, but again, I’m talking about characters fans have wanted for years (some for over a decade). And they get bumped (yet again) for uneventful inclusions like Ken and Incineroar, and a Piranha Plant, something no one wanted. How exactly were they expecting people to react to these final announcements?
Sure, I’ll repeat myself and say I’m sure the game will be good fun in terms of gameplay and mechanics. But whatever steam Super Smash Bros. Ultimate picked up in the past few months through the likes of the Inklings, Ridley, Simon Belmont and King K. Rool came to a screeching halt in the span of forty minutes. Sure, Ultimate has already added some good new characters, but if you’re playing the lottery it doesn’t matter how many numbers you have, if you’re missing out on the last number, you still lose the jackpot.
Well, here’s hoping those five mystery DLC characters end up being worth the hype. In the meantime… Meh.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate should be the game that finally brings Super Mario RPG’s Geno back from dormancy. For over twenty-two years, fans have wanted to see the original characters of Super Mario RPG – Geno most of all – make their triumphant return. And Ultimate seems to be the (pun intended) ultimate opportunity to do so.
Rewind the clock back to 2006. Super Mario RPG had turned 10 years old, and Geno’s only subsequent appearance was a cameo in 2003’s Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, a game in which the end credits emphasized that Geno was owned by Square-Enix. Fans had pretty much given up hope that Geno would ever be seen properly in a game again. But then, a glimmer of hope showed up in the form of the reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It looked a little something like this.
Solid Snake, from Konami’s Metal Gear Solid franchise had joined Super Smash Bros. It was a game-changer, as up until that point, Smash Bros. was comprised exclusively of Nintendo characters. But now, the doors were open to more video game icons than ever.
A number of names became popular among fans as to who else they wanted added to the Super Smash Bros. lineup: Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, Ryu, Pac-Man, and Cloud were often brought up. Sonic ended up joining Snake in Brawl, while the other aforementioned characters – along with Bayonetta, who didn’t exist at the time of the announcement or Brawl’s release – all made it into the fourth entry of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, either at that game’s launch or through DLC.
But perhaps the name brought up more than any other third-party character was Geno. He, along with Metroid’s Ridley and Donkey Kong’s King K. Rool, became something of legends within the Super Smash Bros. community. The “Big Three” or the “Impossible Three” they became known, due to their immense demand yet apparent inability to make the roster.
Ridley and K. Rool’s absences were strange, considering they are Nintendo characters, but most assumed Geno – being owned by Square-Enix – couldn’t make the cut for legal reasons. Snake’s reveal for Brawl changed all that. Although Geno didn’t make the cut for Brawl in 2008, he still remained a consistently popular character that people wanted to see. Super Mario RPG rightfully sits as one of the most acclaimed and beloved Mario games of all time, yet it’s also the sole Mario game whose legacy seems confined to itself. As classic of a game as it is, the elements and characters introduced in it have only ever been seen again, well, in Super Mario RPG’s re-releases on Wii, Wii U and the SNES Classic Edition. They still have yet to appear elsewhere (aside from Geno’s aforementioned cameo in Superstar Saga, and even that was removed from the game’s 2017 remake).
Of course, these re-releases only added wood to the fire. Geno was only becoming more and more popular and requested as Super Mario RPG found new audiences. Still, some claimed that Geno was “too obscure” of a character to make it in Super Smash Bros. as a playable character (a rather odd argument, considering esoteric Nintendo characters have been in Super Smash Bros. from the beginning. Ness and Captain Falcon weren’t exactly household names).
Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai continued to ask for character requests to consider for inclusion in subsequent games, and sure enough, Geno – like Ridley and K. Rool – remained one of the top choices. With the exclusion of all three characters in the fourth entry in the series (Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS), fans began wondering if their wishes were falling on def ears. But then, there was a glimmer of hope (or a slap to the face, depending on who you ask) when a DLC costume for the Mii character was introduced that paid homage to Geno.
It was…bittersweet. On one hand, it showed that Sakurai and company were well aware of fans’ cries to see Super Mario RPG acknowledged, but with the high level of demand for the character, simply making a Mii costume based on Geno stung more than a little bit. Was Sakurai trolling us?
Apparently not, as it turns out. In a later interview, Sakurai revealed that he has always been a big fan of the character, and has wanted to include Geno in Super Smash Bros. since Brawl. Geno was planned to make an appearance in Super Smah Bros’ third and fourth entries (or third, fourth, and fifth, depending on if you consider Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS one or two games), but Sakurai claims he “wasn’t able” to make it happen. Though no specifics were given, one would assume it had something to do with the legalities of the character.
However, the Geno Mii Fighter costume does indicate that, if Square-Enix was the culprit, they’ve softened up a bit. The inclusion of Final Fantasy’s Cloud, another Square creation, becoming a DLC character also showed an obvious strengthening in Nintendo/Square relations.
So if Square is willing to let their characters appear in Super Smash Bros., and went so far as to give Sakurai permission to use the likeness of Geno for the Mii Fighter costume, that’s definitely a positive in terms of Geno’s likelihood for a future appearance as a Super Smash Bros. fighter.
Well, here we are with only a few months to go before the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, an entry so daring it has the word Ultimate in the title. As in, this is the Super Smash Bros. And so far, Ultimate has been doing a great job at living up to its name: every character from the series’ past is returning, there are new modes of play that look to beautifully change up the experience, and even small little details that show how Sakurai and company are really going all out (like being able to ‘stack’ an echo fighter with its base character on the selection screen. A totally unnecessary but welcome addition for prudes like me who complain about the echo fighters).
More importantly though, Ultimate has finally, finallyadded Ridley and King K. Rool as playable characters. On top of Splatoon’s Inklings and Castlevania’s Simon Belmont, that’s a hell of a lineup of newcomers whose quality more than outshines the relative lack of quantity.
Yes, there are always going to be characters fans want, but none of them have had the same devoted followings of Ridley, King K. Rool and Geno. And sure, there other characters that could be added to Ultimate, and a few I’d personally love to see (Banjo-Kazooie!). But it seems like, at this point, the only necessary piece to be added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to make it live up to its name is Geno. I mean, we’ve gotten to a point where people would actually be more surprised if Geno didn’t make the cut in Ultimate than if he did. With Ridley and K. Rool in the mix, the hype for Geno is at a fever pitch. Here’s hoping the fans – and apparently Sakurai himself – can finally get Geno in Super Smash Bros.
Two of the “Impossible Three” have finally made the cut. With all the other additions and tweaks the game is making to the formula, it seems like after Ridley and K. Rool have been brought in, Geno is the last piece of this puzzle to make it all come together.
The release of a new Super Smash Bros. game always gets people hyped. And while the E3 Direct and playing the E3 demo accomplished just that, for me, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was something to be excited for, but one that seemed a bit familiar. That is until earlier this month with the second SSBU-focused direct, which revealed a host of new information on the upcoming entry, and kicked things into high gear with the announcements of Simon Belmont and King K. Rool!
Of course, being a series built on Nintendo’s history (or just plain video game history at this point), people always have their characters that they’d like to see make the Super Smash Bros. roster with every new entry. So far, the newcomers for Ultimate reads like a shortlist of winning selections: The Inklings represent a contemporary Nintendo franchise, Simon Belmont hails from the third-party franchise most synonymous with Nintendo’s early years (except maybe Mega Man), and Ridley and K. Rool have been among the most requested characters to join Super Smash Bros. for ages, so their inclusions feel like gifts for the fans.
The following characters are the ones I’d most like to see be announced in the coming months to join the ranks of Super Smash Bros. fighters in Ultimate. I know, people might bring up that Sakurai has already stated there won’t be too many newcomers (outside of echo fighters) this time. But this list isn’t called “Five Characters Who Will Totally Make the Cut in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in Addition to the Ones Who Have Already Been Announced.” It’s a list of the five characters I’d most like to see make it. Not expecting all five, but I like to think my top two picks have more than a fighting chance.
The funny thing is I had originally planned to make this list before the last Smash Bros. Direct, but never got around to it. And since Simon Belmont and King K. Rool were originally going to be on this list, I had to change things up a bit after they were announced.
Also, my list includes a mix of Nintendo characters and those of third-parties. Because honestly, Super Smash Bros. now has most of Nintendo’s most notable characters. There aren’t too many left that would make a big splash outside of an Assist Trophy. Kind of have to branch out at this point.
With all that out of the way, here are the top five characters I’d most like to see become playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. But first, a runner-up.
Super Smash Bros. hype is a unique entity for me. On one hand, Super Smash Bros. is one of the few remaining series where the announcement of a new entry gets me genuinely excited. But of all my favorite gaming franchises, Super Smash Bros. is the one that can (and has) disappoint(ed) me the most. Of course, it shouldn’t be too surprising, considering this is a series largely built around fanservice, so when it fails to deliver on a much-wanted character or (in the last entry’s case) seems to cater to director Masahiro Sakurai’s favoritism, the experience can feel a bit sullied.
That’s not to say that the games aren’t good though. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, despite being the entry I have the most complaints about in terms of character selections and omissions, is actually the most solidly designed and technically sound iteration yet. Hell, even the bafflingly reviled Super Smash Bros. Brawl is still a really well made video game. But again, this is a series that’s built around Nintendo’s history, and its fandom. So when it feels like Nintendo’s history and its fans are being ignored, it really stings.
Case in point, Masahiro Sakurai has actively asked fans to suggest characters for the series since Super Smash Bros. Brawl was in development, and yet, the three most consistently requested characters – Metroid’s Ridley, Donkey Kong’s King K. Rool, and Super Mario RPG’s Geno – were just as consistently ignored. None of them made it into Brawl, and in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, Ridley was made into a stage hazard, while Geno and K. Rool weren’t even that lucky, being represented solely by Mii Fighter costumes, which felt like a blatant middle finger to the fans on Sakurai’s part, especially seeing as that particular entry had a sudden emphasis on his own characters (Kid Icarus suddenly seemed to get plenty of references, conveniently after Sakurai directed Kid Icarus: Uprising on 3DS).
Sakurai has tried to explain his reasons for leaving out requested characters, but most such reasons seem more like half-hearted excuses than anything. He often claimed that “Ridley was too big,” even though by that logic, Captain Olimar should be too small. Or he would claim that he would go over the character and see what uniqueness they would bring to the table…only to fill a good chunk of the roster with clone characters.
Basically, Sakurai’s excuses end up feeling like just that, excuses. Look, I get that not every character can make it in, but when you actively ask people to suggest characters, and then continuously ignore their most wanted characters for over a decade, it’s kind of hard to accept the excuses.
Even worse, however, are the people who defend Sakurai’s every action (whom I refer to as “Sakurai apologists”). Again, I understand not everyone can make the cut, but when people actively defend things like the “Ridley is too big” argument and the overabundance of clone characters, it’s like, just… come on! Sakurai is a great game designer, but it’s okay to admit to his mistakes. And well, blatantly ignoring fan requests after asking for fan requests, and resorting to simply copying existing characters and claiming its another are definite mistakes.
These people will often question what a potential character’s moves would be, but that’s an argument that seems beyond pointless, considering that from Super Smash Bros’ very first entry, Captain Falcon has been a playable character. He’s a character who, in his own series, was never seen outside of his racing vehicle! If they could turn him into a fighter back on the N64 in 1999, there’s no reason why Sakurai and company couldn’t get even more creative with current hardware.
This brings me to the point of all this ranting: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has the opportunity to live up to its name. The game is being billed as the “Smash Bros. for everyone” and is set to include every single returning character from the series’ history, which is a good start. However, the real big news is that Ridley has finally joined the Super Smash Bros. roster as a playable character! Finally, after over a decade of waiting, the patience of Metroid fans has been rewarded.
On the downside of things, Sakurai has already stated that there won’t be too many new additions to the roster this time around. I suppose that makes sense, with so many characters in the game, they’re running lower and lower on classic characters to choose from. But that’s just my point, if we’re only going to get a ‘few’ new characters, why not make them characters that count?
Of the three most consistently requested characters, Ridley has now become the first of the trio to make the roster. So, why not finally pull the trigger and deliver the other two as well? K. Rool and Geno are two characters that have so much potential for the series – let alone their fan support – that not adding them in at this point would seem like petty spite. Hardly what you would want from a game that’s supposed to be the Ultimate edition of a franchise largely built on fanservice.
That would already make something of a statement for the series. It’s like, not only would we be getting every past character from the series history, but also the three most requested, ever-elusive characters. Whatever other newcomer selections could also potentially be filled with old fan-favorites. Again, if the newcomers are going to be few in quantity, they really better make them count in terms of quality.
Of course, even with Ridley’s inclusion, there are still causes for some concerns. The fact that clones now have the ‘official’ label of “Echo Fighters” has me greatly worried that Sakurai might just be doubling down on them (again, quality, not quantity. A bunch of clones is hardly something to get excited over). And in another downer, Bomberman is finally making his debut in the series…as an Assist Trophy. Considering how big of a multiplayer franchise Super Smash Bros. is, it’s a real shame that Bomberman – one of the pioneers of multiplayer gaming – can’t make the cut as a playable character.
Still, Ridley’s presence gives hope that not only could Geno and K. Rool make their long-awaited debut, but that the select amount of newcomers might bring out the more creative side of the developers. If Sakurai and company can deliver everything from Super Smash Bros. past (which looks to be the case so far), and throw in the few remaining missing elements that fans have been craving, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate may just live up to its name.
Between the presence of every returning fighter and the debut of Ridley, so far so good. But to make Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly the ultimate Super Smash Bros. experience, the rest of those newcomers really have to mean something.
*Review based on Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars release as part of the SNES Classic*
Since its inception in 1985, the Super Mario series has proven to be the avant garde of video games, prioritizing gameplay innovation and concepts unique to the video game medium over all else. This design philosophy has not only allowed the core platformers of the Super Mario series to consistently reinvent themselves, but has also turned its titular plumber into gaming’s renaissance man, able to adapt to seemingly any genre Nintendo decides to cast him in. Of the various “spinoff” Mario titles, Mario Kart gets the most widespread recognition, as it created the ‘kart racer’ sub-genre while simultaneously producing a series that rivals the core Mario titles in popularity. But while Mario Kart might be the most famous of Mario’s detours, the most outstanding might just be the 1996 SNES classic, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, the title that sent Mario into most unfamiliar territory.
Super Mario RPG was a bold venture. A joint effort between series’ publisher Nintendo and Final Fantasy developer Square-Enix (then Squaresoft), Super Mario RPG took the characters and world of Nintendo’s flagship franchise, and merged it with the RPG genre that Square was renowned for. Though a fan-favorite today, at the time many wondered if converting the Mario series into the narrative-heavy RPG genre could work. The fact that Super Mario RPG remains one of the most beloved Mario games should be a testament to just how successful the finished product was. Its hefty reputation is well deserved.
While Super Mario RPG is a joining together of the series and genre of its title, what makes it work so well is how it both pays homage and parody to both parties involved, and turns them on their heads.
The story here is that – just as Mario is about to defeat Bowser for another daring rescue of Princess Peach (here called Toadstool, as she was known in the west at the time) – a massive earthquake hits the scene, throwing Mario, Bowser and the Princess to different corners of the Mushroom Kingdom. The source of this quake is a giant, anthropomorphic sword that has fallen from the heavens and plunged into Bowser’s castle. The sword is called Exor, and declares Bowser’s Keep to be occupied by its master, Smithy, who plans to conquer the rest of Mario’s world.
As it turns out, Smithy is already closer to world conquest than he knows, as Exor slashed through the Star Road on its descent onto Mario’s world, shattering it into seven magical Star Pieces. The Star Road is what allows people’s wishes to come true. With its power scattered into seven fallen pieces, the wishes of the denizens of Mario’s world can no longer come to light. It then becomes a race between Mario and his companions to prevent the Smithy Gang from claiming the seven Stars, which would result in the evil Smithy’s dark desires coming to fruition.
What makes this story memorable is that it both adds a serious narrative to the Super Mario series (for the first time), while still maintaining the franchise’s whimsical lightheartedness. The premise feels like it could have been pulled out of a Disney movie, and the game takes advantage of the nature of the Mario series to add a good dose of humor into the serious RPG plot.
Mario is joined on his adventure by four companions: The aforementioned Princess Toadstool is the obvious ally, but for the first time in the series, Bowser fights alongside Mario in a quest to reclaim his castle. The remaining two members of Mario’s party were original to Super Mario RPG; Mallow, the fluffy, cloud-like black mage of the group, and Geno, an otherworldly spirit occupying an action figure for its body.
It’s a memorable cast of characters. Mario is his usual, silent self, but the Princess becomes something of the ‘tough guy’ of the party after growing tired of being rescued, while Bowser steals the show as the insecure brute with a heart of gold. Meanwhile, Mallow is the kid of the group wanting to prove himself, while Geno has connections to the Star Road and is something of the Gandalf of the team (the wise, old badass). Mallow and Geno left such an impression that – although they have yet to properly appear in another game – fans still long for their return.
No matter how iconic or likable these characters are though, it wouldn’t mean much if the game they starred in weren’t great. Luckily for them, Super Mario RPG was one of the best games of the genre’s golden era, and remains one of Mario’s timeless classics.
The battle system here at first looks like the usual turn-based affair, but with some fresh changes, such as each action in battle being mapped to specific buttons (A for regular attacks, B for defense, Y for special moves, and X for items). The biggest addition Super Mario RPG makes to RPG battles is one that’s subtle, yet game-changing: Action Commands.
During battles, players have more involvement than in other RPGs of the time. During attacks, well-timed button presses can increase damage (and timing them just right during enemy attacks can reduce damage), while special moves have their own interactive elements (repeated button-presses or timing, holding a button and releasing it, etc.). It’s such a seemingly simple twist on RPG norms, but it adds so much more fun to the proceedings than simply selecting items from menus.
There are some small quibbles in that there’s a lack of on-screen directions to inform you of when to use button-presses during many actions (directions are briefly explained before certain special attacks, but others are trickier to figure out). Still, most of the Action Commands aren’t too hard to get the hang of, so nothing’s too cryptic. But if you do manage to master them, you may find that the overall adventure is a bit on the easy side, though I suppose turn-based RPGs aren’t known for brutal difficulty anyway. Still, these hardly qualify as complaints, as they never get in the way of the enjoyment of the gameplay, story, or overall fun.
Meanwhile, wandering through the overworlds is also improved over other games in the genre, with just a dash of platforming added into the mix for – you guessed it – more interactivity than you’d find in other RPGs. The game is given all the more personality when you talk to NPCs, who often put that aforementioned humor on full display. In case that weren’t enough, Super Mario RPG features a myriad of entertaining mini-games and side quests, some of which are exceptionally well hidden.
Being released at the tail-end of the Super Nintendo’s life cycle, Super Mario RPG pushed the console’s capabilities to their limits. Super Mario RPG features highly detailed environments and an isometric perspective to give the game something of a 3D quality, with character graphics that are comparable to the Donkey Kong Country sequels (one enemy monster even resembles good ol’ DK, perhaps to emphasize this).
However, the best aesthetic qualities of Super Mario RPG are in its sounds. Composed by Yoko Shinomura – famous for her soundtracks of Street Fighter II and the Kingdom Hearts series – Super Mario RPG’s score is her masterwork, encompassing a wide range of styles and emotions, and captures that distinct Mario personality while also creating an identity unique to itself. The SNES is widely regarded for the stellar soundtracks of its games, and Super Mario RPG is second only to Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest for the title of best musical score on the platform. It’s an all-time great gaming soundtrack.
Sadly, while Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars remains one of Mario’s most memorable adventures, it seems to be the only entry in the entire franchise that was to be a one-and-done deal. It may have influenced spiritual successors in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series of RPGs – which improved on a few individual elements (Paper Mario introduced on-screen button cues during attacks) – but none of them have captured the same magic of the whole experience that Super Mario RPG did, nor have they left the same kind of unique impact on the overall Mario series.
If anything, Super Mario RPG’s isolation from the rest of the Mario series has only helped it endure as one of the most beloved entries in the franchise’s peerless history (it’s even helped inspire games such as Undertale). Here’s hoping that, someday, we might see Super Mario RPG’s legacy continue in some form. For now, however, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars can at least still claim to be among Mario’s greatest adventures, and one of the best RPGs of all time. A legend indeed.