Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions is a remake of the 2003 Gameboy Advance game of the same name – which, full disclosure, I have never played. I was hesitant to start the game as I felt like my lack of nostalgia would put me at a disadvantage but as it turns out, this game is absolute joy from start to finish for returning players and newcomers alike.
As a whole, Superstar Saga is exactly as bright and fun as you would expect any Nintendo game to be. In terms of narrative, the game does not stray far from the usual Mario formula: Princess Peach is in trouble and Mario must save her. Cackletta the witch and her henchmen Fawful (great name. right?) enter the Mushroom Kingdom with a plan to take over and in order to enact their dastardly plan, they steal Peach’s voice and replace it with explosive powers. Bowser is less than pleased that he can’t kidnap Princess Peach without risking damage to his own castle and demands that Mario fix things, offering a lift to the Beanbean Kingdom in his Koopa Cruiser. Before they can make it very far, the Cruiser crashes in mysterious lands and the trio must forge onward by foot to defeat Cackletta and retrieve Peach’s voice. After defeating the two first enemies, the Bowser’s Minions portion of the remake begins and you’ll follow the antics of Bowser’s minions who are on their own quest to find their fearless leader.
Superstar Saga adds a little twist on what is otherwise “the usual” when it comes to JRPGs. Players stake turns to attack by having Mario and Luigi jump on enemies but the fun really starts when you begin strategically timing your moves. Correctly timing your attacks will inflict more damage on your enemies and you can also time when you dodge and counterattack. As someone who played a lot of Pokemon and attacked from beginning to end, it was nice to have the ability to perform an action while the enemy was acting. It made the combat much more entertaining.
The control setup was another nice surprise. More often than not, the most frequently used button used for these kinds of games (again, throwing back to Pokemon) is ‘A’. In Superstar Saga, you control Mario with the ‘A’ button, but to control Luigi, you’ll press the ‘B’ button. If you want to have both of them perform the same action at the same time, you need to press ‘X’. This caught me off guard at the start and I often found myself violently raging at Luigi’s statue impression only to realize I was pounding on the ‘A’ button, but once you get the hang of the controls the game becomes a lot more engaging.
If you decide to pick up Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions, I’ll leave you with a piece of advice: don’t feel bad about skipping over Bowser’s Minions. Unlike Superstar Saga, it incorporates real-time strategy into its mechanics but you’ll find yourself inactive for the core part of battles. Characters are assigned different battle types (ranged, melee or flying) but you’ll quickly realize that each type has a strength and a weakness, and “strong” battle types automatically win against their coordinating “weak” battle type. Sure, you’ll pick the character you want to put on the field, but you’ll simply end up watching what unfolds rather than participate. It can get a little grindy at times, which might turn you off from the cute cut-scenes that follow – at least, it did for me.
Even though it felt like Bowser’s Minions didn’t really add anything to the game, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was an absolute blast to play. The visual improvements over those of the original really add to the overall gameplay of this JRPG. If you fell in love with the original, Superstar Saga brings enough to the table to make you want to play it all over again and if you’re like me, a fan of with JRPGs but lacking on the nostalgia, the game still holds up.
DISCLAIMER: Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions review code was provided by Nintendo of Canada. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.