When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. I didn’t actually own it, but I had saved the label number on the cartridge at my favorite video store, just to make sure I always had the rental copy with my save file. (I actually bought that cartridge when the store inevitably closed years later, complete with the same sticker!) So saying that playing through a 2023 Super Mario RPG remake would be great. This already excellent game has been recreated with incredible fidelity here, so much so that I can recognize not only its charming levels and clever characters, but even all of Mario’s goofy little cartoon antics during conversations.
With such strict adherence to the original game across the board, what caught my attention more than anything else were the ways in which Super Mario RPG has changed – and from what I’ve seen so far in its first hours, nowhere has this classic been tweaked more than in its combat. The original combat was a simple but very entertaining turn-based system that rewarded you for well-timed button presses. The core of it hasn’t changed, but a host of quality-of-life tweaks and a couple of entirely new systems have made every battle a little more engaging.
The beginning is simple, some precision has been added to the button timing of attacks and blocks. Pressing the A button at the right time during most attacks will still give you a damage boost, but time this more precisely on basic attacks and you’ll now deal splash damage to every enemy on the screen. This adds some interesting new battle planning to the mix, as I can weaken an enemy with a direct hit before eliminating them using that free area of effect – and this tactic is complemented by a handy indicator that tells you when an enemy is “about to fall”. But it’s a risky decision if you end up timing the final shot wrong.
On the blocking side, perfect pressure will not only reduce damage, but will completely nullify the enemy’s attack. Supporting this newly expanded system is a clever hint mechanic that will display an exclamation mark at the exact moment you need to press A. At first I thought this was a bit clunky, but the brilliance of it is that it only lasts until you learn how to use a specific attack or fend off an enemy. specific. Time it multiple times during a move or block a particular enemy’s ability enough and the training wheels will stop when the icon stops appearing… but if your timing starts to constantly slip, it’ll come back to guide you once again.
The timing of your attacks and saves has also become more important, even against easy enemies that can be taken down with a single AOE hit. This is because Super Mario RPG keeps track of how many successfully timed taps you’ve completed in a row, even between battles. I loved seeing how high that number went, and you’ll be rewarded as you do better with small boosts and a slow charge meter.
While this meter is initially spent on a random and often unexciting boost from Toad, it doesn’t take long until you get a full party, at which point it turns into a whole new epic triple move. This extremely powerful attack, complete with its own 3D scene, appears to be unique to whichever party you’re using in that battle, and I can’t wait to see what the others will look like.
Super Mario RPG Nintendo Live Trailer
You’ll need those harder-hitting powers, too, because this new version quickly changes up your standard and familiar encounters by occasionally throwing “special enemies” at you. These are just stronger, faster versions of regular monsters, but they’re enhanced enough that you can’t always fight battles on autopilot anymore. They don’t change things radically, but they do a good job of making me rethink my strategy when I find one.
In fact, none of these changes feel like a complete reinvention or anything, nor do I think they should. Instead, they simply revamped and fleshed out a fun combat system that was probably collecting a little dust by now – especially when similar games like the brilliant Sea of Stars have recently introduced their own twists on timing-heavy, turn-based RPG combat. So far, I’m happy to see that Super Mario RPG has managed to balance recreating one of my favorite games while wanting to improve upon it where necessary.
Tom Marks He is IGN’s deputy commentary editor. He loves card games, puzzles, platformers, puzzle platformers, and much more.
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