Can you believe Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga came out all the way back in 2003? It's amazing how quickly time flies. I feel like I just played the game yesterday! Sure, the memories were a bit fuzzy, but I could still look back on the overall adventure and smile. I was actually a bit scared to jump into the game, as I'm not really one for RPGs. I figured I would give it a shot anyways, since I figured Nintendo might be able to switch things up in a way that would mesh better with my interests. Boy am I glad I made that decision, as Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga opened up a whole new level of appreciation for the genre.
While the Mario & Luigi series might be a bit old-hat by now, it was a pretty big deal back in the day! It was the first RPG outing for Mario and Luigi on the portable scene, and it would give birth a whole slew of wonderful sequels. It also happened to set the bar extremely high for the franchise, as Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga really made waves with its addictive gameplay and top-notch writing, both of which have become a staple for the series. Throughout the years, we've been treated to numerous adventures filled with laughs and unique twists on what Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga gave birth to.
While we wait for the next true entry in the Mario & Luigi franchise, Nintendo has decided to offer up a stopgap title with Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions. The main meal in this package comes from the remake of Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, but Nintendo went a step further to include a brand-new side-story called Bowser's Minions. Not only does it give us a new look at the story in Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, it also shakes up the gameplay approach in some big ways. Marrying both a remake of Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga and a brand-new side mode has made for a package newcomers should be foaming at the mouth for, and fans of the original eager to try out what's new.
Let's start off with what's tried-and-true. Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions' make of Superstar Saga is a wonderful way to play the classic adventure, be it for the first time, or for a repeat visit. All the charm of the storyline, characters, dialog, and humor has definitely remained intact. I do often find myself laughing at the writing in the Mario & Luigi franchise, but I had forgotten how funny some of the conversations were in Superstar Saga. Fawful is just as funny now as he was back in the day, and actually stands out as one of the most dynamic and well-written characters in the franchise so far. He provides the backdrop for a sprawling adventure where Mario and Luigi set out to save Princess Peach's voice, which has been stolen. They even end up working to help Bowser along the way!
If you like Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, or enjoyed any of the subsequent sequels, I really can't imagine why you wouldn't get the same enjoyment from this Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga remake. As I said, the core storyline remains unchanged, and the gameplay mechanics offer up the same turn-based fun with its unique action-focused twist. It's an adventure I was very happy to take again, and I found myself surprised with how much I had forgotten over the years! After playing countless games since Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga originally launched, it seems other games/franchises pushed some of the finer details of Superstar Saga out of my mind. I was very happy to revisit those moments through Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions.
Now of course, there are going to be a couple elements in this remake which might rub people the wrong way, but it's all about personal taste. The audio and visual package from the original GBA game have been given a major overhaul for this 3DS revamp. The game has done away with its pixelated approach and gone for something more in-line with recent entries in the Mario & Luigi franchise. That's certainly not a bad thing by any means, but I know some people will be longing for the chunkier style of the original. I too appreciate those less refined graphics, and remember them quite fondly. While it would have been nice to see a mode that let us swap between visual stylings, what's offered here is still quite pleasing.
The audio is also completely redone, and while it uses the same scores/orchestrations, it's definitely using some higher quality tools this time around. Again, whether you like this more than the original is a matter of taste. The music here is just as catchy as it was the first time around, but the new instruments give things a different feel. Again, not bad by any means. Those who played the original might prefer what they heard back in the day, while those coming into this game for the first time won't have a single thing to complain about. There's no right or wrong here. Some of it can be a matter of rose-tinted glasses, or in this case, rose-colored earbuds. Once again, it's important to point out that the audio here, just like the revamped visuals, is still fantastically done and superbly enjoyable.
As long as you can handle those changes in presentation, your adventure is by-and-large, exactly the same as it was the first time around. There have been a couple tweaks here and there, with some changes made to speed up the overall experience. You can even hold down the R button during dialog scenes to speed them up and get back into the action. The streamlined options here are very welcome, especially for those who have run through the original countless times. Now you'll be able to pick between paces, going slower for portions you want to really spend some time with, and speeding through other sections that are a bit too chatty for your liking.
Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minion's remake of Superstar Saga really is a wonderful experience. Like I said, I was quite happy to have a reason to experience this title again. It's fun to go back and see how things started off for the franchise, and also to look at how far things have come. It was an amazing game back in 2003, and it's quite the same in 2017. If you missed it the first time around, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't scoop this one up.
Now as I said, there's a whole different mode included in Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions. This is new content for every single player, no matter if you're a first-timer or someone who owns the original. The Bowser's Minions mode offers up an almost completely different type of experience for fans of the Mario & Luigi franchise. There are a couple minor elements which remain the same, but for the most part, this is a new beast altogether.
I can tell you that when I first saw the Bowser's Minions mode, I wasn't interested at all. That's just my honest first impression. The gameplay looked too simple, and it seemed like an experience that played itself. Of course, I was still open to giving the mode a shot, but I didn't have high hopes. Now that I've spent a considerable amount of time with it, I can come away saying I'm super impressed, and my initial impressions were quite wrong. There's a lot to do here, a ton to consider, and it's a much deeper experience than it might appear on the surface.
One of the best things about the Bowser's Minions mode is that it gives you story content you don't get in Superstar Saga. You get to see what Bowser's minions are up to when Bowser gets blown away during an early boss battle. Without ruining things, Bowser's airship comes under attack while Bowser isn't aboard, and it ends up taking massive damage. The ship explodes and sends Bowser's minions all over the landscape. The game then sets you down with one Goomba in particular, and this Goomba sets out to find Bowser and help rescue him.
As I said earlier, Bowser's Minions mode is completely different from what you experience in Superstar Saga. This is a strategy-based mode, rather than an RPG. Starting off as a Goomba, you'll tackle a world map with spots you have to clear before you can travel to the next. To clear these spots, you have to battle other enemies from the Superstar Saga franchise. There will be all sorts of enemies you'll recognize, from Goombas and Paratroopas to Beanies and more. Why are you fighting against some of the minions that would be normally working for Bowser? That's a plot point I don't want to ruin, but I will tell you that a main baddie in Superstar Saga is directly involved.
As you clear levels, you'll gain new allies in your fight to find Bowser. Some of the Goombas, Shy Guys and more will come to your aid. While battles themselves do play out somewhat automatically, the real meat of the gameplay takes place before you set foot on the battlefield. You'll nee to craft the right kind of team to give yourself the best chance at taking out the opposition. The world map will show you what baddies are waiting in levels you're about to tackle, and then it's up to you to build a formation that you think can take on the challenge.
Here's where a rock-paper-scissors element comes into play. Certain enemy types are weak to others, so you need to make sure you put together a troop that can withstand the heat on the battlefield. For example, Hammer Bros. are great for ranged attacks, but they aren't that good against enemies who focus on melee. Then there's airborn enemies who can swoop in and take down melee opponents with ease, but suffer bigtime against ranged. Each minion in your group will have one of the three attack types, and there's a wheel on-screen to always show you what they're strong/weak against. It's up to you to analyze what bad guys await, and build a team to fight them off.
Battles are multi-tiered, so your fights aren't just one and done. You'll have multiple waves to go through, but thankfully, your team has its health completely replenished each wave. Some stages will have you going through multiple waves before you can claim victory, so you better make sure the gang you put together is in it for the long haul. The further you get into the game, the more challenging your opposition will be. You'll also come upon branching paths on the map, with each option showing you the bad guy formation, as well as level. Sometimes it might be best to pick an easier fight against enemies you know you can handle, and other times you might want to test a new team and see how they stack up. Plus, if you're having trouble making it through a fight, you can always go back to previous levels and grind away to level up.
Fighting your way through the waves is the best way to get experience, but there are other options as well. You can grab various beans which can be fed to your allies for permanent boosts. If you match the bean to the type, you'll get a big bonus. If you give a bean to just any old ally, they'll still get an upgrade, but it'll only be half as good as it would for a matched type. Sometimes that's all you'll need to boost a Goomba to a level you want. Other times you'll want to hang onto those beans to make sure they go to the right troops.
As you play through, you'll also be able to factor in different captains. At the start, you'll only have a Goomba captain to lead your squad to victory. Eventually you'll be able to swap out captains for different situations. Some captains are weak when leading their team against a certain type, while a different captain can have what it takes to make the enemy scream in pain. It's yet another layer to the experience, and will have you spending a lot of time analyzing what lies ahead. The right troops, experience level, approach, and even captain can make or break every single battle.
When you're actually in battle itself, there's still more things to do. Much like in Superstar Saga, you'll have the opportunity to press a button to add some damage to an attack. These opportunities come up at random, so you have to keep your eye on the battle. Thankfully your allies will light up with a red ring to let you know when they're going in for a big move, and then it's up to you to time the button press correctly to get the bigger damage out of it. Again, just like all the elements mentioned above, these timed attack opportunities can be just enough to push you over the edge in a battle.
Once you play through a few levels, you'll also get other captain abilities to help turn the tide. These abilities require you to use in-game CP, which is replenished after each battle. You'll start out with a certain amount of CP, and depending on what ability you're trying to use, some cost more or less. The first CP move you get allows you to call off a big enemy attack. Just as you have the option to do timing-based button presses to add damage, the opponent can do so as well. If you have one CP, you can press the directional pad upwards to spend it and call off the big enemy attack. As you go through the mode, you'll earn all sorts of abilities, and you can customize which ones you want to take into battle.
Like I said, I originally thought this Bowser's Minions mode was going to be a quick-and-dirty addition to the Superstar Saga remake. Something to slightly entice people to grab this game even though they played the original a million times over. Now that I've played a good deal of it, I can tell you that it's much, MUCH deeper and way more fun than expected. Again, this isn't a type of game I would normally play, but I'm glad I did! It challenges me to think in new ways and appreciate a different type of gameplay. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, you get a completely new side-story for Superstar Saga, and it offers up writing easily on-par with what was in the original.
Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions is a really great package. One one hand you have a high quality remake of one of the best Mario & Luigi games. On the other, you get a brand-new mode which gives you new story, all-new gameplay, and plenty of laughs along the way. I'm really glad I had the chance to give this one a go. I knew the original game was going to be fantastic all over again, and indeed it was. More importantly, I came away with a great appreciation for a mode I never imagined would have done anything for me. It just goes to show that being open-minded is important!
Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga's irresistible charm, super-addictive gameplay, and fresh coat of paint make this package worth the purchase alone. Throw in the deeply engaging Bowser's Minions mode and this quickly becomes can't-miss territory. Through every facet of the experience, Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions makes it hard to put your 3DS down.