About two months ago, my sister asked to borrow my DS Lite. She was on a nostalgia spree, and wanted to replay Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, but well, since her GBA went the way of every console whose buttons ceded to the hands of less-than-gentle kids, that was the only way she could.
About three weeks ago, I got a very enigmatic message from my sister the night before she was to come for a visit, saying she had something new to show me.
The next day, she showed up with my DS Lite, her copy of Superstar Saga—and a 3DS cartridge with art that looked suspiciously similar to the GBA cartridge.
I honestly hadn’t even known that Nintendo was putting out another RPG-style game for its smaller handhelds (you know, aside from the ones released for the Switch, which I haven’t managed to get my hands on yet), so I was both surprised and very excited.
I had many memories of that game, and to be honest, most of them involved that stomach-turning sensation of not quite getting something right.
She left it with me to play, telling me that it was pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the game I’d never actually finished.
Because life happens, I only managed to pick it up this past week—when she came for another visit.
Why I loved it
So first up, the reason I loved this game so much when I was younger was that it was one of very few Mario games that I could actually play. You know, because skating physics.
It’s set up like a turn-based, world-exploration game that reminds me pretty strongly of Pokémon. You can go just about anywhere you like, with certain parts of the maps locked until you’ve learned better abilities, and wherever you go, things will jump out at you.
Your mission to rescue Peach’s voice and put the Beanstar back together takes you to all kinds of whimsical places, and you’ll have to do all kinds of tasks—including feeding hungry Yoshis and helping a hapless fashion designer create new, unexpected patterns.
You get a bonus for going above and beyond on most of these challenges, which is where I remember leaving off as a kid.
I never actually finished it, because I think a rage quit happened.
What stayed the same?
Much in the style of the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions is basically a visual update with a few extra bonuses.
I mean, it’s only moving from a GBA to a 3DS, but still.
Overall, the game is still a traditional Mario look, and the sprites, maps, and everything else are the same. The biggest difference is that it’s much sharper, a result of the larger screen size and better resolution on the 3DS.
It also still has all the same out-of-combat actions, like hammering poor Luigi down into the ground so he can root around for Chuckle Beans and sneak under fences.
The most noticeable (non-cosmetic) difference that I’ve noticed so far is in the actual combat functions. It might just be me, but it seems much easier and much more intuitive than the original!
Disclaimer: I was maybe 12 years old when I first played this game, so it may have just seemed easier because I’ve learned a thing or two in 14 years. Or at least, I would hope so!
In combat, you still get all the same options for Jump, Hammer, Bros, and Hand attacks. It would seem in this version, though, they’ve been updated both to be easier and more damaging!
For example, in the original game, a jump attack would do a set amount of damage, plus some bonus if you managed to hit A at exactly the right moment.
In the new version, you do the same damage—plus, if you time the A button properly, you actually get to jump on that enemy twice and do double the damage. It also doubles your chance for a critical hit.
This version also made hammer attacks easier; there’s a much more forgiving gap between the perfect timing and the hammer head awkwardly falling off at the last minute.
Overall, the changes are subtle, and the new version of the game stays true to Mario and Luigi’s first tag-team RPG. I’m nowhere near done, and I still need to find out how the + Bowser’s Minions part fits in, but I’m excited to keep playing!