I hit paydirt at the game store yesterday; I got Prince of Persia, which I’ve already gushed about in another thread, and the new GBA game Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
It’s not a platformer like the Super Mario series, but an action-RPG, and I understand it’s kind of like Paper Mario and the earlier Square/Nintendo Mario RPG whose title I’ve forgotten. (I haven’t played either of those two games). It’s a cross between a handheld RPG and all the Mario Bros. platformer games, played up for as many laughs as possible.
The mechanics are pretty straightforward but are engaging. You control Mario & Luigi as a pair, moving around a world like the Zelda GB games. When you encounter an enemy, it switches into turn-based RPG-style combat, where you can jump on the enemy’s head, and dodge/counter the enemy’s attack. (I’m sure that more moves open up later in the game; I’m not very far along yet). The levels are like Zelda-ized Mario levels, with the usual jumping on bricks to get mushrooms and such; in this game the mushrooms act as potions & similar items from other RPGs.
But the big appeal of the game is all in the presentation. A lot of Japanese games are funny, but you often get the sense that the humor is pretty broad and you’re more laughing at the absurdity of it all than the jokes themselves. This is the first I’ve played in a long time where you get the sense that everybody’s in on the joke. It’s all silly and goofy, but clever at the same time – there’s plenty of self-referential humor and most surprising of all for a Mario game, some of it is actually kind of dry and ironic (more like The Sims, of all things).
I’ve only just started the game, but it’s made a hell of a first impression. I could see the basic combat getting old quickly, but I’ve already run into a couple of mini-games that are so silly and fun I got caught up in those. It’s great to see an RPG that isn’t all preoccupied with being deep and momentous, but is just goofy fun – these are games, after all. (I really like that along with the standards “health” and “dexterity”, Mario and Luigi have a “stache” attribute; I haven’t figured out what it does yet). And it’s really nice to see that this doesn’t devolve into just a parody RPG; it’s a solid game in its own right.