Super Mario RPG: The Mario Game Nintendo Forgot

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG

When Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars came out in March of 1996, I was nine years old. Back then, I went to the video store with my parents and literally judged games by their cover. This game had Mario on the box. I was in.

I didn’t know this particular game was very different from the usual platforming, hop-and-bop gameplay you might expect. For one, it was an isometric game. Yet when I loaded up the save file of whoever played the video store cartridge last, the first thing I did was jump on a goomba. When the game screen wiped into a completely different area that had Mario on one side and the goomba on the other, I knew what kind of game this was.

It was like EarthBound.

Mario at Bowser's Castle
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It was another turn-based game with lots of text (even though Mario never spoke a word) and memorable characters. Developed by Squaresoft (before they merged with Enix and became Square-Enix), it had classic Final Fantasy gameplay with a Mario twist. The game had timed hits and timed blocks. Both Princess Toadstool and Bowser could join your team.

As a kid whose first video game ever was Donkey Kong, and first console game ever was the original Super Mario Bros., this game was insane. The graphics were amazing (for their time), and the world of Mario became so much more than just floating platforms and turtle dragons. There were towns. There were regular people, with regular jobs.

This was a Super Mario World I wanted to live in.

I fell in love with characters like Mallow the cloud prince, and Geno the battle-puppet. I still hum the game’s soundtrack to this day. And the timed hits system was so ahead of its time, when games like Legend of Dragoon came out, it was old hat to me.

So how come very few people seem to remember this game?

Mario RPG World
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Easy answer? Squaresoft broke away from Nintendo to join the Sony squad. The PlayStation was simply the best console for Final Fantasy VII. So while Nintendo may own Mario and his friends, characters like Geno and Mallow belonged to Square.

In short, these characters would never come back in a Nintendo game. Even after Square-Enix patched things up with Nintendo and started doing the Crystal Chronicles thing, Mario RPG was old news. And we all know how much Nintendo hates their old beloved SNES RPGs.

While we might see it on virtual consoles for Nintendo systems, the franchise has effectively been replaced by Paper Mario and the Mario and Luigi Superstar games. Which, if you ask me, are vastly inferior.

I will not stop clamoring for Geno and Mallow to become Nintendo regulars. Why can’t I punch Mallow’s fluffy face in Smash Bros? Why can’t I blast tennis balls from Geno’s arm rockets? I want my beloved childhood back. In closing, life is unfair. And so is Nintendo.

OP Or Not OP, That Is The Question: #2- Little Mac

Smash Bros

Little Mac

Ah, Little Mac. The star of NES classic Punch Out!! is one of those second- or third-tier Nintendo characters many have wanted to see in Smash Bros for some time. He made his debut in the latest 3DS/Wii U installment, but could anyone have predicted the hot mess the character would turn out to be?

For the uninitiated, Punch Out!! hit the NES in 1987. It’s a toontastic arcade boxing sim, in which you rise through the ranks of the circuit as a scrawny young greenhorn boxer. Little Mac was no powerhouse here, and victory depended on strict timing and careful positioning of attacks in opponents’ weak spots. But then Smash Bros Mac happened.

On the one hand, his design and general moveset is very much as you’d expect. He fights only with his fists, of course, using attacks which could have been pulled direct from the games. But the character’s other mechanics caused a wave of Mac hate and cries of OP when the game was first released. Let’s take a look.

First up, as I say, brute force would quickly get you flattened in Punch Out!!. Counters and suchlike were vital to success, and the only real way to damage opponents at all in some cases. But in Smash Bros, he can overpower and overwhelm you effortlessly. The combination of great speed and power is very much taboo in fighting games, after all. Generally, you’ll encounter a hulking, shrugs-off-bullets-like-the-Terminator type (Soul Caibur`’s Astaroth), or a scrawny, agile opponent like Taki. There are those average in both, sure, but excelling in both? That’s Mac.

He’s among the fastest-moving fighters, and boasts some similarly quick attacks (that killer jab being particularly notable among them). As with everybody else, his smashes are the deadliest moves in his repertoire, but the puny pugilist’s have unique qualities. By which I mean, powering through everything else with super armor. That is not the traditional Little Mac way, and it makes him a scary prospect to face for unfamiliar players.

Little Mac

Then there’s the formidable KO Punch, a mechanic exclusive to him. Taking and dealing hits fills a meter, and allows you to unleash the punch when it’s full. It’s very predictable, but is almost a guaranteed kill when landed. It’s a neat little nod to the original game, but here it also seems like overkill, a little unnecessary, and rewards the player for performing badly (sustaining damage charges the punch more effectively).

All of this led to Mac being seen as cheap, an ‘easy wins’ button, on the game’s release. But familiarity with him is key.

Much of this attitude comes from play in For Glory mode. Here, stage hazards and platforms are removed, rendering each level a pseudo Final Destination. This is the perfect environment for Little Mac to thrive in, letting him exert his dominance of the ground unhindered. Anywhere else, he struggles, due to his pitiful aerial game.

Generally, this guy’s aerial attacks are of slim to zero use. You’ll want your feet on the ground at all times as the Punch-Out!! star, because he just can’t take anyone on with his weak and short-ranged aerials. This translates also to his recovery, which is notoriously bad and leaves him ripe for a gimping if the player isn’t wary.

There’s no doubt that Little Mac is a Smash Bros powerhouse, and particularly so in For Glory. He earned himself a reputation almost instantly as a noob killer, and he retains it. Nevertheless, the key is understanding and knowing how to manage him. In a tournament setting, you’ll find proceedings less than Mac-tastic, which probably tells you all you need to know about whether the character is truly broken or not.

On Mewtwo’s Return to Smash Bros.

Smash Bros

Yep, Mewtwo. Back in Pokémon Red and Blue, this guy was something to be feared. The ultimate pokémon, a creature born from horrific experimentation and the splicing of Mew’s DNA. It was a being of unparalleled power, ability and rip-your-scalp-off-and-wear-it-as-a-daring-fashion-accessory fury.

This formidable feline foe was the last challenge for any trainer, accessible only after defeating the Elite 4 and becoming Pokémon Champion. It was, back in 1998, an unholy pain in the ass to catch. The Psychic type, you might remember, was pretty well untouchable back then as it was, and Mewtwo was the best of the best.

With all of this in mind, you’d probably have to pity any opponent meeting it in Smash Bros combat. You’d expect them all to be trampled hideously, send home in a blood-leaking matchbox like the victims of a Mortal Kombat fatality.

You’d think this unless you’d actually played as Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. Melee, that is. Because he sucked.

You can see where they were going with making the character, I’ll concede. The Genetic Pokémon is a being of intense mental power; physical strength isn’t its forté. This is usually the case with Psychic types, but it didn’t seem to translate into Smash Bros. very well. As a Smasher, Mewtwo is unfortunately floaty, light and tall. This is a really awkward combination of traits, allowing it to be comboed and such easily.

Mewtwo 2

The character was all-round underwhelming. His special attacks, while completely unique among the cast, were a little questionable too. Mewtwo’s selling points were his powerful throws and great recovery, and not much seems to have changed in its transition to Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS.

Naturally, we can’t tell much from the scant days the character has been available. How it’ll match up with the rest of the Smashers, viability and such are going to take time to explore. We do know, though, that Mewtwo’s specials remain unchanged.

Shadow Ball is a simple, very powerful charged projectile, a la Samus’s Charge Shot. Teleport deals no damage, but adds to the character’s long-ranged and unpredictable recovery and movement. Disable has little range, but its ‘stunning’ effect is brilliant for follow ups, a property it didn’t quite have last time around. Finally, there’s Confusion, which will put opponents to sleep like a safer version of Jigglypuff’s sing. It’s perfect for delivering the coup de grace.

Mewtwo’s repertoire of smash and aerial attacks have been tweaked a little, offering both stronger and slower moves and faster ones. Up smash and forward air are particularly interesting new tools.

This guy is a real fan favorite, being offered two separate mega evolutions alongside Charizard in Pokémon X and Y. There was a lot of hype around its return to Smash, and players around the world are getting to grips with its new incarnation as we speak. As I say, it’s much too early to know anything about how it’ll compete, but I’ve always seen it as among the most unique characters in the series and it’s great to see it back.

‘Super Smash Bros Wii U’: Gotta Get That Glory!

Smash

Here I am at Smashaholics Anonymous, ready to admit I have a problem. Yep, I’m addicted to For Glory mode.

I’ve never played the original Smash Bros., but I certainly fell in love with Melee and Brawl. In both games, I’ve clocked up an absurd amount of playtime, and ventured into just about everything they had to offer. These are huge titles, in collectibles terms, and I worked my fingers into tiny, pointy stubs of worn-out pain to get every trophy and sticker I could.

For the lone player, the replayability doesn’t lie in the selection of modes. It’s fairly sparce there. Instead, it’s a matter of completing Classic, All-Star and Adventure as each member of the huge cast individually. This alone is quite a feat. But as far as learning the characters and getting specific rewards goes, it’s necessary.

So, yep, I did that too. Those sweet, sweet character trophies were collected. But with the advent of Super Smash Bros 3DS and Wii U, my progress has stalled. And why? Because I’m addicted to glory hunting, that’s why.

Smash Bros Wii U 2

In an effort to make the new game’s online options a little more robust, they’ve been divided into two categories: For Fun and For Glory. In the first, you’ll engage in demented free-for-alls with items, stage hazards and Final Smashes going off all over the darn place. The latter dispenses with all of of this, offering up itemless matches on completely flat, Final Destination clone stages. Glory, then, is as close to ‘competitive’ as Smash Bros has yet come.

In some ways, it’s completely against the essence of the series. Many detractors will whine that this is a party game through and through, and perhaps it isn’t strictly a ‘fighter’ after all. But it’s not entirely skill-less, and certainly not with all of the chaotic shenanigans turned off. Even in four player matches, I’ll always play with items off, and one on one matches in For Glory are right up my street.

In the 3DS installment, I played very little of the other modes. I ventured into All-Star and Classic, just with a favourite character or two, then dropped it entirely. It was very much unlike me. Having owned the Wii U game for weeks now, the same is true.

Whenever I power up the game, that one on one button beckons. I still have no clue how that Wii U exclusive mode works, because I haven’t chosen it yet. I mean to every time, but
GLORY!

Is ‘Super Smash Bros’ the Biggest 3DS Game Yet?

Super Smash

The 3DS, as we know, had a fairly humble beginning. Words like ‘disastrous’ and ‘reputation-mangling’ could be used, and there were many nervous Asian businessmen in Kyoto for a while there. What with the price, and rumours that the 3D super smash effect was made by the devil himself and will melt your eyeballs in their sockets, things were looking bad.

Three years later, the console is almost unrecognisable. After its price cut and that Ambassador business, its fortunes improved. Today, the enterprising handheld sports a generous crop of great titles, and is doing really rather well for itself.

And now another sure system seller joins the ranks: Super Smash Bros. 3DS.

For many of us, the fact that this is a portable Smash installment is all we need to know. That’s an exciting concept, right there. This is the first of the dual 3DS/Wii U releases, with the home console equivalent hitting this holiday season. But this is no stunted port.

Veteran Smashers know what an event a new series release is. This is hundreds of hours of ridiculous entertainment, and what many consider to be the greatest party game ever devised. It’s a fighting game with a brilliant Nintendo twist, and a heaping helping of fanservice thrown in. The hype train had been steaming alone the rails for months, and this was perhaps the most eagerly anticipated installment yet.

Smash Bros 3DS 2

That’s an absurd amount of pressure for a handheld to bear, and it does so with aplomb. As I’ve said, you’d probably expect all kinds of concessions to make this work. But there simply haven’t been any.

The full roster of almost fifty characters are here, and some eccentric new choices there are too. Just in case they’re still considered spoilers at this point, I shan’t mention them, except to say –in some cases– what the hell? The 3DS version has its own exclusive stages, a Tekken Force-esque mode that won’t appear in the Wii U edition, and a different crop of collectibles.

The game may not be as feature-packed as its predecessor, Brawl, but that’s not an issue. Some of the extraneous additions from the Wii game have been removed simply because… they sucked. Those 50 second demos of the original Zelda or F-Zero were a nice little touch, for instance, but nothing we’ll really miss. In this way, we’re able to focus on the core experience, which is what we love and what we’re here for after all.

Smash Bros. 3DS truly is the full Smash experience in miniature. There’s an extensive list of trophies to collect, some new minigames, and the return of the usual series favourites. Multi Man Melee and Home Run Contest are here. There are far too many challenges to beat, for those achievement addicts. The online modes are rather simple but perfectly formed, with separate modes for competitive play (an item-free, Final Destination type affair) and the crazier side of Smash.

In short, this probably would be the biggest release on the console so far, in all kinds of ways. It’s a huge package, certainly, yet it’s also simply the most significant game the handheld has seen to date. Not everybody is a fan of Smash Bros, of course, but unless you’re really averse this is nothing less than an essential purchase.