With Mario quickly approaching his 30th birthday, he's able to look back on some truly amazing adventures, and one that really blew people away was the one he went on with his brother back in 2003.
Spiritually, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was the sequel to games such as Paper Mario, which had come out three years previously on the N64, and Super Mario RPG, the SNES title which sadly never saw a PAL release. While Mario has predominantly been associated with platform gaming, he has stuck his toes into the pool of RPGs a few times, and Superstar Saga was one of the best, despite relatively poor sales.
No Mario game has topped the original Super Mario Bros. in terms of sales, and while that one hit 40 million sales, Superstar Saga raked in a paltry 2.12m sales, leaving it behind the likes of New Super Luigi U, Mario Paint, and the aforementioned Super Mario RPG.
The game itself was revolutionary for the Mario franchise. Simultaneous control of both brothers was a big feature, and while each brother starts off with a very basic move set, their abilities evolved as you progressed in the game; for example, Luigi had his super jump, which allowed the brothers to reach high platforms, while Mario had a helicopter spin, which allowed the duo to traverse reasonable horizontal distances. Once hammers were introduced to the fray, they could be used in battle and while roaming — hitting Mario would make him small enough to squeeze under tiny gaps, while Luigi would actually go underground.
During the 30+ hours spent playing this brilliant game, Bowser even joins Mario and Luigi to help them get Peach’s voice back from the evil Cackletta – the initial focus of the game. To make all Nintendo fans smile, they included nods to other popular titles such as Luigi’s Mansion – a pretty fresh reference as it came out in 2001 – along with Nintendo’s version of Tetris — Dr. Mario!
The battle mode was fresh as well. Many RPGs of the time would randomly throw the player into battle, but in Mario and Luigi’s Superstar Saga, enemies were seen walking around in the overworld, and were therefore avoidable if there was no need to stomp on their heads. When fully entered into a battle with a monster, the style was very well handled, with both Mario and Luigi each taking their turns before the enemies attacked, and in certain situations, the brothers could be teamed together to try and do more damage; however, if the player did not time the attacks to perfection, one of the brothers would let the other down and the attack would be weaker as a result.
Despite having lower sales than many would expect from such a fantastic game, Superstar Saga received unanimously outstanding reviews, with IGN and GameSpot giving it 9/10, and IGN even named it the 12th best game on the Game Boy Advance when they did a review of the handheld console's best back in 2007.
Superstar Saga created its own following, though, with three sequels having already been released — the Nintendo DS titles Partners In Time in 2005 and Bowser’s Inside Story in 2009, as well as Dream Team, which came out in 2013 on the 3DS – and in 2016, a crossover with the other popular RPG Paper Mario will be released in the form of Paper Jam.
Superstar Saga set the trend, and this popular RPG has changed the course of Mario’s history forever. One thing is for sure, for a 29 year old, Mario has had an exciting life so far.