Bear Vs. 3×3 – #1: Super Mario RPG

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Here we are. The classic, Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars. A game that a lot of us remember, myself included, as the Mario game we picked up when we were about six years old and we said, “What the fuck is this Mario?” and then as we kept playing it we said, “I like this Mario.” This is a game that I have touted as one of my favorite games of all time, claiming a coveted spot on the 3×3 back in 2013. I’ve played through it once again, looking at it with a critical eye only a bear could have. Does it hold up?

I felt for sure that this would stay on. “I’ll always love this game. It’s simply perfect.” Is it, 2013 Ryan? Is it though? The game starts off simple enough. Mario runs through Bowser’s Keep, he beats up some Koopas. You get blasted off to Toad’s house (or Mario’s house, I don’t really know.) Once you start off, it never really gets harder.

There are moments, sure. The struggles at the beginning of Super Mario RPG are real. Mario can only heal with items, you have limited Flower Points with which to use Special moves. But even from level 1, Mario hits like a truck. You’re one-shotting Goombas left and right, the game throws HP-Max freebies at you left and right, with the “Once Agains” and the other various bonuses you get for defeating enemies, the game ends up being so incredibly easy.

There are some things that are kind of garbage about Super Mario RPG. Moments exist where, because it’s a Mario game, and because other Mario games have platforming, they encourage you to platform, even require you. The 3-D puzzle, and the section at the beginning of the game on Bandit’s Way comes to mind. Trying to line up the stupid flowers and OH MY GOD. I would get so mad trying to do this. Or any time the game makes you wait on a star platform to move to another star platform, and it’s moving and god it’s awful. And the odd quarter turned point of view really made me struggle to excel at these parts of the game.

What ultimately bums me out about Super Mario RPG is that it could have been so much more. Having some really cool enemy defense active time mechanics would be great. There some moves in the game that cannot be avoided. Imagine a system where every point of damage was avoidable. They could have done it. What surprised me too was how never once was there a special with some kind of button combination. Maybe this would have over-complicated the game, but it would provided some much needed variety into the timed attack system.

You could argue, that since I’ve played through Super Mario RPG about twenty times in my life, give or take, that maybe I know it inside and out. That I have mastered timed attacks and defense to the point where it isn’t a problem for me anymore. And you would probably be right. I don’t think though, that any child given this game, couldn’t master the same things I did. And who could very easily beat this game in the normal 16-ish hours it takes to do so.

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There are some hard boss encounters. Axem Rangers and your first go at Belome come to mind. But after amassing your party of five characters, and leveling them all up (which is incredibly quick in SMRPG) you’re pretty much unstoppable. Even the fight with Smithy at the end of the game, while it takes some strategy to pull off, sure, it’s not particularly hard. The game gives you so many items to make that fight a non-issue.

There are things about Super Mario RPG that I absolutely adore. I think the combat actions themselves are incredibly engaging. The timed attacks, and the way you execute special moves is always something I look back on fondly. This game has so much heart and it really comes through. That menu? That RPG input menu. That is one of the smartest and innovative designs for a menu in any RPG I have ever played, and to this day no one has tried to copy it or improve upon it. It’s simply perfect.

There is something about Super Mario RPG, that gets to me to play it about once every couple of years. I like the way it plays, it’s a feel-good title with a lot going on mechanically that I really enjoy. Is it part of the exclusive 3×3 club? Is it one of my nine best games of all time? The answer is… maybe. I think as I explore this article series more closely, and I start to go through the other games I need to go through, I’m going to find that Super Mario RPG belongs on there, but for right now, it could easily get bumped. Regardless of where it ends up, I will still always love this game, and continue to play it for years to come.

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Verdict: Tentative

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