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I remember when I got this game. I was four, and I had just broken the habit of sucking my thumb, and my reward was a brand new video game. And so I picked this, and it was AWESOME! Now on to the review itself.
Everything about this game has stuck with me. Granted, this is because I played it to death, but I wouldn't have played it so much were it not so wonderful. However, the thing that has stuck with me most is the music. The very first piece of music I learned to play by ear was "Beware the Forest's Mushrooms." There's never a dull moment in the soundtrack, and if you look, there are some very cool combinations/Shout Outs. For example, Super Pipe House is obviously based on the original mario theme, but the accordion/organ track is playing a slowed down World 1 map theme from SMB3. Cool, no?
Characters. I can say without a shadow of a doubt I can remember every character's name given their role (even the bit characters!), or vice versa. They're all fleshed out, all the major ones get some development, and at the risk of sounding redundant, they stick with you. I still vividly remember Geno chewing out Bowser for not being level headed once Exor is defeated, or King Nimbus asking for everyone's autograph (except poor Geno). I was genuinely sad after defeating Smithy because I was so attached to Geno. There's a remix from OCR floating around somewhere that still brings me to tears.
Art Direction. The colors are bright, it's all very big and playful and there's never too much seriousness (except during the very last battle). Since Square wasn't working with its own characters, for the most part, their design only really got a chance to shine in two places: boss characters and environments. The environments all have their own identity, and this mixes well with the music. I liked Tadpole Pond best, because of the music, Toadofsky, and the tadpoles. And now to the bosses. Just like the characters, they're all fleshed out. Granted, they don't get much of a chance to develop (even though they sneak in some with Johnny Jones), but they're all visually unique and I could still describe them all at the drop of a hat.
Overall, 9.5 out of 10. The half point is for no reason in particular, I just know that if the brains were to come together again, they'd go one step further and make even better.
I hate RPGs. I really hate turn-based ones in particular. I don't like level grinding, I don't like the lack of variety in the gameplay, and I don't like long, drawn-out battles.
Super Mario RPG addresses all of those complaints, becoming the first RPG I ever really liked. You level up very quickly, the fights - including boss fights - go by fast, and there's a lot of non-RPG gameplay elements. There's tons of hidden items to search for, hidden areas, a lot of platforming, a bunch of sidequests, and a lot of variety in the world design.
The game is incredibly easy, but that doesn't really matter, because as I see it, this isn't one of those games you play for the challenge. Instead, you play for the experience.
And it's the variety that drives the experience. Not just the mini-games like collecting coins on the waterfall or riding the mine cart, but also the world design. Booster's Tower plays very differently from, say, Beanstalk Valley, or the castle in Nimbus Land. Unique gimmicks keep showing up throughout the game, keeping things fresh.
Beyond that, there's tons of little bonuses and secrets. For example, one part of the game has a fan-shaped enemy. Another area, a town full of friendly monsters, has a friendly version of this fan enemy that can be turned to different speeds just like a real fan. If you change the speed of the fan, you influence the behavior of every version of the fan-shaped enemy in the other parts of the game, which in turn may allow you to reach secret items, or not. Another town has an incredibly expensive "shiny stone", which if purchased, allows you to visit and fight a secret boss from the Final Fantasy games in another town later on.
There are also bonus tasks, like finding invisible flags placed by several friendly ghosts who talk to you in your sleep. And cool little details, like being able to see Mario's dreams if you sleep in a special bed in one particular whimsical town.
The game is just fun. The low difficultly doesn't hurt it at all, but if anything, makes it more accessible. The real star is the fast pace, diversity of locales and gameplay, and the sheer amount of content. And that can be appreciated by a very wide audience.
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