When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. I didn’t actually own it, but I memorized the label number on the cartridge at my favorite video store, just to make sure I always rented the copy with my save file. (I actually bought that cartridge when the store inevitably closed years later, complete with the same sticker!). So to say that playing the 2023 remake of Super Mario RPG is a pleasure would be an understatement. That already excellent game has been incredibly faithfully recreated here, to the point where I can recognize not only its charming levels and clever characters, but even every silly little animated gesture Mario makes during conversations.
With such strict adherence to the original across the board, what has caught my attention the most are the ways in which Super Mario RPG has changed, and from what I’ve seen so far in its first few hours, there’s no room for this classic. It has been modified more than the combat. The original’s combat was a simple but super entertaining turn-based system that rewarded you for well-timed button presses. The essence of it hasn’t changed, but a series of quality of life tweaks and a couple of entirely new systems have made each fight a little more engaging.
Starting off simple, some subtlety has been added to the button timing of your attacks and blocks. Pressing the A button at the right time during most attacks will still give you a damage boost, but press that time even more precisely on basic attacks and you’ll now deal splash damage to all enemies on the screen. That adds some interesting new battle planning to the mix, where you could weaken an enemy with a direct hit before finishing them off with that free AOE; that tactic is complemented by a useful indicator that tells you when an enemy is “almost down.” but it is a risky decision if you end up miscalculating the final blow.
On the blocking side, a perfect A press will not only reduce damage, but will also completely nullify an enemy attack. Backing this newly expanded system is a clever hint mechanic that will display an exclamation point at the exact moment you need to press A. At first I thought this was a bit harsh, but the brilliant thing is that it only remains until you do. . Learn how to use a particular attack or block a certain enemy. If you manage to sync multiple times on a move or lock a specific enemy’s ability long enough, the training wheels will come off when the symbol stops appearing… but if your sync starts to constantly fail, it will come back to guide you once. again.
It’s also become more important to time your attacks and blocks, even against easy enemies that could be taken out with a single AOE attack. This is because Super Mario RPG keeps track of how many successful timed presses you’ve completed in a row, even between fights. I loved seeing how high I could get to that number, and the better you do, you’ll be rewarded with small upgrades and a slowly charging gauge meter.
While that gauge is initially spent on a random and often boring Toad buff, it’s not long before you get a full group, at which point it transforms into an entirely new and totally epic Triple Move. This super strong attack, complete with its own 3D cutscene, appears to be exclusive to whichever group you use for that fight, and I can’t wait to see what the others look like.
Super Mario RPG Nintendo Direct Trailer
You’ll also want those more powerful powers, as this new version shakes up your standard and quickly familiar encounters by occasionally throwing “special enemies” at you. These are just stronger, faster versions of normal monsters, but they’re beefed up enough that you can’t fight fights on autopilot anymore. They don’t drastically change things, but they’ve done a good job of making me rethink my strategy when I encounter one.
In fact, none of these changes feel like a total reinvention or anything, and I don’t think they should. Instead, they simply refresh and develop a fun combat system that was probably already collecting a bit of dust, especially when similar games like the incredible Sea of Stars have recently introduced their own twists on turn-based RPG combat with a lot of fun. time. So far I’m happy to see that Super Mario RPG has been able to balance its faithful recreation of one of my favorite games with a willingness to improve it where necessary.
Tom brands is IGN’s deputy reviews editor. He loves card games, puzzles, platforms, platform games, and much more.