So, I remember it like it was yesterday, I was watching people react to geno in smash 4 on the wii u, disappointment, people wanted the character to have a bigger, better chance in smash bros, to have more stars shine on him, to give him a more respectful appearence, but they got a mii fighter, they were disappointed, and I was there asking myself, why do they want this guy from mario and luigi superstar saga? He barely does anything! Then I would go and search on the internet and… Super mario rpg : legend of the seven stars appears in front of me. A rpg? Featuring mario characters? By square? I was thrilled, It was late 2014. I waited till the game appeared on the wii u virtual console and gave it a try. I loved it! The characters were all funny and lovable, oh hey! It's geno! He's originally a doll? Oh my god the whole idea of super paper mario of teaming up with bowser dates back to this? A villain that isn't bowser and is actually imposing? I loved every part of it. Now bear in mind that I was 16 at the time. So I wasn't a kid who only had one game, I was the type of 16 year old who would work to get money to buy games and other things. So if I didn't enjoy it, I could simply say : " Well, that wasn't fun, onto the next game". But no, I enjoyed it.
It's 2020, the world is made of bricks, everyone's at home, waiting for the Sephiroth direct to start, it would start, and one of the first things sakurai showed, were the mii costumes… We all know what happened next. I decided then to replay the game. To see if 4 years later I could still play and enjoy this game. What happened, couldn't be less unfortunate. I finished the game and sighed… "This wasn't that good". I was genuinely concerned about my unpopular opinion. Is the game not good? Or am I just not used to snes games?
Well let's start by saying that I loved this game's presentation, the music is extremely catchy and pumps me up for the battles, the tracks range from atmospheric to energetic and so on and so forth, if you heard the track that played during geno's showcase in smash, well you just heard, arguably, the best track in the game. I simply adore the art style of this game, they all look like dolls, and not in a bad way, it's charming as all hell, the characters have exaggerated expressions, they have this feeling of a 3D look, it heavily reminds of the donkey kong country games, it was made to look spectacular back in the day and somehow aged well and add to the overall experience, and the environments mario traverses? They look stunning for an snes game, super colorful, surprisingly detailed and over top with some locations and overall nice on the eyes. But it obviously brings negatives with it. Too many enemies on screen? Minor, but noticable, slowdowns. Peach does a group hug? Frame rate gets shattered. Anything happens on screen with too much frames of animation? Heavy, and I mean heavy slowdowns. Thankfully this never ruins the game, this happens in moments like :
-Grabbing a star and beating those robot dogs in the early game, since you're invincible, this isn't much of a problem.
-Again since it's an animation, peach's group hug slows the game considerably, but because you don't have to tap any buttons during this animation, it isn't much of a problem.
-The FP attacks by the enemies, since, as far as I know, you can't defend to receive less damage, this won't lead to your death (at least because of the slowdown)
I think the devs knew when to clutter up the screen and when not to, leading to the frame rate staying put till a moment where you can't really mess up because of the framerate. But there's mario's fireballs, and when the screen is filled with them, pressing Y a ton won't lead to the best results, since the input is slown down leading to a much lower chance of doing it perfectly.
Now to the main meal of the game : the rpg and it's mechanics. This game is a traditional square rpg, it doesn't innovate much from my perspective, you still beat enemies, gain points and level up, you keep items to be used in battles or outside of them depending on the item, you can equip armor and weapons and other equipments, and most importantly, you can have a party of 3, picking between 4 characters with 5 in total but mario can't be swapped sadly, but understandably. But there's a thing that this game did innovate in that lead to battles being a little easier : action commands, if you've ever played a paper mario or mario and luigi game, you know what this is, but it's a ton more basic here, press A to do double the damage, with some even more damage, and with the Y prompts, you have to do what the text box tells you to do any damage, or any effect. But then there's the first major problem I have with this game, the game just isn't clear enough sometimes, at all, it tells you to hold Y, but when do I start holding it and when do I stop? It tells me to repeatedly press Y, I do and I barely do any damage, just do it on the exact same fight but with different timing and having it work, it's completely up in the air if the game considers it as "you pressed Y repeatedly correctly" or not, sometimes I do the same timing in the same fight and it works once but the other time. But one part of rpgs I hated was grinding, grinding for long hours just to beat that one boss, and have to sit down grinding after that to be able to beat the one after that, super mario rpg, almost never required me to grind, except the fight with "power rangers knockoffs", I never had to grind, this makes those wonky inputs just a little more bearable.
And then comes my biggest problem with the game, my main problem with the game, the reason I said those controversial words at the end of playthrough, the game's biggest and most frustrating part, the game is long, way too long unnecesserly long, and I don't just mean that one grinding part, I mean the ridiculously infuriating long dungeons mixed with infuriatingly long boss battles, oh you beat this boss? Well here's another one. You beat that one too? How about one more? Oh you lost? Welp, the last save point was before the beginning of the first fight. Do that part again. It made me take long breaks after every part of a boss fight. And by the dungeons, I'm talking about the parts where you simply had to deal with flawed and untested mechanic, because the game is simply trying to be a mix of mario's creative level design and a 3D aerometric view, leading the screws in the factory, the conveyor belts also in the factory, me getting stuck because it's not obvious where the edge of the screen is to move on to the next one, when instead of having it like zelda where you move left, right, up, down. Here? Down left, up left, down right, up right. Why they decided to do that is beyond me, I guess to give it a more 3D look? But when the gameplay is heavily hurt, shouldn't they just not do this? The barrel minigame is iconic but is frustrating. The screws I talked about earlier were good ideas but this style of movement didn't help this mechanic, it hurt it, leading to me jumping on it and sometimes straight up falling through it. I would avoid the enemies but they would for some reason just hit me even though they didn't get close to me, why? Because of a wonky hitbox. What about those platforms in bowser's castle? Well, I fell more than 20 times in the lava, and the barrels? I would constantly get hit by them even when I jumped over them. Sometimes it's just not clear where to go with this camera angle that hurts the platforming parts. And the worst part is, exploring the world is actually fun, a ton of fun, there are things to collect everywhere, there are secret enemies like culex for instance, the characters are charming and lovable, yet, this camera angle simply doesn't complement the mechanics, this game is fun in the battles if a little too repetitive, but hey you read my name, I love earthbound, earthbound has repetition, well yes but that repetion isn't even more annoying because of the saving, oh god the saving in this game, in earthbound, when you save your game, you have two choices when you die, you either continue because you leveled up and the fact that you leveled up stays, but the items you used are gone, or you don't continue and restart the game because you didn't level up but you consumed a ton of items, what about this game? Well if you mess up, you go back to that save point like nothing happened, literally, anything you did after saving is gone, people may like that but I like it depending on if it helps the game be more enjoyable, here, it doesn't at all. The best explanation would be when I reached the end of the game, fight after fight after fight, so, I have to fight this statue guy to break the block he falls on, then I have to beat these two morons and that snake, then I have to beat these 4 hammers and that knight, then more hammers and another knight, and then another one just in case 4 boss battles weren't enough, then you beat the chief with his machine (after giving you the option to save) and then finally smithy, you beat him and guess what, another phase, and this one 3 phased too, you beat his body, then his head, and you're done, well, good luck, because he will keep doing attacks in the first part of the fight like the mega drain, the crushing wood thingy and spawning a bunch of statue shy guys, who themselves do a sword rain, that does the same amount as the wood crusher, so you have to beat the mouth that brings out these shy guys, then beat the shy guys left, then beat smithy, then watch a 5 minutes long "looking at smithy rage" cutscene, to be dropped on the next part where you probably consumed half of your items to survive the previous round, and get beaten to a pulp to restart the 2 part final boss all over again. Was it worth to make it through this factory part? No, super simple to say, a big fat no. Do you know when the game could've ended? Well, how about after beating the sword? No? It would've still been climactic, and less hair pulling-ly long, I spent 4 hours, 4 f***ing hours in the factory part. Doing the stupid screw platforming over and over because the game thought I walked off even if I just walked a bit closer so that when I would jump, I wouldn't fall, trying to beat 5 bosses in a row without losing my mind, and trying over and over again on the final smithy form simply because beating the first part with no items is straight up impossible. I would beat the boss, watch the ending part, and said " This wasn't that good".
This isn't a terrible game, but rather a game that hasn't aged very well, a game where you have to understand the limitations to enjoy, a game where you have to love the world enough to forgive these problems, I don't think this game doesn't deserve the praise, I just think that the game deserves a second and better look at the game's flaws, to call it a classic, it's a classic, but it's a game that doesn't hold up as well as I thought it would.
Thank you for reading through this, I know that a lot of these problems are nitpicking but with a game that is considered the grandfather of mario rpgs, I felt like I had to be as harsh as I was, I had to give my opinion more, with this game I'm feeling the same as when I played games like: ocarina of time, earthbound beginings, mega man games, castlevania games and other final fantasy games on the snes. They're all good games, but they aged surprisingly poor to what we remember.
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