Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions Review

It's a-back
Developer: AlphaDream Publisher: Nintendo Platforms: 3DS

An example of a good remake, despite the lackluster bonus content

There’s something about remakes that simply turns people off. You love a work, only to find that some snot-nosed kid is remaking it in their own image? It’s blasphemy! Video games aren’t an exception here, with remasters and remakes becoming more popular each year. Nintendo hasn’t been lazy on this front, with their consistent Pokemon remakes amongst others. Their most recent foray into remakes is a stone-cold classic. Mario and Luigi is a series that’s won the hearts of countless people, but there’s one title that stands above the rest: Superstar Saga. Released for the Game Boy Advance back in 2003, it’s now one of the console’s must-have titles and a near-perfect RPG. Does this remake improve upon the original, or even surpass it?

I played Superstar Saga on and off in my younger years, but an opportunity to revisit it is a privilege. It’s still the same loveable, addictive, and solid JRPG that it was nearly 15 years ago. I could go on about the original for ages, but I’ll keep it brief. It keeps to the traditional Super Mario formula, but with minor twists. A new villain, the stealing of Peach’s voice, and enough sass to fill an entire women’s talk show slot.

This remake is faithful to the original game in ways that puts other remakes to shame. The active input turn-based battles remain the best JRPG combat system, bar none. It keeps you involved in the action, without falling into a waiting game that its contemporaries did. The original controls had one button controlling Mario and another controlling Luigi. What the remake improves upon is this scheme, taking full advantage of the 3DS’ increased number of buttons. The X button, for example, allows both Mario and Luigi to act together. It took some getting used to, but the flow of this classic game has been largely improved. This remake is, dare I say it, the definitive way of playing the game! The visual upgrade is great, but that’s not to say that the original looks dated. The music, on the other hand, varies from “better” to “why is that instrument there oh god”.

Picture taken seconds before disaster

The remake adds optional new content, as all good remakes should. Bowser’s Minions is a tactics RPG, centred around a rogue Goomba gathering allies to find the big Bowser boy himself. There’s not much to it, and I never ended up playing it all that much. Much like Streetpass Battle, combat is a modified version of paper-scissors-rock. The simplicity is endearing, but there’s little to no depth to these mechanics. Most battles are done by simply waiting for favourable results, which gets old quickly. Troop management is simply arduous, with grinding aplenty. I don’t like grinding, but some people do. Simple as that.

This remake is faithful to the original game in ways that puts other remakes to shame

Zzzzzzap!

Oh boy, I love spreadsheets!

It’s a shame that Bowser’s Minions is so lacklustre, because it had oodles of potential. The storyline was enjoyable enough, emulating the charm of Superstar Saga pretty well. It’s optional, which is why it doesn’t render the remake entirely pointless. If you like (and you should), you can ignore the fairly early prompts to give the side game a go and stick to the utterly lovely Superstar Saga. The remake of the 2003 classic doesn’t add anything new besides some control tweaks and a (gorgeous) new coat of paint, but that was never necessary in the first place. These changes alone make it a superior version to the original GBA game.

Final thoughts

Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions is the remake every other should emulate. Update the visuals and the controls, and don’t add anything excessive to the base game. If you do add things, make them optional. If you haven’t played the original Superstar Saga, this is a must-play. If you have, the better controls may make you enjoy the game even more.

Reviewed on 3DS.

Good

  • Still the same great game
  • Positive use of extra buttons
  • Upgraded visuals

Bad

  • Music is a bit hit-and-miss
  • Extra mode isn't up to par
8

Get Around It

Aza blames his stunted social skills and general uselessness on a lifetime of video games. Between his ears is a comprehensive Team Fortress 2 encyclopedia. His brain, on the other hand, remains at large.
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