Developed by: AlphaDream
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: Gameboy Advance
Feeling Like: Scientist Mario
I am sitting in the depths of one of the science buildings at Mount Allison. It’s February and it’s cold. So cold that the unheated Psychology lab two floors below the surface is a welcomed respite from the biting Sackville winds. If you’ve never experienced winter in the Maritimes, don’t.
My role, as a fourth year student, is to monitor the first and second year students as they engage in some lab experiment. I think it was a survey, but I can’t be quite sure. Literally my job was to hand them a paper, explain the contents of the survey, ensure they were in a room by themselves, and retrieve it from them upon completion. I wasn’t exactly working on a thesis that would shock Freud himself. I was more concerned with my Game Boy Advance running low on battery power.
As a massive fan of Super Mario RPG, I was always desperate looking for something similar and this…well, it was a Mario game and it was labelled an RPG. Sure, I’ll give it a go. I had a ton of time to kill.
Portability helped, particularly when the freshman were taking forever to answer their 48 question survey. They didn’t dare ask me if I was allowed to be playing video games, by the way. I was a whole 2 years older/ahead of them, which rendered any potential protest pointless.
Wandering over to the Crabtree Building only took 10 minutes from our domicile on King St, but Sackville winds make any walk, regardless of length, beyond miserable. Knowing that I had Mario & Luigi to keep me company through the long, cold nights warmed me enough on the inside to get through it all. While it’s no Super Mario RPG (what is?) it was silly and charming in its own right to justify spot #376.
The most engaging part is the battle system. Each brother is controlled by the “A” and “B” buttons and almost every attack, technique and special move requires careful concentration and precision timing in order to maximize your damage. Additionally, you can dodge and counter every enemy attack that comes your way. No longer are you at the mercy of some vague “mag def” statistic – if you’re good, and you time your jumps correctly, you can breeze through the game. It’s an absolute highlight and meant I was never bored, nor could I let my attention wander, at any moment.
The story is text heavy; perhaps too much. Even though I’m used to seeing walls of dialogue and exposition in other RPGs, for some reason I didn’t think it fit as well here. Little did I know that this over-explaining and avalanche of information would be a constant flaw in future Mario RPG titles.
The other star of the show is Lord Fawful, the secondary villain. He’s so much fun and gets all the great lines. Such…
- “Now is the time where my true might shines like many angry sunbeams of rage!”
- “Now is when I ram you!”
- “I am the great Cackletta’s most best pupil, who is named Fawful! I am here, laughing at you! If you are giving us the chase, just to get your silly princess’s voice, then you are idiots of foolishness! Princess Peach’s sweet voice will soon be the bread that makes the sandwich of Cackletta’s desires! And this battle shall be the delicious mustard on that bread! The mustard of your doom!”
It’s too much. I knew as soon as he zoomed onstage to provide more grammatically incorrect trash talk, I was going to have a good time. Mario & Luigi may have got all the pratfalls and silent movie reactions, but give me Fawful any day of the week. It’s clear as to why he’s featured in future games; endlessly entertaining, completely inoffensive and totally bonkers. Nintendo often gets away with this as very few can.
The game is under 20 hours, which isn’t overly long for an RPG, but felt a hair too much for a handheld game. My neck could only take so much, and the Psychology labs were over before I knew it. Still, it beat lugging an entire console and TV into the Crabtree waiting area, so it fit the bill perfectly.