What would you get if you were to combine The Legend of Zelda, The Lost Vikings, Chrono Trigger and the entire Mario Universe? If your answer is a "Clusterfuck of Fun" then move yourself to the middle of the fast lane and await that sweet Greyhound to Geniusville. Why, you ask, well because Nintendo has released Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Gameboy Advance. NOW GET ON THE BUS!
What we got ourselves here is an Action/Adventure RPG where Mario and Luigi have traveled to a foreign land in search of black gold and a new evil villain. What has this villain done you say? She's taken Peach's voice and replaced it with a new vocabulary filled with explosives. Because of this every time she talks something blows up so her only option is to keep her mouth shut much to the delight of her subjects. So why disturb the newfound peace in the kingdom? Easy, Bowser has come to the castle for Peach's weekly kidnapping and, not wanting to take her in her current state, convinces Mario to retrieve her voice.
As the title suggest, Mario is not alone this time and is joined by his often ignored brother Luigi or "the other Mario looking guy" as the game's inhabitants call him. Even though Mario gets top billing, Luigi is easily the real star of the game. This is mostly because the situations he's unwillingly put into offer hi-fucking-larious results. As the game's designated bitch, Luigi will be stomped, smashed, whacked, burned, shocked, deformed, humiliated, ignored, inhaled, dragged, hypnotized, punched in the groin and just generally abused often at the hands of Mario. The plus side to these bad experiences, besides a great laugh, is that not only does Luigi get more solo play time but his reactions to conversations and events add more to his personality and make him one of Nintendo's most well developed characters (and it only took about 20 years).
Here's how it plays. You have control of both brothers, each is assigned to the A/R and B/L buttons, as they walk in single file with the one up front being the leader which can be switched at anytime. You've got the entire country to explore but you'll need certain abilities or items to gain access to new areas and teamwork is the key to success that's where the Bros.' abilities come in. These are moves that require both brothers and are needed to cross large gaps, reach high cliffs and so on. Often times the two will have to split up due to a puzzle or part of the story at which you need to find other ways the get were you need to go.
While exploring you'll no doubt run into some no good hoodlums at which time a fight will break out and you'll be forced to defend yourself. The combat system is the same as in the first Mario RPG (never played Paper Mario) where after selecting your action you can participate in the battle by hitting the active brothers button at the right time to score a timed hit and defend yourself when the tables turn on you. The Bros.' abilities are also in effect here and allow duel attacks to be made for massive damage but they cost Bros. Points so you need to watch how often there used. Afterwards, you're giving the standard GOLD/EXP and at Level Up time you get to give a Stat bonus points, I suggests using it on Stache. Stache is the equivalent of the useless LUCK Stat in all RPGs but this one gives the bonus of discounts at all shops depending on how smooth and silky your mustache is. BRILLIANT!
One of my favorite things about this game is the insane amount of cameos crammed into it. From Donkey Kong all the way to Sunshine you'll fight and see characters that have stayed current with the series and others that have been forgotten over time such as multicolored germs, an angry fly and seven pissed-off characters gone since the SNES days. To top it all off, some old favorites have been given upgrades. Goombas now wear Tanooki suits, Koopa Troopa's hurl Chain Chomps and Bullet Bill is packin' a Super Scope and that's only a small handful. There's also nods to other series such as Kirby and Zelda as well as other companies as Nintendo has asked SquareEnix if they could borrow someone for a quick appearance.
The music consists of the usual Mario tunes and some new stuff that fits well with the general feel of the game. Old sound effects have returned here such as the classic "stomp" sound and even the death tune from Super Mario Bros. shows up during some hidden retro areas. There are also a lot of voice clips from the Bros. which adds to the enjoyment and is in no way overused like in the Super Mario Advance remakes.
I can't really find much to complain about in this game. It's a good length, about 15 hours, has a decent sum of mini-games and side-quests, enjoyable story and no angst-filled teenagers. A winner all around if you ask me, so if you've got a GBA or a Gameboy Player and a Gamecube then do yourself a favor and pick it up, it's a fun trip down memory lane.
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