An RPG is probably the last game you'd expect to see Mario star in, and Super Mario RPG was certainly a pleasant surprise when it was released in 1996. The game itself loosely follows the setting of the previous Mario adventures, but introduces a slew of new characters who've never been seen in any other Mario game, nor probably ever will again. Also worth noting, SMRPG is a joint venture, Rareware, Nintendo and Squaresoft, the 3 best game developers in existance in many people's eyes, all had a part in this game. This is a phenomenon that will never happen again, it only happens once, and Super Mario RPG is the result. I highly recommend this game if you can find it.
The graphics in Super Mario RPG are amazing, and are only outdone by the DKC games and Killer Instinct if you ask me. All of the sprites are CG rendered by Rareware, as well as many of the surroundings. The backdrops are bright and colorful, and bring a new perspective into the Mario world while still maintaining some tradition. The opening sequence is especially impressive, with what could well be a Playstation sequence. The graphics in battle are perhaps the best of all, done with a 3/4 view of a diagonal field, the attacks are all detailed, and some of the spells are amazing, it really pushes the limits of the SNES. I try to at least mention a few negatives in all of these breakdown's I do, but I can't quite think of anything negative to say about the graphics. If you are used to traditional sprites in RPG's, you may not like what they did with this game. At the time it came out it was strange to see an RPG done in such a way, but now the RPG is an exploited genre and nothing is too surprising anymore, sad really. The graphics are all put together quite nicely, and are some of the best found on the SNES.
Graphics Rating: 98
The gameplay is another plus in SMRPG. While playing similar to traditional RPGs in battle, it emphasizes timing and interactivity by adding timed attacks. When the characters attack, you can press a button (usually the B button) at a specific time and if you time it right, your attack is much more powerful. You can't realize by reading this just how significant this feature is. Unlike other RPG's, where you do nothing but pick and choose which attacks and items to use, now there's some interactivity where the player can make a difference in the outcome of the battle. Another good thing about the battles is that sometimes the computer will give you a "freebie" when using an item, and you don't lose an item even though you are using it.
Battles are not random, meaning enemies are visible on the overworld map, and touching them prompts a battle sequence. This is a plus to any RPG, I greatly prefer it over being hoisted into battle by walking around. All of the game takes place in a 3/4 diagonal view, which is odd, but the player can adapt to it. Also, the game is filled with tons of bonuses and special, Mario-style, touches. Players can find flower boxes and flower jars to increase thier FP (MP). When characters get a level up, you can choose which areas you want to increase the most, picking and choosing which attributes will be the strongest. There are a lot of mini games, such as log rolling, floating down the river snatching coins, racing uphill catching beetles and racing on a yoshi. One part I don't like is that all of the characters get experience, even when they're not in battle. This doesn't seem right to me, but is good since this is such a short RPG. The game takes around 20 hours for someone going through it the first time, but still manages to be a top-quality RPG.
Gameplay Rating: 91
The sound in SMRPG is unlike that of any other RPG you'll ever play. This is the area where you can most see the games roots to the Super Mario series, as most of the tracks are upbeat, show-tune, Mario-style songs. In fact there are many songs in here from previous Mario installments. The only exception to the rule being the Final Fantasy 2 major boss battle music that plays when you find a certain hidden boss. Other than that, there may be a few tracks that seem dark and gloomy but not many, this is after all, Mario. While I don't normally agree with this kind of music being in an RPG, it can work in this game. The sound effects are all on target, and sometimes impressive. They didn't cut any corners with the sound, but overall it could have been better, we've all seen better from Square, Rare and Nintendo.
Sound Rating: 85
Storyline is a big part of any RPG, and the makers of SMRPG know this better than anybody. The story in Mario RPG is sometimes a little silly, but it is after all based on Mario. It has a good story though, it thoroughly had me hooked on the game. The game starts out like the old cliche'd Mario game, Bowser kidnaps Princess Toadstool and Mario rushes into his castle to save her. This part of the game is played by the player, but is so easy it's not as much a part of the game as it is an intro into the storyline. When Mario reaches Bowser they have a thrilling fight on top of the chandeliers, and just when Mario defeats him and is about to save the princess, a loud boom crashes down and sends Bowser and the Princess to various parts of the world, while Mario is knocked all the way back to his house, it shows a gigantic sword, which you'll find out later is named Smithy, that has fallen from outerspace into Bowsers castle, and has taken it over. The first half of the game is spent looking for Princess Toadstool, while after that it's an all out war against Smithy, to save the world and the Star Road. Along the way you'll meet up with lots of interesting people and get them in your party, I don't want to give much away, but even Bowser joins you (or "you join Bowser" as he says)in hopes of getting his castle back. It's a nice little story and is plenty more than any other Mario game. Nice job Nintendo/Square.
Storyline Rating: 88
Super Mario RPG is a light RPG, it doesn't take much effort to get into, and because of this I find myself going back to it every now and then. I've played through the game about 5 or 6 times now, in the last 4 years, so there's definately some replay value here. Being an RPG though it's not something you'll want to play a lot after you beat it, and once beaten the game is spoiled in terms of storyline. All in all though I'd have to say this is the RPG with the most replay value I've ever played, besides of course Chrono Trigger. There's just something about it... It's a fun game that warrants more than one play.
Replay Value: 84
Super Mario RPG is a nice little RPG, it may not be as enthralling as Final Fantasy 3 or as playable as Chrono Trigger, but it definately holds it's place in my collection. Besides, how many times do you see a game made by Rare, Nintendo and Square? This is the only time this will happen, especially now that Sony has bought out exclusivity for Squaresoft. This game is a throw back to when RPGs had just started becoming popular, and new things were being tried out, long before the genre was played out like what you see today, with 3 or 4 RPGs coming out a week. Back then a good RPG came once or twice a year, making them much more appreciated by RPG players. But enough of my ranting, Super Mario RPG is a great game I would recommend to anyone, even people that don't generally like RPGs.