Mario and Luigi is a fun and engaging spin on the traditional action RPG experience that blends equal doses of impressive technology, innovation, and humor.
Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is an action RPG that takes the brothers Mario on an original adventure on the Game Boy Advance. The polished game marks the third foray the Mario franchise has taken into the RPG genre. The first, Super Mario RPG for the Super Nintendo, is a classic gem born out of Nintendo's collaboration with Squaresoft, while the second, Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64, was developed by Intelligent Systems. This latest entry in the genre, developed by Alpha Dream, is a fun and engaging spin on the traditional action RPG experience that blends equal doses of impressive technology, innovation, and humor. The end result, like its Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 predecessors, winds up offering a fun, engaging experience that should not be missed. Simply put, it's one of the best GBA games of the year.
The game's story revolves around the pair's attempts to catch the villainous Cackletta, a powerful sorceress from the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom, who steals Princess Peach's voice. The voiceless Peach is only able to communicate in bizarre symbols that explode shortly after being uttered. While Peach's condition is quite alarming for the members of her court, it's especially upsetting for longtime kidnapper Bowser, who arrives shortly after Cackletta's attack to log in some quality kidnapping time. Unable to nab Peach for fear of the damage her explosive talk will inflict to his castle, Bowser offers to help Mario track down Cackletta and offers to help restore Peach's voice... so that he can kidnap her. A series of unfortunate incidents, involving Bowser's lackeys and Luigi, find Mario's younger brother, usually content guarding the home front, along for the ride as well. The zany setup is a perfect segue for the goofy adventure across the Beanbean Kingdom that will find the brothers facing all manner of danger.
The gameplay in Mario and Luigi is, at its core, an action RPG in the same vein as the classic Super Mario RPG for the Super Nintendo and Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64. You'll roam the whole of the Beanbean Kingdom in your attempt to thwart Cackletta's evil plan. You'll face various enemies in turn-based combat, you'll solve puzzles, and you'll navigate through dungeonlike environments. While Mario and Luigi may sound like just another action RPG, the game's two-character mechanic offers a unique gameplay experience that is extremely fresh. You'll even come across sequences that recall the barrel- and platform-jumping seen in previous Mario games folded into the appealing mix.
You're able to actively control both brothers during the game, which puts a whole new twist on the adventure. You move the pair of brothers with the D pad, and you're able to control both brothers independently by using the A and B buttons. Although each brother starts out with a simple jump, as you progress through the game, each earns the abilities to use hammers and to perform different special moves. The moves available to each brother vary depending on whether Mario or Luigi is in the lead, and you're able to switch the pair on the fly by pressing the start button. As you earn more abilities for the boys, you're able to cycle through them by using the shoulder buttons, which independently cycle through the specific abilities assigned to those buttons.
The special moves you earn let you interact with the environment in different ways, and they also let you access new areas in the game. For example, when the brothers get hammers they can smash through rocks that block their paths. When they earn special elemental hand attacks, they're able to trigger specific switches. For example, Mario's fire-hand ability lets him light certain switches, whereas Luigi's thunder-hand ability lets him power up others. In addition, the hand abilities have a secondary function when triggered by a brother who is not in the lead. Mario's fire lets him ignite Luigi's buttocks. This sends the pair running at high speeds, which then allows them to become an effective battering ram. Luigi's thunder technique lets him shock Mario and also locks the two in a forward position, thus allowing them to move without turning their backs. This is perfect for dealing with Boo switches that disappear when you face them. The brothers are able to use their hammers on each other in equally creative ways. When Luigi is in the lead, Mario can pound him into the ground, thus allowing him to get underneath certain obstacles or to dig up hidden items. When Mario is in the lead, Luigi can bop him into a miniature form so that he can squeeze into small holes. The brothers also have far less violent ways to team up, like when they use Luigi to perform an extra-high jump or they use Mario to perform a special corkscrew jump that lets the pair float over gaps.