When the first RPG game starring Mario came out, many people were aghast. Here was Mario, one of the most beloved stars of the action/platforming genre starring in a kind of game that was almost completely the opposite, an RPG. But then to the surprise and delight of everyone, that game turned out to be a wonderful combination of elements from both Mario's platforming escapades and the realm of role-playing games. The game did so well that it resulted in a few sequels, the latest being Mario and Luigi for the GBA. Mario and Luigi is, as it's name suggests, an adventure starring both of the Mario brothers. It basically follows them as they travel together around the Beanbean Kingdom, a neighbor to their home of the Mushroom Kingdom. It all starts when the evil witch Cackletta steals Princess Peach's voice and replaces it with explosives. As if that wasn't bad enough for everyone, Bowser shows up to attempt to kidnap Peach again. However, he quickly decided that she's too much of a hazard to his safety in her condition, and instead offers to assist Mario in getting her voice back so that he can kidnap her. However, through a bizarre turn of events, Luigi, who usually stays behind to watch the home front, ends up taking the journey with Mario. And so it begins... The game is sort of an action RPG. Mario and Luigi move around the world in a pair, with one following the other. However, you can switch the order that the two move in at any time you wish. Also, there are no random encounters in this game. Instead, you can see every one of your enemies on screen as you move about the world. If you contact them, the view switches to a battle screen and the fight begins. However, with most enemies, you have the opportunity to begin the fight at either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you meet them before the battle. For example, if you begin a battle by jumping on your enemy on the overworld screen, you'll damage them before the battle even begins. However, if the brother who is in the back gets hit by the enemy, they will not be able to move in battle until it is their turn, which can be quite important as you will see. Battle is where even more of the game's action elements come to light. In this game, it is possible to dodge every single enemy attack with a well-timed button press. There is always some secret to figuring out which of the brothers will be attacked and what that attack will be. In addition to that, there are "Bros. Attacks" that you can perform which involve both Mario and Luigi. To perform them, you must perform the same type of precision button pressing that is involved with dogging attacks. However, the timing of each attack and the buttons that you must press change from move to move. This can all be a bit overwhelming at first. However, you do have the option to chose between three power levels for the moves. With the first level, the move goes in slow motion and the display tells you which buttons to press. The second level does not move in slow motion at all. The third level moves at normal speed and doesn't tell you what to press. Using an attack at a higher level always does more damage than if you used it at a lower level, which gives you a good incentive to learn to perform them without any help. Also, the more you perform an attack at a higher level, the more likely it is that you will learn to "Advance" the move, which means that it will begin to do even more damage or take on some other special feature. This whole setup makes the battle system feel fun and exciting and gives you a reason to stay focused on the game no matter where you are in it. It's also worth mentioning the various puzzles that you'll come across during the course of the game. The two brothers can learn to perform a number of different moves on the overworld map by using their abilities on each other. For example, the two can perform a high jump if Luigi jumps on Mario. And Luigi can move around underground and beneath gates if Mario hits him with a hammer. In fact, there are a few scenarios where you will actually have to split the two up to make any progress, but I'll let you find those on your own. Graphically, this game is great. Although Mario and Luigi do look a bit more cartoonish than they have in other games, most notably in their huge eyeballs, they still look and move wonderfully. All of the scenery and the characters are drawn with bright flashy colors that gives everything a fun and friendly look. Also, everything animates perfectly. The only problems that might arise come with the way the game is viewed, especially when you're in battle. It might be easy to completely miss an opportunity to attack an enemy that actually has segments because the arrows that tell you what you can and cannot attack are simply too small. Also, with the larger enemies, it can be difficult to time certain Bros. attacks correctly because the enemy simply takes up too much space on the screen for you to be able to tell when the correct time is to make a button press. Still these are normally minor complaints that can be worked around quite easily. The sound is also wonderful. You'll find a number of great tunes throughout the game, including the ever-present Mario Theme. Also, you'll find a few voice samples in this game. However, Mario and Luigi never speak any actual words (save for Luigi's occasional "bye bye"). Instead, whenever they're talking to a character in a story scene, the only sound their voices make is a lot of gibberish. As a matter of fact, you never actually learn exactly what they're saying. Instead you must merely guess based on the reactions of other characters or the tone of Mario and Luigi's voices. It might sound like this would become a bit annoying, but it's actually a lot of fun. And besides, all those voices samples in the other GBA Mario games were kind of annoying. In this game, it makes perfect sense. So overall this game sounds wonderful. And it would not be a worthy review of this game without mentioning it's sense of humor. There are a lot, and I mean, a LOT of jokes in it. Certain characters always spout hilarious dialogue, for example, Cackletta's evil sidekick Fawful. Every single thing he says is a hilarious nonsensical rant. He even manages to create his own bizarre catchphrase, "I have fury!", which he comes out with whenever he's angry at something. And the interactions between Mario and Luigi alone are priceless. People around the kingdom are overjoyed to see Mario, but usually don't know who Luigi is, and instead call him by names like "Mr. Green Stache." It's all a very funny experience. Oh, and I should briefly mention that this game comes packaged with the same version of "Mario Bros." that comes with all of the "Mario Advance" titles. It sort of makes sense considering that game was Luigi's debut appearance, but still, it's nothing special considering that it's already been seen four times on the same system. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just starting to get more than a little bit old. So overall, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is another must-buy for the Game Boy Advance. It's just far too well-written and well-designed to pass up. Almost anyone who is either a Mario fan or just a fan of awesome games in general will love this. Don't pass it up.
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