Mario & Lui... other guy star in a basically flawless RPG
Mario has had an ongoing streak of awesome RPGs, starting at the end of the SNES' lifespan and continuing through today. Mario & Luigi is the main handheld franchise of the Mario RPGs, starting with 2003's Superstar Saga on the GameBoy Advance. It was most likely the best game on the platform and one of the greatest RPGs of all time with its hilarious dialogue, fantastic gameplay, and outstanding visuals. Even with six years behind it, Superstar Saga is a fantastic game in every aspect that's hard to not enjoy.
The game begins with an ambassador from the Beanbean Kingdom coming to visit the Mushroom Kingdom as a gesture of peace. Only it turns out that an evil villain, Cackletta, disguised herself as the ambassador to steal Princess Peach's voice. This sends Mario and Luigi on an epic adventure to stop Cackletta from taking over the world, because Peach's voice is needed to awaken the Beanstar, which will grant Cackletta all her evil desires.
The story takes a few interesting twists and it is a pretty decent tale in its own right, but what really pushes it forward is the hilarious dialogue and unique personality. Cakletta's helper, Fawful, is especially laugh out loud funny in his hysterical lines and how he says them. Luigi also adds a lot of humor to the story even though he has no dialogue; he just does so many funny things that will always keep you laughing. Each character is unique also, and their individual personalities are extremely evident in the way each of them talks. Every single minor character, even, has very distinct individuality and that makes the game feel very special and unique. On top of that, there is a perfect amount of dialogue in the game: not too much to where you start to fall asleep and not too little so you can follow the story without any problems.
The story and all the elements surrounding it make Mario & Luigi a highly entertaining adventure, and that area is backed up by some fantastic and enjoyable gameplay. Outside of battle you control Mario and Luigi at the same time, which sounds complicated but is actually very simple and 100% functional. A and B are used for commands (jump, hammer, etc.), L and R cycle through commands, and start swaps the brothers' positions between front and back. Whether one is in the front or back changes what a command will do, also, like hammering Luigi into the ground or jumping on top of Mario to get a higher leap. All these commands work perfectly and the game's puzzles implement them all very nicely. The puzzles are, for the most part, not mind-bendingly difficult, but they require you to use every bit of your knowledge of the pair's abilities, which balances out the difficulty quite nicely.
Mario and Luigi are also both used in the game's battles, which are extremely entertaining. Mario is controlled with A and Luigi with B, and they can dodge enemies' attacks with their hammer or a jump by using their respective buttons. Learning how enemies attack is vital to defeating your foes, because you can often avoid taking damage in battle. Mario and Luigi can attack alone or together for one of the game's best features: Bros. Attacks. Using these abilities is vital to your success in the game and they are very intuitive, fun to execute, and enjoyable to watch. You have to press A or B at the right times, depending on the attack, to successfully pull off the maneuver. The Bros. Attacks take on a variety of different forms, like hitting Mario at an enemy or throwing Luigi. There are eight Bros. Attacks in the game, which seems like a small number until you discover the advanced techniques, which greatly change the attack and can do even more damage. Battles make up the core of Superstar Saga's gameplay, and none of it falls short of being outstanding.
Superstar Saga also delivers some pretty fantastic graphics that are some of the finest on the GBA. The style fits the game perfectly and allows for many fine Luigi moments. Everything animates very smoothly and the characters all look sharp. The game is very colorful too, making the screen a constant visual treat. The game's use of 3-D is also some of the best on the platform, both in and outside of battle.
Mario & Luigi contains numerous catchy tunes as well. You will most likely find yourself humming to the overworld theme and possibly tapping your foot to the battle music as all the tracks are enjoyable to listen to and very catchy. Sound effects are also done very well and fit the game's style and personality wonderfully, with classic Mario sounds and likeable character voice clips to boot. The sound quality is also higher than many GBA games.
Value is yet another positive note for Superstar Saga. Mario and Luigi's main quest takes about 15-20 hours to complete, a fairly lengthy adventure. While you can't save after you defeat the final boss, I can almost guarantee that you will want to replay the game at some point. It's so much fun that it's totally worth replaying; it's hard to not immensely enjoy it even the second time around.
When a game comes around that's as fantastic as Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, you simply can't miss it. It's funny, entertaining, charming, and every area is of highest quality. While I somehow can't find it in me to give this game a 10, I'll award it a score that's pretty darned close because it's about as near to perfection as games get, and it's just too likeable to not have a great time with.
+ wonderful sense of personality
+ perfect system of controls
+ creative puzzles and enemies
+ Bros. Attacks are simple and fun
+ smooth, colorful graphics
+ awesome, catchy music
+ lengthy but not at all tiresome
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LAST WORD: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a must-own handheld gem for its unique sense of personality, outstanding gameplay, and overall quality unsurpassed by any other GBA game. If you haven't played it before, purchase a cartridge as soon as you can, because you simply can't regret it.