Upon its debut in 2003, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Game Boy Advance was a welcomed venture by RPG aficionados. Since then the company has continued to cater to this demand by turning the game into a series, but the original title’s comedic dialogue and endearing cast of characters have always elevated it in the eyes of longtime fans. Now a remake of the premiere installment has arrived on Nintendo 3DS in the form of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions and it’s every bit as charming as the original experience that first surfaced almost 14 years ago.
Excluding the “+ Bowser’s Minions” that’s featured within the title, there isn’t all that much that has been changed. This is a true-to-form remake that largely honors the source material in a way that’s applaudable – albeit in a way that comes across as a little dated on occasion. The waves of Mario & Luigi titles that have released since this title kickstarted the franchise have done little to innovate the series in meaningful ways, and as a result this turn-based formula (renowned for its timed button presses for those keen on doling out extra damage) feels like more of the same. As a remake though, many fans will largely find this to be a good thing.
Once again throwing players into the simultaneous roles of Mario and Luigi, the experience focuses on solving puzzles and levelling up the brothers as they trek through the Beanbean Kingdom to deal with the villainous Cackletta and her underhanded servant Fawful. Traversing through various environments and doing battle with a medley of different baddies helps to keep the approach and challenge of any combat situation varied throughout the game’s 20+ hour campaign, but ultimately it comes down to utilizing the same timed moves as a means of grinding out additional experience to take on tougher enemies down the road.
It’s true that grinding for EXP is rather par for the course for the genre, let alone the Mario & Luigi property, but the simple attack and defend options of the combat wears thin at times – making the act feel even more redundant. It’s not an overly challenging game as a result, but it retains its appeal through wacky foes, entertaining characters, and retooled visuals.
Evidently, the visuals selected for the game are a noticeable changeup from the 32-bit graphics of the GBA, but as a result they will be polarizing to some. While the team at AlphaDream have taken the necessary steps to keep the game feeling familiar, some of the finer details of the original have been lost in the transition to a new handheld. Superstar Saga still looks great – and the updated aesthetic is a must for any modern remake – but there was a certain charm that accompanied the look of the initial installment. Of course, this take on the game’s look is sure to change based on the artistic preferences of those playing, especially since they do largely retain the personality of the ongoing series.
Given that personality has always been one of the main appeals of the Mario & Luigi games, it’s great to see that the dialogue and actions of heroes and evil-doers featured within Superstar Saga have held up over the years. From the slapstick cowardice of Luigi to the hilariously backwards English of Fawful, the characters have made the jump over to the Nintendo 3DS flawlessly. As a result, it’s easy to see why the original game is so adored by fans, as the often laugh-out-loud banter of those on-screen makes for some truly memorable moments.
Outside of a fresh coat of paint and a trip down memory lane, however, Nintendo and developer AlphaDream opted to give fans a little extra content through a new mode called Bowser’s Minions. Unlocking roughly five hours into the campaign, this side story tells the story of, well, Bowser’s minions in a rock-paper-scissors inspired romp that sees the crew of do-badders rally in order to rescue their king. This is a much slower affair than the turn-based battle of Superstar Saga, instead placing a player-selected baddie into the role of the flag-donning leader as they select units earned through play.
Truthfully, this isn’t a fleshed out mode that can be marked as a reason to purchase the product, but it’s a fun option that manages to suck up a surprising amount of time for those willing to give it a chance.
One of the more head-scratching exclusions of this title, however, is the lack of 3D on any version of the 3DS system. It’s far from a deal-breaker, but it’s odd to see it excluded given how past games in the franchise have made use of the feature.
Even then, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions is a worthy remake of one of the (if not the) most memorable iterations of the entire franchise. Every facet of the original has transitioned smoothly onto the newer hardware, and while the “warts and all” mentality of the combat may strike some as tiresome, the updated visuals and a wondrous retelling of various arcs of beloved characters both good and bad makes this throwback one of the more engaging titles available for Nintendo 3DS owners.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bower’s Minions arrives exclusively for Nintendo 2DS and Nintendo 3DS consoles on October 6, 2017. Nintendo provided Game Rant with a copy of the game for review purposes.