On the list of vaunted combinations throughout human history, which ones stand out as the best?
Marc Antony and Cleopatra? Laurel and Hardy? Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla? Bill Cosby and pudding pops?
Sure, they’re alright. I guess. But any historian worth their salt will tell you, point blank: No list is complete without Nintendo and Squaresoft (now Square Enix) when they made Super Mario RPG in 1996 for the Super NES.
The game absolved the portly plumber from his usual purlieu of labyrinthine sewer tunnels and interchangeable castles — into a world with Hit Points and Flower Points (replenished by Mushrooms and Syrup, respectively), Timed Hits, and quirky new enemies. And oh yeah, Princess Peach bludgeoning enemies over the head with a frying pan.
Here’s six indelible facets of Super Mario RPG that make us want to replay the game for the upteenth time:
1. Luigi’s Got Feelings Too
Nobody came to my birthday party this year either… *HIC*
Up until recently, poor Luigi’s always had the glaring mushroom-stamp of “Mario franchise’s second banana” branded on his bush-league forehead.
Not to say the guy didn’t deserve it; with little more than a cheap palette swap, a couple inches (of height, gutter-minds), and a goofy flutter-kick jump to differentiate him from his more illustrious brother — even characters from completely different game series found him ripe for the shitting on.
Squaresoft and Nintendo took this concept and made good on it in Super Mario RPG. No, they didn’t make Luigi a playable character (although that was the original intent in some parallel universe perhaps):
This may or may not be real, yuo know.
Nor did they award him with his own unique set of abilities and powers or even a more robust porn star mustache. What they did was far more meaningful — they made me care about the guy. By sprinkling a tasty little meta Luigi-nugget into the game. You happen upon a wish star (or the physical embodiment of a wish) on the Star Hill level of Super Mario RPG, and through this we are provided a candid window into Luigi’s innermost thoughts and desires.
Surely someone who had endured so many years of repudiation’s very soul was long charred and blackened by burning familial resentment. What would such a fiend wish for? Incalculable riches composed of shimmering gold coins? A brazen peek up Princess Peach’s skirt? For Mario to lose both his legs in some tragic leaping accident?
No, he wishes for this:
Note to self: WTB game where I hug it out with Luigi for 40 straight levels. Don’t care how that’s publicly perceived.
2. Sorry, Can’t Finish Quest… Bellhopping
Marrymore Inn: A place where luxury knows no limit. Where a gallant adventurer like Mario can finally repose in his grease-mottled overalls and truly live la dolce vita.
Who needs to be out there kicking Koopa shells when there’s a warm shower and fluffy, queen-sized bed that need breaking in? Room service? Don’t mind if I do. Ahh, this is the good life, son. Dinin’. Reclinin’. Sippin’ some of that KerokeroCola.
Whoa whoa, what do you mean I’m broke? And what do you mean you have to receive 100 coins for each night I extended my stay?!
… I suppose this is the cruel, ironic fate I deserve it for not tipping that bellhop, huh?
3. Glorious Music
Great video game soundtracks are more than just background noise. The truly transcendent ones augment a game’s most poignant moments so effectively that they leave a mark just as indelible. Or at least have you humming their tune in the shower with gusto.
The score for Super Mario RPG unquestionably lands in the memorable column. Composed by the renowned Yoko Shimomura (who you might know from such games as Street Fighter II, Parasite Eve, and the Legend of Mana and Kingdom Hearts series), the music fused elements of Koji Kondo’s original Super Mario Bros. and commingled a fantasy twist on them.
Feast your earholes on:
This little number plays when Mario meets Gaz, a little boy that introduces Mario and pals to eventual party member, Geno, a cool, blue-cloaked wooden doll with machine gun hands:
Many of the boss battles in Super Mario RPG could pose a challenge. The catchy theme that accompanied each major fight at least made matters less vexatious:
Hailed by many as the best Mario music ever created, and certainly one of the most popular songs from the game, the Forest Maze Theme:
Speaking of bad-ass battle themes…
4. Final Fantasy Boss In A Mario Game? Enter Culex.
In the quaint village of retired Mario villains called Monstro Town you come to a door within a door; a world within a world. He waits here. Ill-shapen, tenebrous, and deranged. Visitor from another dimension, searching for the strongest opponent from ours. He is Culex, the Dark Knight of Vanda.
And… he doesn’t look like he belongs in a Mario game, does he?
Described by tvtropes.org as a “classic, Amano-style Final Fantasy style enemy,” he’s also gifted with one of the most harmoniously bad-ass themes in the game:
Sound familiar? You might recognize it as the Final Fantasy IV boss battle music.
And it’s a good thing too, because you’ll be hearing that music for quite some time; the fracas you have with him is nothing short of laborious. He wields four sentient elemental crystals (also loaned from the Final Fantasy series), which added to his own HP brought the total to a whopping 12,396. That’s more than both forms of the game’s main antagonist, Smithy’s, combined. The fight easily took more than half an hour to complete, as the best method of defeating Culex was taking down each crystal one by one to curb their brutal attacks, and then take Culex on directly.
If you defeat Culex he leaves you with, “Thank you, brave knight. I will treasure this memento of my journey here. Perhaps in another time, another game, we may have been enemies… Let us part as comrades in arms.”
…We’re still waiting on that Super Mario RPG sequel.
5. Grate Guy’s Casino
This clandestine Easter egg accessed via secret passage in Bean Valley is replete with various Mario-world gambling counterparts (slot machines, blackjack, and a game called “Look the Other Way”). It’s also the sole cause of my crippling real-life gambling addiction.
And then being repudiated by my immediate family and living as a reprobate beneath an old city bridge with nothing but the clatter of partially consumed baked bean tins, the trundling of cars overhead, and the muted patters of pigeon shit as my only companions.
Doesn’t matter, won a Star Egg.
6. Good Old-Fashioned, Perverted Tomfoolery
Super Mario RPG had an ESRB rating of “E”, as in “E for Everyone.” Which means the Entertainment Software Rating Board considered the images presented in the game “mild in impact; might also contain mild language/lyrics/suggestive themes, and/or comic mischief.” Well how’s this for some comic mischief?
A pair of egregiously oversized, rotund breasts that jiggle when you attack them never hurt nobody, right? (Except my burgeoning loins back in 1996.)
And then there’s the question of just what Princess Peach is so damn vigilant about you unearthing when you wander into her bedroom in the Mushroom Kingdom castle:
Sure, the explanation is probably as simple as the woman’s diary or some revealing negligee.
Although the Japanese version of Super Mario RPG is a little less enigmatic about the whole ordeal — when you rummage near the fireplace an in-game dialogue explicitly states “You’ve found “Princess Peach’s XXX,” which to more lascivious gamers (AKA, every single one of us) immediately rouses thoughts of the sleaziest, fungus-laden, interspecies sex saturnalians plastered within the pages of Peach’s hidden porno stash. (Update: Though according to TVTropes.org, “in Japan, “XXX” is typically used in the ‘insert word here’ sense, making it have the same meaning as ???)
Know what we think though? That the XXX doesn’t stand for porn and instead Peach is just a filthy, filthy drunk.
Makes it easier to deal with getting kidnapped and “not molested” by Bowser all those times.
7. The Axem Rangers
Go go — wait a minute. These assholes aren’t the Power Rangers.
Nope. They’re the Axem Rangers. Axe-wielding parodies complete with all the corny ass one-liners, over-exaggerated hand gestures, and color coding that made the Power Rangers so indelible to our underdeveloped brains.
And what’s that everyone’s fighting on? Blade, their very own Megazord/vehicle analogue.
8. Bowser Lets YOU Join The Koopa Troop, Not The Other Way Around
“I’m gonna do something I may regret later…! But I’m gonna let you join the Koopa Troop. You can thank me later…”
And with those words, Super Mario RPG sees the first coalition of these once mortal enemies. True to Bowser’s egregious hubris though, he’s not dispelling his wicked ways and becoming some softy by tagging along with Mario and friends: you’re helping him. Big difference.
Also, Super Mario RPG reveals perhaps the greatest hidden talent of all time — Bowser’s adroitness in poetry:
If you’ve got a Wii you can rekindle some of that nice nostalgic euphoria and play Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars via Virtual Console.
Have a hankering for more slightly esoteric Mario factoids? Check out 6 Things You May Not Know About Super Mario, also written by Russ.