Gaming remasters are now big business – remakes, remasters and reinterpretations are all the rage. They also come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But for my money, Nintendo’s upcoming Super Mario RPG is the best kind: overly faithful, perhaps flawed.
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As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? And that’s the case with the Super Mario RPG remake. It’s easy to forget that this is the game that essentially launched several different spin-off franchises. It’s not really clear if we would have Paper Mario without this game. and certainly the Mario & Luigi RPG series has a direct lineage to this game and even shares a common composer.
Anyway, my point is that the Super Mario RPG is a classic. I’d even say it’s one of the best games in the Super Nintendo library – one of the best consoles of all time. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. It’s a marriage between a confident, industry-leading Nintendo and the RPG kings at Square, who at the time of Mario RPG’s original release sat somewhere between Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 7 – arguably the two most important RPG creations to come out of Japan.
All this to say; it wasn’t broken. And while we’re still a long way from being able to offer a full review of Super Mario RPG, today I can share some of my early hours with the game – and I’m happy to report that, on the whole, it’s not succeeded. It hasn’t been fixed.
There are quality of life changes here and there, some balancing adjustments and general changes. But ultimately this is the same game – joyfully loyal.
It would have been easy for Nintendo, for example, to replace the slightly squashed, chubby-looking Mario & Co. from roleplaying with the more sanitized “standard” Mario that we’re used to seeing everywhere in 2023. But that is not the case. Instead, the pre-rendered characters from the SNES were replaced with almost identical-looking 3D models – full of character, still with that chubby, clay-like look. This makes a nice combination with Mario Wonder, whose characters also look more unique and stylized.
They’ve even resisted the temptation to give these models too many frames of animation, so they still flicker between different animation states, with the chaotic low-frame look of the SNES originals being a big part of the game’s character .
It’s the same thing, just cleaner and sharper. Modern. The same goes for the soundtrack, in which Yoko Shimomura remasters and rearranges one of her most iconic works. The dialogue also still has a 90s feel, even if it is a fresh translation. There’s a goofy edginess that’s very much in keeping with that era, and I love it.
I like a good remake or remaster, but to be honest I don’t always give Nintendo credit for them. Some of the lighting changes on Wind Waker, for example, always felt a bit like a fan-made Unreal Engine demo to me. And in other cases, changes intended to “modernize” an old game have destroyed its structure, such as Super Mario 64 DS.
But even in the early hours of Mario RPG, I can tell it’s the same game – just remade, reborn with a beautiful HD presentation. Don’t get me wrong – there are changes we need to analyze during review and in the weeks following publication.
But they are subtle, not blanket. There’s no shame in it being a slower, turn-based RPG, nor in its quirky art style. It’s been recognized that these are exactly the things that make this game so magical, and so everything is lovingly maintained. And with that said, I’ll get back to playing it. Keep an eye out for our review closer to publication.
Super Mario RPG is coming to Nintendo Switch November 17, 2023.
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