Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga launched well over a decade ago on Gameboy Advance, but the title is seeing a revival with Nintendo’s new 3DS release. Oddly enough, there are teenagers today that were born after the game first came out, so it is easy to understand why Nintendo would want to re-introduce the first game in the Mario & Luigi series to those who may have been too young to play it in its infancy. However, a direct port is available on the Wii U virtual console for less than 10 dollars; is a full 3DS release worth spending $40 on?
Well, kind of. The 3DS iteration of Superstar Saga looks quite a bit better than the GBA version and the gameplay holds up well. I was disappointed that the developers failed to include 3D in the title, however. If there were any 3DS game that would have benefitted from a 3D effect, it surely would have been Superstar Saga. The battles are 2 on 2 affairs, with depth to battle. Moreover, players must be able to tell which character, Mario or Luigi, is being targeted by any given attack. Sometimes this can be challenging to do; the game does not do a terrific job at creating depth perception on its own. Adding a 3D effect to battle could have materially made the gameplay better, but unfortunately, the developers did not take advantage of the unique hardware feature.
The gameplay still holds up well, with diverse enemies, attacks, and defensive maneuvers. The dialogue is great as well and is still written as well in 2017 as it was in 2004. There is genuine humor in the game’s writing, and fortunately, there isn’t too much of it. A lot of wordy Nintendo games, Mario RPGs in particular, tend to have a bit too much writing. Superstar Saga doesn’t overstay its welcome, finding a nice medium for dialogue that never interrupts gameplay for too long in between.
This iteration of Mario & Luigi does have new content in the form of the Minion Quest, a shorter game that is unlocked a few hours into Superstar Saga. Unfortunately, Minion Quest is a thoroughly mediocre offering. The gameplay reminds me a little bit of Warrior’s Way, the Streetpass title. Essentially, players use the various enemies in Mario to fights in a battlefield. The depth lies in the fact that there is a simplistic weapons triangle and the player is open to changing up their formation in order to maximize damage output. Unfortunately, there isn’t much actual gameplay. After a battle is initiated, a player just has to watch the battle commence and mash the “a” button along as their minions attack the enemy. It’s woefully simplistic, and not worth driving up the price for the game.
Ultimately, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions opens up a bit of a paradox. On one hand, Nintendo fans that have yet to play the game are bound to be younger and perhaps without the means to purchase as many new games. Therefore, although the 3DS version of the title is perhaps the best way to play the GBA classic, at $30 above Virtual Console price it may be worth considering the Wii U port. Those that don’t mind sinking their money into a remake should not be put off, however. Although Bowser’s Minions falls short of adding value to the package, Superstar Saga is still an excellent Mario RPG and one that holds up very well in today’s 3DS catalog.