Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions is exactly what it needs to be. For anyone who adored the original Superstar Saga on the GBA, it serves as a top-to-bottom refresher with profusely-enhanced visuals and overhauled gameplay. For those of you who have yet to play through the premiere of the now-legendary Mario & Luigi series, Superstar Saga will serve as a perfectly lighthearted RPG to brighten your fall lineup.
Princess Peach's voice has been stolen by the cackling Cackletta and her loud-mouthed minion Fawful, who you soon discover plan to use that pure voice to gain inconceivable power. It's up to Mario, Luigi, and Bowser(?!) to journey to the Beanbean kingdom and set things right.
While the plot and the fantastic writing have emerged from their 14-year time capsule unaltered, the visuals have been completely re-imagined. Superstar Saga now boasts some of the best 2D visuals you'll see on the 3DS family of systems. The Mario brothers are brilliantly animated, with all of the charm and expression of Saturday morning cartoon characters, and the entire game plays out at an unflinching 60 fps.
Environments pop on the 3DS display, and at times you'll swear that the game uses dynamic lighting that you only see on more powerful hardware. Colorful light sources will cast their light onto the bros as they approach them, and rays of light pierce down through dense tree cover in dancing, radiant beams. Waterfalls shimmer and spill down in the background, and attack animations turn every battle into a rainbow-colored spectacle.
And the combat isn't just fun to watch. The hands-on action-based combat that has defined Nintendo's RPGs for generations is alive and well in Superstar Saga. In fact, this is one of its best iterations by far. Players will be asked to carefully time specific button inputs with every single attack, from the lowliest Goomba stomp to the most dazzling special attacks (called Bros. Attacks), to maximize their damage output.
Of course, defense also demands your precision, and players will have to carefully observe the attack patterns of every enemy and properly time jumps or counters for both bros individually in order to avoid taking damage. Common enemy encounters become fairly trivial after you learn their attacks, which are easily dodged, but thankfully things move along at a brisk pace and you'll encounter new enemy types consistently. Boss encounters also present their own unique challenges and work out like little puzzles, requiring players to experiment and find the best strategy to inflict the most damage while taking the least.
In addition to the visual and musical upgrades, Nintendo has given Superstar Saga all of the modern-day bells and whistles that we've come to expect from Square Enix's recent remasters. Players are able to hold down the R shoulder button to speed through cutscenes, you can now save at any time, and there are a few options given to players who either can't get the hang of combat or simply don't care to. There is an easy mode which can be toggled on, as well as a combat assist which will show you which bro is being targeted by the next enemy attack. This takes the skill out of combat entirely, but it also moves things along if you just want to relax and enjoy the story.
If you really want to kick back and have a hands-off adventure you can load up "Minion Quest," the titular bonus mode which sees Bowser's minions embark on their own quest to find their fearless leader. I had high hopes for this bespoke strategy component going in, but was came away feeling pretty lukewarm about it after investing some time in my squad.
Battles play out passively as you watch, with your occasional input requested at key moments. Interactions between minions are the real highlight here, though the writing, while charming, feels a little one-dimensional compared to Superstar Saga. Placing both of these modes side-by-side didn't do Minion Quest any favors, but it is a nice distraction from time to time. All criticisms aside, I did boot up Superstar Saga on more than one occasion just to run through a few Minion Quest battles, so that's worth something.
But you're not here for Minion Quest. You're here for Superstar Saga, and this is the best Superstar Saga has ever been. New and returning players are going to find it hard to take this cartridge out of their systems. One of Nintendo's crowning role-playing jewels has received its definitive edition, and is executed so well that you won't even think twice to appreciate everything that has changed; you'll simply get lost in it all.
If you've been craving a feel-good RPG with satisfying combat and Italian gibberish, look no further. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions is an essential delight.
WWG's Score: 4 / 5