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July 28, 2017

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (Part 2)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Oof, this is going to be a massive review… I can feel it already… Don’t be angry if I skip or skim some parts, okay? With my current schedule, it’s very difficult to write enormous articles like this. Then there’s the whole process once the article is written, where I spell-check it once, look for YouTube videos and pick out screenshots (which almost always have to be resized to cut out big black sections), then add them to the review with funny commentary. Or, at least an attempt at funny.

Somehow riding a Yoshi lets Mario understand everything
that the other Yoshis say. Don't think about this too hard.

Everybody, calm down. We will find a solution.
And no, I won't be joining Mario! No chance in Heck!
When we left off, Mario, Mallow and Geno were visiting the Pipe Vault, which leads to Yo’ster Isle, a place for Yoshis to live in peace. Or settle any issues in a good ol’ race, because that’s always fun to watch. Along the way, they however find Moleville, a town inhabited by… well… it’s in the name. And it’s of course a mining town. Bowser’s somewhere nearby too, although he lost part of his troops on the way. Speaking to the mole villagers, Mario learns that two of the kids, Dyna and Mite, have been lost in the mines. Yeah, these two are fine when separated, but put them together and they burst with energy; shame that they get lost so easily. Time for good old-fashioned heroics!

Okay, who the Hell designs mines like freaking mazes? I could have sworn this was a dungeon or something! In the first half, we encounter various weird underground creatures, but we also meet little robbers… and, oh, hey! Look at that! It’s our good pal Croco again! Yeah, he’s got some new tricks up his sleeve. Not like that does much, really. He’s just more annoying. He tricks Mario into jumping into the ceiling, then steals all of his coins, and so we have to chase him. He keeps running away through the underground labyrinth. The team eventually catches up and battle happens.

So Croco can also throw Goombas. Huh. Wonder how long
that poor Goomba's been in that bag?
One thing I really love about this game is how creative the bosses are. I mean, it’s not really a surprise that bosses created by Square Enix for Final Fantasy titles are pretty damn creative already, and they applied that same level of creativity in SMRPG:LotSS. The early bosses weren’t that special, as we were learning the gameplay mechanics, but now that the players know how things work, the developers can throw out the crazier ideas - and later bosses all have their own gimmicks. After Mack, we had Belome, who could swallow Mallow as one of its attacks; Bowyer, who could literally disable one of your buttons and, thus, some of your actions; and now, we also have Croco, who uses items and is able to steal the group's items or money.

Yeah, right.
The boss of the Mole Mines is a weird guy named Punchinello who has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the plot. He isn’t a Smithy Gang member, he just… found that Star Piece down there and is protecting it. Oh, and he attacks with Bob-Ombs. Wait, his name is PUNCHinello, and he attacks with bombs? That’s false advertising! I want my money back! This is a weird fight; the guy’s gimmick is to spawn bombs every once in a while – and bigger bombs each time he does, too, and the heroes have to destroy those before they explode! I mean, it’ll leave them with soot faces, that’s about it… unless a bomb takes their HP down to 0, and they die. Where are your cartoon physics now? As the battle comes to a close, an angry Punchinello summons the biggest damn bomb he’s got… and it falls on him.

To die crushed by a bomb, not blown up by it.
Pitiful.

O.O

That thing’s too big.

We better run.

HOLY SHIT, RUN

BOOM

Minecarts! What is this madness?
…Wow, that thing should have killed us… Yet, we just got all gray and soot-faced. Ah, so that’s where the cartoon physics were. They were waiting for the fight to end! So, we get the Star Piece, find Dyna and Mite, and the mines start crumbling down – but that’s okay, we flee in a minecart, in a mini-game that is actually pretty damn great.

Oh yeah, I should mention that, shouldn’t I? On top of the RPG elements, which make up most of the game, we also have various mini-games on the side, many of which are a part of the plot. We’ve already seen Mario rolling down Tadpole Pond, we have the minecart race here… and there are many, many more throughout. It’s a very nice touch to the game, giving it that little extra that most other RPGs don’t have. The minecart mini-game itself is a lot of fun, and it ends with the group crashing into Dyna and Mite’s house, everyone safe and sound. Except the roof, that one has seen better days.

Mario leaves the house, but has no time to rest, as the plot is apparently in a hurry. We meet Snifits – remember them from the American version of SMB2? It’s weird how many enemies that started in Doki Doki Panic are now an actual part of Mario’s universe. They say they’re collecting beetles for a guy named Booster. After they leave, we move on to Booster Pass. Hm, I have a hunch that this mysterious tower in the overworld map belongs to that Booster guy, if he’s so important that he has underlings. And indeed, it is! We get to Booster Tower.

You, wht are YOU doing here? It's not your kind to stand
around other peple's fortresses!
Oh hey, Bowser’s here! ….Oh crap, BOWSER’S HERE! Hide! We’re not nearly high-level enough to take him on! As it turns out, Princess Peach Toadstool is here as well… on the highest floor of Booster Tower, having been captured apparently. The turtle sees Mario and, despite trying to stay tough in front of his mortal enemy, Bowser eventually caves in and decides that he might as well join them to rescue Peach. He breaks down Booster’s door, and reluctantly joins the Toadstool Rescue Party. (Oh, yeah, this was before Peach’s current name was given. She’s known everywhere in this game as Princess Toadstool. I feel too lazy to write it every single time…) Well actually, Bowser doesn’t join you, he claims that you’re the ones joining his troop. Class-A ego, that’s how we love our Bowser.

Sorry Mallow, you were good for a while, but we could use
the brawns right now.
From this point on, you have access to four party members – however, you can only have three in a fight. Sure, they all get experience from battles, but one of them will be spinning their thumbs in the background, warming the bench. Bowser may start off as an impressive beast on your side, boasting the best physical attack at the moment, he’ll be outclassed once the whole party has to rely more on special moves than direct ones. One requirement, however, is that Mario is always in the fighting party, which means that you must fill the remaining spots with two of the four other characters. Yes, four, because Princess Peach joins later on – in what was her first sheer moment of awesome. Poor girl doesn’t get enough of those... (Granted, she becomes a playable character more and more often in newer Mario platformers, so there's that.)

Looks like a pleasant
dude!
Okay, time to raid Booster’s Tower! Inside, we face Snifits, jester-like enemies, and many other weird-looking characters. Also, a surprising lot of platforming, with Mario jumping up the floors and solving puzzles. We also get to meet Booster once or twice, without battling him, and he seems like the ultimate example of a man-child. I mean, I should have figured that out, there are so many toys around the place. And is it me, or he feels like a Wario wannabe? I mean, a rough, fat, ugly dude who hoards everything he finds, has facial hair, delusions of grandeur, and a memorable schnoz… I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if his designer took inspiration from Wario, who first appeared four years before this game’s release, in Super Mario Land 2.

But why is he keeping Peach captive? Because she fell from the sky, catapulted out of Bowser’s Keep by Exor, and landed on his tower, and he thought it was like a sign of the universe, and that he had to marry her absolutely. He might not even know what marriage entails! Heck, maybe Peach being forced to marry him would cause the creation of a black hole that will start to engulf the multiverse! But nah, that’s only if Peach is forced to marry Bowser.

He attacks on a toy train. Sure, why not.
At the top of the tower, there is a mini-game where Mario must try to hide behind curtains as Booster is looking for a Mario doll. Stay hidden, and you’ll help Booster find his doll, with an amulet received as a bonus. Be found, and you battle Booster! Yeah, he’s technically an optional boss. I guess he's worth fighting for experience. Booster eventually leaves with Peach to the nearby conveniently-named city of Marrymore. Mario and co. run after them but first have a surprise boss battle against two jesters, Knife Guy and Grate Guy. No, they’re not from the Smithy gang, but it seems that most bosses are themed around weapons in this game, even those unrelated to the main villains.

Who's sending down these barrels anyway?
Following this fight, we chase Booster on the road to Marrymore. The Viking sure seems more excited by the prospect of a wedding party than by the wedding itself! A sweet, fun little mini-game follows, where Mario chases Booster while avoiding barrels and Snifits, then we get to that peculiar town. Hotels, a giant chapel, and people always preparing for weddings? There’s a lot of activity here! Oh, you haven’t seen anything; its sister town, Divorcia, has been even more active lately! What follows is a lot of exploration as Mario’s team tries to find its way through the chapel and rescue Princess Toadstool. A lot of jokes, too. We can even meet the resident chef, who’s baking a most excellent cake for the occasion.

This cake's attack is either a blizzard of snow...
...or powdered sugar. That it can do magic at all
is actually kinda puzzling.
Mario crashes the wedding ceremony, and Peach goes with him – but wait, the cake is almost here! However, the chef is angry because that mustachioed nobody is leaving with the bride. Surprise boss battle! Yep, we really are fighting Chef Torte and his Apprentice. They can’t really be hurt, though… The same cannot be said for the cake itself, which takes in a lot of hits… and then starts moving by itself. “The cake is a lie”? It’s worse than that. The cake is alive! Where did they get their ingredients for this thing? You can’t say this game isn’t full of surprises! Yes, the actual boss fight is against this cake. Bundt and Raspberry, as each piece is named. It’s defeated first by taking out the head, then by hitting the bottom, putting out one candle with every successful attack. When the wedding cake monster is defeated (yes, I just had to write this), Booster shows up and, aided of his Snifits, eats it in one big gulp. Well that’s one less trouble for us! And so Booster leaves, unmarried but happy (he got to eat cake after all), and Mario can finally bring Peach back home.

What do you expect me to say? "No, stay here and be bored"?
Granted, this is the first time she joins as a playable character
in any Mario platformer or RPG... and she is
FRIKKIN BADASS.

Yeah, do you think you have all the rights?
Who do you think you are? The savior of all wishes?
...Wait a sec...
We travel back to the Mushroom Kingdom, and get a couple scenes of interest… after which we learn that Princess Toadstool wants to come with the party on their quest to restore the Star Road. I told you it would happen! She’s a healer type, which will be very useful in the upcoming fights. We also pass by Tadpole Pond, where Frogfucius tells the party where to look for the next Star Piece. It’s on Star Hill, a mysterious land covered in fallen wishing stars. Since wishes cannot be granted anymore… Hey, there are logistics to the magic of wish-granting, you know! No wonder the whole world’s out of whack, if no wishes can become true anymore! Star Hill looks like a mass of asteroids floating in the night, and it’s a relaxing place that has no bosses; just enemies. You can walk around and read the wishes of others, which is surprisingly touching at times. The Star Piece is there, unguarded, like the game is saying “You’ve been going through so much trouble lately, and you’re gonna be going through so much trouble in what’s coming, here, have a free one”.

The less you say about how you please your superiors,
the better I'll feel. This is a game for kids, remember?
Past Star Hill is Seaside Town. The place looks decent enough, were it not for the grey tint that seems to afflict all the Toads living here. We learn that a Star Piece fell into the sea, and that it’s probably guarded by a pirate named Jonathan Jones. That’s all fine and good, but the Elder claims he needs that Star Piece, and I really wonder what he would do with it. This whole thing just doesn’t sound right. But hey, it is the hero’s duty to listen to the NPC’s queries and head out to resolve them! Gear up for an underwater adventure, everyone! Out into the sea, and into a sunken ship. A lot of enemies on the way, but that’s okay, we really could use the level grinding. We’ll need it.

Upon entry in the sunken ship, we learn that it was sunk by a giant squid. Let me guess, it’s a Blooper? It has to be a Blooper. Giant squids in the Mario series are always Bloopers, there was even one in Super Paper Mario! And because nothing is ever simple, the Star Piece is hidden within the treasure room… which is also where the giant squid has been trapped… and to enter, you need a six-letter code… which must be discovered by gathering clues around the ship. Yay, forced exploration!

Whoa, there’s an awful lot of ghosts in here. Aww, and I forgot my proton pack at home! Well… I’d rather continue this next Friday. How about that?