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*/*Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, known in Japan as Mario & Luigi RPG (マリオ&ルイージRPG Mario ando Ruīji Aru Pī Jī?), is a role-playing video game developed by AlphaDream and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. Superstar Saga is the first game in the Mario and Luigi RPG series and was followed by two sequels, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, which was released for the Nintendo DS in 2005 and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, which was released in 2009, also for the DS.

The game begins in Mushroom Kingdom, but progresses to Beanbean Kingdom for the majority of the game as Mario and Luigi combat Cackletta, the game's primary antagonist. The quest begins when Cackletta, with the aid of her assistant Fawful, steals Princess Peach's voice after adopting the guise of an ambassador from Beanbean Kingdom.

A role-playing game, it centers on a battle system different from that of traditional games of the genre, with emphasis on timing and more elaborate attacks.The game is whimsical in tone, with various in-game jokes and comical references to the heritage of the Mario series. Superstar Saga was generally well received by critics, and IGN named it the twelfth best Game Boy Advance game of all time in their feature? reflecting on the Game Boy Advance's lifespan.

GameplayEdit

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Superstar Saga's battle system

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga features a battle system similar to those of Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario, in which timed button presses are crucial to both increasing damage of party attacks and reducing the damage of enemy attacks. This system, however, is even more important in Superstar Saga, as well-timed button presses can not only increase damage inflicted by attacks, but also completely avoid or even counter enemy attacks as well. Unique to Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is the Bros. Moves, which becomes available after new abilities are gaine.Bros. Moves allow Mario and Luigi to attack as a combined effort with the use of Bros. Points (BP). How many points used determines the maximum amount of damage that can be dealt and the degree of difficulty required to execute the selected ability. The brother-based abilities do not affect the battle system exclusively; they can also be used outside of combat to solve puzzles to progress further into the Beanbean Kingdom.

In terms of gameplay, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga differs itself from most other role-playing games mainly due to the amount of interaction that is required between Mario and Luigi. Unlike Paper Mario, Superstar Saga requires active and continual co-operation between the two main characters in order to solve environmental puzzles as well as during battle. Where this game differs is to how much correlation there is between the two. For example, gaining an ability in the overworld will also unlock a new skill in battle. Despite the battle system, the game follows many role-playing game traditions in that the players increase power by "leveling up", in which multiple statistical values, for example speed and defense, are increased by each level gain. Superstar Saga's gameplay also incorporates collectible items that can be sold or bought at shops, such as badges and clothing that effectively boosts the player's statistics when worn. The game focuses heavily on puzzle-solving and interaction between non-playable characters to progress the storyline. Like other Mario games released for the Game Boy Advance, Superstar Saga features the classic Mario Bros. arcade game which is compatible with all games in the Super Mario Advance series. The game also incorporates the rumble feature when played using the Game Boy Player.

Plot and settingEdit

Unlike most games in the Mario series, this game is not set in the Mushroom Kingdom. Instead, Superstar Saga introduces the Beanbean Kingdom, a neighboring monarchy to the Mushroom Kingdom. Despite this, traditional enemies such as the Goomba are present, as well as new enemies exclusive to the game. The predominant race are the "Beanish", although there are other species such as the "Hoohooligans" and the Yoshis. No locations featured in the Beanbean Kingdom, with the exception of Bowser's Castle, existed in any earlier Mario series games.

CharactersEdit

The playable protagonists in the game are Mario and Luigi. Superstar Saga deviates from the series' tradition in that Bowser is not the central antagonist, but the Beanish witch Cackletta is. Despite Bowser aiding the protagonists during a period of the game, Bowser's body becomes possessed by the consciousness of Cackletta to form the creature Bowletta. The original Cackletta is aided by the assailant Fawful, who is often characterized by his comical use of language, as evidenced by his famous quote "I HAVE FURY!" and who is also the antagonist of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story for the Nintendo DS and the owner of the bean shop in Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time. Additionally, Mario and Luigi have recurring incidents with a thief named Popple, who will engage both protagonists in conflict various times throughout the game, with his sidekick Rookie (amnesiac Bowser). But in one case, Popple will fight alone. In another, he will use an amnesiac Birdo instead of Rookie.

Throughout the game, Mario and Luigi must work with the Beanbean monarchy headed by Queen Bean. Both she and her son, Prince Peasley, offer Mario and Luigi assistance to retrieve the Beanstar. The youthful Prince Peasley is a celebrity figure in his native Beanbean Kingdom. The quest is in aid to rescue Princess Peach's voice, which was stolen by Cackletta and Fawful.

StoryEdit

In the Mushroom Kingdom, Princess Peaches voice is stolen by the evil witch Cackletta and replaced with explosives. After being summoned to the palace by Toad, Mario and Luigi confront Bowser, who coincidentally was just attempting to kidnap Peach. Mario easily subdues him, and learns that Peach's voice was stolen. Bowser decides not to kidnap her now and teams up with Mario to retrieve her true voice back from the Beanbean Kingdom, with the intention of kidnapping her later when she will not destroy his castle with explosives.

Mario, Luigi, and Bowser fly to the Beanbean Kingdom via Bowser's new airship, the Koopa Cruiser. Mid-flight, Fawful attacks the cruiser and blows it out of the sky. Bowser and the brothers become separated. On their journey, the brothers rescue Prince Peasley, who had been captured by Cackletta and turned into a monster. The brothers reach Beanbean Castle Town and step into a trap laid by Cackletta that drops them into the sewers. Within the sewers, the brothers learn that Cackletta's goal is to steal the Beanstar from the castle, which once awoken with Peach's voice will grant all of Cackletta's wishes.

When the brothers try to stop Cackletta, she attacks them with a mutated form of the Queen Bean and escapes. After defeating the Queen, Mario and Luigi travel to Chucklehuck Woods to retrieve the Chuckola Reserve, a soda which will restore Queen Bean. They encounter Popple, a thief also after the Chuckola Reserve, with an amnesiac Bowser as his accomplice. After defeating them, the brothers obtain the Reserve and return to Beanbean Castle Town.

With Queen Bean cured, Mario and Luigi travel to Woohoo Hooniversity, where Cackletta plans to awaken the Beanstar. Mario and Luigi injure Cackletta so severely that Fawful must suck up her soul in his "vacuum helmet" to save her life. Cackletta commands Fawful to attack, but he is stopped by Prince Peasley. While retrieve the Beanstar, they run into Popple and Bowser again. After defeating them, the Beanstar is accidentally exposed to Peach's voice and goes berserk, shoots into the sky and explodes into four pieces, which scatter across Beanbean Kingdom.

The brothers return to Beanbean Castle, where they discover that Prince Peasley had learned of Cackletta's plot and warned the Princess beforehand. They disguised Birdo as Peach, but had been unable to tell the brothers, due to Bowser's presence. Meanwhile, Fawful imbues a weak Bowser with Cackletta's soul, resulting in the twisted Bowletta.

On a trip to Little Fungitown Peach is kidnapped by Bowletta, who demands all the pieces of the Beanstar in exchange. After retrieving the Beanstar, Mario and Luigi travel to Joke's End to make the exchange. Bowletta refuses to hand over Peach, but Luigi, disguised in Peach's spare dress, ends up being taken in Peach's stead. He escapes from the repaired Koopa Cruiser, retrieving the Beanstar in the process. The brothers return to Beanbean Castle Town, finding it under attack by Bowletta using Bowser's flying castle. The brothers and Prince Peasley fly up to it to stop Cackletta once and for all.

Mario and Luigi battle past the Koopalings and Fawful before making it to Bowletta. Feinting defeat, she knocks them out from behind with a Bob-omb, and swallows them both. After waking up in her belly, the brothers conquer Cackletta's soul for good, returning Bowser to normal. Afterwards, the brothers escape the castle before it explodes from a bomb set by Peasley. After the explosion, the castle falls into the ocean.

DevelopmentEdit

The game, in development by AlphaDream, was first revealed at E3 2003, where a playable demo of the game was available. A playable demonstration was also available at the Nintendo Gamers' Summit of 2003. Superstar Saga was said to take its inspiration from the Nintendo 64 game Paper Mario, with obvious similarities in gameplay and themes between the two. To link in with the game's comic themes, Nintendo organized an official competition between October and November 2003 in which gamers would try to submit the best knock-knock joke to win a Game Boy Advance SP and a copy of the game. Nintendo employed comedian Kathy Griffin to choose the winner.

ReceptionEdit

Most reviewers had a positive reaction towards Superstar Saga. The game's comical dialog and themes in particular were lauded by critics. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell commented that "each line of dialogue and identifiable cameo is handled with a loving sense of humour." Despite this, RPGamer's Andrew Long labelled the plot as repetitive, and the game's characters as "a tad shallow". While also appreciating references to the heritage of the Mario series, critics praised the game for avoiding clichés common in previous games of the Mario series.

The gameplay attained a mixed reception in general. Critics seemed to enjoy a battle system which deviated from role-playing game tradition. IGN's Craig Harris commented that "unlike most Japanese RPGs Mario & Luigi's turn-based battle involves the player at all times". Despite this novel approach to combat situations, some reviewers thought that the overall gameplay lacked innovation. GameSpy in particular criticized the game for an apparent lack of originality, commenting that "in terms of gameplay, there isn't much there that we haven't seen in the NES and SNES Mario and Zelda titles." Furthermore, some reviewers were disappointed by a perceived lack of difficulty in the gameplay as a result of targeting a younger audience. Cubed3 welcomed this approach, citing that "any gamer, be them veterans to the genre or complete amateurs, will find the title to be perfectly accessible." Gaming publications like Edge have criticized the controls for being occasionally confusing when considering the usage of jumping, hammers, and other combinations between the two characters. It was rated the 37th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.

A common concern among reviewers is the overhead perspective, which critics have bemoaned for preventing them from judging pathway routes and an object's location in relation to its background. Besides this, the actual visuals were generally well received, as well as the setting and animations. The audio was commended for combining both originality and nostalgia, even though it looped frequently. In 2007, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was named the twelfth best Game Boy Advance game of all time in IGN's feature reflecting on the Game Boy Advance's long lifespan. Superstar Saga sold 441,000 units in Japan and 1.46 million in the US. In 2006, the game became part of the Player's Choice label.

SequelsEdit

Nintendo released Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, the sequel to Superstar Saga, on November 28, 2005 for the Nintendo DS system. The plot and setting is relatively disconnected to that of Superstar Saga, as Cackletta has been replaced by the Shroobs as the primary antagonists. Although the game is set outside the Beanbean Kingdom, there are references to Superstar Saga in Partners in Time, such as the inclusion of Fawful in the sewers of Princess Peach's Castle in the game. The Bros. Moves have been retained in Partners in Time, although they involve an item system as opposed to the Bros. Points system that Superstar Saga has. A second sequel, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, was released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS, with Fawful reprising his role as a key villain.

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