This is a shout-out for the guy at Nintendo who thought of the Hanabi Festival to give us a ring, because we want to take him out for dinner. And not just any shabby dinner either. We're willing to get him an XXL Whopper with cheese and bacon, and go large on his fries and drink too. That sort of meal in your average central London Burger King would cost around 165 quid - roughly the amount most games journalists earn in a year. But that's fine because we're that grateful to him. He deserves all the over-priced beef he can eat, and this is why.
Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars is here at last and it's about time. Probably one of the most highly requested import-only games in Nintendo history, this classic hit Japanese and American stores in 1996. The Super NES adventure was praised worldwide for being one of Square's best RPG adventures, looking absolutely incredible and showing Mario's world in a whole new 3D light. Sadly, it never got released in Europe. We want the guy who made that decision to give us a call, too. So we can throw him into a spiked pit.
As the title suggests, it's an RPG - with Mario. It all starts off the way you'd expect. Princess Peach is round Mario's gaff, chilling out in the garden when Bowser turns up and kidnaps her. Plucky as ever and never one bit tired of Peach being so useless, Mario springs into action and, within a few minutes, you're bashing your way through Bowser's castle to punch lizard man in the eye for taking your girl.
But it all goes belly-up when a giant sword falls from space, crashing into Bowser's castle and sending Mario, Bowser and Peach flying through the air. It's a new enemy - the Smithy Gang - and Mario has to find the seven legendary stars before they do. Because he's a hero. And because no-one's invented police in the Mushroom Kingdom. Idiots.
A Star Is Born
It's pure genius from there on. It still has platforming mechanics and obstacles in it but instead of enemies dying with one swift head stomp, coming into contact with any foe enters you into a turn-based battle with a set of enemies. That means no Final Fantasy-style randomised enemy encounters. Sweet!
You choose your attacks, from standard jumps or punches to fireballs or green shells, and strike numbers (HP for RPG geeks) out of enemies' heads. All very traditional there. But Square came up with a few clever features to spice things up. The battle system packs a timing element where you can hit the attack button a second time, just as your attack connects with you foes' noggin, to enhance the damage done. Conversely, you can hit a button a split second before an enemy attack strikes you to reduce the damage taken.
The genius of this is that it makes you more involved in the fight. It makes attacking a more visceral experience than the usual RPG, in which you usually select your attack then sit back and watch it happen. It also means you have to study enemies and their moves carefully so that you can successfully defend their various attacks.
Just as in other RPGs, the main man starts off alone but Mario meets other characters who join his party. With a talking cloud called Mallow, a peculiar doll named Geno, Peach and the lizard king Bowser on your side, there's plenty of variety and depth to the battle system, even by today's standards.
All this is knitted together with a brilliant story and trademark Mario charm. Your ears will tingle to what is easily one of the best soundtracks in Mario history. The mix of quirky Square-created melodies along with frequent throwbacks to tunes in past Mario games is seriously cool. Like, listen-on-your-iPod cool, even if doing so will get you bullied at school. The question of whether or not to get Super Mario RPG really is a no-brainer. It's a brilliant RPG that stands up even by today's standards, and you finally get to experience a top-quality slice of Mario history that has hidden from us Brits for over a decade. Whatever will Nintendo give us next? The Mother series with English text? We can only dream.