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Virtual Console Roundup

Mario RPG, Lost Levels, Sam Shodown II, Pitstop II, Ecco Jr, Splatterhouse 2.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

  • Platform: SNES
  • Wii Points: 900
  • In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)

It's been a while since Nintendo graced the VC with a genuinely anticipated title, and with the arrival of Super Mario RPG we can at last cross another beloved classic off the list. It's been worth the wait - and is even worth gritting your teeth and putting up with the needlessly inflated price-tag.

Famously developed by Square, under direct supervision from Miyamoto, the game is every bit as impressive as you'd expect given the creative muscle at work behind the scenes. It may sound slightly obvious, but it really is a Mario game and it really is an RPG. Neither element suffers for the cross-genre mash-up, and the result is a game that positively oozes charm and depth.

The story finds a new threat unleashed on Mario's world - the enormous sword-shaped Smithy. As you progress through the saga you collect the inevitable band of companions, some (Princess Toadstool, Bowser) drawn from classic Mario mythology, others (Mallow, Geno) created for this adventure. The roster obviously isn't huge - and fans may pine for Luigi or Yoshi to join the party - but don't be fooled into thinking this mean's the game is a dumbed down version of Square's "real" role-playing epics.

Pretty much every aspect you'd expect from a mid-'90s Final Fantasy title is included, albeit disguised in Mario clothing. Flower Points are the currency for special attacks, for instance, while mushrooms replace potions for restoring health. Combat follows the traditional turn-based template, but with a small twist - attacks can be increased in power by hitting or spamming buttons at the right time or even twizzling the d-pad. If the concept sounds familiar, it's because Square used it again for Final Fantasy VIII - though this version is fast and arcadey, and nothing like the elongated Guardian Force animations that would come later.

They also shrewdly borrowed ideas from their other titles, most notably Chrono Trigger's refreshing absence of random battles. Moving around the game world feels more like an isometric Mario platformer, and enemies are clearly visible. Contact triggers the fight, at which point things switch to the familiar Square battle screen.

The game puts up a tough fight as well. Pity the complacent soul who thinks the cute exterior means a toothless challenge. The early stages are simple enough, with Level Ups easy to come by, but if you wander into the first real boss encounter without taking things seriously and stocking up on health and revival items, even the best RPG player can struggle.

There's really not much more to say - it's up there with Zelda as one of Nintendo's crowning achievements, and is the closest the VC has had to an essential download in a good long while. Here's hoping that this means Chrono Trigger isn't far away...