Super Medieval Mario RPG, Anyone?
Do you remember Super Mario RPG: Legend of The Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo? Probably. I mean, it’s largely regarded as one of the best RPGs—if not one of the best games—that graced the system (and there are a lot of contenders). Now, you’d think that, given its popularity, we would have seen a proper sequel by now. But, as you know, we haven’t—and we probably never will. Yeah, it’s sad. But, hey, don’t start boohooing just yet. While we may not have another Super Mario RPG in the works, we’ve got the next best thing—a game inspired by Super Mario RPG! Or, um, at least a Kickstarter for one. And a short demo. And, best of all, it shows promise! Yay!
Being a (very early) demo and all, there’s not a whole lot that I can really dig too deeply into. But, from what I can tell, it’s literally a medieval Super Mario RPG with a bit of flair added on. Hold on there, though! I didn’t mean it in a bad way. While it’s easy to pick up on where Another Crusade is drawing inspiration from on your own, Dragon Vein Studios states upfront that it is quite literally trying to become a spiritual successor to the SNES classic, and even goes as far as showing side-by-side comparisons between the two games. As an avid SMRPG fan myself, I’ve got to hand it to them; they’ve done a stellar job mechanically. While there’s still some obvious polish that will need to be added in later—such as the camera not always being centered on your character—anyone who’s familiar with the source material will comfortably fall into Another Crusade‘s pacing as well, and the fact that the game seems to have a larger emphasis on puzzles will definitely help it stand out as being more than a simple copy/paste title.
Of course, the similarities don’t stop at walking around on the map; the game’s (seemingly) many battles feel incredibly faithful as well. Everything from the visual setup—including the isometric layout and positioning of allies an enemies—to the unmistakably SMRPG-esque emphasis on timing attacks and defensive maneuvers feel very painstakingly re-created. Sure, there are a few differences here and there—such as its abandoning of a traditional MP (or FP!) system for an SP system that, strangely enough, reminded me of Tales of Berseria—but these changes only add to the experience overall.
When it comes to creating spiritual successors, the biggest obstacle is almost always faithfully re-creating the source material’s gameplay while adding in your own spin. But, from what I can tell, Another Crusade has handled that aspect marvelously so far. So, does that mean that it doesn’t falter anywhere? Well, no, not exactly. Despite playing like an absolute gem, I couldn’t help but feel as though its general aesthetic was somewhat… boring? Now, I’d like you (as well as the devs!) to take everything that I’m about to say with a grain of salt. I know that, as an early demo, making your game look razzly and dazzly isn’t priority number one. With that being said, however, I don’t think that the game’s audio and visuals will win people over as they currently stand.
The main draw of Super Mario RPG was its gameplay. That’s pretty undeniable. But there’s no way that it would be even a fraction as memorable (in a good way, at least) without its stellar presentation. Everything from the diverse explorable areas, to the absolutely bangin‘ soundtrack, to the characters themselves (people to this day still go nuts over Geno) were all amazing. Does this game need to live up to those standards exactly? No, definitely not. Not only did they have an experienced team from Square(Enix) working on the game, but they had the entire Super Mario IP to work with. But Another Crusade doesn’t need any of that to win people over. To be fair, it does seem to have its own wooden doll/toy motif established, and I like where they’re going with that. But they’re going to have to really pick up the pace if they want this game to be as memorable as I know it can be.
You Can Be a Superstar if You Try
Aesthetic uncertainties aside, Another Crusade really has a lot going for it so far, and I’m genuinely excited to play the full version when that releases. Before that happens, though, it needs some more help on Kickstarter. With 19 days to go and roughly 50% of its goal met, Another Crusade still has a way to go before it can reach that sweet, sweet, fully funded status. Do you have to donate? Nah, of course not. But if you’re anything like me and really want a new SMRPG adventure, then consider throwing at least a few bucks their way. Or, at the very least, playing the demo. Either way, I doubt you’ll be sorry!