Super Mario RPG accessibility review

Carlos Moscoso5 minute read

Super Mario RPG is a remake of the classic Legend of the Seven Stars, adding some much needed accessibility improvements. It is developed by ArtePiazza using the unity engine and published by Square Enix. The story follows Mario, Bowser, Princess Peach, and other familiar faces. They set out to find the seven star pieces to repair Star Road. It was broken by a sentient sword falling from the sky, preventing wishes from being granted in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Mobility

Players with motor function disabilities will not find too much in the way of barriers here. The remake is for the most part a one-to-one recreation with a few quality of life improvements. Like the original, the combat system is turn-based. Actions the player can perform are selected by pressing any one of the face buttons on the Nintendo Switch.

Timing and the super meter

Timing is important in this game. Pressing the button used to perform an action at the right moment can increase the effectiveness of the action. For example, if Mario is blocking an attack, timing the press correctly will negate some damage or block it entirely. If he’s on the offensive it will not only do damage to the targeted enemy, but also surrounding ones. This mechanic was present in the original, but in this remake an exclamation point shows the correct time to press the button. Consecutive successes will cause the symbol to appear less frequently, and the super meter to fill faster, as basic attacks do more damage. But failing to execute one will return the symbol and reset the counter.

Mario, Mallow, and Geno in a battle against a Wiggler and Guerrilla.
Mario defends against an attack from the Wiggler showing a shield with an hexagonal pattern.

The super meter that fills each time a successful timed command is executed allows for the selected party members to come together to perform a move in unison. These moves either do devastating damage to foes or heals the groups injuries. Experimenting with different combinations of party members produces wildly different results, encouraging multiple playthroughs. It’s unlikely players will see all of them in one go. There’s even a boss rush at the end of the game where they each have more health for those who really wish to test their mettle. I don’t consider these action commands a barrier because the window is very forgiving. The timing is different for each weapon, so every player can choose a weapon that suits their dexterity.

Difficulty

For those concerned with this legendary game’s difficulty level, fear not. An easy difficulty has been added to the remake so that those who don’t wish to struggle can progress with relative ease. Were this not enough, the remake saves progress automatically whenever Mario passes to a new screen. A sequence involving jumping on Koopas to climb a cliff may prove slightly frustrating but since there is no game overs it can be overcome with tenacity. The same applies to a late game sequence involving conveyor belts. But overall a solid job was done incorporating Mario’s platforming roots to an RPG space, even if his slightly janky running can sometimes make it difficult to gauge his landing. All this makes for an altogether more forgiving experience. And makes this remake the best way for motor-impaired players to experience this classic.

Visuals and audio

On the visual side Super Mario RPG improves the accessibility of its map. It now places red flags on the area of the next objective. The drawback of its adherence to the old design means there’s nothing to guide you once you enter the area. And most levels can be fairly large. Newcomers to the title may find themselves referencing guides when they traverse an area. Still seeing a red flag in the area that they left after seemingly searching the entire area can be frustrating. It would have been smart to include a compass or pathfinding system, particularly in levels like the sewers. Which, without prior knowledge of the game, can seem like a never-ending labyrinth of warp pipes. While this makes it apparent that the game is a love letter to long-time fans, it may prove frustrating for new players.

Mario jumps towards a Koopa on a path between rows of grassy hills.

Since the story here is not the most important aspect, low vision players will not have trouble in this regard. The dialogue here is text-based and as such presented in boxes. While the size of the dialogue cannot be adjusted the default size should not present any issues. Menus are very legible during combat sequences with the cursor being easily distinguishable when choosing targets to attack or defend. If players are willing to power through the navigation barrier there is an excellent time to be had here.

Audio

Hard of hearing and d/Deaf players should not have any trouble here as audio is not required. All dialogue is text-based and conversations possess speaker tags that signify who is speaking. Mario explains the happenings to NPCs by humorously transforming into them making cartoonish noises like something out of Looney Tunes. The written dialogue can be skipped entirely if you see fit and the game is still enjoyable.

Conclusion

Super Mario RPG is a loving modern recreation of a Nintendo classic. It retains all of the original’s charm while making some much-needed improvements to accessibility, particularly with regards to motor-impaired players. Super Mario RPG along with Super Mario Bros Wonder show that in recent years Nintendo has made more effort to make its own mark on the accessibility landscape. They’re all the better for it. While not an entirely perfect package, it is the most accessible way to experience the famous plumber’s first foray into the RPG landscape.

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