The platforming aspects, while quite simplistic, are still a welcome distraction. For the most part the platforming is simply jumping up stairs and other easy fare, and at the most is only moderately challenging with infinite retries with no to little penalties except your time when you fail. The main way the platforming is used is to avoid enemies; Unlike many other JRPGs all enemies are visible in the level and the vast majority can be dodged or sought out. A boss, one of the main ones, is even shippable though some fancy jumping, though that is supposed to be a bug and not a secret I believe. This bug is used in combination with a bunch of other secrets, skill, and careful playing to beat the game at level three; which even assuming that you could beat the game at level three, it is amazing that you can get away with not getting that many experience points.
Their is quite a few other non-standard game elements: including many substantial mini-games, puzzles, and secrets. The mini-games are distributed all through the game but their are three main ones you can play to collect extra coins that can be played over and over again, but are initially part of the story, a somewhat secret Yoshi racing game, many other secrets with their own mini-games, and the puzzles I mentioned; These puzzles are all, or at least for the most part, in a single part of the game, the sunken pirate ship which contains many interesting and challenging single room puzzles that are used to unlock hints to a word game that is required to complete the level. This level ended up being the most memorable part of the entire game for me. Their is just one more thing I want to touch on in this paragraph, hidden objects and quests. Super Mario RPG is chalk full of secret objects, secret quests, secret bosses, and hidden Easter eggs. All of them fun and for the most part just hidden enough for an enjoyable hunt.
The RPG elements are also very well done and simple. The battle system is turned based and set up very much like any other JRPG. All playable characters have a choice of defending, attacking, using a special attack, or using an item. All characters have completely unique special attacks and every single action can be super charged by using timed key presses, including the use of items. When levelling up you get some predetermined increase to all of your stats and get to choose a bonus improvement to either your attack power, your health, or your special attack; With one of the choices always being slightly higher then normal, not that that is necessarily the best choice all the time.
The overall story of Super Mario RPG is not very unique; Basically you must find seven stars and finally confront the end boss Smithy. The genius is in the details; Every area and every quest in the game is filled with interesting characters and has an interesting story. Be it Rose Town where a star carrying baddy has petrified the entire town or tracking down a thief in Bandit's Way the entire game is an interesting adventure.
It is potentially my favourite game of all time, and easily my favourite SNES game. It simplifies the stats and gameplay of the JRPG to its benefits. It adds more depth and story to the Mario Universe while taking its funny and enjoyable atmosphere and platforming. It is simply a wonderful melding of two companies and two genres.
Associated Blogs:CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator