Riding the Backlog - Super Mario RPG (Part 9)

By Chris Pranger

Session 9: Land’s End to Monstro Town

Things are about to get crazy, and that’s saying a lot considering just how crazy Super Mario RPG has been up to this point. In replaying, I’ve had to reevaluate exactly how I feel about the game. Specifically, which parts I really like and which parts I’m just sort of “meh” on. Turns out I still love the Booster section of the game, but I’ve grown a new appreciation for the Sunken Ship, and have little residual nostalgic affection for the Moleville detour. Life marches on!

I’ve fallen into a pretty regular routine lately. I’ll get home from work, eat some dinner with the family, do my 10 minutes of yoga, put my 4-year-old to bed, and then come out and really want to play Super Mario RPG. But because I’ve decided I MUST be on the exercise bike when playing, it’s a lot harder to get the motivation. Super Mario RPG is so good that my desire to play it outweighs my dislike of riding an exercise bike for an hour.

I start today at a slightly higher resistance than normal since we’re heading to Land’s End and that means things get serious. Or rather, they would, but first I’m taking a quick trip back to Moleville to buy the Mystery Egg, an item that I’ve never bothered with until now. Apparently when Toadstool uses it 10 times while being equipped with the B’tub Ring, something good happens. Alright, let’s try it!

Mario and most of the others are at level 15 going into Land’s End, still putting me in a good spot to roll over any enemy that stands in my way. Land’s End doesn’t actually throw any really new enemies my way, save for the Shogun ants. Everything else is just a more powerful version of enemies we’ve already fought, just with a new color and a few new tricks.

Speaking of tricks, I’m at the point in the game where poorly timed attacks will almost always fail. I’m actually not sure where the exact line is for that, but I’ve had a few goofs with Mario, Bowser, and Geno, each missing an attack from a bad button press on my part. Still, one of the new weapons I nabbed in Seaside was the Double Punch for Geno, which has him fire two rocket fists at once. It is an incredibly satisfying attack and just looks gnarly, as do the majority of Geno’s attacks.

Land’s End is broken into three sections. There’s the grassy cliffside area, the desert area, and the underground area (Belome’s Temple, to be specific). Everything about Land’s End feels like a mashup of previous areas what with the reused enemy sprites and a lot of retreaded landscapes, including underground caverns and mines.

That isn’t to say Land’s End is a bad area! Far from it, it’s packed full of little oddities, such as the cannons you can shoot out of, a sky bridge made of temporary blocks, and a little sand puzzle that’s ultimately not too difficult. If you hop across the sky bridge, you move onto the next area, but if you fall down, you have a chance to hop into a secret area that leads you way out of your way. How far out of your way? How about all the way back to Kero Sewers.

I hadn’t mentioned it during Session 2 but there was a chest in Kero Sewers that was inaccessible. I couldn’t remember if there was a trick I just forgot or if this was the instance of the weird chest being shown early and not being obtainable until much later. Turns out it was the latter, giving me the item Cricket Jam.

From there, I hop in the very next pipe of Kero Sewers, which spits me into the Midas River Run again. I manage to earn a Frog Coin here and then revisit Frogfucious at Tadpole Pond to give him his jam. He’s so happy that I get 10 Frog Coins in return. Finally, I’m building a real Frog Coin stash! I won’t do anything with them, but hey! I’ve got ‘em!

I also take this chance to go grab a few things I missed on my first go-through. Hidden chests abound, with the hardest-to-find one existing in some nebulous space above a doorway in the Mushroom Kingdom palace which can only be obtained if you jump off a Toad’s head as he runs through the door. This perfect Toad placement only ever happens once near the very beginning of the game, so if you miss this jump and you want 100% completion, you’d better reset to a previous save.

Finally, there’s a kid in the Inn playing what looks like a Game Boy or something. When you first talk to him back during the first star section, he just gets progressively more annoyed until he gets a game over before starting his cycle again. This time, he’ll offer to sell me his game for a pricey 500 coins, but I need to burn through those, so I take him up on the offer. There is absolutely no point to this game other than allow for a little diversion. You control a beetle that shoots stars at red shells that bounce all around. Hitting a red shell explodes it into a starburst which can cause a chain reaction with other shells. I set a new high score, stop in at Rose Town for a free rest and a cameo from The Legend of Zelda’s Link, and then returned to Land’s End to get on with the main plot.

When you get to the desert section of Land’s End, a rat enemy is waiting around, not attacking. Speaking to it gives you a clue on how to get through the next area, specifically that you have to jump in the whirlpools that contain the Shogun enemies. They’re clearly visible, so it’s not hard.

You have the option of pushing forward and reaching the official end of land part of Land’s End, which you can’t climb yet but is very tempting thanks to the upward-facing arrow on a sign with the text “CLIMB”. I’ll have to return later, but for now I must continue following the Shoguns into the sand whirlpools.

Eventually I’m dropped into an underground section where I get a Power Star to instantly clear a room of Geckits, prompting a level-up for a few characters. The room following this has a Shaman selling another Power Star for 400 coins which lets me clear this room as well before descending into the actual temple part.

Belome’s Temple is all gold, and even though it’s just reusing the same tile patterns seen in Kero Sewer but painted a different color, it’s still got the correct effect of impressing me. There’s not much more here other than yet more Shamen trying to sell me stuff, or rather forcing me to buy things. I have to spend 50 coins for a fortune, and then I have the option of purchasing the use of a trampoline to return to the surface for 100. I instead power through and make it to Belome once more.

Seeing Belome again is fun because I just like this chunky boy’s design, and it fits with Land’s End’s theme of essentially just giving us more powerful versions of enemies we’ve already faced. It’s abundantly clear that Land’s End was added somewhat late and meant more as padding than anything, or at least that’s how it appears to my untrained eye. I still don’t care, I’m having fun.

My rematch with Belome goes just as well as the first one, possibly even better. Belome has a new trick where he can eat a party member and make a clone of them to fight alongside him, so going into this I made sure I had Toadstool and Geno in my party. I found myself in a pretty decent cycle where Belome would clone a party member, Geno and Toadstool would pop that enemy, and Mario would use a Super Jump to deal big damage. Lather, rinse, repeat, and Belome is toast.

Actually, this is a perfect time to bring up Special Attacks in the game. Overall, I really don’t like the magic system here, even though it does pretty accurately match each character. It’s more that Special Attacks don’t feel as universal as magic in a typical Final Fantasy game. There are no basic Fire, Ice, and Bolt attacks, though each of those elements do make an appearance. Each character specializes in a different form of Special Attacks, but beyond Mallow’s Thunderbolts and Toadstool’s Group Hugs, I don’t like using them a ton.

It’s also somewhat of a shame that characters earn their highest Special Attack at around level 20 or so, most around level 18. Mario has six Special Attacks, those being Jump, Flame, Super Jump, Super Flame, Ultra Jump, and Ultra Flame. Pretty standard, but somewhat boring. His most-useful Special is the Super Jump move as if done correctly, you can just keep hammering the enemy. I’m not great at the timing, so I can only get to maybe 10 or so hits before missing a prompt. There is a reward for doing 30 and 100 consecutive Super Jumps, but I don’t think I’ve ever even earned the 30-jump reward. I KNOW I’ve never earned the 100-jump reward, which is a more-or-less indestructible piece of armor that any party member can equip.

Beating Belome puts me in Monstro Town, and wow, this town is so much fun. We’ll spend a good deal of time here next time, because there is a heck of a lot to check out. Stay tuned!

Current Feelings:

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