It has been nearly 30 years since we last saw Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. In anticipation of Super Mario RPG for the Nintendo Switch, I fished out my old Super Mario RPG gear. I’ve got my strategy guide (mostly to deal with that damned tadpole music nonsense), old issues of Nintendo Power (nothing gets a player more hyped), and (of course) Nintendo Power Super Mario RPG trading cards. And you know what I discovered from seeing these cards?
Smithy’s gang is not acknowledged! We’ve got some opponents for Mario and pals, but the real villains of the piece are nowhere to be found. And that’s a shame! This is one of the best groups of adversaries for Mario this side of his lizard tennis partner. So, because Nintendo Power dropped the ball a few decades back, let’s look at the big bads of Super Mario RPG.
Claymorton aka Mack the Knife
General Personality: Claymorton is ambiguously carefree for an evil despot. He likes hopping, and does whatever it takes to keep hopping. Keep in mind that this is a choice he has made in the Mushroom Kingdom, a place where jumping is the most consistently effective offensive maneuver, and a skill that has literally liberated kingdoms. It is possible “likes hopping” is the Mario equivalent of “bazooka aficionado”.
Cronies: Claymorton has a legion of dudes on pogo sticks that very much look like shy guys, but are distinctly noted as not shy guys. Whatever, off-brand dream warriors. Speaking of things that are distinctly noted, Claymorton apparently recruited this gang quickly. And that’s impressive! You would think their combined dedication to jumping was something that required training.
Accomplishments: He conquered the Mushroom Kingdom! Granted, their reigning monarch was off in a tower, and Mario was running an errand beating up a lizard (not the usual lizard)… But still! Usually it takes a whole army of chestnuts and turtles to take down the toads, and Claymorton did it in an afternoon.
Inevitable Downfall: You do not conquer the Mushroom Kingdom without getting your ass kicked by a plumber. It would be cool to say that new recruit Mallow made a major difference here, but it was the master of jumps the bopped this weapon-man into the next dimension. Sorry, Claymorton, the flame that shines the brightest burns out the fastest.
General Personality: Smithy’s underlings are all varying degrees of disturbed, but Bowyer in particular presents as unstable. Maybe it’s the eyes? Whatever the case, Bowyer represents a distinct lack of giving a damn, and is the distinct archetype of “crazy general” like Kefka of Final Fantasy 6. Luckily, this living weapon never gets around to claiming a floating continent.
Cronies: Bowyer is the bow (oh, I just got that), and he has a massive collection of sentient arrows. The arrows move independently, but they appear to be “used” after being fired by Bowyer. Is that why Bowyer is so unhinged? He has had to watch hundreds of his compatriots expire thanks to his own actions? Really makes you think. … Or not.
Accomplishments: He froze Rose Town in terror with paralyzing arrows. Those that were not already petrified had to hide indoors, and hope that friendly old men would distribute water to the ailing toads. As evil plans go, there is a complete lack of a point here (does Rose Town have any natural resources to exploit? Roses? Lazy shells? Something?). But Bowyer does want to freeze 1,000 victims, so this must be some kind of start. Wait a minute. Are there 1,000 people in this entire game?
Inevitable Downfall: Bowyer is stopped by Mario and his newest recruit, Geno (who reports to a higher authority). As of the remake, Bowyer attempts to paralyze all of his opponents’ moves, but is still defeated when they whip out a triple tech. Bowyer, if you thought to do that back in 1996, we would all be speaking sentient sword-ese right now.
Speardovich aka Yaridovich
General Personality: Apparently the most competent of Smithy’s henchfolk, Speardovich was able to take over an entire town in pursuit of obtaining the Star Road pieces. And then he impersonated said town, and sent Mario off to clobber a pirate to do his work for him. Hope you get that promotion, Speardovich! You deserve it!
Cronies: Speardovich is his own best cronies: he is somehow able to “split” and simultaneously mimic all the toads in an entire town. Mind you, he only impersonates toads (and not any of the local mole people), and all the toads seem to be a little… off. So maybe this process takes its toll? Regardless, Speardovich is also able to split into two fighters during his battle, so maybe he has some mushroom DNA spliced into whatever genetics makes a living weapon living.
Accomplishments: Tricking Mario and conquering Seaside Town is more than most of these flunkies ever accomplish. If things had gone better for him, he also would have gained that star chunk without any level of fighting or bloodshed. That is extraordinary for a dude that uses his own head as a battering ram.
Inevitable Downfall: You can blame two different factors for Speardovich not making the grade. Mario teams up with a pirate captain to bury this hal-bud, but he would not have been in any danger in the first place if the enemy airship Blade arrived to pick him up in time. Guess you should have been more of a team player, and less of a team unto yourself, Speardovich.
The Axem Rangers
General Personality: There are five color-coded Axem Rangers, and they have suitably separate personalities. But they all work together for Smithy, and command the enormous Blade mech-ship. By all accounts, these are Smithy’s most mobile enforcers.
Cronies: It would be inappropriate for a Power Rangers pastiche to have their own Putty Patrollers.
Accomplishments: They steal a whole star piece out from under Mario’s mustache, and then successfully abscond with it back to Blade. So other than showing up right on time to ruin about ten minutes of Mario’s day? Nada. Maybe they conquered the other areas “for” the other generals, but there is no objective evidence that Smithy’s enforcers did a dang thing. Maybe they were too busy working on their posing?
Inevitable Downfall: You come at the Mario, you best not miss. Despite having abilities to match every member of Mario’s crew (Bowser should be insulted he matches up to Axem Yellow), they go down easy (assuming you have already nabbed a lazy shell or two). Even utilizing the attack power of Blade is ineffective! If Blade could have transformed into a proper giant robot, they would have had a chance. But as it is? Chumps.
General Personality: We do not learn much about Exor’s personality beyond being large and in charge. He also really likes his eyes. I understand that, but getting too attached to any one body part is asking for trouble. Particularly when your opponents have a weapon called a “Drill Claw”.
Cronies: Are we going to say that every sentient sword in the Mushroom Kingdom is one of Exor’s minions? Or are we going to stick to the losers that haven’t left the castle? How about Boomer the wannabe samurai? Everybody forgets about him and his completely pointless boss fight.
Accomplishments: Conquered Bowser’s Keep, became a portal between dimensions… and then just kinda stood around all day. Not going to lie, he cuts (ha) an imposing figure across the horizon. But he is also easily the least active of all of Smithy’s crew. And that is saying something when one of your contemporaries only stands in the forest and shoots arrows all day.
Inevitable Downfall: It took for freakin’ ever for Mario’s posse to actually be in Exor’s presence, but once they are there, Exor goes down like a sitting duck. Then again, having an entire fortress that can only be accessed through cloud-bus is an effective defense, so maybe this wannabe Excalibur should get a little more credit.
General Personality: This monarch is such a hothead, he can smelt his own face. While many final bosses that command armies are known to be devious schemers that stick to their secret bases/dimensions where they can implement their machinations in contemplative solitude (looking at you, Ex-Death), Smithy has all the calm of a Popeye antagonist, and appears to be leashed only by a crowd of complimentary sycophants. So he is basically the reclusive billionaire of RPG bosses.
Cronies: Aside from everybody else on this list, Smithy also commands Count Down the Living Clock, Cloaker the Fighter, Domino the Black Mage, and various factory supervisors in his home dimension. None of those losers exist longer than a single boss fight, though, so they are not worth assessing.
Accomplishments: It is hard to say if Smithy did anything at all. He manufactured every weapon-creature that invaded Mario’s world… but said creatures did not accomplish anything beyond “general menace”. They absolutely ruined the days of a few toads, but entire kingdoms (mole, cloud, booster) had rough times without any Smithy intervention. Basically, he managed to set up shop in the least convenient, most lava-based castle in all the land, and from there spent the rest of his time playing with toys. Appropriate that he was felled by a doll.
Inevitable Downfall: Would Smithy have succeeded at his nebulous goals if he didn’t solder the star piece to his belt? That was the only thing that kept Geno going, and he roped Mario, Mallow, Peach, and even Bowser into defeating Smithy in his home for that exact reason. Would the gang have quit at liberating Bowser’s Castle if Smithy decided he was cool with people having their own wishes? We will never know. But we do know that Mario and pals hit Smithy with a giant snowman until he was stuck working the parade route the rest of his days. And then we never saw Smithy again. It is a shame these metal weirdos never returned thanks to their boss’s incompetence.
You know what? Smithy Gang for Smash.
SBC #23 Yoshi & Super Mario RPG
Yoshi in Super Smash Bros Ultimate
- He any Good? Yosh is apparently a heavy weight fighter. Huh. In a weird way, Yoshi is wholly unique and his entire moveset has been stolen. Transforming an opponent into an egg, using an egg to shield, and his complete lack of up-special recovery is exclusive. But his butt stomp is used by most of the villains, egg tossing is as generic as it gets, and even his egg roll is now more the domain of the Koopa Kids. And let’s face it: if Smash Bros. did not premiere in the late 90’s, he probably wouldn’t be considered for the roster.
- That final smash work? Yoshi’s “dragon shell” mode was so much more fun and fitting. Now we are stuck with this stampede. Has there ever been a Yoshi stampede in any of his games? Transforming his opponents into something out of Yoshi’s Cookie would have been better if they wanted to go the “cutscene” route with Yoshi.
- The background work? Super Happy Tree is the original N64 stage from a million years ago. Clouds appear at the sides… and… uh… it is a little bendy in the middle? It is basically a slightly skewed version of a “regular” three platform stage, but since it is a classic, it gets a pass on being generic. Would rather see this spat out by random select than N64 Hyrule Castle.
- Classic Mode: Jurassic Journey would imply the presence of dinosaurs, right? Well, apparently Smash Bros has a lot of cold-blooded fighters, but they are mostly lizards and dragons, with only Yoshi being the real dinosaur. Giga Bowser would have been an appropriate final boss for the guy who first fought the biggest bowser, but we’ve got Rathalos the Monster Hunted instead. Still not a dinosaur.
- First Appearance: Can’t talk now, just doing ground pounds all the live long day. I am sure Yoshi has other moves, but I haven’t seen them.
- Smash Trivia: Yoshi and Captain Falcon are the only two fighters to premiere on the N64, but never see another playable buddy from their distinct franchise. Of the two, you could easily group Yoshi into Mario’s universe, so even this bit of trivia seems to leave our poor mount in the dust for a more prominent character. Unfortunate, forgotten Yoshi…
- Amiibo Corner: Yoshi is doing this adorable little walk pose for his Smash trophy. Then we have Party Yoshi that is apparently pulling forward invisible suspenders. And here is a collection of Yarn Yoshis of various sizes and colors. Look, I am not going to say that Yoshi has the best collection of amiibos out of any Nintendo character, but I could easily see how one would come to that conclusion.
- Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? We have a Super Mario RPG song, but no distinct representatives only from Super Mario RPG on the roster. And we will be hearing about that for the rest of time.
Yoshi in Super Mario RPG
- System: Apparently this version dropped the subtitle from the SNES original. So I can confidently say that Super Mario RPG is a Nintendo Switch exclusive.
- Number of players: Five heroes, three-person party, one player.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: My feelings on the original Mario RPG are already available, so let’s talk about the “remake”. It’s not a remake! A system-appropriate graphical overhaul and otherwise it is completely faithful to the original? But now with additional post-game bonus challenges and super weapons? This is 100% Super Mario RPG Advance in the tradition of Gameboy Advance Square RPGs. And that is exactly what I asked for! So, while this is disappointing if you want a new experience like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, this is perfect if you wanted to replay Mario RPG with some modern amenities.
- How about those new super bosses? Much like Final Fantasy 6 Advance, it appears these losers are not just “leveled up” bosses, but more akin to “puzzle fights” where you are expected to consider some esoteric concept within the battle system. Or, put another way, how many of you rememebered that Peach had a sleep spell? Whatever works, though, as it does introduce some straight “post-game content” to a title that previously just had a pile of super fun things to discover while the game was actually progressing. Wait. Maybe we should get back to that.
- How about that Yoshi: Yoshi not only has his own island, rival, and fat cousin, but he also appears as part of the recurring “find Yoshi” minigame. Considering his simultaneous separation from the plot (everything previously listed is optional) and omnipresence (who skips a possible lucky payout?), it seems obvious that this was the height of Yoshi’s stardom. I still think Pikachu stole the spotlight out from under that dinosaur a year later.
- Timed Hits: This is the best “action commands” have ever felt in a Mario RPG. Mario & Luigi often feels like it is punishing you if you screw up hitting A at the right time, and Paper Mario never has the same “heft” as landing a perfect star jump with Mallow. SMRPG feels just right, but if you miss, it is no big deal. It is hard to define, but it is definitely a factor. So it is amazing that this technology was perfected in the 90’s, and franchises either had to change (what is even happening in Paper Mario now?) or die rather than replicate it.
- Say something mean: I am disappointed no one modeled the armor for the remake, as I still want to see each party member actually wearing the Lazy Shell. It would be hilarious to see Bowser replaced by a giant troopa shell. Give us what we need, Nintendo!
- The forgotten opponent: Punchinello is a living bomb-man, but apparently not a member of Smithy’s Gang in any way. He does not reappear at the factory, and he has no interest in the star piece. He is just a bomb-man that likes bombs, and happens to be hanging out at the mines at the exact wrong time to be doing that. At least this edition gives him a job as a carpenter.
- Just play the gig, man: Yoko Shimomura’s amazing original soundtrack has been upgraded with modern instrumentation. As a result, some of the tunes border on Kingdom Hearts ditties, and the feeling of Traverse Town is now permeating the Mushroom Kingdom. Culex for Kingdom Hearts!
- Did you know? Samus and Link appear in beds, fake Donkey Kongs are common enemies, and arwings and f-zero cars appear as models in the volcano. And you could easily draw a connection between Mario’s final “star dungeon” and Earthbound’s final sanctuary both being volcanos that include fire bosses that die and then return with a second form. What I am saying is that Super Mario RPG is the original, SNES-based Smash Bros.
- Would I play again: There is arguably no reason to play the SNES original now that this Switch version exists. And, considering I apparently play this game once every seven years or so, I am moderately certain such an event will happen again. Have to visit these weapon folks every once in a while.
What’s next? We are abandoning a dinosaur for Greninja, a frog that is also a ninja. I bet we are going to see a lot of hopping. Please look forward to it!