Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) – Part 02 – Stardust Fields

-Stardust Fields-

After much struggle, we finally make it to the Beanbean Kingdom. Thanks to the Hammer Brothers, we actually have a map now of this new kingdom, so why don’t we take a quick look at what we’re getting ourselves into. According to the map, we appear to be in the Stardust Fields to the far North of the Kingdom. It looks like the Castle is centrally located, we should probably try to make our way there first. Looking at the other landmarks, there appears to be a mountain to the northwest we’ll no doubt have to climb at some point. Looks like some Lost Woods action to the southwest. Due south is the Airport we most likely would have landed in had the Koopa Cruiser not been destroyed. Next to that looks like some old style school. And out in the ocean to the East is some kind of old ruin. Looks like we have a lot to look forward to.

Now that we have a destination, I guess we should start heading south. Right away we need to put our jumping practice into use to get over the Spiky Stardust Defense System. It’s not very hard, just jump with Mario and then immediately after jump with Luigi. That being said, it is still a very unfamiliar control scheme which will take some getting used to. If you make Luigi jump too late it will stall Mario’s Jump and he’ll land on the spikes. But if you Jump him too early, Luigi will jump short and land on the spikes himself. Even if there weren’t spikes, you have to keep this in mind for simply things like jumping up a ledge. If you don’t control them both correctly, you won’t be going anywhere.

Once past the SSDS, it isn’t long before we are reunited with Bowser, who unfortunately seems to have become stuck in a large cannon after the fall. Really I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do to help him. It’s also kind of weird to be helping him at all. Then again, he did go out of his way to get us here, so we really should repay that favor.

Before we even have a chance to think of a plan, a large creature drops in on us. He instantly recognizes Bowser and starts taunting him for getting stuck in one of his cannons. This of course enrages the Koopa King, not that he can really do anything about it at the moment. The creature then introduces himself as Tolstar, King of Stardust Fields, and continues to taunt Bowser and how he fails to live up to the tales he has heard.

Despite the taunting, he does offer to help free Bowser from the Cannon. He’s even willing to keep the whole thing secret, so long as we’re willing to give him ALL of our money. It isn’t much at this point, just the 100 coins that Toadsworth gave us plus 13 coins we picked up fighting on the Koopa Cruiser. It could be worse I suppose. I guess it’s a good thing we haven’t done a whole lot yet.

Unfortunately, we hit another little snag. It would seem the Mushroom Kingdom coins we brought with us aren’t going to do us much good here in the Beanbean Kingdom. Tolstar offers to exchange them for us, but at the current exchange rate, we only end up with a pathetic 10 Beanbean coins. Is Peach hiding some kind of economic crisis going on in the Mushroom Kingdom? With a 10:1 ratio for an exchange rate, it’s almost like the Mushroom Kingdom is some poor 3rd world country.

Needless to say, 10 coins is not going to be enough to keep Tolstar quiet about this whole thing. For that, we’ll need to somehow collect an additional 100 Beanbean coins. So it looks like we’re going to have to start battling every enemy we can find. If we don’t, not only will Bowser be stuck, but so will we, as Tolstar is blocking the only exit.

It doesn’t take us long to find a few enemies to push around. However, the actual battle might include more than you think. When walking around the Stardust Fields, most of the enemies will appear as if they are Fighter Flies, simple little fly monsters. However, once you transition to the battle screen, you find out that that weak looking Fighter Fly is actually joined by a couple of nasty looking Bill Blasters stuffed full of Bullet Bills.

While fighting our way through the stardust Fields, we happen across an odd star shaped metal hatch in the ground. After stepping on it, the ground beings to shake and out comes the Starshade Bros. These two are the ones that saw us crash like meteorites not too long ago. Not knowing exactly what they saw, the brothers assume it is some kind of alien invasion and set off to find the alien scum.

What follows can only be described as a Looney Tunes-esque standoff between the pairs of brothers. Mario jumps on Luigi’s shoulders to mimic the Starshade Bros. Then the typical sequence of events takes place. The Starshade Bros move back and forth, to which the Mario Bros mimic. Followed by a series of random gestures which again are mimicked by our heroes.

Eventually the Starshade Bros pull out a move that our heroes can’t duplicate. Somehow, the brothers spin around in a circle fast enough to cause them to lift up off the ground like a helicopter. Mario attempts to match them, however Luigi didn’t seem to pick it up quite as fast. This causes Mario to fly off on his own, smashing right into the Starshade Bros and ending the standoff.

Upon realizing the two people in front of them are none other than the Famous Mario Brothers, the pair quickly change their plans. Instead of being an alien extermination mission, this has now because a mission to obtain their autographs. It would seem our heroes are just as famous here as they are back home. That’s good to know. Hopefully it will help us in the future.

After hearing the story up to this point, The Starshade Bros are immediately on board to offer as much assistance as they can. To that end, they offer to teach us the secrets of “Bros. Action”.

And so it looks like we’re right back into more tutorials. The first of the new moves we learn is the “High Jump”. To do this, you need to have Luigi in the back of the party. Then you can have him jump on Mario’s shoulders, then together the pair will jump extra high. Using this, you can reach ledges that are simply too high to jump up on your own. I see this being a very useful skill for most of the game.

The next new skill is the “Spin Jump”. To do this one, Mario has to be the one in the back of the party. He will then jump on Luigi’s shoulders and together they can helicopter over gaps which are too wide to simply jump across. This skill actually took a little bit of practice before I got it right. The duration that you’re in the air is not very long, so if you’re not right at the edge when you jump, you are likely to fall short. This too seems like it will be a very useful skill for most of the game.

Now that we have these skills, we should be able to properly explore the Stardust Fields for more coins. From the sounds of it, there are going to be lots more Bros. Actions that we’ll learn throughout the game. Can’t wait to learn them all.

Before they send us off on our way, The Stardust Bros. give us a relatively simple challenge to prove we understand the new skills. At the highest point of the cliffs behind them, the Stardust Bros. have set up a flag that we need to reach. To get there we’ll have to use several High Jumps and Spin Jumps. It’s not very hard, but it’s definitely a sign of what’s to come with the world layout.

With that training out of the way, we continue to explore the Stardust Fields. It isn’t long before we come upon another star shaped hatch in the ground and are reunited with the Stardust Bros. Apparently there is something they forgot to mention to us earlier. Looks like the tutorial hasn’t ended quite yet after all.

Apparently the Bros. Actions are not limited to being field moves. According to the Stardust Bros. you can actually use these skills in Battle as well. So it looks like we finally have a use for those Bros. Points. These are going to be basically this games magic system.

Trying to use the Bros. Attacks in combat is actually quite complicated. You select the attack itself similar to how you normally attack. But once you select your target, the screen will fade a bit, and time will slow down. As you’re performing the attack, you will be required to press several buttons at the right time or the attack will fail. Basically it’s a series of quick time events.

On top of that, you can actually change the “Mode” of the Bros. Attacks. Mode 1 is the easiest with slow motion and button icons, Mode 2 removes the Slow Motion, and Mode 3 further removes the button icons. Obviously mode 3 is the hardest to perform, but on the other hand it is cheaper to perform AND causes the most damage when done correctly. So as you practice and get used to the attacks on the lower modes, you can eventually move up to do it without the assistance and deal huge damage.

Furthermore, if you use the Bros. Attacks enough, you may just learn some brand new Advanced Commands. These are evolved versions of the attack you have been using that will no doubt cause even greater damage to your enemies. When you learn them, you will apparently flash during battle, and you will both understand what needs to be done for the new attack. But first we need to master the basic versions.

Once again, our training is complete and the Stardust Bros. leave us to our exploration. On a personal note however, I wish to point out that I will probably not be using the Bros. Attacks very often in battle. I understand the benefits, and I see how they can be a great help. But the simple fact of the matter is that I hate having to do quick time event attacks, and I would rather struggle through a longer drawn out battle using only basic attacks than to have to concern myself with perfect timing. I’m sure that’s not a popular opinion, but that’s just how I intend to play the game.

Anyway, now that we’re done with tutorials, for the moment anyway, we can finally get back to the task at hand. If you’ve forgotten by now after all those tutorials, let me refresh your mind. We need to collect 100 Beanbean coins to pay Tolstar if we want him to help free Bowser from the cannon. Using our newly acquired skills we can finally navigate the Stardust Fields with ease. After finding several ?-Blocks and fighting a handful of enemies, it looks like we’ve finally reached our goal.

And so we return to Tolstar and Bowser with the coins in hand. As much as I’m prone to disliking Bowser for his villainous ways, I can’t help but feel sorry for him as he cries there stuck in a cannon. Besides, it’s only 100 coins. We’ll make that money back easily. We’re only just starting the game after all.

Unfortunately, Tolstar never had any intention of helping us or Bowser. I guess we should have seen that coming. After feigning ignorance, Tolstar flies over to us and starts a boss bottle. Funny, I wouldn’t have expected him to be able to lift that fat body with those tiny little wings. In fact, I thought they were back spikes like Bowser has until he started flying with them.

Since he’s still one of the first Bosses, Tolstar isn’t very difficult. His main attack is to throw large spiked balls at our heroes. Thanks to a hint he gives early in the battle, these are fairly easy to avoid. If he throws with his left hand, it’s going towards Luigi, and with his right hand towards Mario.

As the battle continues however, Tolstar switches up his attack, making him a bit more difficult to manage. His new attack is similar, except that the spiked ball bounces much higher now. So high in fact that if you try to dodge it, you will actually be hit in the face with it. For this attack you have to NOT dodge and allow it to bounce right over you.

Having wasted most of my Bros. Attacks early on, and starting my distaste for them, I had to spend most of the battle doing basic attacks. Since they only dealt about 2 damage each time, this battle actually lasted quite a while. Just under 4 minutes actually. While that might not sound like a lot of time, most of the normal battles lasted only about 30 seconds. Add to that the low HP each of the Mario Bros. have this early in the game, as well as the amount of damage dealt from Tolstar’s attacks, and this was actually a rather intense fight. Which is good thing actually. Too many RPG Boss battles boil down to spamming your most powerful attack and being so over powered that you really have nothing to worry about. It’s actually quite refreshing to be in a battle where a wrong move could easily become a disaster. Anyway, after a hard fought battle, Tolstar explodes into stars and the battle is won.

With Tolstar laying crippled on the ground, a voice shouts out telling him he has been griping loudly for too long. Then out from yet another star shaped hatches comes the green Stardust Bro. To everyone’s surprise, he knocks over the cannon, pointing it at Tolstar, and then proceeds to light the cannon fuse.

Before being blasted off, Bowser actually gets to say the heroic line “You gotta get Princess Peach’s voice back!” It’s moments like that that make you think Bowser might not be all that bad after all. Maybe his really does care for Peach in his own, evil, kidnapper way. In any case, he does get blasted out of the cannon and goes crashing straight into the still unconscious Tolstar. So, I mean, he is free from the cannon at least, AND our path is finally clear to continue down to the castle.

Just beyond the Stardust Fields we pass through a small cave which, while lacking much to explore, does have an amazing background song. Seriously, if you’re a Mario Fan, you need to play this game for the soundtrack alone. This cave in particular has a techno remix of the underground theme and it was amazing enough to make me stop and just listen for a short while. But we can’t get stuck here listening to music all day. We continue through the cave and find ourselves on a much greener side of the mountain.

No sooner had our heroes exited the cave than they find themselves surrounded by Royal Guards. Unfortunately for us, they’re not here to welcome us to the kingdom. Apparently their Prince, Prince Peasley, has gone missing and we stand as the prime suspects. According to one of the guards, they even have witnesses that have testified to our guilt. I’m not sure how any of that is possible. We only just arrived, and we did so very much unannounced. It would be quite the coincidence to try to frame us without even knowing we’re coming.

Our heroes try to explain the situation and who they are. They’re Mario and Luigi, Heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom after all. They would never do such a thing as to kidnap the Prince. Unfortunately, the guards refuse to listen to a single thing they’re saying. Though our heroes’ names may be famous, their appearance apparently isn’t. Furthermore, there’s no reason for the heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom to come to the Beanbean kingdom. They never have before, and I believe never do again after this game.

Somewhat thankfully, Tolstar shows up to verify we are in fact the Mario Brothers. With his broken arm, broken leg, cuts, bruises, swollen face, and basically just dripping blood, he assures the guards that we are very strong and should probably not be messed with. I’m not sure that’s the best first impression we want to be giving to the Royal Guards, but that’s what we’re going to have to live with now.

Now that they have calmed down a bit, the guards explain the situation properly. Prince Peasley has apparently gone missing, according to reports from the nearby Hoohoo Village. According to witnesses, the kidnapper had an odd helmet and spoke of “mustard” and “fink-rats”. Unless there are other people in the world that use the expression “Fink-Rats” I think we can easily assume they are talking about Fawful. Looks like we’re going to be detoured from our trip to the castle yet again.