When Nintendo finally revealed earlier this year that a Super Mario RPG remake was on its way, you could have knocked me over with a feather and I wouldn’t have minded. When I recently learned that the team handling the job was ArtePiazza, my excitement only grew.
ArtePiazza is not a name many newer RPG fans are likely to recognize. That’s true, in large part, because the team typically plays a support role. However, I’ve been playing RPGs since the original Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games made me fall in love with the genre. Studios such as Square and Enix did most of the heavy lifting where those games are concerned, but I know ArtePiazza also played a significant role. That team’s involvement tells me Nintendo and Square made Super Mario RPG a priority, and that I should, too.
A history of excellence
Based in Tokyo, Japan, the studio we know as ArtePiazza has been involved in some of my favorite RPG projects. Not all of them released here in the United States, and I’m not usually big on emulation and imports, but ArtePiazza has also been involved with must-have releases that made me take a hard look at my usual policies.
The studio’s first major credit is the 1996 remaster of Dragon Quest III. That version of one of my favorite games in the series appeared on the Super Famicom. Unfortunately, it didn’t reach North America. ArtePiazza followed that success with work on the less popular Dragon Quest VII, and on various remakes for consoles such as the PlayStation and Nintendo DS.
Despite its early focus on the franchise, ArtePiazza is more than just a Dragon Quest support team. It has been involved in other interesting projects since its inception. During the Wii era, the studio produced Opoona (a little-remembered JRPG for Nintendo’s popular platform that Koei published in North America). It also contributed to Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon. You might recognize that title as an offshoot of the popular Story of Seasons series.
For the DSi, ArtePiazza self-published several titles. More recently, it worked with Square Enix on popular releases such as the 3DS Dragon Quest ports, as well as Romancing SaGa 3. Notably, the studio was also responsible for the 2D mode in Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
A strong Square connection
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars released in North America in May of 1996. That’s the better part of 30 years ago. If you ask me, that’s much too long to wait for a proper sequel or remaster for such a beloved game. It did at least appear on Virtual Console. It also made the list of included titles for the SNES Classic. Otherwise, it has been largely ignored.
There’s a reason for that situation. Shortly after the release of Super Mario RPG near the end of the SNES era, the long and fruitful partnership between Nintendo and Square fell apart. This represented quite the fall from grace, since Nintendo had published Final Fantasy in the United States and helped the franchise get its big break in the West. Suddenly, Final Fantasy was playing the role of PlayStation hardware salesperson. I bought the PlayStation almost entirely to play Final Fantasy VII, and I know I wasn’t alone. Some executives at Nintendo were slow to forgive what they perceived as a betrayal.
In more recent years, under different leadership, Nintendo and Square have managed to work together once more. Nintendo has published a variety of recent Square gems for the Switch hardware, even though that hardly seems necessary. Isn’t the Switch a sure enough bet by now? Whatever the case, it’s good to see the companies on friendly terms. And it’s good to see Super Mario RPG again. We can’t know what deals might have been made behind closed doors, or how. All we can do is benefit.
Hope for the future?
The optimistic part of me likes to find additional meaning in the selection of ArtePiazza. Choosing a studio with a history of competence and familiarity with the principal parties says to me that Nintendo and Square both believe in the remake. They also are aware of the potential to delight fans and they want to get it right. As busy as Square’s internal teams probably are with some future Final Fantasy project, it would have been a bit much to expect them to handle the Super Mario RPG port. I can’t help but feel that ArtePiazza is the next best thing, though.
ArtePiazza has the history and the experience necessary to make Super Mario RPG the game fans deserve. The Switch, with sales that are on track to surpass DS numbers, is the right platform. This remake could be Nintendo’s best opportunity to look at the franchise from a place unlinked to past grievances, and to decide whether Mario might enjoy future RPG adventures. There could be a lot riding on this one.
Just thinking about the quality experience I now expect, and considering this release’s place in history, I’m almost nervous to tear off the shrink wrap and insert the brand new Super Mario RPG cartridge in my Nintendo hardware. But it really has been much too long since I’ve been able to consider doing such a thing, so you know I will…