Recently, a prototype of the original Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga hit the internet. Found by a new video game preservation group by the name of Codebound, this version of the game was used as part of a demo in E3 2003.
And at first glance, this didn’t seem all that interesting. You had three scenarios to play through, and they all ended with an image saying to buy the full game. So, it seemed like a random demo, and that’s it.
But looks are deceiving, and this prototype is another great example. Why? Because the game actually had hundreds of differences from the full game, in addition to all manner of sprites and content that aren’t possible to see in normal gameplay. These include cut characters and bosses, unused abilities and mechanics, and everything else under the sun.
It’s a huge deal, and one which has already taken the internet by storm.
So in this article, we’re going to take a look at some of these discoveries, and point out the most interesting of the lot. Are you ready folks? Let’s do this!
11. Fleeing is Free!
Starting with a difference in the how the flee function works. Basically, it’s free in the prototype.
What does this mean?
Well, in the final game, you lose coins when you try to run away from a battle. While doing this, Mario & Luigi will also trip over, forcing you to alternate the buttons you press until they both get away.
That’s not the case in the prototype. Here, they just run away safely and everything’s fine. Pretty nifty, eh?
10. A Journey Through Darkness
On a very different note, there’s also the mysterious cloaked Beanish you can find in Beanbean Castle Town in this version too. When his sprites were datamined from the final version, people wondered what exactly he’d do. Would he be a surprise villain, like Fawful in the intro of the third game? Give the bros a detailed sidequest with new story info at the end? Act as a superboss ala Culex?
Well, as it turns out, the answer is none of those things. In fact, it may be even weirder.
Since this guy gives you a mini game where you have to locate and speak to 10 people in town while everything except Mario & Luigi are invisible! It’s like a memory test of some kind… except 10 times spookier.
And the weirdness doesn’t end there either. No, finishing the game gives you a Game & Watch for some reason. Not the Game Boy Horror SP. A literal Game & Watch console that presumably acts as an accessory of some kind.
This game just keeps getting more and more random, doesn’t it?
9. The Two Headed Hell Pooch
Especially given what one of this game’s earliest versions of the Mecha Chomp looks like. In the final game, that’s a robot dog styled after a Chain Chomp. A neat enemy, but nothing too disturbing.
In the prototype on the other hand?
Yeah, it seems to have the body of a live dog with two Chain Chomps attached to where its head should be. It’s a really bizarre design, and implies all kinds of crazy experiments might be going on behind closed doors at the Hooniversity…
8. Dark Diskun
Speaking of weird enemy designs, did you know that Diskun used to be an enemy in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga too?
Yep, dataminers have found sprites of the Famicom Disk System’s mascot in the files too. Or at least, a darky shadowy version of him at any rate.
So, it makes us wonder… why? Why Diskun and why this game? It’d be like having an evil version of Clippy show up in Halo or something!
7. Multiple Command Blocks? Whatever Next…
On a more serious note, it’s worth looking at some of the major changes the battle system went through too. Most notable being, that different classes of attacks used to have their own series of command blocks!
Yep, while in the final game you have options for things like normal attacks, bros attacks and hand attacks…
In the prototype these instead open a separate menu where each type of attack is represented by its own block. So, you’d choose Bros attacks in the first menu, then spin the blocks round until you found the one you wanted in a second menu.
It’s a neat setup and certainly could have allowed for more attack possibilities, but we can definitely see why it was cut. It was an extra step for every attack, and even more complexity in what was already quite a complicated menu system.
6. Any Defence Works
And that seems to be the case with the next item as well. Since in the prototype, the bros aren’t limited in how they respond to enemy attacks.
Instead, they’re able to use either their jump or hammer to counter any attack by any enemy!
By doing this, they’d presumably have to figure out which type of move can counter which attack, and how that move could be used at the right time to do so.
It’s certainly a clever setup, and a more detailed counter system than what we got in the final product.
But again, it’s obvious why it was scrapped. Having to worry about the timing of your counter attacks is already stressful and complicated as it is. Having to actively figure out which of your counters will even work against the current attack at all?
Yeah, that might have been a step too far, even for this series.
5. The Bros Don’t Care?
Yet attacks and counters aren’t the only thing that worked differently in this version. No, the way the characters fall in battle did too.
Since while in the final game, they have to hold up their fallen sibling while dodging attacks, that’s not the case here.
Nope, the defeated brother actually falls down Super Mario Bros 1 style, and appears on their own health bar.
Then, once they’re given a 1-Up Mushroom, they’re brought back via a floating platform. Like in Mario Bros or the Super Smash Bros series.
It’s a very different setup from the final game, and one which could have completely changed how people would play the game in its entirety. But it’s one we’re glad was changed nonetheless, since the way the bros care for each other is one of the most heartwarming aspects of the combat in the series, and it would have been lessened in this form.
4. Early Bowletta is… Terrifying
Either way, onto the next item now. Bowletta, the form Bowser takes when possessed by Cackletta in this game.
In the final version, she’s already disturbing enough. After all, it’s basically Bowser with breasts and a slasher smile. Could you get any more uncanny than that?
Well, apparently the answer is yes! Why? Because in the prototype, she looks like this:
An utterly deranged psycho with an expression of sheer malice, being more demonic than anything else. It’s a terrifying design, and one we’re glad never made it into the final game because of it!
3. Live Kongs as Pirates? Whatever Next…
But Bowletta isn’t the only familiar character to get redesigned between the prototype and final game. No, the pirate Bink got a redesign too.
With his original version from the prototype literally being a live Kong! Yep, somehow the pirates weren’t undead in this version of the game, and Bink was actually a uniform wearing Kong that looked like he stepped straight out of the Donkey Kong Country series!
It’s a cool setup, and one we’re half disappointed never made it into the final game… but we can see why it wouldn’t make any sense in story too.
Ah live Bink. Guess you were never destined to be…
2. A Familiar Mario RPG Foe Returns!
And nor was the next guy on the list either. Why? Because apparently sprites for the Super Mario RPG boss Jinx have been found in the game’s files!
Yep, the dojo master from the original SNES game was going to appear in some fashion in Superstar Saga too, either as a boss or a simple NPC. It was a cool cameo, and one that implied the game was originally going to feature a lot more ties to Square’s original title than what we eventually got…
1. Wait, Cackletta is Who?
Yet it’s not just ties to the original Mario RPG the game was going to feature more of here. No, there was also more backstory for certain characters in the prototype version too.
With the most notably example being Cackletta. In the final game, it’s never really explained where she came from or who she is, bar being an evil witch that wanted to take over the kingdom. Presumably, we’re meant to see her as some random evildoer, and that’s it.
But this isn’t the case in the prototype. No, in that version, a certain NPC actually gives you more info on her past and situation.
And the main bombshell there is that she’s apparently the younger sister of Queen Bean, and is (at least in part) motivated by her jealousy towards her.
So, we could have had an Olivia and King Olly style situation between them. One where the main villain and the ruler of the kingdom could have been duelling members of the same family and where we could have looked more into Cackletta’s backstory and situation.
Alas, it was not to be, instead leaving Cackletta’s past a mystery. One that with AlphaDream’s demise, will likely never be solved.
Either way, that’s the list! So, what did you think of it? Did you find it interesting seeing all these neat details from this classic game’s prototype? What other details from the prototype should we look at in future?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Discord server today!