Nintendo have a habit of shoehorning their italian plumber into almost every game genre that there is (Puzzle/Dr. Mario , Racing/Mario Kart ,Sports/Mario Tennis), and not always succesfully. However, on this occasion they are to be congratulated on placing the titular plumber into a foreign genre and getting away with it in style. As a long-suffering nintendophile I am by now very familiar with the mushroom kingdom, its inhabitants and environments and great care has been taken in this game to make it FEEL like the mario world we know and love. There is a much greater pleasure in facing and defeating a chain chomp, magikoopa, buzzy beetle, goomba or pirhana plant that there could ever be against "generic cat/rat/lizard beast #12", and the environments hark back to classic levels such as bowsers castle, whilst somehow contriving to be fresh and original, with a unique look and sound to each of the chapters. In fact this is one of the greatest strengths of the game, not every chapter consists of a dungeonTM followed by a boss(c). Chapter 6 for example follows the pattern of a murder mystery on a train, whilst chapter 3 is a wrestling tournament, and chapter 2 takes place in a strange stylized black-and-white wood. This succeeds in breaking up the relentless monster bashing and levelling up, the system of level up is very fair, and prevents the need for level grinding. Extra experience is awarded if you are fighting enemies that are too tough, and only a single exp point is given for steamrollering weak baddies, encouraging you to press on. Nintendo have also succeeded in cutting away the chaff of rpg as well. By the end of a traditional RPG you may have 22000 hit points say, do 575 damage with one hit. In mario rpg you might have 50 hit points by the end and do 3 damage with your normal attack. This works so well because the baddies you are fighting are simliarly lacking in ridiculous stats, and the difficult getts proportionally harder in exactly the same way. Similiarly the need to spend all your money on equipment is negated with the inclusion of the wonderful "badge" system. Mario can gain badge points when levelling up that allow him to customise his special moves, hit points, flower points (action points) and even gain extra attack protection. This allows you to customise marios loadout to the threat you are facing. All marios special moves are aquired using badges, so there is great variety, either load him out with every special move you can fit on for every situation, or just have one and beef him up with protection badges. Mario's companions are interesting, each having one special attack and only one being allowed to accompany you at any time, they are a fantastic mix and include characters you might expect to see mario stomping on, a goomba, bob-omb and koopa for example, but each with an intriging and entertaining backstory and unique move set, making the accompaning characters another way to customise your battling style. I could go on and tell you about the hilarious Bowser sub story, the killer plot or the fantastic items you can buy (logically mario would use a mushroom to restore health) but I'm sure you can read about them in these other fine reviews. Im off to play it now, if you haven't played it yet, I think its time to.