Review: Saturday Morning RPG
Published by Taylor Ivings May 7, 2018
Saturday Morning RPG brings the classic feel of a 1980s cartoon firmly into the 21st century.
About this game: Role-playing game, developed by Mighty Rabbit Studios, published by Limited Run Games
Version reviewed: Nintendo Switch (version 1.0.0)
Limited Run Games has provided a copy of the game for review purposes.
Saturday Morning RPG first came to our screens on iOS back in 2012 and has been released for multiple other systems in the years since, most recently for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in 2016. Now, the popular throwback has found its way to Nintendo Switch via Nintendo eShop, with a physical release of the game becoming available through Limited Run Games later this month. You play as Marty, a typical high school student who gains extraordinary powers through a mystical binder. Throughout your adventure, you pick up everyday items to use in battle, and scratch-and-sniff stickers to increase your power or decrease your enemies' power. The game's story is episodic - fitting, given the game's cartoon inspirations - and there are five episodes to play, as well as an endless wave mode and a boss arena mode.
Much of the charm and popularity of Saturday Morning RPG stems from the fact that it really doesn't take itself seriously, which is also why the game works so well. Mighty Rabbit Studios has really captured the essence of the iconic weekend cartoons you would watch every Saturday; the world may be ending, but that won't stop the show's tone from being lighthearted, or its characters from cracking a joke every now and then. Much like the shows which influence Saturday Morning RPG, many of the games' characters have a pun in their name, and many provide dialogue which relates to 80s pop culture. The game is filled with nostalgia throughout, though as satisfying as this is, you'd be forgiven for feeling as though it relies on it a little too much; if someone has never watched or experienced classic 80s cartoons, a lot of the jokes could be missed, and the game might not appear to be as great as for someone who has knowledge of the material being alluded to.
The game's battle system, while recognisable, is more interactive than your traditional RPG. You have three options in battle: basic attacks; abilities, which are akin to magic; and powering up, which is achieved by multiplying how much damage you can do. Abilities consist of the many household items Marty can collect on his adventure, oftentimes involving a minigame of sorts; most of these just involve hitting a button at the correct time on a sliding bar, though some are more involved, including a pong-like game in which each return shot does more damage. Every enemy attack can be blocked, doing less damage, depending on how well you time the press of the button. The game developers should be applauded for trying something new and making turn-based combat a bit more involved than your average entry-level role-playing experience.
Abilities must be purchased before use, and one notable feature the game appears to lack is a description of what each ability does. The downside of this, therefore, is that you have no idea if you're buying an attack, a debuff, or a healing ability; this causes a lot of unnecessary trial and error, and could easily have been avoided by including a simple description.
Some abilities can also be found within each area. These areas range from smaller, one-direction maps to larger, more expansive areas. You're rewarded with a minuscule amount of experience for exploring specific sections of the overworld, which can be frustrating on larger maps where hallways lead to dead ends and mazes have multiple paths to take, with only one direction being correct. Instead of these situations giving the player a sense of exploration, overall, this just felt frustrating.
All of the characters are displayed as two-dimensional sprites, moving and interacting within a three-dimensional world. The visuals translate well to the Nintendo Switch when playing the system undocked, but when playing on a larger screen, the game becomes noticeably more pixelated, and can be quite distracting from the experience. The cutscenes were the biggest culprit, with some of the enemies appearing as nothing more than a pile of pixels at first glance. The game's vibe is continued in its music, which is composed by Vince DiCola, arguably best known for soundtracks to films of the 1980s such as Rocky IV and The Transformers: The Movie. From the overworld to the victory screen, the music ignites the game's overarching theme and leaves a lasting impression.
One the story is completed - or if you just need a break from saving the world - the game offers two extra modes, endless and arena, from the main menu. In the endless mode, you select an episode and play through each battle, getting a small portion of HP and your abilities back at the end. The goal is to try and survive until the final wave without dying. Endless mode is a lot of fun if you just want to enjoy the combat a little more. The arena mode was seemingly forgotten about - it wanted to be a boss arena of sorts, but there are only two bosses to actually fight, with no apparent way of unlocking any others. Its inclusion, given what appears to be a lack of support for it, is a little disappointing. Any experience or levelling-up done in these modes translates to the story, giving that extra boost where it may be needed.
Saturday Morning RPG is filled with surprises, many of which will leave you smiling or reminiscing about how simple life was back when you were little. The game may not be very long - the story clocking in at just less than five hours - but overall the game is definitely worth it. The music is great, the battles are fun and unique, and the characters are funny. This is definitely a game where you're rewarded by talking to people not with loot, but with laughs; if you enjoy puns, you absolutely have to talk to everyone. If you pick up Saturday Morning RPG looking for some laughs and some fun gameplay, you will not be disappointed.
Nostalgia runs deep in each episode
Interactive and fun turn-based combat
Funny from start to finish
Great music and soundtrack
Some levels feel too big
Lack of ability descriptions when purchasing