Remember being much younger and being excited for your favorite day of the week? Cartoon day. Saturday. You know what I’m talking about – those shows you waited all week for that, looking back, were totally cheesy but so so good. Yeah, those. If you’re itching for a bit of that experience as an adult, buckle up because Saturday Morning RPG from Mighty Rabbit Studios doesn’t just drive down memory lane, it fast tracks you down memory lane like it’s a freeway. That being said, the nostalgia nods are tasteful and make for a pleasant experience. The elements that are cheesy are meant to be that way; the dialogue, scenarios, and the characters that feel over-the-top are meant to feel that way. All in all, Saturday Morning RPG provides a memorable jaunt down RPG paths with solid role-playing mechanics that are as effective as they are zany.
As stated above, there are a lot of elements in this game that feel really over-the-top, and the story is one of these elements. That isn’t a bad thing. Once again, this is one of those areas the creators are obviously referencing classic cartoons where the villain acts out of his mind and monologues way too much. The main character, Marty, tries to survive his way through wild, wacky “dreams” and wild, wacky reality at a highschool possibly run by a society of evil villains.
Yes, it’s that kind of story. As a player, you never know what could pop up next, making it an interesting, albeit insane experience. The game’s story, much like its television classic inspirations of yore, is told episodically, allowing you to actually tackle the episodes in whatever order you desire. You can also go back and replay the episode if you missed collectables, certain areas of the map, or secrets. This freedom truly provides a fun experience and feels like a nice change of pace from JRPG norms of stringent, linear story structure. If you checked out our staff review of The Longest Five Minutes, you will remember Meatballsub taking issue with the way episodes were handled from a gear perspective as everything reset upon beginning a new “chapter:”
Instead of having a clear path from point A to point B through the entire game, sections of the game are segregated into memories which you dive into during your encounter with the Demon King. Your items, gear, and money are not carried over across these memories. Imagine playing through the scenarios from Final Fantasy VI but progress in each of them not saving once your allies all reunite. Or, think of the individual character stories from Saga Frontier but on a much smaller scale. In The Longest Five Minutes, each memory you play is its own, separate instance. (Meatballsub, “The Longest Five Minutes Review” – seriously, go read it)
Much to Saturday Morning RPG’s credit, while the episode order is optional, all items and gear and levels are transferable throughout each. Not only does this promote freedom of choice, but it also rewards you for experimenting in different episodes instead of punishing you for its game design.
All in all, I found the story amusing and chuckle-worthy. Some players might be put off by the extremity of the weirdness in the story, but as I stated before, it appears to be a design decision to harken back to those zany cartoons of yesteryear.
The graphics are an area I personally had a few issues with; it’s worth noting, however, that this is a preference thing and others may be completely okay with the design choice of the game. Saturday Morning RPG offers 2D sprite character models placed against 3D objects and environments. The effect here is one that makes the characters feel quite literally paper thin. There are moments in the game that show the character models from the side, showing their paper-thinness for all to see, so it comes across as a completely deliberate choice. It does at to the humor in those moments, but for me, it took me a bit out of the moment altogether. I personally would have a preferred a more cohesive art direction and would have opted for a completely 2D aesthetic, but as I said before, this choice may resonate with some people.
GAMEPLAY AND PERFORMANCE
The game has no real performance issues as it runs really well on the Switch. And that’s not because there’s nothing interesting happening visually. On the contrary, combat offers a lot of visual effects as abilities play out in nice animations. Despite all that happening on the screen, the game plays without a hitch.
The general feeling of the game is an area I wish was a little tighter. If you read most of my past reviews, you know that I like for a game to make the character feel like they’re actually moving on the terrain of the game instead of feeling like they’re hovering over it. In this case, I get a hovering sense rather than a grounded feeling. I pointed out a similar issue with Revenant Saga but praised Blossom Tales for giving me the movement feeling I’m looking for. While Marty feels too floaty for my taste, actually moving around the world is extremely interesting. The game rewards you for exploring, with secret areas, hidden prizes, and more. Obtaining items throughout the world provides your character with tangible benefits to stats as well as skills for battle. And the items are one of the main vehicles for the game’s personality – its wackiness shines through the objects you use to do battle as well as the descriptions of those items in the menu.
Speaking of the menu, it’s another element of the game’s personality. It absolutely encapsulates the charm. From its art to layout to item descriptions, it’s the perfect micro representation of the game itself. I find it really refreshing when games include the menu in the aesthetic and lore of the story, making for a super cohesive universe.
The area of combat is really where the game shines, and it shines in a way that other turn-based RPGs should pay attention to. When it comes to turn-based combat systems, often the hurdle those games must overcome is a avoiding a static experience that leads to boredom. Saturday Morning RPG enters the fray with a complete spin on the turn-based system as a whole. As the player, you do still select your skills from a menu, wait your turn, wait for the enemies to attack, rise and repeat. However, differences start to rise in how it introduces other elements to combat in the form of “minigames.” For example, some abilities you acquire do not simply attack the enemy when selected; instead, they require you to perform some sort of action, bringing an element of skill to the table. Depending on how well you complete the action, you might do uber damage, or you might just miss the enemy altogether. These minigames vary in difficulty and implementation. Some of them require you to time button presses just right, others want you to press button sequences, while others get you to punch the attack button for all its worth. None of them are necessarily adding a lot of difficulty to the game, but they break up the potential monotony of simply selecting skills from a menu and then watching the character carry them out.
Attacking is not the only time you’re required to stay on your toes. You have the ability to defend every single attack an enemy makes against you, requiring you to press defend at just the right moment for the best defense grade. As you might expect, press too early, and you will receive a low defense grade – press too late for the same outcome. That defense grade is important as the higher the grade, the more of your ability pool you regain. That’s right, this game’s version of “mana” or “stamina” cannot simply be regained through drinking a potion; instead, it’s replenished over time by your ability to defend against attacks. This system forces you to stay alert throughout the enemy’s turn instead of looking away from the screen to check your phone notifications while waiting for the A.I. to barely tick away your HP. Once you add in the fact, that the camera eventually does some things to make it harder to know exactly when to press defense, and some of the enemies themselves have varying attack timing, you get into some complexities that I just haven’t seen in other turn-based games.
While the game offers you a wide array of weapons to find and choose from to create a “deck” to use in combat, a lot of those choices are just downright not as good as others. As a result, I found myself experimenting when I found a new weapon but then slinking back to what I knew best. This issue aside, I applaud Saturday Morning RPG for taking a system that can easily fall into the camp of lazy development and turning it completely on its head with interesting mechanics.
Other than a few small gripes – art-style cohesion, lack of weapon balance, floaty movement – I really enjoyed my time with Saturday Morning RPG. It’s a charming nostalgia trip that presents a fun, interesting RPG. In the end, I think it relies a little too much on nostalgia instead of striking its own unique identity and using the nostalgia as complementary. This fact, however, does not detract from the pleasant gaming experience in the least. This is a solid game that I appreciate for offering fun exploration and an interesting turn-based combat iteration. So break out your Converse sneakers and favorite bowl of cereal, get real close to the television, and have a fun trip down memory lane.