My Saturday mornings during my childhood in the ‘90s were filled with waking up before 7 a.m., grabbing some breakfast and anchoring down in front of the television to watch the slew of cartoons that came on. Some may not think of it as the pinnacle of the Saturday morning cartoon block, but it was pretty great. Saturday Morning RPG tries to emulate the actual pinnacle: the ‘80s. Though it may be able to recreate some of the nostalgia of your childhood, the game falls apart on multiple RPG levels.
Saturday Morning follows the story of Marty, a teenager who discovers a notebook in his dream and ends up having to fight against the infamous Commander Hood from marrying his girlfriend. However, he awakens to find that the dream is real: Commander Hood is threatening his real life and the notebook is his only means of saving the town.
The game’s battle system is tied to the notebook; you collect stickers along your journey, and you choose five of them to display in your notebook for stat bonuses. When you engage in battle, you have a limited time to scratch the stickers – each one has different levels of “scratchiness” – and gain those bonuses. You also choose five patches to use in your notebook, which will be the attacks you use during battle. The problem with the patch system is that the vast majority are underwhelming and you have a limited use for each – roughly 3 to 4 times. This creates a limited scope for fighting and can really mess up your plans when one of those attacks misses.
One of the coolest aspects of the turn-based RPG is its battery multiplier. There are three types of batteries and each gives your next attack a multiplier effect. What makes it so special is that you can’t abuse it; the more you use them, the less of a multiplier you get. So you really need to learn what enemies are weak to and whether or not the battery is needed. Sadly, that’s the end of what was good about the gameplay. I often found the random enemies you’d encounter before the boss way harder than the actual boss, excluding the final boss. They were more challenging, better designed and lasted longer. RPGs should ramp up toward bosses, not necessarily be impossibly hard, but make it feel like you’ve progressed in the game and get better.
Some of the things I loved about Saturday Morning RPG was the game’s music and areas. A staple of the RPG genre is its awesome soundtrack, and Saturday Morning doesn’t disappoint. The music gets very amp-y and the boss music is superb. There are many different areas in Saturday Morning RPG: ranging from Antarctica to space. Each has its own unique design and layout. They aren’t carbon clones of each other and makes the world seem real.
Due to its 1980s influence, Saturday Morning RPG makes multiple homages to series from the decade. Commander Hood is a clear reference to “G.I. Joe” and Marty, the protagonist, is referring to “Back to the Future”; he even has a hover board. Some of the references are endearing and made me genuinely laugh; however, some were miss and seemed like lowball jokes. To truly appreciate the game and its humor, you would need to be alive during the era or have knowledge of its popular culture.
The game’s length was my biggest disappointment. It features five episodes, each rather short – even with the multiple side quests that are available. The side quests are fun and actually give some tough choices, like killing someone, but they don’t give enough meat to hold you over. The RPG can be completed in roughly seven hours, but there are some options after completing the story: Arena and Endless modes. Sadly, they are just replicas of what was already available in the story, Arena replicates boss battles and adds nothing, or, as in Endless’ case, you will already have your desire be satisfied after the multiple battles you had to sit through to complete the game.
Saturday Morning RPG is an interesting phenomenon. While it has some fun moments and nostalgia, it does fall short in it’s most important aspect: RPG ramping. It’s difficult determining who to recommend the game to; on the one hand RPG naysayers won’t like it to being with, but diehard RPG fans won’t find enough substance. If you lie somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, and you find some joy in ‘80s television/movies, then Saturday Morning RPG may just be for you.