Back in the Paleozoic era there was a certain wonderful joy that today’s youth will sadly never know. There was a certain species that walked the Earth in plentiful numbers that has long since gone extinct. These creatures are known in the scientific community as Currus Television Ostendo Imbuo Oriens, or if you prefer the common vernacular Saturday Morning Cartoons. Yep, in those days I would crawl out of my primordial sludge with my newly evolved opposable thumbs that formed for the sole purpose of turning the circular dials on the cubic box with the convex screen known as a television, or again if you prefer the common vernacular, TV. These thumbs would prove useful later on when another relic was introduced to my life known as the NES. Saturday Morning RPG is a turn based combat RPG that draws heavy influence from Saturday Morning Cartoons and JRPGs. All entities in the game are original creations of the programmers, but some of them are obviously influenced by the cartoons of yesteryear such as He-Man, G.I. Joe, and other pop culture references from the 80’s, such as Reading Rainbow. Much like the cartoon shows that influenced it, the game is divided into four episodes, and while they can be played in any order, they do form a cohesive story if you play them in the proper numerical sequence. You are Marty, and the first episode Marty is asleep and has a dream where he has to rescue Samantha from being married to the Cobra Commander, I mean, Commander Hood. In this dream world Marty acquires a magic notebook that assists him in battle, serves as an inventory, keeps track of quests, and does all other standard functions of an RPG pause menu. Plus it looks really snazzy to boot. Bonuses can be unlocked through scratch and sniff stickers at the beginning of the battle, and the notebook contains weapons including flaming basketballs and Michael Jackson style white rhinestone gloves.
Each episode has a pretty linear path that you can take to the end boss but playing this game that way is highly not recommended. The maps are big open spaces, and you are awarded bonus experience points for exploration, but more importantly there are entertaining side quests that are hidden in each episode. One of these which I enjoyed immensely was to hunt down and capture five Jurks (four regular Jurks and one Jurkette) and feed them to an NPC named Gurgetail. For reasons I cannot fully explain, I never liked the Smurfs. In high school, which was during the Mesozoic era, I had a series of art class projects that depicted Smurf genocide and had thesis that theorized that the Smurfs were a neofascist and misogynistic society. I was an excessively dumb teenager, but I digress. The point is due to my antiSmurf ideology, bringing an obvious parody of them to their culinary deaths was extremely satisfying for me, and I like to think the game developers included this twisted quest after being driven mad by the Smurfs la la lala la la theme music, and this was their form of retribution against those little blue hellspawns. There were several other optional quests throughout the game, a couple of which even involved toilets, though any squeamish gamers need not worry because the gross out factor on said toilet quests is minimal. Even though each episode is relatively short and can be completed in one to two hours, they are extremely fun. I have some OCD like tendencies when it comes JRPG exploration and thankfully the exploration of each episode is fun. The optional quests are generally humorous and sometimes lead to secret areas to explore. The enemy encounters are done in the Chrono Trigger fashion where you can see the enemies on the world map and battle commences when you engage them. Or when they see you and charge when you really just want to be left alone.
A feature I like about combat and wish more RPGs had is their active defense system. In a nutshell, you time the pressing of a button when you’re under attack to reduce the damage inflicted. You have limited uses of each weapon your notebook provides you with, and poor strategy can leave you with no other option than to punch your way through a fight which is significantly less fun and generally does less damage. Marty has some batteries in that notebook that he can use to charge up his next attack, which can increase the damage output significantly. This consumes MP, which can be replenished by successfully defending against an attack. Due to the ability to tackle the episodes in any order, the default setting has the enemy level scaled to Marty so regardless of order the episode is not too hard or easy. If you find the default setting too difficult or too easy, you can manually adjust the scaling of enemies. I did not think the default setting was unfairly difficult, but having good strategery (sic) makes a world of difference. Round two against a boss that mopped the floor with me ended up being very easy just because of a couple different choices early on in the fight. Graphically, the game has pretty high quality area and background graphics but the characters are quite pixelated. I get that they are going for a 16 bit aesthetic but some of the scenes it can be a little much. Overall, this is a very enjoyable game. Exploring the landscape in each episode and trying to complete every optional quest is fun and not tedious. The combat system is well developed and requires more strategy than just random clicking A on the Fight command every round. The parody references to 80’s pop culture enhance the game’s humor and does cater to a nostalgia factor for those that enjoy that era of children’s entertainment, but the game is designed well enough where even if you miss the references the gameplay and humor are strong enough to stand on their own merits. This game can be completed in a single day if you had six hours at your disposable which is extremely short by JRPG standards, but this game is definitely quality over quantity. I highly recommend this game to any RPG fan.