Super Mario RPG 2: A Plumble Beginning is the direct sequel to 1996's SNES-CD game Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars. Developed jointly by Nintendo and Square, it shares many similarities with the original game, including its turn-based RPG battle system and its three-dimensional art style, though the Ultra Nintendo's graphics make the game look significantly better than the original. It also shares a few similarities with OTL's Paper Mario, mostly in stylistic choices such as the battle menu, which gives the player significantly more options than the original title did, including combination attacks and ultimates. Counter attacks return from the original. The game also includes badges, which are similar to the accessories featured in the original Super Mario RPG, but more than one can be equipped. In fact, the game uses the Badge Point system from OTL's Paper Mario, so stronger badges come with higher costs, while lesser badges come with a lower cost. The game features jumping sequences and puzzles similar to the original Super Mario RPG. The game is mostly designed by Squaresoft, with much of the original team, including composer Yoko Shimamura, returning for the new game, giving the game a distinctly different musical sound than OTL's Paper Mario. The game features limited voice acting in the form of narration and in-battle sounds, but is largely a non-voiced game. There are seven total playable characters, each of whom occupies a different role in battle. Three of them can be in the party at the same time. Characters can level up to 99, unlike in the original game, where they could only level up to 30, and the player can choose a stat to give a bonus to after each level up.
The seven playable characters are as follows, with three returning from the original game and four newcomers:
Mario: The heroic plumber is back and largely has the same moves as the original game, with the ability to jump and use Fire Flowers, though now, Ice Flowers are added to his repertoire. He's a jack-of-all-trades for the most part, similar to the original game, with good physical attack and decent magic.
Luigi: Mario's brother makes his RPG debut. Though he has similar skills to his brother, he lacks Fire Flowers and Ice Flowers, and instead has more melee attacks, making him more physical than his brother.
Geno: Geno returns from the original Super Mario RPG. In this game, he's a time traveler, who travels back in time to protect the Mario brothers on their first adventure, operating in a kind of "sage" role to them. He still has his familiar Star Gun and rocket punch fists, and now specializes in positive buffs for the rest of the party.
Lana: Lana is a plucky human thief who lives in the Great Kalamari Desert. She joins Mario fairly reluctantly, but her speed and thieving skills make her a valuable asset. Her main ability is thievery, she can pilfer some of the best items in the game off of enemies.
Petey: Petey is a young Piranha Plant who decides to join up with Mario and friends after Kamek enslaves his family. He is the main physical attacker of the party, playing a similar role to Bowser in the original game.
Toad: Toad joins the party this time around. He specializes in healing the party, but can also hit the enemy with debuffs and status effects, and he's fairly durable for a healer.
Wizzler: Wizzler is a Wiggler who knows powerful offensive magic. He joins up with Mario's group in the forest, and he's trying to do good deeds so that he can become a beautiful butterfly.
The game begins with a quick cutscene revealing for the first time the origins of the Mario Brothers, though it's only part of the story, with the rest revealed later on in flashbacks. Mario and Luigi came from Italy, with their parents immigrating to Brooklyn when they were only a few years old. The two grew up in Brooklyn and became plumbers, and that's where the game begins, with Mario and Luigi in the sewers beneath New York City, investigating a strange disturbance in the pipes. This serves as the sort of "tutorial" level, where the player learns basic controls and moves. Eventually, after fighting a boss creature, the two are sucked into a pipe that takes them to the Mushroom Kingdom, where they are greeted as heroes and taken to Princess Peach's palace. Though the brothers are confused at first, they are assured that it is their destiny that they are here and that the kingdom is being threatened by the evil wizard Kamek and his army. The brothers are introduced to Peach for the first time, and Mario seems to be smitten, though he bravely accepts the task he is given, which is to liberate a nearby village of Toads from a bullying monster. The monster turns out to be a jumbo Hammer Bro., and one of the Toads that Mario and Luigi rescue join them for the boss battle. After another quest, the castle comes under attack, and Princess Peach is abducted by Kamek. The Mario brothers and Toad follow Kamek's army across the desert, but they pass out. Mario wakes up by himself in a mysterious town, where he is accosted by a thief named Lana who steals all of Mario's items and money. Mario pursues the thief, catching up to her, and the two eventually join forces. Meanwhile, Luigi ends up by himself as well, but after a bit of exploration, meets up with Geno, who claims to be from the future and that Mario and Luigi are known as great heroes in his time. The two pairs eventually reunite in the massive Pyramid dungeon, which requires the player to switch back and forth between the two parties to clear each other's paths, before Lana is captured by the dungeon's boss and Mario and Luigi reunite to take down the boss with Geno's help. For the first time, the player has a party of more than three and has to choose who to leave out (though like in the original game, party members who don't fight still earn experience).
The quest continues, with the party visiting more strange places, fighting more enemies, and learning more about Kamek's evil plans (this is where the party learns about Bowser for the first time and that Kamek kidnapped Peach to give Bowser a bride). The party reunites with Toad, then Wizzler and finally Petey join the party, Petey joins about halfway through the game, completing the party. Around this time, the group discovers another large dungeon where they must split into two parties, a massive tower where Kamek and Bowser are holding Peach. There's a climactic showdown with Bowser, and Peach is rescued, but Kamek is determined to win, and he tries to finish off Mario and Luigi once and for all. Geno seemingly sacrifices himself to save the two of them, and everyone is returned to Peach's Castle. Though Peach is saved, she does not yet wish for Mario and Luigi to leave, and asks them to journey to the Star Road Library to find a book that she thinks might explain why they arrived in the Mushroom Kingdom. Lana also leaves the party at this time, as does Petey, leaving Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Wizzler to explore the library together. The library itself is another large dungeon, and at the end, they find the book they're looking for. The book explains that Mario and Luigi, along with Peach and Bowser, are Star Children, created by the wishes of the people of the Mushroom Kingdom. This explains why Mario and Luigi can jump so high, among other unique things about them. They were born from starlight in the Mushroom Kingdom and delivered by stork to their parents. But Kamek, whose evil wish brought Bowser into existence, saw the stars fall and identified the brothers as a threat to his future rule. He attacked and stole Luigi away, and the only thing that stopped him from taking both brothers was the timely arrival of a band of heroic Yoshis (the events of Yoshi's Island). The Mushroom Kingdom's great wizard Toadmerlin knew that as long as the brothers remained in the Mushroom Kingdom, their lives would be at risk. He created a portal to Earth and sent Mario's family through it. They landed in Italy, but after a few years there, Kamek discovered them there as well, forcing them to move to Brooklyn, a large city where they could hide. But Kamek eventually discovered them there too, sending evil magic and monsters into the world to flush the brothers out.
Now knowing their origins, Mario and Luigi realize that they were born to protect the Mushroom Kingdom from evil, and decide to find Kamek and defeat him once and for all. They return to Petey's jungle to help him liberate his family from their captors, then after that is done (and Petey rejoins the group), they return to the Mushroom Kingdom, only to find Peach missing again and Lana seated in the throne. Lana assures them that she had nothing to do with Peach's latest appearance, and in fact arrived just in time to spot Bowser kidnapping Peach once again. Lana says that Kamek is demanding that three Mystic Treasures be found in exchange for Peach, setting in motion the next set of events of the game. Lana says that she's never been able to find the treasures, which have been scattered all over the planet, but with the team's help, she can track them down. The party hunts down the treasures, facing increasingly difficult perils each time. They then go to Bowser's Castle for the exchange, but when they reach Kamek and Bowser, they find out that of course, the two of them are lying and have no intention of giving up Peach. The two set a trap and the party is nearly killed, but Geno returns and saves everyone just in time, including Peach. They return to Peach's Castle, but even though everyone is safe, there's a problem: Kamek and Bowser have the Mystic Treasures. They have taken them to a place known as Dark Star Road, where they intend to use them to open a portal back up to Earth, where they intend to rule in a world without Star Children. Dark Star Road is the final true "dungeon" of the game, but after beating Kamek and Bowser in successive boss fights, Mario and friends are unable to stop the portal from being opened anyway, and Bowser is sent through it into Brooklyn, where Kamek transforms him into a massive, skyscraper-sized monster. Bowser threatens to destroy the city, kicking off a huge final boss fight between Mario's party and the gigantic Bowser. Bowser is taken down and forced back through the portal, which is about to be sealed off forever. Mario and Luigi have a decision to make: stay in Brooklyn and continue their peaceful lives as plumbers, or return to the Mushroom Kingdom to live out their days as its protectors. Of course, they choose to go to the Mushroom Kingdom, saying goodbye to home forever, but hello to a fresh start as the famous Mario Bros., heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom. Lana returns to her desert kingdom as a heroine (and with a lot of pilfered treasure to her name), while Wizzler turns into a butterfly in front of everyone, and Petey and his family resume their normal lives in the jungle. The post-credits ending reveals that many of the other Mario characters we love so much, like Daisy, Wario, and Waluigi, are Star Children as well, and that Mario and Luigi are destined to meet them in their future adventures. Geno closes a book and returns to his own time to resume his own duties as the Protector of Wishes, and the game ends.
Released on September 4, 2000 in North America (after an early June 2000 release in Japan, and before a November 2000 release in Europe), Super Mario RPG 2 is a critical and commercial success, though it's not nearly as big of a success as other Squaresoft RPGs like Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII. It sells slightly more copies overall than Legend Of Mana. Reviews praise the game for its expanded battle system and large world to explore, along with giving the Mario Bros. a compelling origin story (though fan reception toward the origin story is a lot more mixed, especially the aspects of the story that incorporate Brooklyn, which previously appeared only in Western TV adaptations).