For those unfamiliar with the series Mario & Luigi is Nintendo’s attempt at putting the plumbers in their own RPG’s and the series really started back with Super Mario RPG on the SNES, but has really gotten big with the advent of this set of games. They have starred the brothers alone in Superstar Saga and the past and present version of the titular two with Partners in Time. This third act in the series has the brothers come back in a bit of a supporting role, though they see their fair share of screen time.
The game’s story centers on a new disease to the Mushroom Kingdom known as the Blorbs, which is a disease that has caused the Kingdom’s residents to balloon to massive size. During this outbreak Bowser is tricked into eating a Mushroom by the villain Fawful that causes him to inhale a large number of things, including Mario, Luigi, Toadsworth, Peach and a new character Chippy. It’s because of this we get the clever title and the dual action of adventuring through the world with Bowser and through Bowser with the Mario Bros. who are attempting to rescue everyone who is trapped, discover the source and cure of the Blorbs and stop Bowser all at the same time. The two different adventures with mingle with each other many times throughout the course of the game where actions that one group takes directly affect the other.
Each of the characters is controlled with the D-pad and a set of buttons. The A button controls Mario’s actions. The B button controls what Luigi does and Bowser has the X&Y buttons mapped to his actions. IF you are in control of Bowser on the top screen of the DS, but need to switch to the plumbers just hit one of their action buttons and the game switches to the lower screen where their adventure takes place. The same goes for Bowser if you are controlling Mario & Luigi. During the course of the adventure Mario & Luigi will gain access to additional actions that can be used with a quick hit of the R button, which cycles between all the available actions. It’s the same style of game play we’ve seen in the series before and it’s very easy to use and keeps the number of buttons you need to access at any one point to a minimum.
During certain parts of the game Mario & Luigi must help Bowser accomplish his tasks by completing a mini game that will affect Bowser in a number of ways. You can clear pollen from his nasal passages that will create a seriously powerful sneeze by swiping your stylus left and right to knock pollen particles on to the walls of Bowser’s nose. Riding a raft through Bowser’s rump region and shooting the correct colored orbs will cause Bowser to grow to enormous size and lift huge objects off of him. Timing hammer swings to knock electrons into Bowser’s muscles will give him super strength to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Many of these mini games will be easy to accomplish, but sometimes break up the flow of the game a little much during high action sequences.
The bright visuals have continued and the DS is taken full advantage of. All the characters are amazingly detailed and animated. Even though Mario & Luigi don’t have much to say you always know what they’re thinking and their actions are exaggerated to help really get the point across. Other than a few grunts, growls and speedy Italian all the story is presented through traditional text bubbles and be prepared to read a lot during this game. The opening takes about an hour to get through and most of it involves reading conversations. The music is probably the best in the series and really helps hammer across the different stories. Battle sequences have the usual fast paced action soundtrack with the appropriate victory fanfare. It’s easily the best soundtrack in the series and worth really paying attention to.
Each of the different NPC’s in the game has some unique quality to them that really sets them apart from everyone else. There is a quirky French vendor who will sell you items along your journey and he is obsessed with blocks, him being a block and all. The villain, Fawful, has amazingly well scripted dialog that is reminiscent of the poorly translated games from the NES era, spouting phrases like “I have the chortles”.
The Mario & Luigi RPG series has been one of the most successful spin-offs to the Mario franchise and Bowser’s Inside Story is the latest and is a worthy successor to Partners in Time, which by the way is still my favorite game in the series. RPG fans and Mario fans alike will find something in this game that they will enjoy. It’s got all the deep RPG elements like leveling up and item balancing that RPG fans want with the funny dialog and zany situations you’ve come to expect in Mario’s travels. Giving the lead role to Bowser was a stroke of genius on the part of developer Alphadream. The game will take you somewhere between 20 and 30 hours to complete the story alone and there are tons of side quests that you can then go back and complete and I would not be surprised to see many people getting 50+ hours of enjoyment out of the game.
There’s no denying that Nintendo knows how to handle their characters and they’ve really done a great job with this latest adventure. It’s well worth picking up if you own a DS and are looking for a solid story and a lot of fun game play.
Final Score: 5/5 Excellent
Game was purchased at Gamestop.