Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS) Guest Review

It's been a little while since we've had a guest review, so let's check out a new one. This time around we're checking out the latest hijinks from everyone's favorite plumber pair, Mario and Luigi. This time around Bowser's joined the fray for Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.

Super Bowser RPG

The Mario & Luigi series is arguably Nintendo’s best handheld RPG series. Both Superstar Saga and Partners in Time won fans over with its combination of wacky humor and engaging gameplay. It was only a matter of time until Nintendo and Alphadream released the third chapter in the series, and after an excruciatingly long seven month wait, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story has finally arrived to our shores on the Nintendo DS. Does this title wind up being worth the wait? Without a doubt, my friends. Without a doubt.

The Mushroom Kingdom’s once again in danger, but Bowser isn’t the one behind the sinister plot this time! That’s right. No longer content with being Cackletta’s crony or running a Bean ‘n Badge service, Fawful’s moved on up to head honcho status with a daring plan to take over the Mushroom Kingdom! Not only has he infected the populace of Toad Town with a mysterious disease that causes the Toads to swell up into oversized beach balls, but he also tricks Bowser into eating a mushroom that turns the titanic turtle into an oversized vaccum! The king of the Koopas manages to inhale Mario, Luigi, Peach, and everyone else within the confines of the castle. Is this the end for our heroes? Not at all. In fact, it’s just the first ten minutes of a brand new adventure!

For Mario & Luigi, the majority of their adventure takes place inside the unfamiliar locale of Bowser’s body, thus the title. This part of the game unfolds in 2D on the bottom screen with the brothers trying to find a way out of the Koopa King. That might take them awhile though, and it’s looking like the Mushroom Kingdom doesn’t have that long. Never fear. While the brothers might not be able to escape, they can actually aide their longtime nemesis by exploring and using their abilities on the many nooks and crannies tucked away inside of Bowser. For instance, once you get the hammers early on, you’ll soon be in Bowser’s Arm Center using them in a rhythm minigame that has Mario & Luigi volleying energy orbs to charge up Bowser’s arms. There are a few minigame areas like this throughout your adventure and most see action a few times, progressively getting harder with each new encounter. They aren’t long, and outside of one that’s slightly annoying at its most challenging level, they’re a nice break from the action.

It’s not a one-way street either, as you can switch to Bowser at most any time on the top screen. Here, the Koopa King will be able to explore the 3D environments that fans are accustomed to. He might not be as mobile as the Mario Brothers, but he has quite a few tricks of his own to get around. He can use his punch to break down solid stone walls and slide across gaps, use his flame breath to burn down any tree in his way, whatever it takes to keep Fawful from achieving his goal. Bowser will also be able to help the brothers out on their quest (unknowingly). By stopping for a drink at a fountain, an area on the inside will flood allowing Mario & Luigi to swim through what had been previously inaccessible. This inside and out switching mechanic never becomes a chore even with all the times you’ll find yourself flipping from the Bros. to Bowser and vice versa.

Battles in Bowser’s Inside Story unfold just like they would in the previous two games. Enemies are seen on the map, and you have a choice whether to engage or avoid them. For Mario & Luigi, they have three ways of attacking. They can either jump (or double jump with good timing), use their hammers to slam their foes down, or team up and use one of the game’s ten special attacks. Being able to use these Bro Attacks successfully is the key to overcoming any and all challengers that come your way.

Bowser goes it solo in his fights, so dodging enemy attacks becomes a bit more crucial. To do this, Bowser can punch his opponents or their projectiles away or just duck and let his shell cancel their attacks. Later on, he’ll be able to use some special attacks of his own using the stylus. These include touching goombas as they run by to light them on fire which causes extra damage, moving the stylus back and forth to get a perfect slingshot attack off, or drawing a line to perfect a Magikoopa spell. The most dramatic use of the stylus comes when Bowser is pushed to his limit. In these rare instances, Bowser will grow into one titanic turtle and force you to turn your DS to the side to witness the battle unfold. Here, you’ll slide the stylus quickly across the screen to land a powerful blow on your equally large foe or blow into the microphone to utilize Bowser’s breath attack. Just like with Mario & Luigi’s minigames, these fights are used just the right the number of times to make them another awesome addition to the game.

The gameplay delivers, and I’m glad to say that the soundtrack does as well. Yoko Shimomura of Kingdom Hearts fame returns to compose the music for Bowser’s Inside Story, and it might just be the best in the series. Each area in the game has two pieces of music, one for both inside and outside of Bowser, and I found myself humming along to quite a few of them throughout the journey which wound up being a good 25 hours. Yes, this game has a bit more to it than the previous games, even offering up a couple of optional areas to explore which you should if you want to get your hands on every stat-increasing bean that you can. Even if you don’t, there’s still a 15-20 hour adventure to be had here, making this the longest of the trilogy to complete to date.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story manages to take the best ideas from Superstar Saga and Partners in Time to create one of the best titles the DS has to offer, RPG or otherwise. From start to finish, the game has the same charm in both the story and gameplay that its predecessors shared. This is a near perfect title that I’d recommend to anybody, and it’s currently my favorite game that I’ve played this year. Get on the inside track and pick this one up. It won’t disappoint.

[Overall: 9.5/10]

Interested in more Mario & Luigi?
Check out Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS).

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