Monday, May 7, 2012

Handheld Adventures Part 8: Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story for the DS review




It’s been forever, but welcome back to Handheld Adventures. I kind of held off this series of reviews because my handheld games were limited to GB and GBA games, but now I have a 3DS and can do DS and 3DS games. I wanted to do a special game since the DS had a huge amount of unique games for the system and a lot of them were very solid RPG gems. We finally got the RPG’s like Dragon Quest 4, 5, 6, and 9, and 3D remakes of Final Fantasy 3 and 4. Of course, there were other titles like New Super Mario Brothers, the two Zelda games, and Okamiden. However, out of the RPG’s, I think I found probably the most quirky and best RPG that I could easily recommend to everyone for the system, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. This RPG does a lot of things that I like about Modern RPG’s that come from Japan. They streamline leveling, take out random battles, keep the battles turn-based, and simplify the tedium some RPG’s have, and of course, cut it like a fatty steak. There is a lot of love here, like great story and humor, challenging puzzles, and quirky enemy designs, but I am getting ahead of myself. Let us get started. 

Things have gone bonkers in the Mushroom Kingdom! The toads are growing fat! And huge! And they are rolling around destroying things! And um…that is really it for the beginning set up. While this incidence is happening, Peach and the higher-ups of the Mushroom Kingdom are discussing about the incident causing the toads to blow up called the Blorbs. Bowser, for some reason, decides to be nice for once, and come down to the meeting to see what is going on. Of course, Bowser becomes ticked off because the Mushroom Kingdom is shocked that BOWSER wanted to be nice for once. The Mario Brothers beat him up and he runs away to plot his revenge. As Bowser plots his revenge, he gets offered a mysterious mushroom from a hooded figure that is actually Fawful, the villain from the first game, back from revenge on the kingdom. The mushroom that Bowser swallowed ends up turning Bowser into a vacuum of sorts and he sucks in a huge amount of things including Peach, Mario, Luigi, and other members of the Mushroom Kingdom. It is up to Mario and Luigi to find a way out, and for Bowser to get revenge on Fawful for being a jerk. The story is one of the best parts of this game. It is very lighthearted, funny, and innocent. This is a nice change of pace from other RPG’s where the tone is dark and broody with emo-centric characters.  Of course, the Mario RPG games have been known for being pretty lighthearted with Super Paper Mario being the exception of sorts (it’s a dark game). Overall, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is enjoyable with some of the corniest and funniest humor around. The surprising fact is that Bowser plays a much bigger role in this game and has some of the better lines. It is nice to see that the developers, Alpha Dream, decided to do something different for once and make a fun lighthearted RPG so that people who are new to RPG’s can play without much hesitation. 

The usual Mario RPG-style mechanics are here. You’ve got platforming across platforms through Bowser’s insides and throughout the Mushroom Kingdom, timed attacks of the button press that will do more damage, and you get the idea. Platforming is done by making Mario and Luigi jump from platform to platform (no duh). Sometimes, you will need to make certain platforms appear by helping Bowser with certain things, like in one area, you have to make him stay in front of an X-ray light machine. Battles take place on an isometric view where you will fight normal enemies and monsters that are born from within Bowser’s body. During the game, you will find puzzle pieces to unlock special moves that can be pulled off by Mario and his brother. The attacks will have more oomph to them if you time your button or stylus touch on the enemy, and it will result in more damage being dealt. Defending yourself in this series of Mario RPG’s is much more complex. Sometimes you can counterattack by using your mallet to smack the enemies if they charge at you, or jump to dodge projectiles or other enemies. This means that in the end of the battle, you might not take any damage at all. I think that’s amazing since in past Mario RPG games, you could just lighten the blow done to you. However, Mario and Luigi, while playing a major role pretty much take a back seat this time to Bowser. Bowser can’t jump, but his body makes up for it. You will be punching, dashing, and curling up into a ball to solve puzzles and to beat your way through hordes of enemies. Bowser’s abilities differ in battle. He can punch, breath fire, or use his minions to pull off super moves if you can find the minions and free them. His defenses against enemy attacks are either punching them or using his shell as a shield. At certain points, Bowser will be able to grow gigantic, and fight giant bosses with the use of the stylus to pull off certain moves. Either way, you will be fighting, equipping your characters with items, and finding a way to get the Mushroom Kingdom back to normal. Sometimes, you are required to do some kind of mini-game to help Bowser solve some puzzles, like strengthening his muscles, knocking pollen into his nose, and other interesting puzzles. The fighting and puzzle solving is fun, giving new RPG gamers more action in turn-based combat, platforming for the Mario fans, and a stupid amount of silly humor that will help you get through the game. The game will take about 20-30 hours, which is kind of short for an RPG, but is a good length.
Graphically, this game looks amazing. It’s wonderfully colorful with bright pixel graphics, and the sprites have great animation to them. A lot of work went into polishing up the presentation. The music is also noteworthy for being incredible and catchy. You can thank composer Yoko Shimomura. She is famous for a lot of great games like Final Fight, Gargoyle’s Quest, Little Nemo the Dream Master, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Legend of Mana, Tobal No.1, and the popular Kingdom Hearts series. She does a first-rate job keeping the music intense, but lively. I also like the creative use of the DS, or in my case, 3DS, with blowing into the microphone, tapping the screen with the stylus, and many other gimmicks that are fun. 

However, there are a few minor gripes that I have that bring this game down. While the mini-games are fun and can provide some entertainment, after awhile, they get boring and tedious when the speed of the mini-games gets accelerated. While platforming isn’t a huge hassle after you get used to making both Mario and Luigi jump, it can get annoying because Luigi will sometimes not make the jump if you don’t time it right, forcing you to go down and get him to return to the area you need to get to. Don’t get me wrong, the platforming isn’t as bad as Xenogear’s platforming, but it can still be a pain from time to time. Another minor gripe is that the timing on attacks and defending yourself can be difficult at times, but after while you get used to it.

Overall, this was a blast to play through and is one of the best RPG’s of this generation. It has a lot of RPG norms, but the added Mario platforming and timing mechanics makes this a fresh and wonderful take on the turn-based RPG. If you have a DS or 3DS, I say pick this game up. It is about 30 bucks or so now, and if you are looking for a game that will last you a good while with a lot of fun replay value, then I can recommend this great game. No wonder you can never go wrong with Mario, he goes well with everything. It’s like cooking anything with garlic, there is no wrong. Anyway, I’m glad I could bring back Handheld Adventures and I hope you all enjoy this.
This game gets an 8 out of 10

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