Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is the third title in the Mario & Luigi franchise. It was released for the Nintendo DS on September 14, 2009, in the United States. The game was first announced at Nintendo's conference in October 2008. The game includes several new features, such as the ability to play as Bowser. Bowser's Inside Story received critical acclaim, often regarded as being the best in the series.
The gameplay is split between playing as Mario and Luigi (as a team) and as Bowser. The game features multiple uses of every Nintendo DS capability, both in controls and graphics. Like the other games in the series, most battles rely on reflex/timing-based attacks. Every attack can be enhanced with well-timed button presses. Likewise, most enemy attacks can be partially blocked, avoided, or even countered, again, with appropriately timed actions. While similar, Bowser uses a different arsenal, and his special attacks make use of the touch-screen and, unfortunately, the microphone, unlike the mustachioed brothers.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story uses a mix of real-time overworld platforming and a turn-based battle system.
For the first time in the series, the platforming overworld sections are not entirely three-dimensional. While the brothers are inside of Bowser's body, the gameplay is in two dimensions, similar to the classic Super Mario Bros. (except more overworld-based, rather than level-based). During the times the player controls Bowser, as well as later in the game when the brothers escape Bowser's body, the gameplay is in the classic Mario & Luigi 3D overworld.
The overworld includes some puzzle solving at times, as well as the use of multiple learned abilities. When reaching an impassible obstacle, usually an ability found later in the game will be required to proceed at that particular point such as the spin jump and hammer Mini Mario, among others. The overworld is also how the player visits towns, such as Toad Town, or the small market inside of Bowser's body. At these towns, the player can purchase upgraded equipment such as new overalls, gloves, etc, as well as purchase items to use inside of battle. Upon viewing an enemy in the overworld map, the player can actively attempt to avoid the battle, passively engage in battle by simply running into the enemy, or
actively engage in battle by either jumping on the enemy or hammering the enemy. In addition to playing as the Mario Brothers, the player also actively controls Bowser for a significant portion of the game. Using Bowser is similar to the Mario Bros. except that he cannot jump, but has other abilities like flame breath, ground pound and more. In the overworld, he can access areas that the Bros. cannot and visa-versa.
The Battle system for Bowser's Inside Story stays fairly similar to previous incarnations in the series. It is a turn based combat system, so the Mario Brothers each take a turn, and the enemies take a turn, with turn order based on the speed statistic. The Brothers can attack by jumping, hammering, or using special Bros. attacks requiring very specific timing depending on the attack, but with a very large damage if it lands perfectly. In the standard attacks, pressing a specific button again for jumping, or releasing a button at the right time can give a damage boost. The Bros. in battle can also dodge and counter-attack by either jumping at very specific points of the enemies attacks, making the battle system feel very rhythm based both in attacking and in defending.
Bowser handles similarly in battle, except that he is the only one in battle against the enemies, and his standard attacks are based on punching, fire breath, and vacuum breath,
while his dodges/counter-attacks are based on punching and using his shell to protect himself. His special attacks are based upon using the stylus of the DS to use his minions to attack, such as a Goomba Storm. In addition, at specific points in the game, Bowser may find himself with a larger enemy to face and he grows accordingly. These battles are entirely stylus based, and the DS is held like a book.
Finally, Bowser's Inside Story is an RPG, and the statistic system reflects this. After battles, either the Bros, Bowser, or both may receive experience. In typical RPG fashion, once the experience reaches a certain level, the characters level up. This area is virtually unchanged from previous incarnations in the series. Upon leveling up, most or all stats increase by a fixed amount, and the player can choose one statistic to boost an additional amount based on a roulette wheel. In this game, upon reaching certain levels, the character also increases in "rank", i.e. from mushroom rank to star rank. This dictates new powers or shops available to the player.
As Bowser's Inside Story begins, we are notified of a disease afflicting the Mushroom Kingdom. An illness known only as "the Blorbs" is spreading among the cattle-like populace of the Kingdom; the Blorbs causes the infected to swell up in size into a spherical shape, and then roll away, and just keep rolling. The condition gets so serious, that Princess Peach calls for an emergency meeting at her castle.
At the meeting, we are introduced the Star Sprites, magical beings (which are totally not the Shine Sprites from Super Mario Sunshine) who Princess Peach believes can help with the epidemic. Unfortunately, it appears that the Star Sprites cannot do anything unless they first know the cause of the outbreak. Mario and Luigi show up late to the meeting. While there, it is discovered that all persons infected with the Blorbs purchased Blorb Mushrooms (obvious in hindsight) from a street vendor, and Toadsworth sends Mario and Luigi out to find him. Before they can, however, Bowser comes into the meeting uninvited. Bowser came under the pretense of genuinely wanting to attend the meeting, though it is obvious to all that he merely wants to cause more of his obsessive havoc. Mario confronts him (Luigi is sleeping through the entire thing), and Bowser is quickly dispatched and (literally) thrown out of the castle by Princess Peach.
Bowser is awakened in the middle of a forest by Magikoopa, and proceeds to find his way out. On the way, he encounters a shady mushroom vendor, who talks in a strange dialect. He gives the Koopa King a mushroom, claiming it will help him defeat Mario. Stupid as Bowser is, he ingests the mushroom without hesitation. It is then revealed that the mysterious mushroom vendor is none other than Fawful, the former henchman of the late Cackletta, the villain of the first Mario & Luigi game, in disguise, and he has just fed Bowser a mushroom that makes him uncontrollably inhale everything in sight.
Meanwhile, back at the meeting in Princess Peach's castle, Bowser stumbles back in (castle security being kind of crap) and inhales everybody in the meeting room. An inexplicably miniaturized Mario awakens inside Bowser's body, and begins to explore. At this point the game switches to a 2D perspective, and becomes similar to a classic Mario game. Mario finds a Star Sprite stuck inside an amoeba, and frees it. They continue to explore, until Mario finds Luigi stuck inside yet another amoeba. Mario and Luigi explore Bowser's entrails together, and soon enough discover, oddly, two boxes with hammers inside. After solving a couple of simple puzzles, they are able to open the boxes and get the hammers out, which help them progress further.
With the Mario Bros. and Bowser incapacitated, Fawful takes control of Peach's Castle and Midbus gains control of Bowser's Castle. While inside of Bowser, Mario and Luigi begin stimulating parts of the King Koopa's innards, increasing his strength and agility (and in some cases his size). Bowser uses his new vitality to make his way back to his castle to defeat Fawful and reclaim his former glory, completely unaware of the fact his greatest rival (and his less successful older brother) is not only romping around inside of him, but is directly responsible for him becoming actually competent for once.
Eventually, Fawful extracts the Princess from inside of Bowser and uses her to gain possession of the Dark Star, an object capable of tremendous power and unspeakable evil. Mario and Luigi find passage out of Bowser's body and discover a blockade outside of Peach's Castle. In order to break through the blockade and cure the Blorbs, Mario and Luigi discover they must collect three Star Cures from three different sages. After completing this task (which takes them throughout the kingdom), the blockade in front of Peach's Castle is destroyed.
Bowser takes this opportunity to finally assault the castle. Inside, he finds Fawful attempting to drain the energy of the Dark Star. Fawful is only able to consume half of the Dark Star's power before he is stopped by the Koopa King. After defeating a Dark Star enhanced Midbus, Bowser accidentally ingests the portion of the Dark Star that still remains. Inside Bowser, Mario and Luigi attempt to nab the Dark Star as it makes its way throughout Bowser's body. Interestingly, they discover that the Dark Star is consuming and copying portions of Bowser's DNA. In doing so, the Dark Star is able to copy Bowser's powers, such as his fire breath.
As this is all going on within him, Bowser confronts a Dark Power Infused Fawful and defeats him in a pitched battle. Just as Bowser thinks victory is at hand, the Dark Star makes its way out of Bowser's body and absorbs the missing portion of itself that Fawful stole. Bowser then engages in battle with Dark Bowser, who uses Bowser's own abilities against him. Through cooperation (unbeknownst to him) with Mario and Luigi inside him, Bowser defeats Dark Bowser and finally destroys the Dark Star.
Following the battle, all of the characters from the Mushroom Kingdom whom Bowser inhaled at the beginning of the game are ejected out of Bowser's body. Bowser, enraged to find that Mario and Luigi had been exploring his innards and bouncing around inside him, engages the brothers in a battle that is depicted in a series of still pictures during the credits. Naturally, Bowser is defeated and sent scurrying back to his own castle. The story ends with Bowser recovering from his injuries in bed while ordering his minions to repair the castle. A bird appears and delivers Bowser a thank you cake from Peach, Mario, and Luigi.
Mario and Luigi
Always ready to help when needed, Mario and Luigi are once again tasked with saving the Mushroom Kingdom and Princess Peach from danger. After being sucked up by Bowser, the brothers must go to different parts of his body and fix all internal problems (of which he has many). Eventually, they are able to find a way out and continue their quest to save the Kingdom making a few return visits to Bowser's innards along the way. Thankfully, the baby versions of the bros. from the previous game (which simultaneously complicated the battles too much and annoyed the player to no end) are nowhere to be seen in this instalment of the story.
For once not the villain of the game, Bowser makes his first playable appearance in a Mario & Luigi RPG. Bowser lives up to his clumsy and oafish persona after getting tricked into eating a Vacuum Mushroom by Fawful and setting the events of the game into motion. After realising what's happened Bowser sets out to recover his castle and reclaim his rightful place as the number one bad guy in the Mushroom Kingdom.
- Broggy Bonker (unlocked after collecting all the Blitties)
The main antagonist of the game and all-round maniacal villain, Fawful returns to reek havoc upon the Mushroom Kingdom once more. In the game he is responsible for the outbreak of the 'blorbs' affecting the Toad population and for Bowser's vacuuming spree. His ultimate goal is to rule the Mushroom Kingdom through any means necessary, however nefarious they may be.
Starlow is a star sprite who was called to the Mushroom Kingdom to help deal with the 'blorbs' crisis. Throughout the game she guides the Mario Bros. to where they need to go. She also helps Bowser while inside his body, although Bowser is unaware of who she really is and refers to her as Chippy. On top of that she can assist Mario & Luigi in tricky situations in battles where they are able to cling on to her and avoid attacks.
Every evil genius needs a right-hand man. Fawful once served in this role himself, but since getting promoted to full-scale villain, he has acquired one of his own in the form of Midbus. His job is to protect Fawful at all costs and to deal with any enemies that might pose a risk to his plans. Midbus shares many similarities to Bowser in that they are both big, stupid, and brawny, the difference being that Midbus resembles a boar whereas Bowser is a turtle, at least in theory.
A French speaking shop-owning block-man, Broque Monsieur is quite a unique character. He is first encountered in the game stuck on an island from which he is rescued by Bowser. For his efforts Broque Monsieur rewards Bowser with a Vacuum block, a valuable new tool for his arsenal. Later on Broque opens a shop in which Boswer can buy items in. Also, if every Blitty is returned to him, Broque Monsieur will give Bowser his dog, Broggy, unlocking a special attack in Bowser Battles.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has received extremely positive reception from critics. The game was praised for its humor (a standard in the Mario & Luigi franchise) and quality roleplaying gameplay.
Some reviews include:
- Brad Shoemaker's from Giant Bomb ( 100%)
- Craig Harris' from IGN ( 95%)
- Jeremy Parish's from 1UP ( 91%)
- Billy Young's fom RPGamer ( 90%)