canuckeh's Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!! (Nintendo DS) review

Bowser deepthroats Mario

 

Bowser is heartless indeed.

Seriously, I’ve been exploring his insides and he doesn’t seem to have a heart. There are an assortment of nodes, cavities and assorted “regions” but during my entire time spelunking King Koopa, I’ve been unable to find a heart. Or much of a brain either, though Nintendo may have intended that to be the joke. There aren’t any kidneys or bladder, though, so I wonder how Boswer disposes of his biological waste. I mean, the guys eats, probably large quantities, too, so the lizard manure has to go somewhere. Anyone that cleans turtle tanks for a living will tell you that their role is none the pleasant.  

Let me backtrack for a moment. Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is another RPG based in the Marioverse, but with a decidedly abnormal premise. Fawful is back from the first Mario and Luigi to wear out his gimmick’s welcome some more, but his plans involve giving Bowser a funny mushroom (and don’t all mushrooms in the Mario games have a drug undertone anyways?) This mushroom’s side-effects includes Bowser eating Mario and co, and Mario and Luigi must make things right doing internal with Bowser.

What I love about Mario RPGs is just how self-parodying they can be. They approach the Mario fiction knowing full well that there is no way you can take a world with giant green pipes and walking turtles seriously, and thus acts accordingly. Hence, you’ve got goombas marching with conscious intention of getting stomped on and a giant walking, talking French coin block that views Mario as the Anti-Christ. Oh how I wish Sega would soon realize that Sonic lives in an improbable joke of a universe and stop giving their games like Sonic Unleashed and Chronicles such damned serious reverence. The text dialogue in this game is mostly great, with several witty barbs and conscious attempts to match dialogue for each character; Bowser talks like Bowser, French block talks like French block, and Peach talks like a ditz. So thematically, this game is a sweeping success.

Bowser’s Inside Story is also the rare game where using the DS’s two screens actually makes sense. For most of the experience, the top screen is spent frolicking around the shroomlands as Bowser, while the bottom screen is often dedicated to controlling the twin plumbers on their trek through Bowser’s innards. Oddly enough, Bowser’s insides, besides not having any organs, are also 2-dimensional side-scrolling sequences. Mario and Luigi’s platforming sequences are handed like in, well, the previous Mario and Luigi games in that A and B control each Italian’s jump individually, as well as arbitrary hammer and spinning attacks used to navigate Bowser’s viscera. Being that there aren’t any bottomless pits or particularly erratic moving platforms, and bumping into enemies results in a turn-based RPG roshambo battle, the outerworld platforming is inconsequential. The platforming exists more out of association than challenging stimulation; because Mario and jumping go together like the Bush family and war. And besides, we’ve got Mario Galaxy and a trillion other great platform jumping games to give gamers their leaping fix anyways.

On the hand, Bowser’s segments might be more interesting on account of how different they are. Bowser’s attitude on life seems to be “why jump when you can pave the floor with the fallen bodies of your enemies?” He walks around with the slow, trembling pace of an avalanche, punching and or burning anything that gets in his way. I wouldn’t want to play ten more games as this sluggish tank turtle (and remember when Battletanx games were being shoved down our throats?)   but in this one game, it made for a comical change of pace. Sometimes, there will be an interplay between Bowser and the foreign entities inside his body. Usually, these come across as novel and cute. The most popular example is when Bowser needs to do some heavy lifting and the bros will have to “stimulate” his arm muscles. Creative, but this and several other mini-games are simply repeated too damned often. My least favorite is when Mario and Luigi have to play this lame top-down shooting mini game to transform Bowser into 50-feet-tall Bowser. There are four of these, and the subsequent “mega-boss fight” is mega annoying. As Shaq-Bowser, you attack your enemy using sometimes-responsive stylus swipes and…get ready for this…blowing into the DS microphone. Yes, that always unwanted, ungrateful cause of public shame and humiliation has returned. Why, Nintendo? It wasn’t really cute or funny when DS games made people do it five years ago and time has only made it all the more unwelcome. Please stop humiliating your fans by making them blow into your system in public. You do enough fan humiliation during your E3 press conferences.

When you do run into an enemy, then you get to divulge in that good old’ Japanese RPG turn based scuttlebutting. Like in previous Mario and Luigi games, fights are turn-based but highly interactive. Timing your button presses in co-ordination to your jump or hammer attacks will yield more damage, and you can likewise time button presses to jump or hammer your way from enemy attacks altogether. Occasionally, you’ll find some enemies in a given area have such elaborately lengthy attack patterns and petty attempts to fake you out that these sequences move at an indigestion-like pace. But otherwise, this more interactive approach to combat keeps the game more intriguing than most RPGs. Bowser’s combat situations are similar in that you have to adopt a different form of timing for his bulkier, more Bowserly punches and fire breaths. But Bowser can also inhale with his mighty lungs (that you never see in the game) to varying effects, including giving Mario and Luigi new enemies to fight. Finally, there are special attacks with more involved button presses, with Bowser’s attacks involving some kind of stylus interplay. However, you’ll quickly get annoyed with how long each of these special attacks take to load up, and thus opt to only use them for the final series of boss fights.

The game is about 14 hours long, kind of brief for an RPG but a suitable length for a handheld game. Save points aren’t as…liberally strewn across the land as I would have liked (remember, handheld games are meant to be played in public spaces, and nothing slaps me in the cheek quite like reaching the bus stop to work in the middle of a crucial story sequence or boss fight.) But the game never inconveniences the player with a lack of save points the way the Kingdom Hearts DS game does. And while some mini-games and fights may hold the game from having the future replay value of a Super Mario RPG, you’ll have fun with your first playthrough. So get Bowser’s Inside Story. Enjoy it. Be stimulated by it. Give in to the release. Let it pleasure you.

4 stars

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