PGC had a chance to go hands-on with Mario & Luigi at Nintendo's Ultimate Fantasy Summit today. Impressions on this tag-team title are inside…
Mario & Luigi was presented today as the spiritual successor to Paper Mario. While the game has a somewhat similar look, save for the unique "paper effects" in the N64 game, Mario and Luigi is a new experience, bringing a form of tag-team play to a single player adventure RPG.
The basic story involves Princess Peach being visited by a neighboring kingdom's ambassador. Up to no good, the ambassador steals the Princess's voice and leaves her with only the ability to speak in explosions! Mario is tasked with finding the culprit and restoring the Princess's voice, with his brother in tow as a reluctant partner.
The game is absolutely loaded with humor, both delightful and painful, and it caused me to laugh out loud a couple of times early in the game. The best gag is the way Luigi plays second-fiddle to his brother. Everyone you run into is familiar with the famous Mario, but they refer to Luigi as "that green-colored Mario lookin' guy" or some variant. The animation does a great job of adding expression to the characters, but Luigi steals the show, with his animations giving him more character than any previous game has managed. Luigi clearly wants nothing to do with being a hero like Mario; he is thrust into the situation against his will, and he plays the role to the hilt.
The game plays surprisingly well, and after having a longer period of time with this version, I've come away with a much better impression than the limited E3 version was able to offer. The player must have fast reflexes (à la Wario Ware) in order to pass some of the mini-games, but it's largely a matter of critical timing in battles, where each well-executed button press can do extra damage. As you progress through the game, you earn "Bros." abilities that let you team up to traverse tricky areas or solve puzzles. Used in combat, the duo causes even more damage. Sure to get a laugh or two is the "Stache" (as in moustache) stat, which can allow you to get a lucky strike that does double damage, as well as possibly other powers. There's strength in them-there moustaches!
If this is what Nintendo meant by making simpler games, then I'm all for it. The game is lighthearted and fun, and the control is simple, but there is a depth to the gameplay that people crave. The game is progressing quite well, and to tell too much more would spoil some of the fun. The storyline is ripe with fun little jokes and puns that will have you groaning, but in a good way. Most importantly, the game looks to deliver on a promise of lengthy and deep gameplay that is accessible to everyone. Keep an eye out for this one come November.