DS

North America

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

by Pedro Hernandez - September 26, 2009, 12:20 am PDT
Total comments: 14

9

Getting to know Bowser from the inside out was never so much fun.

Even if Square-Enix hasn't made a Mario RPG since Legend of the Seven Stars on the Super Nintendo, the legacy has successfully lived on thanks to some very quirky and innovative takes on the iconic Nintendo franchise. Alpha Dream's Mario and Luigi RPG series is one that has been going strong since its 2003 debut on the Game Boy Advance, all due to a combination of simple to learn, hard to master gameplay and lots of colorful humor. Bowser's Inside Story is the third game in the series, second on the DS, and this time around the adventure goes very deep into the very innards of one of gaming's most lovable villains.

Bowser's Inside Story starts somewhat like a typical Mario game. While Bowser does jump in to try to kidnap Peach, the story begins with a very weird pandemic hitting the Mushroom Kingdom. A mysterious disease called "The Blorbs" is turning the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom into huge, round balls. The plot slightly deepens when, after experiencing defeat at the hands of Mario, Bowser consumes a vacuum mushroom that makes him suck everything in sight, Peach and Mario brothers included. It's all a dastardly plan devised by Fawful, a villain introduced in the first Mario and Luigi game, Superstar Saga. This starts yet another lighthearted adventure where the Mario brothers survive Bowser's innards while working together to rescue the Mushroom Kingdom from Fawful's rage.

While the stories in the Mario and Luigi series have never been deep or intricately written, they always provide an amusing element of fun and quirkiness that makes the iconic characters even more enduring, especially Bowser, who now gets to show his stuff as the main character. This is complemented by a superb localization and dialogue that is aware of its cheekiness. There's even reference to classic Nintendo games if you pay enough attention.

The Mario and Luigi series is a franchise that honors its RPG backgrounds but injects its own ideas to create gameplay that looks simple but actually has a lot of depth to it, honoring the ideas employed by RPGs like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. At first glance, Bowser's Inside Story looks to play the same as previous Mario and Luigi games, but there are actually a lot of additions that make the gameplay even more immersive, even if some of them feel gimmicky.

The battle engine in the Mario and Luigi games puts a lot of emphasis on timed button and rapid presses in order to add more interactivity in the turn based battles. This new entry promptly follows suit. With the basic attacks of all characters, you can time your button presses so you deal more damage to the enemy. When the enemy attacks, players can either dodge their moves or counterattack at the right time. This makes the game an exercise in timing since all enemies have different attack patterns and may surprise the player if they aren't playing attention.

Even if you have to control three characters, they all control in the same manner, with their attacks being major differences. Mario and Luigi have their famous jump and hammer attacks, while Bowser bring his fire breath and punch to the table. In addition, Bowser also has the ability to suck enemies or items while in battle. Any enemy that he sucks turns into an enemy for Mario and Luigi while traveling inside of Bowser, creating dynamic gameplay elements where all three characters get to participate in the same battle. All three characters can use special attacks, though they are earned in different manners. Mario and Luigi earn new special attacks by collecting ten puzzle pieces. Bowser gains his abilities by rescuing his minions during his own adventure. These attacks cost SP but pack a powerful punch, useful during some of the heated boss battles.

As you gain levels you are awarded new ranks, such as the mushroom/flower etc. ranks with Mario and Luigi, and bronze, silver and gold ranks with Bowser. The higher the rank the more equipment you can use. Mario and Luigi can equip pants, shoes, socks and more, while Bowser can equip different shells and bracelets.

There are also other additions to the formula. When playing as Mario and Luigi, the player now has the ability to use badges in battle. During the adventure, players can earn the right to use badge actions. At the bottom of the screen there is a badge meter that fills up every time the plumbers successfully connect their attacks. Once it is full, the brothers can do a special action. Badges can be purchased, allowing the player to experiment with various effects and create battle strategies on the fly.

Bowser's side of the story introduces use of the DS's touch screen and microphone. At certain points, Bowser will gain the ability to grow huge, allowing him to attack gigantic monsters. When these battles happen, the player turns the DS on its side and uses the touch screen to throw a punch. To use the fire breath attack, the player must blow into the microphone. It's a gimmicky way of enhancing the battles, but it's very fun and doesn't happen often.

Since the story takes place both inside and outside of Bowser, there are two levels of exploration. Mario and Luigi's adventure takes place inside of Bowser's body. There, they explore the innards in search of their Mushroom Kingdom allies, battle enemies, and solve puzzles. Bowser explores the Mushroom Kingdom as he attempts to defeat Fawful while accomplishing his own agenda. What's really neat is that all three characters can interact with each other in order to unlock new areas and defeat enemies. For example, when Bowser drinks water, it turns his body into a swimming level for Mario and Luigi to explore. This kind of interaction allows passages to open or be blocked, depending on the situation.

Mario and Luigi can even enhance Bowser during key moments in the story, such as stimulating his muscles by participating in a rhythm mini-game, and giving him an adrenaline rush by shooting at different colored dots. It's this level of ingenuity that makes the game such a blast to enjoy, never creating a dull moment in a game that was already captivating to begin with.

Finally, both the plumbers and Bowser can learn new abilities to use while exploring their respective worlds. For example, Mario and Luigi can learn a drill attack than can be used to discover things buried in the ground, and Bowser can learn to do a button stomp and hit big switches.

The world of Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is one filled with so many surprises, this review can't name them all. Never have I seen such a game that uses everything to its strength, from the use of the DS's technology to mini-games that tie everything up in a great package. Gameplay is lengthy and balanced, clocking in at around 15 to 20 hours, more if the player decides to truly discover everything the game has to offer. The title is also challenging without being impossible; every enemy can be defeated if you study its attack patterns. It makes the game very inviting for RPG fans as well as Mario fans.

The game's only flaws, which can be minor, is that some elements feel a tad too gimmicky, such as the use of the touch screen and the microphone. It can also get tedious switching between characters during some of the puzzles and exploration-heavy elements of the story. But in the end, these flaws can be forgiven thanks to the level of polish presented in Bowser's Inside Story.

A lot of attention has also been given to the visual and sound departments. Simply put, the game is a visual wonder thanks to its bright and inventive use of colors and detailed character sprites. They are large and very expressive, with some great character design at work. The only issue is that some sprites are overblown to the point of becoming pixilated. The soundtrack uses classic Mario themes well, along with some original compositions that feel right in Mario's world. And even if used in limited quantities, the voice acting is fantastic thanks to lively interpretations of Mario and Luigi by the great Charles Martinet.

Fans who loved the first two games shouldn't hesitate in picking up Bowser's Inside Story. It features everything that makes the series enjoyable and adds onto it everything but the kitchen sink. Despite a few minor flaws, it's a game that features an ingenious game design synonymous with Nintendo games and is easily one of the best DS games of the year.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 9 8.5 9 9 9
Graphics
9

Bowser's Inside Story is easily one of the best 2D games on the handheld, thanks to its amazing use of color, animation and detail. The character sprites animate in a fluid manner and help develop the already enjoyable story.

Sound
9

The soundtrack borrows many of the classic Mario themes, creating songs that honor the entire franchise while creating new tracks that fit the game very well. Charles Martinet's vocal performance is also a big winner.

Control
8.5

Controlling multiple characters feels right, thanks to clever button placement, making the experience feels smooth and tied together neatly. The touch screen controls also work well but feel gimmicky.

Gameplay
9

The game features the same battle engine as past titles but adds many elements that keep it fresh and inventive. The exploration segments feature very creative use of three characters to advance the story further. Finally, it has a nearly perfect balance of challenge and accessibility, allowing fans and non-fans of the RPG genre to jump in and have fun.

Lastability
9

The quest alone will last around 15 to 20 hours. There are many things to discover and unearth throughout the adventure, and it will take a while to see it all. This will be a title that will stay in your DS for a while.

Final
9

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story features everything you could ask for in a game. With a fun story highlighted by great dialogue, fun and accessible gameplay, and plenty of surprises to discover, it's a title that will be around for a while, a trait seen in some of the best games around.

Summary

Pros
  • Great story and dialogue
  • Great use of its characters
  • Inventive battle design
  • Lengthy and challenging
  • Lots of things to discover
Cons
  • Battles can get repetitive
  • Some elements feel gimmicky at times
  • Switching between characters can be tedious
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)September 26, 2009

That's another title that will contribute to my wallet being deserted this winter. The Paper Mario sub-series has always been my preference from the Mario RPG franchises, but it sounds like the bulk of Bowser's Inside Story is exploration and puzzle solving, which is what I love about them. The interactivity between the brothers and Bowser is a great mechanic, and I look forward to seeing more of that.

Brilliant review, by the way. Delivered the facts I wanted to know and in good detail as well.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterSeptember 26, 2009

Thank you very much! The truth is that if I decided to cover EVERYTHING about the game I would create an extremely long review. I just love how the game didn't spare anything during development. Every idea they had likely made it into the final game. Everything has its ideas and everything is tired together neatly and seamlessly without being overbearing. At the hands of an inexperienced developer the game would have been a mess.

I mean... there's even a Bowser mini game in which you use his minions attack... to massage a block woman...

Then there's the characters. The block guy is great... Monsieur Turtle Bits! XD

And Fawful...

I HAVE CHORTLES!!!!

Nice review.

For someone who hasn't played Partners in Time would you recommend skipping it and jumping right to this game?

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterSeptember 26, 2009

Quote from: Penguin_Of_Time

Nice review.

For someone who hasn't played Partners in Time would you recommend skipping it and jumping right to this game?

Well, the stories aren't connected, so it doesn't really matter. The game does a great job of explaining how the game works even if you already know how to play, and explains the new additions to the battle engine.

I would recommend playing Partners in Time, however, because I thought the story was amusing and very creative at times.

Ack, I didn't like Partners in Time. Parts of it felt very forced, and the story was awkward, including an "out of nowhere" final boss who doesn't have any real relevance to the story.

Yeah, Partners in Time wasn't as well thought out. Adding four characters was sort of a knee-jerk reaction to having two more buttons, and it didn't result in a better experience. I'd recommend skipping Partners in Time.

ThomasOSeptember 26, 2009

The only thing I didn't like about M&LBiS is that the locations in the Mushroom Kingdom felt watered-down. I did not particularly like exploring those areas; they felt too large, without a lot of special or interesting features placed in. It might be because I'm so used to PiT's overworld, where every location was distinct, so BiS's world felt too uniform and familar (the only town for goodness sake was Toad Town. BeanBean Kingdom had much more to see.) Plus just about every other enemy was Fawful-related, which got old after a while.

thatguySeptember 26, 2009

I'm barely into the game, but I've been having fun so far.  The only complaint I have is that it takes forever to teach you the game, and I keep accidentally clicking the "Tell me about it button."  Also, the dialogue so far has been so frequent that I've felt like there's been little chance to actually play the game!

But that's been it for my quirks, and I've only played enough to get characters up to about level four.  Actually, that's probably two hours worth of play, I'd guess.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterSeptember 26, 2009

Quote from: thatguy

I'm barely into the game, but I've been having fun so far.  The only complaint I have is that it takes forever to teach you the game, and I keep accidentally clicking the "Tell me about it button."  Also, the dialogue so far has been so frequent that I've felt like there's been little chance to actually play the game!

But that's been it for my quirks, and I've only played enough to get characters up to about level four.  Actually, that's probably two hours worth of play, I'd guess.

Actually, the first half of the game is indeed very chatty. But once the story is exposed there's a lot of gameplay and the story actually becomes engaging.

As for the Fawful related enemies, I don't how it could be a bother. Fawful HAS taken over the kingdom so its expected that his minions are out and about. Not to mention that since he is a vain little bastard it isn't surprising that his enemies look like him.

I may be the minority when it comes to Partners in Times. Yes, the gameplay wasn't fleshed out well, but I thought the story made up for it. It had some really great moments, lines and events. Like how you could alter the past to change Professor E.Gadd's memory, the scenes with Toadsworth the young and the CLASSIC scene at the star gate in which Luigi gets denied entrace XD .

AVSeptember 26, 2009

everyone else that reviewed the game has said ' best mario and Luigi game ever'.

do you agree with that ?? ??? ???

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterSeptember 26, 2009

Quote from: Mr.

everyone else that reviewed the game has said ' best mario and Luigi game ever'.

do you agree with that ?? ??? ???

It's definitely the best to date. There's an insane level of polish and the mechanic between the brothers and Bowser is fantastic.

Nothing beats Superstar Saga for me, but this game is pretty incredible.

DeguelloJeff Shirley, Staff AlumnusSeptember 27, 2009

Quote:

I may be the minority when it comes to Partners in Times. Yes, the gameplay wasn't fleshed out well, but I thought the story made up for it. It had some really great moments, lines and events. Like how you could alter the past to change Professor E.Gadd's memory, the scenes with Toadsworth the young and the CLASSIC scene at the star gate in which Luigi gets denied entrace XD .

No, I agree with you.  I found Partners in Time to be easier to control than the original, mainly because you didn't need to worry about who was in front all the time, which was a huge drag on the first game.  And superior in the battle mode because most of the special attacks are ones where they go until you fail, rather than only one in this new game.

But this new game is fantastical, and probably the best RPG of the generation, mainly due to gameplay infusion, which is something that still eludes RPG developers to this day.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterSeptember 27, 2009

Quote from: Halbred

Nothing beats Superstar Saga for me, but this game is pretty incredible.

Alas, I only rented Superstar Saga so I never got around to beating it :( .

Quote from: Deguello

Quote:

I may be the minority when it comes to Partners in Times. Yes, the gameplay wasn't fleshed out well, but I thought the story made up for it. It had some really great moments, lines and events. Like how you could alter the past to change Professor E.Gadd's memory, the scenes with Toadsworth the young and the CLASSIC scene at the star gate in which Luigi gets denied entrace XD .

No, I agree with you.  I found Partners in Time to be easier to control than the original, mainly because you didn't need to worry about who was in front all the time, which was a huge drag on the first game.  And superior in the battle mode because most of the special attacks are ones where they go until you fail, rather than only one in this new game.

But this new game is fantastical, and probably the best RPG of the generation, mainly due to gameplay infusion, which is something that still eludes RPG developers to this day.

Good to know I am not the only one who truly enjoyed Partners in Time. You could say that Partners has the potential of being the underrated entry in the series since I believe it has enough creativity to stand along side the other games.

And yes, Bowser's Inside Story is amazing in its RPG presentation. It's why I said its a perfect for both fans and non-fans of the RPG genre. It has more than enough stats and menus to please fans while it's simple and easy enough for non fans to dive in.

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Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!! Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer AlphaDream Corporation
Players1
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Release Sep 14, 2009
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!!
Release Feb 11, 2009
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Release Oct 09, 2009
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Release Oct 22, 2009
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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