If you’re old enough, you probably remember one of the greatest role playing games of all time, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Developed by Squaresoft (now Square Enix), it combined the best of turn-based RPGs with the best of Mario to create a unique, undeniably fantastic experience. Unfortunately, Nintendo has attempted to recreate the experience multiple times without the help of Square Enix.
Flash forward 13 years later, where Mario and Nintendo have tried their hand numerous times in the role playing genre, unable to completely recapture the magic of their Super Nintendo predecessor. However, major strides were made in classic Mario RPG ways, culminating with Nintendo’s most recent and simply quite amazing endeavor, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story.
While the previous role playing games featuring Mario carried on the legacy of SMRPG, there has always been a missing feeling. Nintendo has delivered successors to its acclaimed SNES title, and they have been superb games, but they didn’t quite catch the awe and splendor. Enter Bowser’s Inside Story (BSI) uniquely fuses intense, creative platforming with intuitive turn based combat to create an innovative gem that just feels right. The story’s original and entertaining, combat is fast, exciting and refreshing, and above all, it still remains a classic Mario game at heart, with all the quirks that we as fans have come to love.
Bowser’s Inside Story begins just as every other Mario game does: Bowser comes to kidnap the princess and the inevitable fight between plumber and spiky-turtle ensues. Mario makes quick work of his nemesis, but all is not right within the Mushroom Kingdom. A mysterious “plague” has befallen the kingdom’s citizens, making them blow up to preposterous proportions incapable of moving. The blorgs, as they’re aptly named, have been infected by the series’ old timer and main antagonist, Lord Fawful. You’ll soon know why you shouldn’t drop infants on their head.
After Bowser’s expected bashing, Fawful fools the Koopa King into eating a tainted mushroom, causing everything around him to be sucked into his vacuum-producing mouth. In brainwashed frenzy, Bowser enters Peach’s castle and inhales all of its inhabitants, including Mario and Luigi, as well as the supportive and wise-cracking Starlow. Fawful plans to secure an ancient dark artifact only obtainable with Peach’s powers, leading Bowser to play the reluctant hero in hopes to one day kidnap the Princess for his own intentions once and for all.
Being “Bowser’s Inside Story,” you’ll progress through the story in two ways: guiding Mario and Luigi through the innards of Nintendo’s famous villain and by taking control of the notorious turtle-monster himself. You’ll control Mario and Luigi or Bowser both on a platforming overworld and on the classic turn based RPG battle screen. The overworld resembles a classic Mario game that allows for 3-D movement, while Bowser’s insides are 2-D and are miniature worlds themselves.
Depending on who you’re playing as, different kinds of puzzles and obstacles will be blocking your way. Much of the Mario Brothers’ parts revolve around jumping and droppin’ the hammer, while Bowser’s are ones that require a lot of fire-breathing and brute force. This has always been an interesting and fun feature to the Mario and Luigi series; it keeps time between battles exciting and definitely does not fall to the grind-a-thon monotony that can plague a console role playing game.
Though you can’t control all three characters together, you can seamlessly change between the plumbing heroes and the Koopa King. A and B will always control the brothers, while X and Y control Bowser’s actions. They’re also integral in each other’s progression through the game. Mario and Luigi can tweak with parts of Bowser’s body to bring bouts of strength and abilities once unknown to the Koopa King, which are all accompanied by simple, yet widely addicting mini-games. Similarly, Bowser can ingest water or ice that will alter his crevices and organs heavily, which allows Mario and Luigi further exploration through his innards.
Combat also mimics this sense of altruism in a majority of random battles and almost all of the boss fights, as Bowser can suck in select enemies through his mouth-vacuum, so that Mario and Luigi can join in on the beat-down. Battles in the Mushroom Kingdom are much like its predecessors. Every single attack, whether normal or special, must be timed correctly to maximize damage.
For example, one of Mario and Luigi’s later special attacks involves whacking falling meteors at the enemy by positioning the brothers and timing your hammer strikes just right. It puts a familiar, yet different spin on the traditional turn based action. You’ll have to stay on your toes throughout all fights, rather than simply sitting back and the action button repeatedly while some flashy attacks occur. It give you more control and takes some skill; something that has been lacking in console RPGs lately.
Though many role playing games on the DS have tried their hand at full 3D graphics, Nintendo went a different direction and did fabulous work with Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Insider Story’s visuals. They’re dynamic, crisp, and hold a nostalgic feel that’s tough to come by in a generation dominated by visuals. The solid graphics enhance the game throughout the adventure, specifically with the genuinely funny script and actions of our mustached and reluctant, spiky heroes.
While it dances on a fine line of over-the-top corniness, you’ll find yourself chuckling through a great deal of the game. For instance, when the brothers converse, they speak in a very quick, jumbled Italian language that sounds bother ridiculous and coherent at the same time. Many of the special attacks also lend a hand to the game’s comedic endeavor. For example, Bower’s goombas launch in the air set ablaze, Luigi will eat an obscene amount of baked goods to become Marlon Brando, etc.
The story will roughly take a hefty 30 hours to complete, but it’s not the only thing to be down around the Mushroom Kingdom. One of the most fun and intuitive aspects of Bowser’s Inside Story are the array of activities to do while you’re on your quest to stop Lord Fawful. While most of the main story features a great deal of mini-games, you’ll also find messages to be given, puzzles (real puzzles, that is) to solve, and look for hidden items and block kitties.
And of course, you can always spend your time grinding out those last couple of levels you want for Mario, Luigi and Bowser, though it isn’t necessary unless you want to reach the “Secret Rank.” When you reach a certain level, a new rank will unlock, revealing better items and equipment. However, beyond this “Secret Rank” and quickly finished subquests, there’s no real reason to return to Bowser’s Inside Story.
Replay value may be down, and Lord Fawful sounds like he’s been beaten over the head with a sledgehammer one too many times, yet Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is the best RPG Mario has seen since his Super Nintendo days. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any problem throughout the adventure, and it is definitely a must buy for anyone with a Nintendo DS.
Superb visuals, a funny script and a terrific story come together to create one of the DS' best.
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There is never a dull moment in Bowser's Inside story, as the platforming is fun and creative, and the battles are just a blast.
Even with inferior speakers, Bowser's roars and Mario and Luigi's jumbled Italian voice overs are top-notch.
While there are some subquests and mini-games to try your hand, once you finish the story, there's not much else to do.
Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is a truly remarkable experience, and should not be passed up by anyone who's interested in Mario, RPGs, or the Nintendo DS in general.