Dev: Alpha Dream
I know, I know, I have been sitting on this game for awhile now. When I finally do get around to playing RPGs I prefer to take me sweet ass time and enjoy them wholeheartedly. Nintendo & Alpha Dream once again have delivered a fun little Mario & Luigi RPG game on the DS that delivers solid & familiar gameplay with a truly humorous story. Where this game mixes it up a bit is that you're going to be spending most of your time playing as big bad Bowser, as well as inside him.
Yes it sounds strange, but it's true. I'll give you a quick run down just to how the Mario Bro's and Bowser end up in this unique situation. Here we go! The Mushroom Kingdom is inflicted with a strange Toad bloating, incapacitating illness that renders the then called "Blorbs" unable to move from where they lay— and I must admit the Toads do look quite hilarious inflated to the approximate size of a house with their little arms and legs flailing about helplessly. It is then revealed that Lord Fawful, a returning evil menace from previous Mario & Luigi games, is responsible and wants Princess Peach to hand over the entire Mushroom Kingdom to him. The Princess and the Toads don't give in and Fawful moves on to his next phase of the take over–tricking Bowser into eating a magic mushroom. The mushroom's power causes Bowser to inhale most of the Mushroom Kingdom in a kirby-like dick move—including Princess Peach, Mario, and Luigi. From that point on your playing as Bowser trying to reclaim his castle back from Fawful and as the Mario Bro's trying to figure a way out of Bowser's body and save the obese Mushroom Kingdom. The kicker is that the whole time Bowser has no idea his life long rivals, the Mario Bro's are inside him, jumping and hammering their way out.
The big gameplay difference here from all the other Mario & Luigi titles is that your going to be playing as Bowser on the DS top screen and playing as Mario & Luigi on the bottom screen. Of course your not going to be playing both screens and characters at the same time, but you will be switching back and forth between them. How this is done is that Bowser's attacks and special moves etc. are strictly delegated using the touchscreen and the X & Y buttons, while the Mario Bro's are assigned B & A buttons. While playing you can press those buttons and the game will switch to the correct screen accordingly. Sometimes the story and events in the game will determine who your going to be using at a particular time. In the end it all works out. I must give credit to the writers and developers of the game for coming up with such a creative concept. The gameplay and the events that occur in the game coincide on a regular basis. For example Bowser finds himself in a vegetable garden in the Mushroom Kingdom forest with a humongous carrot and a disgruntled Centipede. Long story short, Bowser is forced to eat the whole carrot as fast as he can. As this is happening the game switches to Mario & Luigi. They run to Bowser's stomach and help him digest the carrot by blowing up the pieces as they come falling down by using the touchscreen. I know it sounds crazy, and it just might be crazy, but trust me it's events like this spread throughout the game that keep the game fresh throughout the experience.
As Bowser your going to play the game more like a traditional RPG with an top view perspective, moving across the map exploring and looking for goodies. As the Mario Bro's your going to be playing the game as a 2D side scroller. The games time-based battles play as you would expect of a Mario RPG. Your going to have attacks, special moves and defensive moves based on well time button presses (In the case of Bowser you use the touch screen and buttons to preform moves). How well you preform attacks or defend them is going to determine if you live or die. You also get the opportunity as Bowser to inhale some enemies and in turn the Mario Bro's get a chance to partake in the battles as well. I personally have always preferred this style of of an RPG battle system ever since I played Super Mario RPG on the SNES back in the day. It makes each battle more entertaining and rewarding when you successfully pull off a special move. As you progress throughout the game you acquire more skills and special moves right up to the end of the game. So there is always something to look forward too. There is one special move in the game that doesn't work out so well and that is the Bowser Fire Breathing mechanic. Nintendo seems to have this strange desire to force users to blow air into their DS Microphones. It is not fun and it's a socially awkward behavior to perform in public. Maybe in Japan it's a-ok, but in the states your just acting like an idiot. Stop the abuse Nintendo.
I really can't say much more about the game other than it's really hard to explain in words just how funny and entertaining the game is. It was really a pleasure to play a game with a lighter side as compared to dark themes that permeate a lot of games today. It never failed to leave me in a good mood after I was done playing it. I must say that the game is too easy and a little short at around 20 hours. Your not going to have any troubles completing the game, which could be a turn off to some people looking for a meatier experience overall. For me it was worth the price and experience to just play through the game. Personally, I wish it was a little bit longer just so I could keep on plucking that chicken. In the end I still feel like this game isn't going to satisfy everyone even with the praise I've given it. I would recommend it as a must rent. You'll know within the first 30 minutes if this game is for you or not. Trust me, I think you'll like it.
Rating: Toast with Butter. You would be a fool if you own a DS and not this game.