Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Mario & Luigi's: Bowser Inside Story Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Intestinally awesome action RPG
Score 8  Clock score of 8
Buy from Amazon

If there's a series I lost track of over the years it's Mario RPG, which is really now made up of two series.  After the original Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the SNES, Nintendo split up their new Square-spawned role-playing series between their consoles and portables. The curious Paper Mario started off on the Nintendo 64 and the even curiouser Mario & Luigi kicked off with Superstar Saga on the Game Boy Advance.

While I had loved the original Super Mario RPG, I had a bit more trouble getting into Paper Mario. I played through most of the game, but after watching my cousin beat it from start to finish over a long weekend, I packed it away for good.  And for whatever reason, I never played any games from the Mario & Luigi series... until now.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story was getting great reviews so I added it to my Christmas list on a whim.  I received it, surprisingly, and added it to my portable gaming queue, and after forcing myself to finally beat Zelda: Spirit Tracks and read through the long Miles Edgeworth game, I finally landed on Bowser's Inside Story.  Why the heck did I wait so long?

Check out our first hour review of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story too!

What I loved: Combat is incredibly interactive.  It's great seeing the roots of the original still alive with doing extra damage by pressing the button at the right time, but it's amazing to see how much it's evolved after 13 years!  Getting into every battle was a joy and a brand new challenge.  Every enemy means new ways to take them down and new attacks to learn the timing to dodge.  At the beginning of the game, you're just jumping on Goomba heads and easily dodging their attacks; I actually thought to myself, "ha, I bet I can beat this game without getting hit once!"

Well, I had a lot to learn.  The game isn't very easy for long though (which isn't to say it gets hard... more on that below), and while it always carefully teaches you every new tactic, you're definitely expected to step up and pay attention.  Some of the attacks you're expected to doge seem totally absurd at first, but after a few battles they seem like old hat and you're barely take any damage for a while.  It's a very empowering game to play as you're constantly challenged. Each attack hints at which brother it will target among other things, so you're always on your toes.

Mario Luigi Bowsers Inside Story GiganticI usually rip on the story of Mario games, as I think Nintendo just tries way too hard most of the time, but being a JRPG, it's something you really have to pay attention to when planning to review a game.  I honestly really enjoyed the plot, it's a fun romp across version 34532 of the Mushroom Kingdom but the main feature is the disgusting romp through Bowser's insides.  Okay, it's really not disgusting at all, this is Nintendo we're talking about, but you do hit every major area and organ of the King of Koopas and poke at a lot of squishy parts.

Probably the best part about Bowser's bowels is that each area inside there is a distinct location connected to a specific body part, so you're rarely just wandering around in there heading from Point A to Point B, it's all about supporting the Big Bad on the outside.  This symbiotic relationship works great, but you don't even notice how well it works until the second third of the game where Bowser isn't even playable!  All of a sudden, Mario and Luigi were the game's focus and I became kind of bored. But when the duo are performing specific tasks inside Bowser to affect the outside world, it all comes together beautifully.

What I didn't like: For better or worse, the game never really gets difficult.  Yeah, learning how to deal with some of the attacks later in the game can be a bit tough, but I got a hang of it quickly.  I know the game is directed for a wide range of ages and abilities, but I only died once, and that was against the final boss when he tossed a gigantic series of attacks against me that I totally miffed on.

Both Mario & Luigi and Bowser can learn a set of special attacks that all involve the stylus (basically the only time the stylus is used in the game except for some cool sequences where Bowser grows big and dukes it out like a fighting game).  The problem is, there's not much reward for using them until near the end.  If you miss some QTE cue early in the special attack, you'll actually do less damage than if you had just jumped on them.  Plus they take a decently long time to execute, not Knights of the Round snooze length, but a couple of battle rounds could have gone by and I would have just taken a bit more damage (if any) going the regular route.  At least they're interactive.  I did use Mario and Luigi's final special attack though because it did a ton of damage in one hit.

The game's pacing in the last quarter or so really dragged on, in my opinion.  I felt everything was going great and then I enter what the game indicated would be the final area, and I was there for four more hours!  For a 22 hour game, this is a significant amount of time I thought I was a battle or two within finishing.  Maybe I just mis-interpreted some kind of sign the game had given me, but I kept thinking, "when his this game going to end already?"

Mario Luigi Bowsers Inside Story Fiery BreathScores

Gameplay: 9
The best battle system in a JRPG I've played in a long time, just wish the wide array of special moves felt more useful to me.

Fun Factor: 8
Not often does "funny" play into my Fun Factor score, but this is a genuinely hilarious game.  Bowser absolutely makes it with his antics and very well-written dialogue.  Battles are also very fun, but like I said, it felt like the game dragged on at the end.

Graphics and Sound: 8
Bowser's Inside Story plays some cool tricks where when you're inside Bowser's body, it's strictly a 2D platformer, but anywhere else it's a typical overhead RPG.  The game looks great both ways and features a great selection of music and sound effects.  Mario and Luigi's voices are pretty annoying though during the "cutscenes".

Story: 7
A surprisingly fun tale that covers a lot of ground both inside and outside of Bowser, but they end up resorting to a lot of backtracking, and yeah, it's still about rescuing Princess Peach.

Overall: 8
A must-have game for portable RPG fans, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is a great game that had me smiling for most of its 22 hour length.