While it’s no secret that Mario is probably the most milked franchise character in all of gaming, it’s also no secret that the games featuring the heroic plumber are also among the most diverse–so diverse that Nintendo’s development teams have two separate series for Mario role-playing games, Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star didn’t fare so well this year thanks to a battle system that basically broke all the rules with the series. Mario & Luigi also makes some changes with Dream Team, but unlike Sticker Star, these new features actually enhance the game, not bring it down.
What Is It?
For those unfamiliar with the series, Mario & Luigi is an RPG that gives players control of both Mario brothers simultaneously. While the game isn’t a platformer, in vain with the flagship Mario games, it does feature some platforming inspirations from the mascot’s history.
Exploration in the game is standard, and you’ll be using abilities such as jumping, hammering, and special “Bros.” abilities that allow you to progress through formerly unreachable places. The game’s battle system is also rather unique in that the A button controls all of Mario’s movements as the B button controls all of Luigi’s movements.
We’d go into more detail, but honestly, the game does a good job of explaining every nuance of gameplay to begin with. In fact, sometimes the in-game tutorials are too good, and they sort of hinder the pacing of the experience.
The premise in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team starts off with what you’d expect from a Mario title. Once again Princess Peach gets kidnapped, and the Marios have to save her. This time around, though, saving the princess is done in about an hour or two, and the game really opens up . Heck, Luigi even takes a more valid role than just Mario’s brother.
This is mostly due to 2013 being Nintendo’s “Year of Luigi.” This year we saw the superb releases of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Super Luigi U, and while Luigi doesn’t necessarily take front and center in Dream Team, his presence is much bigger than usual games.
Why Should I Care?
The game takes place on the historical Pi’illo Island, which unfortunately has lost its former inhabitants and became a tourist trap, where Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toadsworth decide to go on vacation. Upon checking out an amusement ride, it malfunctions and sends Peach into the depths of the chambers unexplored by Pi’illo residents. When Mario and Luigi check it out, not only do they find Peach, but they find a mysterious stone (which is actually a pillow) that ends up being the long lost prince of the Pi’illo Kingdom.
Everyone later finds that when Luigi uses one of the Pi’illo pillows to get to sleep, his mind opens up allowing Mario to explore the Dream World through Luigi. In this sidescrolling 2D world (similar to the inside of Bowser’s body in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story), Luigi, for lack of a better term, is just awesome. He’s supposedly taller and better-looking, but in this world he’s also all-powerful and can manipulate the environments.
To go along with the special Bros. moves such as the hammering that Mario and Luigi can perform in the real world–in the Dream World, Luigi has “Luiginary” abilities that allow for more puzzle-solving action. Luiginary abilities include using his mustache to throw Mario up to higher depths, sneezing to move platforms and other objects from the back of the screen to front of the screen, multiplying and becoming one huge pillar platform for Mario to stand on, and a whole bunch of other things including time turning.
The coolest Luiginary ability comes in boss battles, where he can grow into a giant and the typical battle system changes, forcing players to hold their 3DS sideways in order to play the game correctly. From there all controls are touch screen-based, and it all really puts Luigi front and center in all the action.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Aside from that, the biggest changes made were in the battle system. While it features the same two-button gameplay that made the previous Mario & Luigi games more active than others, now some abilities open up to allow players to do more with their turns, especially defensively. At times, players will be able to move Mario or Luigi around the screen in an attempt to dodge attacks. It doesn’t seem like much, but it adds a lot more depth to the battle system and no longer makes it feel like two-button gameplay.
The game also featured a much-improved badge system that rewards player’s curiosity of mixing and matching badge abilities. Some of these simply make Mario and Luigi stronger, while others will make them even harder to get hurt by enemies.
However way you look at it, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is another superb entry in a series that really has no bad games. It maintains the humor from the rest, continues to enhance its already deep gameplay, and offers a main story long and interesting enough to keep players intrigued from start to finish. The game is simply as great as it looks, sounds, and feels, and it shouldn’t be a disappointment to any fan of the series.