Dare to dream BIG

The Mario & Luigi series has reached its fourth game. After Superstar Saga released back in 2003 on GBA, it was followed by the not-as-good-but-still-decent Partners in Time and the amazing Bowser’s Inside Story on DS. Now the handheld saga makes its debut on 3DS with Dream Team Bros. (Dream Team in USA) and it’s more of the same — which isn\’t a bad thing. If you’re new to the series, however, what you can expect from Mario and Luigi is an expansive RPG that lets you explore to your heart’s content with puzzles aplenty. Fans will be pleased to hear that it’s just as funny and humorous as previous games — you can\’t help but laugh when one character says they need to sleep all the time to stay moisturised

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Similar to Mario Sunshine, this game takes place on an island too, but here it’s called Pi’illo Island. This isn\’t just some wacky name that has been picked from a hat, there is a perfectly good reason why it’s called this, which we will come to soon. The Mario brothers and company are invited to a resort on Pi’illo Island which once was home to Pi’illo folk, but now it’s occupied by a whole load of inhabitants including block people, Beanish (returning from Superstar Saga) and even Yoshis. After 20 minutes or so, Princess Peach is being kidnapped again (shock!) by an evil bat king called King Antasma – which I think may be a new record – and taken to a dream world.

Of course it’s up to the plumbers to save the Princess, but to do that, they will need to enter the dream world and free the ancient Pi’illo people which got trapped inside things called crystalline nightmare chunks. This isn\’t any old dream world, though — this is Luigi’s dream world. You see, it is when Luigi falls asleep on special pillows (this is where the name Pi’illo comes from) that special warp points open up for Mario to jump into and enter these dream worlds.

First, however, is the real world, and if you have played any of the other games in the series you can imagine how this world plays like. Mario and Luigi both move around the surprisingly large overworld with the circle pad and each brother has a separate jump button assigned to them: Mario jumps with A and Luigi jumps with B. When you encounter an enemy one of three things can happen. The first is when you just walk into an enemy and the battle starts as normal; second is when you jump on an enemy to start a battle, which will cause damage at the beginning of a battle, which can make battles much shorter and easier; the last thing that can happen is when the enemy attacks you in the overworld, causing you to be vulnerable for the first turn in the battle.

Once a battle starts you have a range of choices (not all are available from the start) such as stomping on enemies\’ heads, hammer attacks, using items, and using bro attacks. At first this sounds like a typical RPG turn based battle system, but this series has a difference — things such as stomping can be timed to deal more damage and enemy attacks can be dodged or even countered in some cases. All enemies attack either Mario or Luigi; it is rare that they attack both at the same time, so they all have a giveaway sign of which brother they are about to attack — the first enemy you encounter in the game looks at who they are attacking before they strike, while other enemies may be coloured green or red before changing colours so you have to remember which in order to dodge successfully. It’s good practice to learn each enemy’s attack patterns.

Veterans of Mario & Luigi games will know that the gimmick of Partners in Time was the babies and time travel, and in Bowser’s inside story it was entering Bowser. In this game the gimmick is the dream world, which is where things get a bit crazy; Luigi doesn\’t think of himself as the coward we all know and love him for, but instead is an ultimate Luigi. As the game calls him, ‘Dreamy Luigi’ is the Luigi he wants to be. During battles when Mario stomps on an enemy a whole array of Luigis follow him to do the same. Hammer attacks launch five Luigis into the air and crash down to hit a large portion of enemies. Bro attacks get renamed to ‘Luiginary attacks’ and they are pretty ridiculous — the first you’ll learn is one in which Mario jumps on a ball of Luigis and, using the gyroscope to roll over Luigis on the floor to make the ball even bigger, the damage becomes greater. Certain boss battles appear in the dream world and they are basically this game’s version of the giant Bowser battles in Bowser’s Inside Story. You turn the 3DS on its side and with the stylus take control of a larger-than-life Luigi, who can use standard attacks such as stomp and hammer, but the hammer may also knock the enemy into the background, causing some neat effects such as mountains tumbling over.

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Outside of the battles in the dream world, the game almost turns into a 2D Platformer like the inside Bowser sections from the last game. Dreamy Luigi helps out immensely here, being able to interact with certain objects in the background, and then you are able to make Starlow play around with the face of the real Luigi, the one that’s sleeping in the real world in order to cause things to happen in the dream world, such as moving sleeping Luigi’s nose, which will make him sneeze causing some objects in the dream world to flip, leading to different paths. Luigi can even possess a tree, turning his mustache into a set of hands to fling Mario into the air. Abusing Luigi has never been as fun and rewarding!

Fans of this series who have witnessed the lack of a leveling up system in Paper Mario Sticker Star will be happy to know that the same thing has not happened here, the levelling up system from the other games have returned and it works in exactly the same way, enemies give experience and once you get enough you level up, as you would expect. Once you level up 10 levels, each plumbers rank will change, it starts off as mushroom rank and can go up 4 extra ranks, each time it goes up you get a rank up bonus which lets you choose from things such as an extra badge slot or levelling up faster.

Now it all sounds good so far, but the game does have its share of problems too: the main problem is at the beginning of the game, where the game allows you to skip tutorials such as basic attacking, but after a while forces them on to you, and you can do nothing about it, and it really kills the flow of the game and takes you out of the experience. One such example is when you find the digger/bulldozer: the tutorial to explain it goes on forever, when all it really needed was a ten second explanation of the controls; instead it takes you through four whole screens. Another problem I had was the gyro controls, which feel like they were tacked on just because they are there; it was an unsatisfying way to end a giant Luigi battle with gyro-controlled bro/Luiginary attacks that weren\’t as fun to use as the regular button controlled ones were.  Another problem is that, since you’re almost always controlling both Mario and Luigi, platforming sections can get frustrating, especially as each character has his own jump button.

Conclusion

Overall I would highly recommend Mario and Luigi Dream Team Bros. to anybody that has a 3DS, as it is another solid title for an increasingly great handheld. While it doesn\’t quite live up to the last game and it does have some problems (such as a silly saving mechanic, really long and unnecessary tutorials, and some troublesome platforming sections), the rest of the package easily covers up for these shortcomings. It looks really nice and the animations are brilliant. It’s a lengthy game, coming in at around the 30-40 hour mark, if you add in all the different badges, apparel, being able to get new boots, new hammers with different abilities, and all the in game achievements you can unlock; Nintendo has another winner on their hands, and if you want a game that will keep you busy for hours and hours then this is that game, as it really gives you value for money. The 3DS’ amazing first-party run just keeps continuing: this year we already have had games such as Luigi’s Mansion, Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem; this is just another game to add to that list. It’s a brilliant time to be a 3DS owner.

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