Mushroom Kingdom is in peril! No, princess Peach hasn’t been kidnapped, who gave you that idea? A mysterious illness known as The Blorbs a plaguing the Toads of Mushroom Kingdom. With no known cure, all the important figures come together during a special meeting to figure out what to do. Bowser, being the childish and hotheaded king of Koopas that the is, crashes the meeting to kidnap the princess Peach in the pretense of having had the intention of joining the meeting. After a series of humorous events involving a magic mushroom, a few tutorials and lots and lots of fury, Bowser ends up swallowing the princess by mistake… and everyone in the room along with her, including Mario and Luigi.
This is where Bowser’s Inside Story begins.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is the third installment of the Mario & Luigi series. It was released in September 2009 for the Nintendo DS. The game follows Bowser as he tries to win back his castle and tries to stop Fawful from taking over the Mushroom Kingdom, because if anyone is ever going to rule the Kingdom, it’s going to be him. Unknowingly to Bowser, he’s assisted by Mario and Luigi who help regain his strength from inside of him.
That’s right. After Peach got her turn to save Mario and Luigi in Super Princess Peach, Bowser is taking the lead as a hero this time. Although the term anti-hero would describe his position in this game a lot better. Bowser is a hotheaded, dumb and arrogant creature and the game knows this. No matter what the situation is, he’ll always laugh evilly and attempt a one-liner (No carrot can defeat me!) before either failing hopelessly or needing the help of Mario and Luigi through mini-games. Also, he’s completely unaware of Mario and Luigi being inside of him. He knows he’s getting help, but is clueless as to who is helping him. He doesn’t really seem to care either, as long as the loyal minions inside of him keeps doing his bidding, he’s happy with it.
Bowser on the Outside.
Bowser’s parts of the game take place in the top screen of the DS and are in the usual style of the series. For those that aren’t familiar with the Mario & Luigi saga, it’s best described top-down view RPG in which you initiate battles by touching enemies. If you punch them or breath fire on them instead of just touching them, you’ll do extra damage in the first turn. During battles you’ll almost always have a chance of countering your opponents attacks, or at least dodging them with the X and Y buttons. Y let’s you hide in your shield, while X let’s you punch. During your own turns you’re allowed to do a powerful punch to a single enemy, breathe fire on all enemies or use a special touch-screen based attack with your minions.
A special attack that only appears every now and again is the vacuum ability. With some enemies you’ll steal items or apparel, which will temporarily increase your attack, defense or will heal you a moderate amount. In some cases this ability will have enemies running away crying in tears. The main use of this feature however, is that some of the smaller enemies can be swallowed whole, allowing Mario and Luigi to battle them inside of Bowser. This adds quite a bit to the variety of the gameplay, which is always a good thing.
Bowser on the Inside.
Mario and Luigi’s parts are played out on the lower screen and are side-scrolling platforming RPGs. Battles are initiated the exact same way as with Bowser, the only difference being that you control Mario and Luigi with the A and B buttons. A for Mario and B for Luigi. During the platforming sections this can get quite frustrating because there aren’t many instances in which you’d only want Mario or Luigi to jump and you’ll have to press both of their jump buttons individually for each and every jump. This isn’t a major issue, but there have been times that I had to walk back with either Mario or Luigi because I timed the jump incorrectly and one of the two fell off the platform.
On of the most interesting things in the game is how a lot of the areas in the game are affected by Bowser’s current state. For instance, one area gets flooded with water when Bowser is drinking, allowing you to swim up to platforms previously out of reach. While exploring this area, you’ll have to keep switching between the top and lower screen as you progress through Bowser’s gut in order to change the water level. There are more areas with special features like this and I found them to be quite entertaining.
Whenever Bowser needs help from Mario and Luigi, special minigames areas of his body start flashing. For instance, in order to put some extra power in his arms so he can pull an island closer, you’ll play a short rhythm game with red and green orbs that you have to hit with hammers. Several of these use the touch screen, but personally I found the button based ones to be the most enjoyable. Especially the emergency revival minigame presented in the form of a top down shooter, only reserved for situations in which Bowser is crushed by giant objects. Which happens surprisingly often. Once you complete this mini-game, Bowser comes back in giant form, ready to fight whatever giant monster/castle/robot is in front of him.
These giant boss battle scenes are a blast to play as well. Holding the DS vertically, you control Bowser’s punches with the touch screen and fire breath by blowing into the microphone. Every battle has their own different set-up. Some of them have hazards behind you and your opponents, or objects obstructing your path that need to be dealt with. The bosses themselves are quite varied as well, no two battles ever really feel the same. I was a bit worried it might get overused at some point, but I’m happy to see it only got used a limited amount of times to keep that feeling of it being a special occurrence.
The initial shock that Bowser displays when he suddenly shrinks back to his normal size is also priceless, although he does seem to get used to it near the end of the game.
Localization of Bowser
One of the game’s stronger points however, has got to be the dialogue. There have been times where I’ve literally sat and stared at the screen wondering where the localization team came up with half of this stuff. Almost every character
has their weird little moments, but most of the truly funny things
come from Bowser, Mid-Bus and Fawful.
From Mid-Bus’s habit of giving everything over the top names (Super Ultra Great Mega Trashy Monster Junker Bot!), Bowser’s cocky attitude towards every new challenge (Again, No carrot can defeat me!) or Fawful’s mockery of terrible video game translations (You have energy like an angry little battery with no friends!), all of it is comedy gold and highly entertaining. Also noteworthy are the save points within Bowser who did a very good job at making me feel unsure about myself, the Emoglobins.
One of my favorite little things I noticed with this game is how the Toads seem to build up shopping malls in an attempt at escapism whenever there’s a crisis. Heck, it’s the first thing they do when they’re inside of Bowser. Later on in the game there’s a massive shopping district built in the Mushroom Kingdom shortly after they found out Mario, Luigi and Peach were missing. The Toads aren’t the only group that tries to distract themselves from whatever terrible situation has befallen them either. Bowser’s extremely loyal minions show that they’ll be loyal to anyone who claims the throne to the castle, as long that person provides shows that are fun enough to watch. Bowser’s whole castle gets turned into a giant theater while he’s gone.
The Downside of Bowser
It is very rare for me to come across a game where I enjoyed the cutscenes as much as I have with this one, and it’s both it’s main strength and weakness. I haven’t watched a single cut-scene hoping it’d end soon so I could return to the action. Yet I’ve been stuck in many battles where I’d hope it’d end soon so I could get on with the rest of the game again.
The game’s biggest flaw is the repetitive nature of the battle system. Every area has only two different kinds of enemies, each with about 2 different attacks. After about 2 or 3 battles in a single area the battles there will stop being interesting. If you’re a bit like me, and go at the game from a completionist’s angle, this ends up getting frustrating after not too long. Which is a shame, because the game has a good combat system. It’s simplified compared to the previous installment, Partners in Time, but with how needlessly complicated the button combinations got with special attacks in that game, I’d say it’s an improvement. The only way around this problem is to play this game in short bursts, which is quite hard to do with a game as engaging and fun as this.
Another possible problem that some people might have with this game is it’s length. I took my time with it, and still managed to get to the end within 22 hours. For a lot of the major RPG fans, this will seem way too short. Considering the game’s style and pacing however, personally I think it’s a good length for it.
Bottom line: Despite being quite repetitive and short, Bowser’s Inside Story is the strongest entry in the Mario and Luigi series to date. If you like RPGs or Mario, chances are you’ll love this.