REVIEWS -- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story -- DS
Bowser’s Inside Story immunizes the DS library
by Pramath Parijat
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy
Nintendo proves its mastery over the commodity called “fun” yet again by representing perfection that most other games have yet to achieve.
If there’s one thing that Nintendo has always been known for, it’s for making fun games. From their (now rather obscure) arcade beginnings with Donkey Kong to Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, their breakthrough titles on the NES to Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, their seamless and world changing transitions to 3D gaming, fun has always been a constant and a staple. This fact is perhaps best exemplified by Mario, the company’s quintessential mascot, who, apart from having starred in over a hundred games spread over nearly all genres, has also ensured that a game shall always be fun.
It does, however, become rather strange to imagine Mario starring in an RPG. I mean, copying and pasting Mario sprites in sports games is all well and good, and it has been done before, numerous times. But how can the series’ mythos and quirky characters, not to mention its trademark gameplay elements that have come to define an entire genre, translate to an RPG, a genre which is typically known for narrative based progression, limited gameplay and immense character development?
Fortunately, Nintendo has always been at the forefront in providing us with a satisfying Mario RPG experience, first with Super Mario RPG on the SNES, then with the Paper Mario RPG series that finds its roots in the N64, and now, finally, to the Mario and Luigi RPG series, which began with a rather remarkable bang on the GBA, and has since evolved into a sub franchise of its own.
Another benchmark for Nintendo
The developers, AlphaDream, have their hands full this time -- not only do they have to prove that the series is still relevant after a many year long hiatus, but they also have to redeem themselves in the eyes of those who were disappointed by Partners in Time, the previous instalment in the series. Oh, and before I forget, this is also the game that has been bestowed the responsibility of reinventing the series’ standard formula, while not straying from it too much; this game marks the first time that uberarch villain, Bowser, has been handed the reins in his very own adventure. And for all the naysayers and detractors, Bowser’s Inside Story is yet another chance for the folks at Nintendo to prove that they still know how to make a darn good hardcore game.
Naturally, a game laden with so many expectations has to disappoint at some point. Nor is it reasonable or fair to expect that the game shall be universally loved. But Bowser’s Inside Story, in typical Mario fashion, bucks the trend, and emerges triumphant in its quest to satiate all the above stated demands, and more. With Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, developers AlphaDream have crafted a game the likes of which will not be replicated for years to come. Indeed, when this generation is being wrapped up, this game will be regarded as a landmark title, a milestone on par with console biggies such as Metal Gear Solid 4 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
The game’s narrative begins with an outbreak of a disease called the “blorbs,” which causes those infected to swell up to unmanageable proportion. Mario and Luigi are naturally called upon to investigate, but before they can do much, Bowser breaks in with the intent of causing his usual mayhem. He accidentally ends up swallowing a cursed mushroom that causes him to start inhaling uncontrollably, with the result that Mario, Luigi, Peach and the gang soon find themselves inside his enlarged body. Taking advantage of all the confusion, series villain Fawful takes over.
If all that sounds absurd and ridiculous, that’s because it is. It’s supposed to be as nonsensical as they come, and yet, at the same time, the story is there to set the stage for the gameplay, and it does a pretty good job at setting the tone of things to come.
Every Bowser has his day
So Bowser sets out to regain control of his empire... and all the while inside him, Mario and Luigi work to get out of King Koopa’s bowels. What Mario and Luigi do on the inside almost always influences Bowser’s actions outside, and vice versa. So if, in the distance, Mario and Luigi see a platform that is too high to reach, then players must assume control of Bowser, have him drink water, which will flood his insides and enable the Mario brothers to swim up to the previously inaccessible platform. It’s bizarre, it’s hilarious, it’s surreal, and it all comes together in more ways than one.
Take, for instance, the way the levels are planned -- Bowser stomps around in a more RPG-esque overworld, while Mario and Luigi have been consigned to the more traditional Mario setting of side-scrolling arenas which warrant some measure of platforming. However, Mario and Luigi are meant to eventually find their way out of Bowser’s body, so the Overworld has been designed such that the Mario bros. will not be out of place.
However, for probably the first time ever in the series’ history, Mario and Luigi feel almost sidelined -- this is, as the title implies, Bowser’s adventure, and King Koopa seems delighted at finally having been given his due. His portions account for more than half of the long adventure, and they are undoubtedly the more fun.
Fun with your DS... literally
Nowhere is this more evident than during Bowser’s boss fights -- these see Bowser grow to gargantuan sizes, fighting equally huge enemies. The screens shift to a horizontal orientation during these battles, so that you’ll be holding the system like a book. The two screens are treated as one, eponymous display, both of them spanning the action from the same camera angle (which changes frequently via numerous rather elegant close ups and zoom outs), and control shifts over entirely to the touch screen -- Bowser executes his attacks via simple touch screen commands. The portions represent the zenith of the fun that the game has to offer, and the best part is, there’s loads of them scattered in generous helpings throughout the twenty odd hour adventure.
The whimsical nature of the gameplay and the story is represented equally well in the game’s graphics and sound department; we have gorgeous looking environments with fluid animations, and the usual Mario fare when it comes to the soundtrack, accompanied by all the standard whelps and grunts and exclamations. It certainly lends even more of an atmosphere to the game, and the experience becomes all the more involving and fun for that.
However, all of this takes a backseat when one considers the sheer ingenuity that is the script of the game. The main narrative is, as I have already said, absurd at best, but it is all complemented with the most hilarious of situations and dialogues reeking of subtle sophistication and eloquent humor.
So there you have it, then -- Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, is a prime example of incredible fan service tied in neatly with great accessibility. Whether it be the fact that you can skip all the tutorials for moves that we have already learnt and performed countless times in the previous two instalments, or the generous helpings of the subtle nods to the series’ several trademarks over the course of the game, to the fact that the game almost literally parodies heavy duty RPG’s who take themselves too seriously, the point is that Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, represents the perfection that most other games have yet to achieve. It blends conventions with progress, fan service with accessibility, RPG’s with platformers, and it does so in a manner that isn’t likely to be forgotten any time soon.
And Nintendo has proven its mastery over the commodity called “fun” yet again. With titles like Mario Kart DS and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and now Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story it appears that the DS shall soon boast of the most robust library as far as having simple fun is concerned.
Developer: AlphaDream / Nintendo
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: September 14, 2009
Review Date: 17-10-2009
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
Delightfully whimsical, and incredibly detailed, featuring comical animations, Bowser’s Inside Story comes off as one of the better looking titles on the system this year.
The classic Mario and Luigi gameplay returns, but now it’s better than ever. Featuring manic action spread over two screens, as well as Bowser’s incredible boss fights, the game sure is as fun as anything we’ve had on the system.
It’s as well made as any Nintendo title, and that means it lives up to an incredibly high standard of quality.
Featuring the same quirky and memorable soundtrack that all Mario games have come to be known for, the soundtrack of this game in particular lends it with an essential layer of personality.
It’s dozens of hours long, and you’ll surely want to play through it again. Bowser’s Inside Story is worth every penny you spent.