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Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Nintendo DS) Review
Review by 
8.84/10 from 39 user ratings
Role-Playing Games (RPGs) featuring one or both of the Mario Bros. date back to 1996 with Squaresoft’s Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is their seventh RPG outing. All of Mario's RPGs are worth playing, but I consider the pinnacle of the series to be Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Game Boy Advance. Since this is the third Mario & Luigi game, Bowser’s Inside Story has a lot to live up to right away.

You can rest easy: this game is excellent. It starts out with an epidemic sweeping through the Mushroom Kingdom called “The Blorbs,” which makes many of Toad Town’s residents swell up to a round and enormous size, making them unable to move. A roundtable is called in Princess Peach’s castle to discuss the cause of The Blorbs and what can be done. Mario and Luigi show up, as does Starlow, a Star Sprite which was summoned by Princess Peach.

As the discussion about what to do ensues, Bowser, King of the Koopas, shows up. He is upset that he didn’t receive an invitation to the meeting, so he plans to kidnap Princess Peach to retaliate. Mario bests him in battle and boots him into the forest. From there, Bowser is tricked by Fawful, the accomplice to Cackletta in Superstar Saga, into eating a Lucky 'Shroom. Said 'Shroom is really a Vacuum 'Shroom, which causes him to literally inhale everything in sight in a blind rage. When Bowser returns to the Peach’s Castle, he promptly inhales Mario, Luigi, Starlow, Princess Peach, and every other Toad in the conference room. In the meantime, Fawful has taken over Bowser's Castle and has other plans for the Mushroom Kingdom. It's up to Bowser and the Mario Bros. to stop Fawful from accomplishing his plans of world domination.

From here, the player takes control of Bowser and the Mario Bros., though not at the same time. You can take control of Bowser by pressing X or Y, or you can take control of the Mario Bros. by pressing A or B. Bowser moves about the Mushroom Kingdom in three-fourths overhead view, and starts with the ability to punch rocks. Bowser will learn more abilities throughout the game, such as the ability to breathe fire and the ability to pound the ground.

Meanwhile, the Mario Bros. are stuck inside of Bowser moving in a 2-D side-scrolling field. Mario and Luigi can move throughout different sections of Bowser’s body via a menu that will allow them to quickly change areas. They start with only a few accessible areas inside of Bowser, but more open up as the game progresses. Even then, the Bros. cannot access some of those areas until certain conditions are met. There are times when Bowser has to wait for the Bros. to do something inside of his body in order for him to advance, and this is usually prompted by a conversation that Bowser has with Starlow. There will be points when the Bros. can venture outside of Bowser's body.

Enemies are visible from the field, which is nice if you don't like random battles. You can get the jump on enemies before entering battle by punching them, breathing fire on them, jumping on them or hitting them with a hammer. Battles are generally fast-paced, and you have total control over dodging and/or countering enemy attacks.

Battles are fast-paced in typical Mario & Luigi form. In case you aren’t familiar with the battles in the Mario & Luigi series, here's a quick rundown. Each character is mapped to a face button. Mario uses the A button, Luigi uses the B button, and Bowser uses the X and Y buttons. If you press a character’s button at the right time during an action, you will do more damage to enemies. If your timing is off, you won’t do as much damage. When you are on the defense, you can either dodge an enemy’s attack or counter-attack an enemy if you time your actions correctly.

Bowser and the Bros. can do standard attacks like jumping, punching, using hammers or breathing fire, or you can use special attacks. For the Bros., there are the Bro. Attacks. These are actions that use both Mario and Luigi to do things like kick a koopa shell at an enemy or shoot fireballs at the enemies on the field. Bowser can call on his minions to take care of enemies, and you’ll use the touch screen to employ those attacks.

Several times during the adventure, Bowser will grow to an enormous size and will have to combat his enemies while in this state. The DS must be turned horizontally, and these battles are controlled entirely with the touch screen. These were far and few between, but a nice change of pace nonetheless.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the game employs a cartoony visual style that works well. All of the main characters are well animated and very lively, and the backgrounds are also lively and very colorful. The Bros. have voices, but they never talk like the other characters do. They talk to others and to each other in gibberish with the occasional “Let’s go” or “okey-dokey” thrown in for good measure. Everyone else speaks using text bubbles and has a mumble sound-effect that plays as words are displayed in their text bubble. The music is pleasant overall, with a few classic tunes mixed in with some good original compositions. The sound effects go along with the visual style, employing classic Mario Bros. sound effects and some new ones that work well.

There’s a lot more that I could say, but the bottom line is that Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is one of the best DS games currently available I highly recommend it to everyone. It clocks in at 20-25 hours, though you could double that if you attempt to do everything that the game has to offer.

Score Breakdown (each category is rated on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest)).

Presentation: 9

The game was easy to get started, and the menus are easy to navigate. The box art is a little boring, but the rest of the package is great. The story is very well-written and will keep you laughing.

Gameplay: 10

The controls are great, the action is fast-paced and there's a lot of variety. The game itself isn't too terribly challenging, but some of the mini-games will take several tries to perfect.

Graphics: 8

Some of the environments are a little weak and it the game won't push the DS hardware. Still, the art style is really good. All of the characters are animated really well.

Sound: 8

The Mario Bros. are back with their amusing gibberish, Bowser growls, grunts and laughs, Princess Peach has a few words and Fawful laughs. Other than that, there isn't any voice work to speak of. The music is a good mix of familiar tunes blended with some new tunes, and you won't ever want to turn the volume down.

Replayability: 10

20-25 hours is relatively short for an RPG, but there's a lot of things for you to discover outside of the main quest. The game is so enjoyable that it's worth playing through multiple times.

(Note: This was originally written for porphyrous' website, but he never posted it. My wife, a non-gamer, proof-read this for me and understood everything I was talking about.)

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Posted: 04/03/10, 05:51:48  - Edited by 
 on: 02/18/11, 01:07:46    
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
You... know you can post reviews through the site review functionality, right?! Just go to the games database and find the game you want to review.

Posted by 
 on: 04/03/10, 07:42:21
Ah okay, I was looking for it when I posted the thread. Thanks for the heads up!

I'll likely type one up for RIZ-ZOAWD sometime this weekend, and Fragile Dreams once I finish it.

Posted by 
 on: 04/03/10, 15:41:00
Nice. Mario RPGs are usually pretty great, though. I'm interested in your opinions of RIZ-ZOAWD (gets me every time) and Fragile.

Posted by 
 on: 04/03/10, 19:06:09
I should find some of my old reviews and post them. Though I'm not totally sure who really needs a Wario Ware Twisted! review at this point. Worth putting up anyway, I guess.

Anyway, Bowser's Inside Story definitely impressed me. It's such a different game than the others while still retaining much of the core elements. It was a bit too easy for my tastes, but I say that about most games. And my one Facebook friend was talking about how she loves it but it is SO TOUGH so it really makes me wonder what the average skill level of gamers is out there and whether all of these games I find super easy actually challenge other gamers.

Posted by 
 on: 04/03/10, 20:57:14
Zero said:
Anyway, Bowser's Inside Story definitely impressed me. It's such a different game than the others while still retaining much of the core elements. It was a bit too easy for my tastes, but I say that about most games. And my one Facebook friend was talking about how she loves it but it is SO TOUGH so it really makes me wonder what the average skill level of gamers is out there and whether all of these games I find super easy actually challenge other gamers.
I wonder that too, because I didn't die once. I think I've died a grand total of twice in the seven Mario RPG games, and both of those were in the original Paper Mario.


RIZ-ZOAWD was decent. It had the potential to be great, but it never reached that point. I will say it boasts some of the best visuals on the DS, and the music is pretty good...but they really didn't take advantage of the Wizard of Oz license with the music. That was kind of a bummer.

Posted by 
 on: 04/03/10, 23:23:16
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