The third in the popular Mario & Luigi RPG series for the Nintendo handheld range has been widely anticipated, and easily as popular as its predecessors. The world's most famous plumbers once again must save the Mushroom Kingdom from distress, as an illness called the Blorbs begins affecting the inhabitants, leaving doctors stumped. An emergency meeting at Princess Peach's castle is interrupted by Bowser, yet again hell bent on kidnapping her (you'd think he'd have given up by now...). Upon defeat by Mario - yet again - Bowser comes across a travelling salesman who offers him a free Lucky Shroom. Far from the promise of making Bowser lucky and powerful enough to defeat Mario for once, it instead leaves him inhaling everything he comes across - including a lot of the Mushroom Kingdom's highest authorities.

The Game

It's a sequel. That's about it. It's a sequel to a hugely popular and immensely successful series of games. Superstar Saga gave us a good platform to work with, and Partners In Time expanded a few of those ideas and even created more. Yet, Bowser's Inside Story seems to have given us not much more than a few things chopped and changed. Bros. Points (renamed to Special Points) make a welcome return, but the attacks themselves are very like those in Partners In Time. Gear is more useful, and badges have been changed to allow an incentive for getting the timing down perfectly (more on that later). Yet, it seems somewhat restricted. Well, that's the feel I get from it, anyway.

In addition, the humour that makes its predecessors popular - particularly some horrible puns in Superstar Saga - seems to have disappeared somewhat, though it does still have its moments (particularly early in the game, with the phrase "A WINNER IS YOU" being referenced. It makes for a much more serious storyline, but (and let's be honest) who wants a serious story when we're already in a world with walking mushrooms, talking turtles, and plumbers who save the day?

It is also far more repetitive than the previous two games. Bowser's insides are very well laid-out, which makes gameplay easy to pick up, but in order to perform some actions, progressively harder minigames need to be played inside Bowser. Veterans will breeze through these minigames with no worries. Yes, they provide a good challenge for those less acquainted with the series, but there's not much that hasn't been seen elsewhere.

The last gripe I have with the gameplay is the timing of the button presses. The other games in the series were a lot more lenient and provided a lot more opportunity to save yourself should something go awry. In this game, the timing is a lot more unforgiving, and you can find yourself being knocked out from a single shot, even if you're at full health. Its pedantry doesn't help, either. I have had to start from my last save point on several occasions because I was out by the narrowest of margins.

Asides from those negatives, gameplay runs reasonably smoothly. Control of Bowser is innovative, and just as simple to pick up as Mario and Luigi's controls. The storyline is perhaps a little shorter than Superstar Saga, in terms of length, but just as gripping. It still has the familiar look and feel of the other two, but it seems to have been updated a tad. I like this game for its faults.

The Ratings

  • Playability: Laid out above. 9/10
  • Usability: irrelevant. It all depends on how well you wield the Nintendo DS.
  • Lastability: not as good as before. 8/10
  • Graphics: 2D, but a good 2D. It is difficult - in fact perhaps impossible - to expect Nintendo to change this format for future releases, so if this is as good as we're gonna get, I'm happy with it. 9/10
  • Sound: Much the same as its predecessors. 7.5/10
  • Overall: 33.5/40 = 8.375/10. Not too shabby. Hopefully they'll have a new handheld console to play with when it comes to releasing the fourth one.

It’s just a happy day in the Mushroom Kingdom! The sun is shining, the weather’s nice, and the [birds are FYI-ing! (Yeah… play the game to learn what that means.) One day, little Toad comes home from school… early. “You’ll never grow up into a good Toad!” his mother warns, but in the Mushroom Kingdom, your punishment is eating delicious dinner. Man, do I wish I live there. Anyways, as Mama Toad calls for Papa Toad for dinner… it turns out he is SUPER-UBER-INFLATED! And he’s not alone – everyone’s getting attacked by this new disease called “the blorbs.” Maybe I don’t want to live there anymore… back on topic, there is a Mushroom Kingdom emergency meeting to cure what is deemed incurable. Heck, even the star powers can’t do a thing about it.

But who’s stronger than a SWAT team? The Super Mario Bros. are! Who's too agile to be caught, jumping and flying and all? The Super Mario Bros. are! Who’s faster than a speeding bullet? The Super Mario Bros…. aren’t. Yes, Superman, you can keep that one. Back on track, the Super Mario Bros. show up, and guess who else shows up? It’s not The Joker or the Green Goblin or Bizarro – it’s Bowser! And he’s wants a say in how to cure the blorbs - that is, until he sees Mario. Don’t worry! After a relatively quick battle, Bowser gets his sorry Koopa behind kicked out of Peach’s Castle and into the Dimble Woods, where he meets a shady little guy named Fawful who offers him a Shroom that will help destroy Mario: A Lucky(?) Shroom! Except, it’s a Vacuum Shroom, and he vacuums everything up instead. Whew, that was sudden. At least he vacuums up the entire meeting, including Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toadsworth, and Starlow, a star sprite. LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!

So… er, yeah, that’s kinda how this game begins. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is the third game in a tremendous RPG series – no, strike that. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is the third game in an RPG series where the first game (Mario & Luigi: SuperStar Saga) was tremendous and the second game (Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time) was considered one of the worst DS games of all time. I personally didn’t hate it, but enough people did to lose hope in Nintendo. So this game was kind of supposed to play the role of savior – and it fitted that role to a T.

For starters, take a look at gameplay. For Mario & Luigi: SuperStar Saga (M&L: SSS) the whole concept was original to the Mario series. “What?! You can play as Luigi?! And use both brothers in Bros. attacks?!” In fact, I think unique games are really what Mario fans look for. I mean, Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time (M&L: PiT) was too similar to SSS to actually have standout qualities. Sure, you got to play with Baby Mario and Baby Luigi, but their controls were practically a duplicate of Adult Mario and Luigi. YAWN. Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (M&L: BIS) does have two concepts that make it so different in gameplay – The fact that you play as Bowser, and the 2D worlds inside Bowser (yes, you play as a Microbe-sized Mario and Luigi, and you play inside Bowser.)

If you really want to put it this way, you could say that this game practically glorifies Bowser. Not only do you play as him, you kick tail as him. Also, unlike Mario and Luigi, he uses buttons X and Y to do his own different attacks, which are punching and blowing fire. (You get more as you play the game, but that would almost be a spoiler, and I don’t believe in spoiling video games in reviews.) Oh, yeah, there are even times you get to play as Giant Bowser, where you get a unique type of battle, but those things can be found in walkthroughs. Oh, and don’t forget that if you inhale certain foes, you can have Mario and Luigi fight them from inside you! Clever indeed.

The Mario Bros. do get to see sun at times in the game, where they can travel all over their 3D world, but in the meantime, you’re in Bowser’s 2D(?) bod. While the nice little platforming twist makes for different gameplay, the twist turns into a knot when Bowser does stuff to his body! For example, when he drinks water, an area called the Pump Works becomes open, and when he becomes extremely fat, an area call the Flab Zone is accessible. You can even move Bowser near and far from his stimuli to change the appearance of the stage. However, Bowser and Mario Bros. helping out each other is also mutual – you can play sub-games as Mario and Luigi to adjust how Bowser works! This game is definitely a positive in the gameplay department.

Okay, while gameplay is near-perfect, the plot is… normal. Yes, you get Fawful, one of the most beloved henchmen-now super-villian in the entire Mario franchise, and he even gets a good character role, but the plot is one of those been there, done that things. Really, Fawful wants to take over the Mushroom Kingdom via Dark Star (who will bring Armageddon to the kingdom, keep in mind) and Mario, Luigi, and Bowser has to stop him. Before you complain to me that I said a spoiler, there really wasn’t much to spoil in the plot department. Oh, and did I mention that the princess is in another castle?

Music and SFX are actually the best of the Mario & Luigi series. You get your boings and BOOM when you jump and punch a foe, respectively, but the music is actually very, very good. The Cavi Cape (one of the stages) overworld song is still stuck in my head, and the Plack Beach stage song inside Bowser (yes, the songs differ in both area and whether you’re in the overworld or inside Bowser.) Almost all of the songs are clever and catchy, in fact. A strong point by far.

The graphics are what they are. AlphaDream doesn't want to change the traditional 2D-style graphics of the past, so what do they do? Refine them. And boy, I tell you, they are refined indeed - beautiful but simple. However, graphics aren't my main area of concern when it comes to video games, but that's just me.

For the game length, the game is about 20-30 hours long. That isn't a lot by RPG standards, but it isn't short, either. I tend not to lean much on length in my reviews because you can't review this - some people like long RPGs and other people like short ones.

So I’ve gone over most of the parts in this game, and if you’re still following this review, kudos to you, but now comes the thing that separates this game from most others – replayability. Yes, yes, I know it technically isn’t a word, but it still is the best aspect of the game. For those of you who don’t exactly know what replayability is (I know there are some of you out there, don’t be ashamed), it is pretty much the interest one keeps in a game after he or she beats it. A great way to boost the replayability factor is by making a bunch (as in, multiple hours’ worth) of bonuses. I’m not going to give a detailed walkthrough in this category, as it is technically a spoiler, but just know that in my opinion, this game has the best replayability of the whole Mario & Luigi series. Yes, even better than M&L: SSS.

So now that we’ve gotten an inside story at Bowser’s Inside Story (crowd boos at bad pun), I think it’s safe to say that we can draw this summary to a close. Basically, to sum it up, if you don’t mind 2D graphics and you aren’t looking for a Super Paper Mario-good plot, then this game is one of the reasons why the DS is near the top of all handheld and regular Nintendo consoles, period.

Gameplay: 10/10

Plot: 8/10

Music and SFX: 9/10

Graphics: 9/10

Replayability: 10/10

Overall: 9/10 - Yes, it is a sequel to an immensely popular franchise, but it's a very good sequel.

First off, if any of you have seen a review similar to this(not likely, but still), this actually came from another board: GameFAQs. It was posted by a member named failface. Now don't you worry! You see, me and failface are the same person!

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