They’ve traipsed across the Beanbean Kingdom to recover Princess Peach’s voice, discovered their younger selves through time travel, and fought their way through Bowser’s innards. Now, Nintendo’s moustached double act is going one better and conquering dreams.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. is the latest from series creator AlphaDream, who find themselves granted the chance to join in the frivolous festivities of The Year of Luigi, and in doing so serve up an inventive tale for the Nintendo 3DS’ rather healthy platter this year.
It delivers all the qualities that fans of the offshoot RPG series hold dear. A witty script that’ll see you chuckling to yourself at regular intervals that’s soon matched by wincing whilst enduring some particularly tough boss battles, it is perhaps the new ‘Luiginary’ skills that prove themselves to be such a striking highlight. But more on that later.
Setting the scene bears some unsurprising similarities to past escapades that the Mushroom Kingdom duo have been on. Invited on a relaxing trip to the Pi’illo Island resort with Princess Peach and her Toad cohort, it isn’t long until the troupe soon discover that something’s amiss.
Misleadingly led by resort tour guide Broque Monsieur, who makes a return appearance from Bowser’s Inside Story complete with his somewhat hilariously strong French accent, Mario and Luigi soon stumble into some dilapidated ruins within which there is said to be a great treasure.
Naturally marching their way through, they discover the ruin’s hidden secrets to be a dusty pillow. Luigi, tired from such antics, soon takes a nap resulting in a kaleidoscopic portal dramatically appearing above his head. Princess Peach is predictably drawn into the dream world by an evil force, with Mario soon diving in after to her rescue.
Whilst Mario fails to find her, he crushes a ‘Nightmare Chunk’ releasing Prince Dreambert from his petrified state. He explains that the Pi’illo folk were petrified as pillows by fragments of the Dark Stone by bat king Antasma, pleading for the plumbing professionals to aid his people whilst on their search for Peach.
The situation worsens when Antasma joins forces with regular antagonist Bowser, setting out to secure a mystical artefact known as the Dream Stone that could grant them the power to control the world. And so the wheels are set in motion for another crazy adventure, across both the island and Dream World.
Across Pi’illo Island, you’ll turn to the island’s inhabitants to aid you in your lengthy quest. This is interspersed with tasks that see you retrieving broken fan pieces to fix fountains, using colossal drills to scrounge the desert, whereas slingshrooms and seesaw mushrooms throw you across environments with reckless abandon. All the while Luigi being able to playfully whack Mario on his noggin to either minimise his height or see him moving below ground to surpass obstacles.
Though it is in the dream world that Alphadream exploits the seemingly limitless boundaries of their own creativity. With Luigi asleep, he dreams a representation of himself to accompany his brother, suitably known as Dreamy Luigi.
Outside of battles, the Dream World is a solely side-scrolling based affair, mainly for players to soon discover the delight of ‘Luiginary Works’ that bridge with the real world. Luigi’s snoozing is displayed on the touchscreen, and, in a way reminiscent of the Super Mario 64 start screen, interacting with it can have consequences in the Dream World.
For instance, scratching Luigi’s nose sees him sneeze and cause his dreamy counterpart to create a tornado, whilst tugging his moustache allows Mario to grasp onto its equivalent in the Dream World to swing him up to higher out-of-reach ledges. Dreamy Luigi can also possess constellations to duplicate himself, creating a monstrous tower of doppelgangers that allow Mario to pass hazards. It’s smart and switches up gameplay at regular intervals to keep the action fresh throughout.
On such screen, Luigi also responds to the narrative in places, clutching his hat, whimpering, and generally adding much more character to Nintendo’s pixellated star.
Battles are similar across both worlds, the real world seeing Mario and Luigi work together to bring down wandering foes in the usual fashion. Familiar Bros. Attacks return, although are more dynamically presented from a 3D perspective, seeing Mario and Luigi kicking shells toward the distant centre of the screen, with further moves are unlocked by collecting Attack Pieces that are scattered across each individual location that the duo visit.
Whereas Mario fights solo within the Dream World, although has his attacks empowered by Dreamy Luigi who divides into Luiginoid duplicates to deal extra damage. However once again the Dream World entirely trumps Bros. Attacks through the introduction of Luiginary Attacks, which soon see you want to spend more time in Luigi’s mind than anywhere else. Tilting the 3DS to crush Luiginoids to make a ball bigger as you roll it into your opponents, or crushing enemies with a giant hammer comprising of the critters, these never get old and unlocking them as you play through proves the game’s greatest delight.
Boss fights are probably lengthier than needed, especially when there’s no indication as to how far you are from defeating your foe. Though they still provide memorable moments, especially when Mario and Luigi flee toward the screen, running from the rampant enemy in hot pursuit as you dodge obstacles to ensure they never catch up with you.
As a role-playing game, upgrading your gear and levelling prove key to success through heightening character stats across the expected pillars. However, at certain intervals each will rank up and unlock permanent bonuses that will aid their progression – decreasing damage taken, providing experience boosts, and so forth.
Making equipment an all the more tactical affair is a Badges system, purchased across the game. Mario and Luigi each have their own selection to wear, and these are combined with each other to provide bonuses during battle once a meter becomes filled through successful attacks. Combinations can reward you with boosts to defence, restoring HP, or causing damage to opponents.
If there’s room for criticism, some may be dissuaded by Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. still remaining a heavily text-laden affair, despite how humorous it usually is. Whilst visually, the series’ debut on Nintendo 3DS proves rather passable, as charming as can be expected from Nintendo’s talent pool but not as gloriously crisp on your eyeballs in comparison to the rather stellar software that has hit the 3DS throughout this year. The 3D effect doing little to improve this.
There’s so much to enjoy within Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. that it’s almost a shame to spoil it. Whilst perhaps not the strongest within Alphadream’s popular series, such a statement merely discredits the unendingly joyous experience provided from start to finish. Fans won’t want to miss out, whilst those new to the series should expect it to be a perfect entry point.