The Mario and Luigi series is an unconventional type of RPG, in that you control the brothers in-battle, making it possible to inflict more damage or to avoid enemy attacks thanks to action commands. It’s technically possible to beat the game without ever taking any damage. Of course, it requires some good timing, and some attacks are easier to avoid than others. The attacks that cannot be avoided can be knocked back with the Mario brothers’ hammers. It’s a great idea, and when it first came out, such a concept was pretty much unheard of. This series started with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, which brought the plumbers in the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom, and pit them against evil sorceress Cackletta. From that point on, each new Mario & Luigi game would have a new gimmick: In Partners in Time, Mario and Luigi team up with their baby selves to defeat an evil greater than anything else they’ve ever encountered. The fourth game in the series, Dream Team, focuses on Luigi and has the brothers facing the nightmarish sorcerer Antasma both in their world and in the dream world. Last but not least, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has the brothers release Paper Mario from his book world, along with all of the creatures from it including, lo and behold, Paper Bowser, who proceeds to team up with the real Bowser to conquer both worlds.
Bowser’s Inside Story is, however, the third game in the series, and features three protagonists: Mario, Luigi… and as you may have guessed, Bowser himself. More so than the Brothers themselves, this is Bowser’s story, and he is the one to do most of the heroics in the outside world. I’ll get to that soon enough. Now sit down, because I will be telling you this story: The weirdest spin on the Fantastic Voyage that has ever been put to screen.
It was a nice day in the Toad village…. UNTIL EVIL CAME! Oh, wait, no, not evil. More like a disease that inflates Toads into giant spheres, like balloons, with no cure that we know of yet. This new disease, the Blorbs, starts affecting more and more Toads, who become incapable of living normally. And I’m pretty sure there’s an inflation fan out there who’s very very happy right now that Nintendo addressed his fetish. To find a solution, Peach and Toadsworth contact Mario and Luigi, because apparently scientists aren’t trustworthy in the Mushroom Kingdom. The brothers arrive, along with Starlow, a new character to the franchise. Starlow is the Navi of the Mario series; tries to be helpful, but ends up being more of an annoyance. Still, she has more of a personality than Navi, so there’s that… Mario and Luigi finally arrive, with Luigi still in the process of putting on his shoes and overalls. Heh, still better than being dragged by Mario with rope all the way from their house to the Castle, like what happened in Superstar Saga.
|Already a fight with Bowser?|
Gee, that's off to a good start!
|That's not how I imagined the eye of a tornado.|
When Fawful leaves, Bowser starts inhaling everything around himself, taking everything inside him. Shigeru Miyamoto, Kirby called, he wanted his concept back. At the conference room in Peach's Castle, the group is about to leave when Bowser steps in and inhales them all inside him, before fainting. With no one to oppose him (or so he thinks), Fawful sends Bowser away and proceeds with the next steps of his plan.
|Does that mean you'll be less bossy later on?|
I hope so.
Not like it matters, since the Bros. soon find hammers to use in battle as well. And of course, we find enemies with spiked shells, because we need to learn what the hammers are for. Gee! This all feels like an awfully long tutorial! I mean, I get it, new players need to learn how to use the game, but since this is where Mario and Luigi get many of their new weapons, it’s unskippable, thus a tad annoying for those who are replaying through the game.
|Indeed, you won't taste my fist. After all, I am not|
aiming at your mouth. I'll punch your snout!
Did I mention Midbus speaks in a mix of caveman speech and Fawful’s syntax? It’s really weird. Something to give a translator a headache. Also Fawful, my inquiring mind wants to know just how the freaking Hell you managed to plan in such a way that you KNEW Bowser would head into the Mushroom Kingdom, get beat up by Mario, and thrown exactly into the forest where you set up your shop? Either you really like complexity or you stole a crystal ball somewhere.
Thus, Bowser continues on his way, battles fat Goombas, destroys stone pillars… later on, he hears a mystical voice telling him to smash a nearby stone; in that stone, there’s a strange spinning sphere revealed to be a Chakroad, and the voice teaches Bowser how to use these Chakroads to travel to and from various areas of the Kingdom, but only the ones he has seen so far. After trying it once to go to the cave and back, Bowser wonders once more who that voice may be, but it replies that it is currently residing somewhere in the Kingdom, and that Bowser may meet it – him or her – during his journey.
Goodie, more story exposition. We needed that, didn’t we? One part almost over and we haven’t met a single boss. This game is very heavy on the story, but most of all, it very heavily relies on the two sets of protagonists and their interactions - and on explaining every single feature. As a result, there’s a load to learn and the first hours feel tedious if it’s not your first time playing.
This brings me to the first, and in my opinion, the biggest problem with this game: The story sections feel like a chore. Between the previous overworld location and the next, you can go back and forth in the Mushroom Kingdom, unlocking new secrets thanks to the more recent abilities learned by Bowser. In the same vein (no pun intended), you are free to visit as the Mario brothers the parts of Bowser’s body that have been unlocked thus far and battle the enemies you find there. We kind of need those moments of freedom, because it goes away as soon as it’s time to advance the plot. Bowser walks around the Mushroom Kingdom, meets obstacles. To deal with those obstacles, a new part of his body opens for the Bros. to visit. Mario and Luigi go there, complete the dungeon that is in there (with the length of the dungeon varying): Sometimes, you need to switch back and forth between the two sides to advance in a location. It can get rather annoying, to say the least. Not to mention that some locations Bowser visits are already pretty labyrinthine, it’s often easy to get lost, and sometimes the same applies to the body parts of Bowser that the brothers visit. It’s not exactly railroading, and more options open up once you’ve discovered all of the out-of-battle abilities for both groups, but it can be pretty annoying for some players who enjoy more open-roaming RPGs. In a way, this Mario & Luigi game stands right at the center of the balance, with most MMORPGs at the far end, providing open exploration of the world, and on the other side, games like Dragon Quest Swords, which is nothing BUT railroading outside of the main town.
|Ah bah putain! Une parodie de français dans un jeu|
de Mario! Bah bordel, j'm'y attendais pas! La vache!
|Let us see youze|
be a block-blocker!
Bowser soon meets on the beach the Sea Pipe Statue, a stone Blooper on some kind of robot. He starts punching it – because when you’re Bowser, punching, setting on fire or becoming giant are the only alternatives – and the statue suddenly starts moving and goes nuts. A little Fawful-like spaceship comes by to explain that Fawful is the one who reprogrammed the statue so that it would be dangerous. Bowser is thus forced to fight it, and since the Blooper head is too high for Bowser’s punches, and the body is indestructible, he has no other choice but to inhale it – thus letting Mario and Luigi deal damage to it. Once again, good set-up for the boss battles in the game, where the player may need to solve a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to hurt a boss; if it can be inhaled, how about letting Mario and Luigi do some of the dirty work? I mean, Bowser seems to have no clue of what’s going on inside him, so it’s already pretty stupid of him to think that his insides will be able to hurt opponents… Good thing the Bros. are there, huh?
|Apparently Bowser is thirsty enough to drink|
water for 30 minutes non-stop.
|So that's why Bowser's fire breath was kinda... buggy.|
Don't do a rimshot for this one, it was pretty bad.
Talking about roots, the most Bowser will use that ability for in the game is when he has to destroy trees blocking the way. With many of their old abilities back, these two groups of heroes continue on their way… Hopefully we’re done with tutorials now…
To Part 2, this Monday!