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September 23, 2016

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 3)

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

At the end of Part 2, we had Bowser fattened up by his own minions hypnotized by Fawful, then stuck in the floor. And now Mario and Luigi need to go into Bowser’s Flab Zone to save him. Time to go into Lipids Land!

There is something oddly pathetic and adorable all at once
in Bowser being stuck in the floor of his castle.

Apparently Bowser has a queen of his own fat inside
him, and that queen owns badges. I've stopped looking
for sense in that franchise.
Flab Zone is where Mario and Luigi finally find Princess Peach. Only problem, she gets attacked by a weird monster made of bubbles. Even in Bowser’s body, she finds a way to get kidnapped! It’s like she has the Easily Kidnapped Syndrome. Can’t ever escape it. Can somebody stamp her Frequent Capture Card? Thus, the brothers continue their journey and, on the way, learn about Badge Pieces. The Mario brothers will later be able to collect more badges to use in-battle, but for now all the badges can do is heal some of the brothers’ HP. There are two pieces: Luigi’s piece indicates the badge’s ability, and Mario’s piece indicates how well the brothers must perform in every attack for the gauge to fill. Hm? A gauge? Yeah, you can only use the Badge Ability when the gauge is full, and it’s filled up when the brothers do Well, Great or Excellent attacks on the enemies. The higher the request for the gauge to fill up, the higher the reward. Badges can be changed in the Start menu. Yup, another gameplay element that required a tutorial, because of course it did. At least I didn’t mention the Lipid Queen that gave them that thing… Oops, now I did.

Further away in the Flab Zone, Mario and Luigi encounter zones with tornadoes. This reminds them of their Superstar Saga adventure, where Mario could jump on Luigi’s head and the two would play Helicopter across a room, often getting a boost from a miniature tornado. Yup, we get another tutorial! And, of course, we can’t skip this part, so we have to learn (or re-learn, if it’s your second or third or fourth of fifth time playing) how to Helicopter.

I would show the top screen more often, but right now
it's either an empty space or Bowser still being stuck
in his own floor.
We can now use this newfound ability to reach further places, and as it turns out, this ability is needed to find our way to the end of the Flab Zone. There, we save Princess Peach from the bubbles, by using the Helicopter move to blow them away. However, the bubbles are back with a vengeance. They become a creature known as Alpha Kretin, formed by six bubbles linked together. The fight is split in two parts; Alpha Kretin, where the bubbles take a red or green color and each bubble can only be harmed by the hero of its color (how convenient that so many opponents like the colors red and green in the Mario & Luigi series!). When all six bubbles are turned blue, the beast dissolves into a single Kretin that summons five weaker clones, known as Beta Kretin, and the Bros. must focus their attacks on the main one. This lasts for a few turns, then Alpha Kretin reforms. Really awesome boss, one of my favorites in the game.

Headcanon, it's a rogue Ztar that transcended the
Mario Party series and became a deity-like
being of evil.
...........................Hm, nah, scratch that.
After this battle, Mario and Luigi try to find a way out of the Flab Zone for the Princess, but Fawful puts his next plan in motion; he needs Peach, so he uses a ray to pull her out of Bowser. Magically, I hope, because physically, I don’t want to imagine where the Princess would pass. Waiter, a dose of brain bleach, please! Realizing this, Peach explains that Fawful is after the Dark Star, an artefact of evil hidden deep beneath the Mushroom Kingdom.

Ah, there we go! Give me a second to cross off that point on my list… “Obligatory endgame trinket that the bad guy is looking for, the whole reason there’s a plot to begin with, something of immense power”. Check! I knew this was goddamn coming. It’s in every single goddamn Mario RPG. Cue some bullshit mythology that has never been seen before in the Mario series and will never be seen again, and then we find out that Peach is the only one able to break the seal keeping the Dark Star hidden under Toad Town. Mario and Luigi keep looking for a way out, Peach follows them… and is subsequently taken out of Bowser’s body by Fawful. Nice, even in the most improbable place where Peach may be, somehow somebody’s gonna kidnap her. Chronic Kidnappee Syndrome, that’s what her problem is. Stamp her card again. That makes seven, I think she gets a free coffee now.

Much help you turn out to be, Midbus.
Art by BrokenTeapot on DeviantArt.

The Mario & Luigi series rarely misses an
occasion to delve into good ol' cartoony slapstick.
Kaboom in 3... 2... 1...
After which Fawful and Midbus, with the Princess in their clutches, shove Bowser on a conveyor belt and flee, while Bowser is forced to run like crazy to evacuate his extra weight. And somehow, he catches on fire and loses all of said extra weight. Then, while he’s on fire, he lights up a Bob-Omb that lights up more Bob-Ombs and he gets blown out of his castle into an abandoned underground mine that doubles as a railroad construction site… You know what, I’ve learned long ago to stop questioning what the Hell is going on in some Mario games, and while I rarely put that lesson to use, I believe here I don’t have another choice; I can’t question what happened, it’s too stupid.

Venturing into the tunnel, Bowser finds Monty Moles trying to dig with a machine. Bowser accepts to help them after hearing the tunnel would have been used to connect Peach and Bowser’s castles, making it easier to kidnap her (Ha! As if it wasn‘t already easy enough! By this point, it can’t actually get any easier!). Bowser uses his legs to give the machine a boost, opening up that region inside him to the Mario brothers, and the two give Bowser enough power to push the machine for 90 seconds, tearing a very long underground path that goes all the way from the cave to the tunnels under Toad Town. Yay? There, Bowser explores around, and when he walks into the room that keeps the Dark Star sealed, he gets zapped and faints. Well, that was anticlimactic.

Mario and Luigi could normally run around while
wearing blue shells in New Super Mario Bros., but
let's conveniently ignore that for this game's puzzles.
This causes something else to open up in him: The Pipe Yard, which is where all the pipes Bowser inhaled are kept. They can still take the Bros. to where they originally led, too. You know what that means: We can go back in the Mushroom Kingdom! Hurray! Let’s not even question the physics behind this, let’s just get out of Bowser’s body. On their first venture outside, Mario and Luigi find a big shell block and hit it, spreading shell blocks all over the Kingdom. Paratroopas show up and get angry that we broke the block, but then they decide to teach the brothers how to use the shells to access new areas. TUTORIAL! This is based on the blue shell from New Super Mario Bros. A pretty fun thing to add to an RPG, to be honest. Mario dons the shell, then Luigi whacks Mario with the hammer. Something to break blocks and activate levers and stuff. Cool. After the tutorial, we get a whole new special move, too. Yay! With this newfound ability, Mario and Luigi get through Toad Town Caves.

Unfortunately, Fawful is already ahead, and gets his little toady green hands on the Dark Star before flying off. The Toad there explains that Fawful wants to take over Peach’s Castle. We have no choice, Mario and Luigi have to leave the caves and find their way to Toad Town. We would like to visit the town, too, but all the paths are blocked – railroading, my old enemy, you strike again! Not like going to Peach’s Castle helps in any way, since Fawful quickly summons large Dark Star blockades. Thankfully, then Toad Town opens. See? This game blocks all the paths before plot-relevant scenes happen. It’s an extremely annoying trend. Heading into the town, we see bloated Toads… Oh right, the Blorbs, we were forgetting about that.

We can visit Toad Town a bit. Many stores are reserved to better heroes… even though Mario and Luigi are the only heroes around. See, all three characters have ranks. Mario and Luigi have Mushroom, Shell, Fire Flower, Shine and Star Rank, with a bonus Rainbow Rank earned at Level 40. Bowser also has ranks: Bronze Boss, Silver Boss, Gold Boss, and the last one, Final Boss, is also gained at Level 40. Each rank gives perks, but it mostly allows Mario and Luigi to shop at fancier, richer shops. Basically another way to slow down your progression by not letting the Bros. get into the shops with the best equipment, which require either the Shine or the Star rank to enter. The first three ranks unlock an equipment slot for the brothers or Bowser, though, so you can equip up to three items at once.

Ah, Dr. Toadley, such a medical show drama king.
Then again, most medical drama series have the
sense toi not feature fertune teller doctors.
The brothers go in the hospital and fake being sick to be brought to Doctor Toadley. That Doctor seems more like a fortune teller than a respected doctorate holder. Then again, the Mushroom Kingdom is a land of quirks. Bowser then shows up, awoken from his shock-induced slumber. A battle ensues, and it’s a VERY hard one. Bowser has his own stats, not the stats he currently has when you’re playing as him, though he has attacks that can be pretty hard to avoid. Once he’s defeated, he faints, and then the brothers learn from Toadley how to save the Kingdom from the Blorbs: Star Cures. Those are three legendary items that, when put together, will allow the brothers to cure the Blorbs affecting so many Toads, and as a bonus, these things are powerful enough to break the barriers now blocking the way to Peach’s Castle. Phew! “Plot trinket in many pieces to collect during the second half of the adventure”? Check. This game follows all the clichés of the Mario RPGs despite trying to be different. The Star Cures are owned by three Sages hidden across the Kingdom. Bowser gets up and leaves, having eavesdropped on the discussion, to look for the Cures, but Toadley has more to reveal afterwards. We get to see the first Sage… and it looks like that Birdo worm we fought in Bowser’s body, which means… we need to go stick ourselves into Bowser again. We find a pipe that brings us into the turtle-dragon.

Ah, pollen allergies, my old enemy.
Back in Bowser, Mario and Luigi chase the worm but soon meet impassable Boo-like barriers. We go back to Bowser, who explores around and finds more of his minions to save. But how to get to them? There are giant rocks blocking the way! Bowser soon find a ship and tries to send it there, but he’s allergic to the flowers. Turns out, the Mario brothers inside him have to make him sneeze, and the resulting gust will be powerful enough to propel the ship. Guess what? TUTORIAL! Another mini-game where the brothers must send pollen in the sides of Bowser’s nose, then punch at those parts to make him sneeze.

Christ, I’m so tired of tutorials. And many of them cannot be skipped, either, so you have to slog through each of them, just wishing Starlow (or the current tutor) would just shut up already so you could move on! Oh, and of course, this mini-game is annoying as shit. Helicopter Mario and Luigi are controlled by the stylus, when they would be a LOT simpler to control with the directional pad. And of course, you have to do it THRICE. The third time, it allows Bowser to save a submerged tower by blowing enough air on its propeller to raise it.

Only problem, that tower ends up attacking Bowser, so we need to trigger Giant Bowser once more. You know what that means: We have to go play in Bowser’s ass once more. Christ, there was no way to not make this sound dirty. Yep, mini-game time again. Urgh. The Giant Bowser battle (mostly) makes up for it, thankfully. Yes, giant Bowser is awesome. I will never deny that. However, as cool as they may be, they sacrifice much of the RPG strategy, leaving only punches and fire breath to be used. When defeated, the opponent, known as the Tower of Yikk, lands nearby while Bowser shrinks back to his normal size.

Don't you love it when a game spoils a boss's strategy for you?

Meanwhile, Bowser wished he had a sudoku book
to pass the time.
Bowser visits the tower and meets a hologram inside a book of Yikk, the founder of this tower, who explains that he owns a machine that can make ghosts, such as the Boo, visible and invisible. A Boo-Ray machine, if you will. Yikk, if this thing doesn’t play films, I’m not interested. Activating the machine causes a ray to go through Bowser’s body, causing some Boo blocks to disappear and others to appear. The brothers find the worm, but it hides in a space which then closes off, and can only be opened with the pieces of a star, which they must now recover. The next part thus involves a lot of puzzle elements as Mario and Luigi make their way around five sections of Bowser’s Energy Hold, to find the star pieces, with Bowser occasionally slamming the button on the machine. So while the brothers do this long task, does Bowser just wait there, spinning his thumbs? That’s out-of-character for a beast like him…

While on this adventure, Mario and Luigi learn how to drill the ground; TUTORIAL! Luigi jumps on Mario, then the two jump into the ground while spinning. This also existed in Superstar Saga and was used to uproot Beans; here, the Beans make a comeback, but they’re only a little side-quest, mostly when the Bros. are visiting the Mushroom Kingdom. Hopefully this is the last tutorial we get in a while. Soon the star is assembled, a quest which can take anywhere from a half-hour – if you’re quick – to two hours (because it’s a freaking maze in there). Mario and Luigi use the star to open the door towards the boss.

Mario and Luigi have completed this part, but the dungeon is far from over! The next part sees them use everything they’ve learned so far, and they find their way to the end… They encounter the worm and after failing to catch it again, the brothers find out that the worm talks, and it tells them that it is, indeed, a Sage, but that it won’t give them the cure unless they can beat it in a battle. See, it wants toi know if they're strong enough, since the worm has no idea who they are. Because yes, that makes sense; a freaking SAGE of the MUSHROOM KINGDOM has never heard of the freaking MARIO BROTHERS who have saved it maybe a HUNDRED TIMES!

That's really pushing it... A sage, too...
Though, at least there's a nice gimmick to this boss.

So, here’s a boss battle with the creature, grown larger and able to use magic; and when the battle is over, the creature, known as Wisdurm, evolves into a pretty butterfly – her true form – after which she gives the brothers the first Star Cure. Following this, the Mario brothers find a room where they toy around in Bowser’s body again, giving him the ability to ground pound while in his shell. Oh great, another tutorial coming. Anyway, thanks to this, Bowser can now press giant pink switches around the Mushroom Kingdom, opening new paths! Bowser leaves the Tower of Yikk, and encounters a Goomba general (one of the three mooks he helped earlier on). After Bowser explains about the Star Cures, the Goomba says that he believes there’s one in the basement of Bowser’s Castle. Alright then, let’s go!

Well, I think this has been long enough, how about we continue this in Part 4?