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September 26, 2016

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 4)

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

So, in Part 3 we got the first Star Cure, and we learned that the second one is in Bowser’s Castle. Alright then! We fast-travel to Bowser’s past residence, now controlled by Fawful. Bowser can’t find a way into his castle’s basement, but we do find the buffet again – and Bowser can use it to fatten himself up and open the Flab Zone for Mario and Luigi again...

Oh, there IS a way. But Bowser has to stand in one very
particular place and stay there while Mario and Luigi
are visiting the area. It's kinda dumb. Also, it's
more railroading.
Oh yes, here’s another thing I don’t like about this game; many of Bowser’s zones are useless. They find a use when a particular situation pops up (Bowser started pushing something with his arms, or using his legs, or he’s in danger and needs a power boost to grow giant); then, some zones open for a quick mini-game. Even worse, Bowser has many areas that are basically 2D dungeons; that would be fine and good, except as you know, the game combines Bowser’s gameplay with the brothers’ story. As a result, even those are blocked, most of the time, and you can’t go there unless Bowser is in a very particular part of the Mushroom Kingdom, activating something in himself to open that zone. The Flab Zone can’t be accessed, since the platforms are too far from each other for the brothers to climb to it, unless Bowser gorges himself in Fawful’s buffet in the Castle. The Energy Hold is blocked by Boo blocks unless Bowser is behind the machine in the Tower of Yikk, smashing the button to make the blocks disappear. The Pump Works can only be explored if Bowser is drinking water from the Sea Pipe Statue. Want to escape to the Mushroom Kingdom? That’s the only way this can be of any interest since Mario and Luigi can then go around, find pipes, and end up with multiple portals to and from Bowser’s body. Said body is a bore except when plot-relevant things happen, and of course, Mario and Luigi are in Bowser’s body to do the work when actual plot events happen.

Again: Thanks to this boss for immediately stating
the strategy required to beat it. Goddammit, it's like
they don't want the players to think and try stuff!
Was this made with young kids in mind?
In his ex-Castle, Bowser finds his way to the basement – by pushing a large statue off a balcony, which is made harder by a group of Bowser’s mooks pushing the statue the other way (And of course the mini-game in Bowser’s leg is harder this time around). Bowser then explores the basement and finds his treasure room, traversed by train tracks. The train shows up and its passengers mock Bowser… then the train continues on its rails, with Bowser trying to stop it, so Bowser gets pushed by it into a rock. We stimulate Bowser’s ass again (Goddammit!), and we get the third Giant Bowser battle. This train is too small to be punched, so you’ll need to use the fire breath, which is done by blowing in the DS’s microphone. As if that wasn’t tricky enough, you have a timer for this battle, you need to defeat the train before it reaches a bridge – or else Giant Bowser will fall and lose. Once the train is defeated, Bowser returns to his castle, and readies to open the safe in which he put the Star Cure… but he doesn’t remember the combination.

I must say, there is something really  funny about a being
as little as Starlow bossing Bowser around. I don't get
those who see a pairing there, though.
Bowser rudely asks Starlow to find the code for him, but she refuses – he was rude. She accepts when he mellows down and asks politely. Gotta say, I hate Starlow as Little Miss Tutorial, but I do like her personality outside of those cases. She’s fun. And anyone who can make friggin'. Bowser behave deserves a point in my book Thus the Mario Brothers go into Bowser’s brain, a place that looks like a large library. Unfortunately, the synapse working there mistakes them for viruses, so it calls the guardians of this place… Minecraft, blocky versions of Mario and Luigi? You know, it says quite a bit about Bowser that whatever’s in place to protect his memory and his subconscious takes the form of his long-time enemies. As if Bowser knows that Mario and Luigi would defend his memory.

ven Mario and Luigi mimics are not safe from the real
ones' superb attacks. Especially Mario falling
like an anvil on an unsuspecting Memory-L's head.
This is a weird battle, because Memory M and Memory L act much like the original brothers, seen in Bowser’s eyes; Memory L is a coward that flees when it gets hit too often, but if Memory M is down, L will toss it a healing item. And Memory M is a powerful, dangerous enemy that never stops attacking. Also, Memory M has better attacks, but Memory L has more defense. Soon Memory M and L are defeated, and they take the form of a blocky Peach to talk with the Mario brothers. We can find the code to open the save, but that souvenir was broken and the brothers have to repair it by placing the pieces, like a puzzle (Mini-goddamn-tutorial first, but then we get to play). Hm, this is actually kinda relaxing. I like it. When the puzzle is completed, Bowser remembers the code, and finds the Star Cure in the safe. Yay! However, the mooks who were helping Bowser – the three generals – chose to betray their old boss during that time and they lock him in the safe. Then the safe gets tossed somewhere…


Meh. I prefer P-Balloons.
Bowser eats the cure, allowing Mario and Luigi to get their hands on it, then Starlow says they need to go back to Dr. Toadley to find where the third Star Cure is. Wait, don’t we need to save Bowser first… Oh, he’ll be alright, it’s not like the Mario series will take into account something as mundanely scientific as the lack of oxygen in a safe! Anyway, Mario and Luigi learn where the next Star Cure is, then due to some ventilation bullcrap they learn how to use Balloon Mario to reach higher ledges. TUTORIAL. Mario inhales air and Luigi uses him as a balloon. Alright, can we finally move on? Yes? Yay!

Mario and Luigi go through Dimble Wood and Plack Beach. We find where the third Sage is located, but on the same screen we have access to the home of an old Koopa, who loves to make puzzles. Turns out, this guy used to have the second Star Cure, the one we found in Bowser’s Castle. Something about Bowser visiting the guy, getting angry at the puzzles, and wrecking the place. This opens a neat side-quest where you must go around Plack Beach to find packs of puzzles. But until Story Mode is over, we don't care; time to scale a mountain to find the last sage! I’ll fastforward.

"Thousand Years Of Pain! Thousand Years Of Pain!"
"Sir, I must ask you to quit poking your fingers there.
You do not have the chakra to perform this attack."
We get to the sage, known as Chakron. Turns out, this is the same guy who’s been warping Bowser to and from points on the map through Chakroads. Long story short, this guy has the new-age belief that he’s connected to the Universe in the pose he’s currently holding, and has been holding for a thousand years. Chakron admits that he will give the Star Cure only if they can break his pose. Luigi can try pushing and tickling all he wants; this guy is rock-hard. Er… Goddammit, this game invites ALL the innuendo! I mean that he’s more like a statue, unable to move. Either way, Mario and Luigi have to collect the Attack Pieces of a new move to break Chakron’s pose. So off we go.

Meanwhile, Bowser, in his safe somewhere, um… I dunno, he hid a few Sudoku books and a couple pencils under his shell? Maybe he’ll work on the blueprints for his next plan for the takeover of the Mushroom Kingdom? Maybe he has hidden an oxygen tank up his… Oh wait, no, we would have seen it in there.

That's not the heroics I was hoping for. *sigh* Join up,
they said. It gets you kisses and cakes, they said.
Guess what? We must backtrack to the Dimble Woods again! We find six Attack Pieces then must go to a part of the forest closed off by a Wiggler who’s angry at the dangers Bowser brought in the forest earlier. In that section, we get some funny scenes where Luigi has to rescue Mini-Mario from an attack by creatures called Sockops, which have large gaping mouths on the top of their heads. Think of them as the Mario version of a Victreebel. One of those is giant, and even after Luigi frees Mario from the giant Sockop, he gets stuck in a dead one – which turns out useful as it allows him to walk on spikes.

Most Mario & Luigi games pride themselves in finally giving Luigi as much spotlight as Mario, since most other games out there, even those where Luigi is playable, won’t make Luigi an important guy; in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, as an example, Player 1 cannot pick Luigi; only one of the other three players can. He’s absent from most Paper Mario titles, only having a significant role in Super Paper Mario – a major role at that, but the focus was still on Mario in the end, and Luigi doesn’t appear much until the last parts. To make up for this, the Mario & Luigi games usually have a section where Luigi is alone against the odds. It usually provides a lot of comedy, and some surprisingly tense moments; in Superstar Saga, as an example, Luigi had to face a boss alone.

Boom! Barriers gone!
Here, after Luigi saves Mario, they face off more Sockops, then get the final Attack Piece, and can go shake the ground under Chakron to get the third Star Cure. (By the way, that attack required to beat Chakron? Luigi gorges himself on food, grows giant, then Mario tosses him and Luigi launches an earthquake on landing. Badass yet hilarious, like most Bros. Attacks in these games.) Chakron finds himself a new pose, and he teleports the Brothers to Toad Village, who bring these MacGuffins to Doctor Toadley, who merges them (with magic) and lets the resulting thing loose in the village, curing everyone affected with the Blorbs. As a neat bonus, that thing has the power to break the barriers blocking the way to Peach’s Castle. We’re coming in to the final dungeon!

Luigi is in one of those cans. Gotta save him if we want
to be able to use Bros. Moves.
Am I the only one finding it funny and weird that Peach’s Castle is the “final dungeon”? The place that could be invaded by a blind one-footed Goomba? Well, Fawful powered it up, so there’s that. Put Peach-with-Fawful-faces statues all over the place to block paths, and put a LOT of powerful robots and enemies on the way. It starts with Mario and Luigi venturing inside. There’s another attack to discover here, but we also have a new boss: Junker, a trash monster with really nasty tricks up its sleeve. It can steal Luigi and hide him in a mini-Junker, for one. When the Junker robot is defeated, it goes crazy, destroys nearby garbage, finds a safe and tosses it, destroying it… and freeing Bowser in the process. Had Fawful been smarter, he would have thrown that safe at the bottom of the lake near Plack Beach. Still, nice track record so far.

Please stop talking about stimulation in this
adventure. It keeps inviting more bawdy jokes.
Starlow states Bowser can take it from here, so Mario and Luigi can go back in him. And what a luck, Junker opened the path to a pipe leading into Bowser’s Pipe Yard! Ah, convenience, we can always count on you. Of course, since we now have the way in and out of Bowser into the gardens of Peach's Castle, the final dungeon (pfff- Nope, still makes no sense to me), this means Mario and Luigi can go there to train for the next challenges. So Mario and Luigi go in Bowser, but his back is broken, so the brothers go in one of Bowser’s yet unexplored zones and, helped by Toadsworth, stimulate something to fix it. A process that takes a few minutes.

No, I don’t mean a mini-game. I mean, you have to put down the DS for 3 minutes, because Mario and Luigi aren’t going anywhere until this thing is over. Hm, on one hand, I hate waiting, on the other, finally a zone in Bowser that doesn’t have a mini-game or a tutorial! As a bonus, when Bowser is healed, he learns to turn into a ball, thus rolling on his spikes, letting him go across dangerous terrain and climb sandy walls. More things that can be seen in other parts of this world, thus a player now has full freedom to explore the whole Mushroom Kingdom as Mario and Luigi, or as Bowser. This is it, guys. So much plot, dozens of tutorials… and we finally have freedom! Ah, glory, finally we’re not slowed down by stupid tutorials! Only took us four parts on Planned All Along! How could you, the player, enjoy that freedom? Will you go use Bowser’s attacks on a Broque Madame looking for a masseur? Will you visit the depths of Bowser’s Castle with Mario and Luigi, finding a bonus boss comprised of three Shroobs from the previous Mario & Luigi game? Will you go collect all Blitties? Will you visit every possible screen with Bowser in order to find every item and secret? You’re free now. But of course, this is far from the end of the game, we’re now into the final dungeon, we need to kick Fawful’s ass and stop that Dark Star.


And no, I am not wasting two more parts on this game. One more, at most. I’m not done for today.

Whoa, that's like that time we
battled a giant Piranha Plant...
...In a Mario Party game.
So, Bowser explores the first part of Peach’s Castle. It’s difficult because some doors are locked and Bowser needs to chase Fawfulcopters that own the keys. And on the way, Bowser has to fight very powerful enemies and use all the abilities he’s collected thus far. At some point Bowser reaches the roof and has to battle giant piranha plants – and we get another mini-game in Bowser, with touch controls that Mario and Luigi use to make Bowser jump and attack the plants. Yeah, yeah, we actually have another tutorial here, but it’s probably gonna be the last one.

After this fight, Bowser finds his way to the main rooms of Peach’s Castle, and finds Fawful and Midbus. The two are using a machine to transfer the Princess’s energy to the Dark Star. Bowser is ready for a fight with Midbus, but Fawful first transforms Midbus into an ice champion. Sorry Fawful, you made a mistake here! Fire versus ice! Fire melts ice, I win! Check your Pokémon type charts!

…Oh, right, wrong series…

Just in case Fawful's bug-eyed grin wasn't creepy enough,
now it shows up on miniature snowmen. Weird.
Anyway, if you wanted Midbus to be a tough boss, there he is. Blizzard Midbus is definitely harder than anything else encountered so far, using moves that are hard to counter, summoning mooks that can heal him, and generally having enough attack and health to force you to heal frequently. However, soon this ice champion is defeated, and Midbus freezes himself when he loses. Sadly, no matter how short or long this fight was, when it ends, the Dark Star finally awakens and Fawful proceeds to grab its energy, to turn into Dark Fawful. Bowser punches Fawful away, but then the Dark Star finds its way inside Bowser’s nose… Huh. Bowser is so badass that gulping something as powerful as an ancient monster of pure evil can merely give him stomach ache. It’s burning inside him, so Bowser inhales the cold air from Midbus’ snout to cool it down… and thus, the Mario Brothers have to travel inside Bowser to find the Dark Star and defeat it! This takes us in the Airway, which is usually inaccessible, but Midbus’ cold air lets them go into it.

On the way, the brothers find the Dark Star chewing on some of Bowser’s DNA. And it makes the Dark Star sick, too! Guess Bowser is the one who’s more rotten between the two! As we chase down the Dark Star, we see it gain more and more of Bowser’s attributes, gaining its abilities. Okay, the final boss is a Dark Star form of Bowser. Why do I say that? Well, first, I played the game. Second, ALL Mario & Luigi games end with a boss fight against Bowser or a variation on Bowser. ALL five of these games. Cackletta’s soul goes in Bowser in Superstar Saga, so we fight Bowletta, and then Cackletta’s soul. In Partners in Time, we fight the two Shroob Princesses, then later on we get a Shroob-powered Bowser. Here, the Dark Star creates a Bowser clone to fight. In Dream Team, Dream Bowser is the final boss, after Antasma, the original villain, gets mercilessly discarded like a joke. In Paper Jam, the last boss is a fusion of M&L Bowser and Paper Mario’s Bowser. Christ, the Mario and Luigi games have the best and funniest villains, yet we never get a final boss who isn’t Bowser in part or in totality? I’ll admit, Bowser IS a badass villain, but is it too much to ask that he doesn’t become always the final boss?

Tactical suicide boss: One that would be indestructible were
it not for its absolutely stupid strategic decisions.
We soon corner the Dark Star, and after it reveals itself to be building a Dark Bowser body to fight outside, it attacks the heroes in its normal form. It’s normally indestructible, cannot be harmed, unless it summons little creatures called Dark Sattelmites. Those things, when defeated, will be tossed like bombs and can be knocked back into the Dark Star, making it lose its shield. It can then be attacked for a few turns, and the cycle repeats till it’s defeated.

I’ll say this much, the Dark Star has to be one of the most dead-serious villains in the entire Mario franchise. An entity evil beyond words, which doesn’t crack any jokes or mess around. It’s bent on destroying the universe, and that’s it! All it needs is enough power! Kind of a nice contrast from Fawful, the comical, chatty villain who makes overly complicated plans (that all nearly succeed) and whose silliness has been demonstrated numerous times.  It makes the Dark Star far more generic as a villain, but also far more threatening. As they say, shit got real.

Bowser, can you stop thinking this? The stakes have gotten higher than that!
It's not time to get into a horn-measuring contest!

When the Dark Star is defeated, we’re first led to believe that this is the end, but then it escapes from Bowser and reforms outside, taking part of its Dark Bowser form. However, it’s still incomplete, so it inhales Peach believing that she has what it needs.  Since that’s not the case, it goes out to seek Fawful, with Bowser hot on his eviler self’s tracks…

Ah, Peach's Castle. So sad we must come to blows today.
Remember when I invaded you and hid in your
paintings? Those were the days...
Bowser comes out of Peach’s Castle and finds Fawful, who declares he needs more evil energy – and then he leaves. Soon, we hear some noise and see that Peach’s Castle starts moving. Oh, this is the final Giant Battle of the game! Bowser gets crushed again, we play the stupid mini-game in his ass again – I’m no longer bothering to sigh at the inevitable joke – then Bowser goes giant and the fight starts. Fawful’s mechanized Peach’s Castle plays a lot with black holes, so a key element of the fight is the giant fighters each trying to throw the other into a black hole. This is a harder battle, because Bowser will lose 90% of his HP no matter how well you do, but thankfully it’s possible to win it if you know the tricks – and even then, many attacks are inescapable. After an epic battle, Bowser deals the final blows on Peach’s Castle and it returns to normal; and so does he. Now, we can go inside, find where Dark Bowser is, and kick his copying ass!

To Part 5!