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September 30, 2016

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Part 5)

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

We’re getting closer to the final battle by the minute. The Mushroom Kingdom still seems fairly safe right now, and only a select few are aware that the Dark Star is on its way to regain power and destroy the world. You still have all the time to do all the side-quests you want. I’ll cover the end of the story and then talk about those.

No villain is too cool to use stars in battle!
After fighting Peach’s Castle, which had been turned into a mecha by Fawful, Bowser enters and finds Fawful who’s seeking the Dark Star. Fawful has had enough of Bowser, and Bowser has had enough of Fawful, it’s time for settle this for good. It will feel so great to punch that little face and smash those glasses to bits! As it turns out, Fawful is impervious to Bowser’s punch and fire breath due to his vacuum propeller hat. It can also heal him and attack by itself. A time comes where Bowser can inhale the hat, allowing the Mario brothers to battle it. After all, this fight is not gonna get anywhere as long as Fawful has this thing to rely on. Hell, even after the vacuum propeller hat is defeated, Fawful can still be a pain. He’s an amazing battler, I’ll give him that.

When Fawful is destroyed, the dark energy in him turns him into some kind of little black critter with his signature spiral glasses. This thing manages to escape, and finds the incomplete Dark Star Bowser. It gets inhaled, and thus Dark Bowser becomes complete. Oh, crap.

Bowser follows through the path opened by Dark Bowser and confronts it, first in a battle of fire breaths, and then  in a spike ball battle – you control Bowser in spike ball form against Dark Bowser, and you must deal damage to it five times before it deals damage five times to Bowser. Dark Bowser then flees and Bowser follows, scaling a tower and then getting to his enemy.

No, I won't make the joke "FUCKING BUBBLES".
The Nostalgia Critic and his memes can go die in
a fire for all I care. (The character, not the actor,
though I don't care much for him either.)

Dark Bowser releases his dark energy all over the Kingdom, kidnapping most inhabitants into bubbles – oh no, not bubbles! Those things are impossible to pop! …said no one, ever. Starlow then tells Bowser that Mario and Luigi are inside him, and that they need to cooperate to defeat this new evil. And thus the final fight starts. OH GOD, THAT MUSIC IS AMAZING! And that boss is really hard!

Hey, is there a prog metal version of that son-

Oh good heavens, my life is complete!

"Only I am allowed to have this face! I'll smash yours to bits!"
I swear, if this keeps up they'll start calling each other a faker.

There are two parts to this boss, which alternate. First is Dark Bowser, which has 1000 HP and really powerful moves. When Dark Bowser’s HP is down to 0, the Fawful bug inside heals it, and makes it grow bigger – then Bowser has to use his flame breath to damage that bigger Dark Bowser once, which will resize it and cause the Fawful bug to come out to try and escape. Then Bowser must inhale the bug and let Mario and Luigi do their part of the fight.

Yes, the Dark Star is on the top screen, AKA out of reach.
This thing has the Tall Poppy Syndrome, it has to be
brought down to size!

Fawful bug is no slouch either, since unlike every other creature inhaled by Bowser, it keeps its size on the field, so the Mario brothers are battling a humongous black monster with spiral glasses. They must kill its three legs, but first they must hit its glasses – or else it’ll protect its legs. When the glasses are beaten, Mario and Lugii have to attack its three legs, and destroy them, letting them reach and harm the Dark Star at the top of the antenna. After a few turns, the Dark Star-powered Fawful Bug comes out of Bowser and we repeat these two parts until Mario and Luigi kill the Fawful Bug.

[too epic for words]
Since this was the main power source of the Dark Bowser body, on the battlefield the dark blue Bowser starts losing its mind. Bowser then prepares his final attack, and then punches the Dark Bowser one-PAF!, two-PAF! three-PAF!, four-PAF, and a final fifth-BOOM! time, finally destroying that entity for good. The skies return to normal over the half-destroyed castle. As it turns out, whatever little is left of Fawful in Bowser mourns its failure, and then decides that if it’s going to die, so will the Bros.! Fawful explodes, but instead of killing anyone, the explosion erases all the effects of the Vacuum Mushroom, bringing Bowser’s biology back to normal (we hope), taking away his inhaling ability, and tossing everyone out of him. Hearing Starlow, Bowser recognizes the voice that guided him, and goes angry at the thought of what might have happened inside him. Thus, he gets ready to fight the brothers. Battle ensues – the end!

Credit goes to KokinhoKokeiro of The Spriters Resource for ripping these.
Poor Bowser, no matter how awesome he becomes by the end, he is
destined to lose to the heroes either way.

Hey, I understand Bowser. I’d be angry too if someone entered me without my permission. …Oh God, did I really have to phrase it that way! My body is not a party! Goddamn innuendo-inviting game! On the other hand I’d be surprised anyone would want me that badly…

Anyway, the ending credits show Mario and Luigi kicking Bowser’s ass, then the Toads and Bowser’s army repairing their respective castles. Toads, if I were you, I’d make sure to remove any trace of Fawful’s machines from that building. Princess Peach sends a gift towards Bowser’s castle. Meanwhile, as Bowser’s mooks also come back under his command and swear allegiance to him again, the gift arrives; it’s a cake she baked for Bowser, to thank him for his help in saving the Mushroom Kingdom. Oh, that’s so sweet! The only problem is that the cake features Mario and Luigi, but I guess Bowser will be perfectly happy to stomp those for now and then stuff himself with cake.

It depends. Is it possible to massage
the back of a block?
And this, my friends, covers the entirety of the plot in Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. Oh, but it’s far from over! After all, any good RPG out there needs to have a bunch of side-quests for the player to complete! I’ve scratched the surface of those so far, but we’re going to go a bit more in-depth this time around. First, the Blitties. Remember those? Broque Monsieur wants Bowser to find 15 Blitties trapped within large monsters around the Mushroom Kingdom. Finding them all will see Broque Monsieur offer his blocky dog Broggy as a special attack for Bowser to use. Always be aware of the Vacuum block and whether or not it’s flashing for no apparent reason in a battle. Also, near Toad Town, a blocky lady by the name of Broque Madame lives. She asks for Bowser’s, ahem, expertise as a masseur to fix her back. How do you do that? By attacking her back with Bowser’s special attacks. Be good with every attack, and you’ll get prizes! Last but not least, you should try to explore and find whatever special attacks you haven’t yet found, and find all Chakroads too. (The Mario brothers should also find all the pipes.)

When it comes to visiting the Mushroom Kingdom, now that Bowser can turn into a ball of spikes, many new areas open for him, regions that can only be accessed with that ability. Therefore, it’s really worth it to revisit the entire Kingdom with Bowser. Same goes for the brothers, as there are many beans scattered around the many regions, and all beans will increase one of a brother’s stats by one point, so if you want to upgrade the brothers quickly, it’s your best bet. I mean, let’s not mince words, by the end of the game, the only good place for Mario and Luigi to level up is the Airway. It does give major EXP rewards, but it’s still pretty long, so having stat boosts won't hurt at all.

At least, regular puzzles don't need much thought.
There are two side-quests in Toad Town; a Toad will give Mario and Luigi prizes if they can find all of the Mushroom Balls hidden around the town, with a better prize given to the brothers for each new ball found. There’s also a Toad kid who plays hide and seek, and he invites the brothers to play along. Finding him five times will give the brothers an equipment item. There is another side-quest in Plack Beach, where you can find Kuzzle’s puzzles around the area and then solve them in his house, decorating it and receiving beans in return. Talking about beans, there’s a page on the Items menu that shows how many beans can be found in each area, and how many have been found. There’s 251 beans to find! Oh, and I invite you to complete a quick quest in Bowser’s Castle, where you can open a freezer to find three Shroob soldiers in cryogenic sleep. They’re an optional boss fight, but a fun one.

Want to do more side-quests with Mario and Luigi? That’s good! We transport this into Bowser’s body again (where some more beans can be found, as well as whatever attack pieces you couldn’t gather), and we can enter the Challenge Node. Three distinct challenges await here:
-A block that must be hit 99 times, moving from a brother to the other and constantly speeding up;
Killing Cholesterol?
I'm in!
-The Cholesteroad: Think of it as a challenge much like Broque Madame for Bowser; the Brothers are encouraged to kill as many cholesterons as possible, using endless versions of their Bros. Attacks. Can you master all of the Bros. Moves? If you get an A rank on the Green Shell Bros. Move, you gain the Challenge Medal, which can be equipped to a brother. When this is worn by them, all enemies gain 150% attack power as well as 50% more defense, speed and HP, and reward the Bros. with 50% more Gold. Good luck getting it, though.
-The Gauntlet: A Boss Battles Mode, in a way. Stronger versions of the bosses encountered by the Mario brothers inside Bowser and outside of him are met here, and each fight ends after a set number of turns. The brothers must defeat that boss in the required amount of turns. They’re almost in the same order, too: Durmite, Kretin, Wisdurm, Memory M and L, Junker and the Dark Star. Where’s Bowser? When you beat the six first bosses, you unlock the seventh challenge, which is all these six bosses in a row, with a stronger Bowser at the end. You have a limit of 50 turns to beat all of them, AND Bowser X will suck out of the brothers any Bros. Move they use, and this for many turns, forcing you to use each special move and excel at each of them. Good luck. You’ll need it!

X bosses usually have a different color palette.
And many stronger or faster attacks.

As a last thing to do, you can bring all three characters to Level 40, which will unlock the final Badge for the brothers and allow Bowser to use even more powerful equipment that almost turns the rest of the game into a joke. Final Boss Bowser can wear equipment that allow him to attack twice in one turn! Imagine that!

And that’s about it for this game. Quite a long ride, isn’t it? Five parts. Seems about right for an RPG on this blog. Here’s the reason why reviewing an RPG is difficult for me: I have to replay through it entirely. These games have upwards of 10 hours of gameplay. That’s the point of an RPG. And if something in an RPG doesn't attract me, or worse, if it annoys me, it makes the task even more difficult.

The Mario & Luigi series has always been closer to an action RPG, as it features RPG-styled battles but the brothers (and Bowser, in this case) have a chance to avoid every single attack sent their way, given good timing and a knowledge of the game. Bowser’s Inside Story follows this trend, with all three character able to avoid about most of all the attacks. But no matter what new gimmick they put in place, these games are always awesome.

Bowser’s Inside Story is frequently regarded as the best one in the franchise, as it features none other than Bowser, and all gameplay mechanics around Bowser are awesome. All of the attacks he can use in battle, and all of his abilities on the field. Then there’s everything he’s able to do with the Mario brothers helping inside him, which somehow turn him into an even greater badass than he’s ever been. I mean, Bowser growing giant to fight off enemies the size of buildings? Where do I sign?

Freaky. But funny.
Oh right, I own the game, I already signed for that. And to add to these new gameplay mechanics, we’re given a great story. Fawful is surprisingly credible as a villain, and his plan had very few, if any, flaws; in fact, as I mentioned previously, the only reason he didn’t win was because he couldn’t predict the Mario brothers were manipulating Bowser’s insides to give him superpowers. Every other piece of his plan was basically perfect. And as a result, we get one of the best plots of the entire Mario series, with Bowser, Mario and Luigi working together to save their universe from Fawful and, later, the Dark Star. The side-characters are all pretty cool, too, whether it’s Midbus, the odd Doctor Toadley, or the things inside Bowser’s body, NPCs and bosses alike. The story hits all of the right notes and contains many moments of comedy. And the same can be said for the gameplay, which works like a charm, and it’s pretty great to explore the Mushroom Kingdom. Oh, and the graphics and music are also great, as usual.

However, you already know my criticisms of this game, I have been repeating them and I will say them here again: As awesome as the regular gameplay might be, there are many elements that just feel tedious. You have to return to the same mini-games in the parts of Bowser that give him some kind of superpower. Kill the red and green bubbles in Bowser’s butt when he has to grow giant; smash muscles to give him super strength in his arms or legs. None of them can be skipped, since they are part of the entire plot.

Adding to this, most large regions of Bowser’s body are also blocked off by some kind of puzzle, whether it’s the Boo blocks that must change through the machine in the Tower of Yikk, or the Airway which can only be accessed by Bowser inhaling Midbus’ cold breath, or another when Bowser is drinking water from the Sea Pipe Statue, or the Flab Zone when Bowser has fattened up… Urgh. So if you want the Mario brothers to go back to any of these zones, Bowser has to move his ass around the Mushroom Kingdom first. Thankfully, it’s easy to come back to Peach’s Castle to open up the Airway. Of course, since Bowser can’t go anywhere while Mario and Luigi are adventuring inside him, there will always be something to stop him from moving forward as long as he has to stay in a zone – and similarly, many locations the brothers go to require particular abilities like the Helicopter, the Underground Digging, or any other. Basically, there are heaps of obvious and painful railroading at every single step of this game, and it only becomes interesting to visit the Mushroom Kingdom once every ability has been unlocked.

Arm Center: Useless until
Bowser needs extra strength.
And of course, with every new mini-game and every new special ability, comes a tutorial, many of which can NOT be avoided. In fact, it seems to vary from time to time; some tutorials can be skipped, others can’t, it almost seems random. One thing remains, though; there are far too many tutorials in this game. There are tutorials for the zones in Bowser that are just mini-games towards the completion of the Story Mode, and are thus useless otherwise: Nose Deck, Chest Station, Nerve Cluster, Arm Center, Gut Check, Rump Command, Joint Tower, Lumbar Nook and Leg Outpost. That’s a LOT. And also the many abilities that must be learned as Bowser or as the Bros…. Yeah, there’s an overdose of tutorials in this game.

And it’s alright! It’s alright the first time you’re playing through the game. Or the second time, even. But it gets frankly tedious any following times. It’s great when you’re stepping into this adventure and you don’t know the controls yet, but it’s a burden every next time. And no matter how great it is to explore the entire game afterwards, you need to almost beat the entire game if you want to see everything.

The battle against the Fawful Express is one of the worst
examples of scripted battles in the game.
Oh, but Peach's Castle is even worse.
Even the giant battles feel horribly scripted. You're given three options: Punch, fire breath, items, and usually Bowser or the current giant boss will literally spell out the strategy to use against them. Do as they ask, and you will never lose. They're less like battles where you have the freedom to act, and more like a series of quicktime events - especially on the opponent's turn. Hell, the final giant battle is rigged so that as long as you do what the game asks, you cannot lose, no matter how many HP Bowser has left.

This ties into another problem: It feels as though this game was made for young children, as it seems to be a lot easier than other games. The huge amount of tutorials and hand-holding (as in, it feels like the game is holding your hand all the way through) lead me to believe this. There's something else that makes me think this: You will frequently receive during the game an item known as a Retry Clock, which you can use at any moment to restart a battle if you're losing. A good player, or one who's replaying through the game, won't ever need those, but a new player might use them and never, ever end up seeing the Game Over screen. The game asks whether you want to use one when either Bowser or the Mario brothers lose all their HP in a fight! Hell, the only way to make this game any diffficult is to get the Challenge Medal.

Granted, it's a pretty weird star... but it's made of
three things that were star-shaped.
As a final bit of criticism towards this game, it may have a very good story, it still hits many clichés of Mario RPGs: Peach gets kidnapped, Bowser has a major role, the villain either has a superweapon that will give him power beyond reason or is seeking said superweapon, and of course Mario (and whoever allies he has) needs to look for a MacGuffin split in multiple pieces. The Star Road, the Star Spirits, the Star Cure, the Bean Star… so much originality there, am I right? Oh, don’t get me wrong, the game pulls so many twists and has so many fun elements that you will be willing to overlook these.

However, in the end, what we have is a solid game, a worthy title in the Mario & Luigi series, an awesome game with Bowser not as a mere party member but as a main character all to himself – which is more than we can say of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, or even Super Paper Mario. The thought of playing as Bowser should be enough to encourage someone to play this game… although you might want to beat it only once or twice, at most.

And now I can close the book on this one. Part of me is kinda happy, to be honest. Anyway, what’s coming next week? Hopefully, a review of a Virtual Console game. I really should start playing one of those games I’ve barely touched…