Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. (Game Review by George Brumwell)

Our friend George Brumwell has been wanting to write an Alt:Mag post for a while, so here it is! Thanks for submitting this review of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. for the Nintendo 3DS! If you want to submit a guest review to Alt:Mag just drop us a line via our Facebook page or our Twitter page!

The Nintendo 3DS system has seen a lot of love in 2013, with fantastic games on the market releasing in Spring, particularly Fire Emblem: Awakening, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, in addition to some highly anticipated titles for Fall 2013 and going into 2014, with Pok√©mon X/Y and Super Smash Bros being special mentions. This year has also been very special in a sentimental sense for Nintendo, in that it is the “Year of Luigi,” celebrating the 30th birthday of Mario’s younger brother. Since I actually like Luigi better out of the Bros (not saying I don’t like Mario, he’s awesome too), mainly due to him being the younger sibling, very much like I am, it’s nice to see him get some love and attention in games recently. Three titles dedicated to this celebration have been released, first the surprise sequel to Luigi’s Mansion, Dark Moon (known as Luigi’s Mansion 2 in Europe), and a standalone semi-sequel/DLC for Super Mario Bros Wii U, New Super Luigi U, both of which feature Green Stache as the protagonist. And finally, to score him a hat trick, we have the new entry in the Mario and Luigi RPG series, with Dream Team Bros. In my opinion, it’s about time Luigi was shown some love.

The game itself plays out like the other entries, particularly with the unique art style and gameplay throughout the series, replicated for the 3D system in a way that doesn’t feel cheap. Another key part of the series was its humour, which there is by no means a shortage of here, if not moreso than other entries, especially with some quite inappropriate uses of the word “beef,” but all in good taste of course. 

The story is also a strong component with Dream Team Bros, and like the other games in the series, it aims for silly, and strikes gold as a result. It’s easy to follow, and is equally charming, cheesy and nonsensical, but not in a way that would lessen the experience. To try and keep this as spoiler free as possible, I’ll explain the premise so a rough idea of where the game leads can be had. It begins with Princess Peach, Toadsworth and other denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom being invited to the tourist resort of Pi’illo Island by Dr Snoozemore, who is studying the wonders of sleep (there are puns and wordplays aplenty throughout the game, so be warned). Of course, Mario and Luigi come along too as well as Star Sprite Starlow, who was introduced in the previous RPG Bowser’s Inside Story. Cue the usual tutorials, with Mario and Luigi stumbling upon a stone pillow, which turns out to open a portal into Luigi’s dream upon him sleeping on it (turns out it’s an ability almost unique to him), and as you might guess, a sinister force kidnaps Peach and drags her through, with Mario giving chase. Does she do anything besides getting kidnapped?

Anyways, moving on from there lies a decent story about the classic battle between good and evil, dreams and nightmares, and recurring themes of friendship, in addition to an emphasis of desire for greater things, explicitly from the returning Bowser (wouldn’t be a Mario game without the King of the Koopas), but implicitly with Luigi, with a very dark yet subtle undertone that is unfortunately not touched upon that much. It is hinted at some point that Luigi’s greatest fear comes from living in his brother’s shadow for so long, and that he believes that his brother would abandon him. It can be argued that Luigi’s resolve in this adventure shows that he is not spiteful of his brother’s fame, but wants to prove that he is equally capable of great feats.

A regular villain to the Mario and Luigi series, the Beanish Fawful, is sadly absent from this adventure, presumed dead after the finale of the previous title, Bowser’s Inside Story. His manner and his “Engrish” skills (I HAVE FURY!!!) were a solid component to the humour, and it is slightly lessened in this game as a result. However, the lovable Starlow from the last entry makes a welcome return, in addition to the border lying French stereotypes that are the Brocks. A new protagonist on the scene, and quickly my favourite character, is the leader of the Pi’illos, Prince Dreambert. He’s regal without being snobby or condescending, and is the go-to for learning the mechanics of the Dream World. The new Big Bad is also a favourite of mine; Antasma the bat king, mainly due to him being a huge yet subtle parody and tribute of Count Dracula (his Japanese name is even a play on the word Dracula, whilst other localisations refer to him as count rather than king). The script even has occasional flourishes of genius, mainly when it is self-mocking, either of the Mario universe, or on a larger scale, Nintendo itself. Also expect a lot of talk about the heroes’ moustaches.

In response to the game play mechanics, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The Mario and Luigi series play out initially like any other JRPG on the market, but with a refreshing twist in the sense that your attacks have to be timed with a well-executed button press for maximum damage, as well as to dodge enemy fire. This formula has always been intriguing throughout the 4 games because you can’t play through the game treating it as a run of the mill RPG (without wasting a lot of time and dying a lot of course).

The game is split into 2 worlds- the over world of Pi’illo Island, and the side scrolling madness of the Dream World. The latter involves different mechanics to the other world, and Mario becomes reliant on Luigi’s dream self (a more handsome version), Dreamy Luigi, to solve puzzles and traverse obstacles in order to advance. The combat even works differently in the Dream World, with Mario fighting alone, but seemingly fuses with Luigi and gains higher stats and more powerful attacks. Some critics have argued that because the Dream World is so vibrantly coloured and unique, it makes the over world seem boring after a while. Although I can see their point, I am inclined to disagree on the grounds that the island itself is still varied and pretty to boot. I personally feel that both worlds are equally amazing, but in different senses. 

The special “Bros Attacks” are just as silly as the rest of the game, and are unique to Mario and Luigi. Examples include kicking shells into enemies’ faces, catapulting their bodies into the foe, and making Luigi frantically paddle a jet board, as Mario stands poised with hammer at the ready. In the Dream World, Mario gains a new form of attack, Luiginary Attacks. These moves are even more ridiculous than Bros Attacks, since all of which involve Mario attacking with an army of Luigis in different ways, including a giant bowling ball, a hammer, or even a Luigi Tornado. A particular high point of the special abilities is how it makes you tilt and aim the 3DS, giving the silliness a sense of realism. There is also a new form of combat in the shape of Giant Luigi battles, which invite you in a Godzilla-esque tussle between a massive Luigi and an assortment of monstrosities. This shows just how charming and silly the game is, and how many notes it hits with its appeal.

Speaking of which, there are many people that would be interested in this title; obviously there are fans of Mario in general, and also those interested in an RPG game with a lot of depth. The story itself takes more than 30 hours just to get near the end, and there are side quests, collectibles, the opportunity to fight a boss on a harder difficulty for coins, and an accessible hard mode upon completion, meaning that you’ll be coming back for more. In addition, you can unlock Jukebox mode, which lets you sit back and listen to the soundtrack composed by the amazing Yoko Shimomura of Kingdom Hearts fame.

The main gripe I had with playing this game, and it isn’t even much, is in how unfair the game can be sometimes, but even then it’s quite a subjective thought. While some objectives are thrown in your face as to where to go, a small number of missions left me in a slight annoyance, mainly due to how little information was given and once you have figured it out, finding the pathway proves even more difficult. However, once these were completed, I just felt compelled to carry on. Also, some of the boss battles in the game are quite harsh in terms of difficulty at particular parts; it is technically a kids’ game after all; mainly involving very hard hitting attacks that are almost impossible to dodge or counter.

To conclude, this game is an easy buy for your 3DS and adds to the increasing number of amazing games from 2013, with X and Y poised to add to that list this fall. Its highest points include its irreverent and self-mocking humour, solid and unique combat that always feels fresh, and an amazing soundtrack. Its very few low points include the occasional difficulty spike, either combat or in puzzle solving, and the rather sluggish tutorial. However, it is refreshing to see the continuation of one of the best Mario variation series, and to see Luigi finally get his moment in the spotlight.


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