Catching Up With 2009: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story!

Yep. I got a new banner for this thing. Yep. I’m aware it has all the artistic merit of a Miley Cyrus CD. What do you expect? I’m a writer, not an artist. I have several teachers from middle school that can attest to that. If nothing else, it will make sure Henry Hatsworth gets his mug plastered on the internet every week.

Here we are in week two of my laughable attempt to catch up with my backlog of games from 2009. As always, you can check out my first column to get a full description of just what this column is supposed to be.

I remember when I first glimpsed a game in the Mario & Luigi series. It was back when Toys R Us still had some relevance and the video game section was expansive. I, being of poor family, was still getting heavy mileage out of N64 and PS1 games while I had friends laughing it up with their Dreamcasts, Gamecubes, and Playstation 2s. Still, I never hesitated to check out what was coming out, if only to try and create some semblance of a list of games to get when I finally got the chance.

That was when I checked out the GBA display. It had been more years that I could remember since I had played a Mario game on a handheld system. On top of that, I had somehow never heard of Super Mario RPG. Or rather, I didn’t know what it was. This was my first experience with Mario outside of his platforming specialty. Well, that and his appearances in games like Donkey Kong and Punch-Out!

Allow me to reiterate. My family was poor. I didn’t even have the internet to keep me up to date with the goings on in the video game world. I still considered WWF Attitude to be the best wrestling game I’d ever played.

Anyways, something about that little demo station caught my eye. I don’t know if it was my lack of experience with RPGs at the time or simply the familiarity of the Mario Bros, but I was interested. My few minutes spent goofing off with the game left me wondering just what the full game would be like.

Sadly, it would be five years until I finally had a system I could play the game on.

When I got my DS, I knew of only a small handful of GBA games that I needed to have. Not the least of which was Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. I had my updated copy of Pokemon Red and the NES port of Dr. Mario, but the brothers wouldn’t be denied. I found a copy on Ebay and made sure I came out the winner. Twenty hours of gaming later, and I was satisfied by a Mario game in a way I hadn’t been since Super Mario 64 first graced my family’s N64. It was a classic from top to bottom.

So, in 2009, when they announced Bowser’s Inside Story for the DS, I knew it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on it. Chances were, it’d be an even greater experience.

What’s the game?

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story for the Nintendo DS.

Who made it?

Alpha Dream developed this title, as well as the other games in the Mario & Luigi series.

When did it come out?

Bowser’s Inside Story came out on September 14th, 2009

Where’s the Review?

Matt Yeager put up a review for us back in December

Why didn’t you play it in 2009?

This is simply a case of me hating the price of first party Nintendo games. Seriously, do they really need to tack on that extra five dollars just for that little symbol on the box? Sure, the quality of the games does tend to be higher, but a price for a Nintendo published DS game is a mere fifteen dollars cheaper than a Wii title. Also, that thirty-five dollar price tag is fixed among all games, whereas Sony is willing to offer first party titles such as Patapon at a lower price. Granted, Nintendo is in a better position to set higher prices.

In any case, I didn’t want to pay full price for this game if I could help it. I pretty much waited until after Christmas before I finally caved, and that was only because I was being stupid. Honestly, I don’t have the money to be buying as many new games as I do.

So what did you think?

In a nutshell, this is one of the best games on the DS that came out in 2009. That is no small feat.

For starters, the story is absolutely hilarious. The brothers are called to Peach’s castle after a disease called the Blorbs strikes the townsfolk. It seems a shady merchant has been selling mushrooms that cause all who eat it to morph into Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory. (Except they don’t turn blue.) In either case, this is precisely when Bowser decides he can’t live another day without kidnapping Peach. After a funny little battle which also serves as a tutorial, Bowser is defeated and slumps off. There he meets the merchant, who tricks him into eating a special mushroom. This bit of fungus doesn’t give the Koopa King the Blorbs however. Instead, it causes him to suck up most of the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom. Somehow, they’re all miniaturized by this process, and manage to make a living inside his guts.

What follows is the best story in the series so far. This is thanks mostly to Bowser himself, who has the best lines, the best scenes, and the only honest to God rivalry in the game. Most of his interactions are with Fawful or some of his (former) minions. With some serious situational comedy and more than just a dash of slapstick, I was laughing almost as much as I was playing the game.

Now normally, I don’t get too much enjoyment out of the gameplay in RPGs. I’ve never been the kind of person who must take up quests, fiddle around with character sheets, or find that ultra rare piece of loot that makes the end boss fight feel like the first fight. Generally speaking, I play just long enough until I can finish the story. Then I put the game away and call it a night. The Mario & Luigi is a very strong exception to this.

The plumbers can once again hop around, acquire special moves, solve puzzles, and fight enemies. Exploring is much more fun when you actually have things to do apart from talking to NPCs or selling loot. The platforming isn’t nearly to the standards of a typical 2D Mario excursion, but it doesn’t need to be.

The combat is also much more engrossing than your typical role playing experience. Each brother has a button assigned to them for dodging and counter attacks. This puts a huge emphasis on learning the timing of opponent’s attacks and keeps you invested in each battle. Also, timing your own attacks properly can result in bonus damage or even a second attack. True, there are plenty of times where you’ll get in the zone and this mechanic will make the game a bit too easy, but there’s usually enough variety in enemies and the moves they use to keep you interested.

Bowser isn’t forgotten either. Battles with him are even more fun as he has two different dodging techniques and touch screen based special attacks. He’s also got a few special sections where he grows in size to meet a building sized foe for some serious turn based action that at times even requires use of the DS microphone. If anything, there are too few of these sections.

From a production standpoint,t he game is simply top shelf material. The sprites are gorgeous and well animated, the music is fitting for any situation, and the controls are pretty much perfect. It is the kind of game where everything is done so well that you get immersed in the experience and stop noticing what you’re seeing as a “game”.

Basically, I loved it in a way I haven’t loved a Mario game since I first played Super Mario World.

What score would you have given it?

We’re looking at something between a Very Good and a Great. This is a little lower than Matt ended up giving it, but that is mostly do some nitpicking I have about things like the game’s replayability. Sure it’s a decent length and all, but I don’t see myself coming back to it any time soon. It was certainly great while it lasted.

Would it have made your top ten list?

At this point, I’d have to say it would knock Tekken 6 off of the list as well as surpass Motorstorm: Arctic Edge. This would make my list look like so.

1. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (NDS)
2. Rock Band Unplugged (PSP)
3. Plants vs. Zombies (PC)
4. UFC Undisputed 2009 (360)
5. Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)
6. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (NDS)
7. Fossil Fighters (NDS)
8. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (NDS)
9. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (NDS)
10. Motorstorm: Arctic Edge (PSP)

Interestingly enough, this now puts the DS in a majority position, whereas before it was tied with the PSP for number of titles on my list. That just goes to show you how great 2009 was for the system.

How much does it go for, you know, just in case I want it?

As you might have guessed by my bitching earlier, the game is still full priced at thirty-five dollars. That is, of course, unless you grab it used, which might save you up to five bucks. This would put in it line for the new price of most DS games.

I wish I still had a job.

Final Thoughts?

This is one game I’m glad I picked up, even if I couldn’t really afford it. Without a doubt, this is the best game of the series and an absolute must have for any DS owner. Now I simply can’t wait for the next game in the series. If they can keep the momentum going, it should be one hell of a ride.

Next time, I play my first PSP game for this column. On top of that, it is a game we don’t have a review for, so expect a super sized column!

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