Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey

The Body Koopa

One of the last roleplaying games for the Nintendo DS was the AlphaDream-developed Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, the chronologically third entry of the Mario & Luigi subseries of RPGs. Years later on the 3DS the very first game in the subfranchise, Superstar Saga, would receive a remake with added content, the second game in the series, Partners in Time, originally for the DS, overlooked. However, the third would receive its own rerelease entitled Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey, which is essentially two games in one akin to the enhanced port of Superstar Saga.

The main quest opens with a disease known as The Blorbs affecting residents of the Mushroom Kingdom, causing Toads to become morbidly obese, akin to Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its film adaptations. As Princess Peach and her cohorts, including siblings Mario and Luigi, discuss what to do about the pandemic, Bowser invades. The classic Mario antagonist is defeated, sometime after which he eats a Vacuum Shroom, making him engorge everything in sight, including Mario, Luigi, and Peach. The game’s action frequently alternates between Bowser and the Mario brothers as they unknowingly work together.

Bowser Jr.’s Journey follows Bowser’s son in parallel events as he has dealings with his father’s seven primary minions, the Koopalings, their origins pretty much unexplored, alongside Junior’s matronage. Both stories aren’t really anything special, consequentially, with the primary narrative derivative of the classic film Fantastic Voyage, the disease cure-seeking element filched from the original Star Ocean, as well. The translation is largely an admirable effort, though there is a lot of odd onomatopoeia such as “oog” and “muh,” and characters addressing Bowser’s son as “Lord Junior” sounds really asinine.

Thus, it’s pretty much up to the gameplay to shoulder the burden, and luckily, the main quest for the most part does a good job in this aspect, with enemy encounters visible on side-scrolling and top-down maps, Mario and Luigi able to jump on them or strike them with a hammer to get the initiative, dealing premature damage when the subsequent battle commences. Fights themselves are mechanically similar to those in Superstar Saga minus fire and thunder attacks, the siblings alone facing a number of foes, able to jump on them, hammer them, or use BP to use Bros. Attacks, most of which feature minigame-esque sequences that can either be easy or hard to master.

Bowser himself faces off solo against various enemies, able to get the initiative in fights with his own map abilities, capable to punch foes, exhale fire on all, or use point-consuming minion skills that can ultimately be more powerful, if properly executed, than his standard free attacks. Sometimes, he can inhale enemies for the Mario brothers to finish off, with all participants in combat after a victory receiving money and experience, the latter allowing them to level occasionally. In these instances, their stats increase, the player able to use a roulette mechanic on an individual stat for a bonus increase that lessens at a certain threshold.

Bowser Jr.’s Journey is also mechanically similar to the Minion Quest in the 3DS remake of Superstar Saga, aside from the introduction of customizable formations, some of which can grant all participants in combat bonuses. Also new is the ability for Bowser Jr. to have a co-captain, players ultimate able to make Junior of melee, ranged, or flying type, with the automatic real-time battles playing out with the Rochambeau formula of melee units beating ranged units, ranged units beating flying units, and flying units beating melee units. Minions randomly and either collectively or individually execute special skills, which the enemy faction can cancel, although players can accomplish the same in return, with other capacity point-consuming skills in the mix.

The gameplay mechanics in the main quest generally work well, aside from some annoying enemies and wildly-unpredictable antagonist attack patterns (with the warning indicators the player can turn on and off in the game menus often not helping here). Bowser Jr.’s Journey, however, is more or less a whole different ballpark, necessitating frequent grinding to stand a chance against story maps, and leveling itself carries an all-or-nothing risk if the player loses even one of a stage’s fights. Leveling certain units on lower-level maps can also be difficult, and overall, the subquest could have used a once-over.

Control, though, fares somewhat worse, with the developers absolutely loving minigames, most of which are mandatory to advance the storyline and even repeated at times. One can also accidentally switch between the Mario brothers and Bowser given the proximity of the 3DS’s face buttons. While the primary storyline features detailed in-game maps, furthermore, they aren’t wholly foolproof, with some passageways to other chambers not even indicated, leading to the player losing themselves at times and having to consult online guides. The game menus themselves are generally easy, however, but this area could have definitely used a greater reevaluation.

Returning composer Yoko Shimomura’s soundtrack, however, is good as always, with most characters having their own squeaky voices that are fortunately skippable in most instances, although there are some common silent parts of the game.

The graphics are nearly identical to those in the 3DS rerelease of Superstar Saga, which isn’t a bad thing as they border on perfection, and some stages such as the various chambers of Bowser’s body contain superb design. The only real shortcoming is the lack of three-dimensional capability.

Finally, each game will last players around a day’s worth of total playtime, with lasting appeal, particularly in the main quest, of achieving one hundred percent when it comes to things such as digging around the world for special beans, and special achievements in Bowser Jr.’s Journey

In the end, the collection has many things going for it, such as their enjoyable gameplay systems, superb aural presentation, pretty visuals, and plenty of reasons to come back for more. However, there are issues, particularly regarding Bowser Jr.’s Journey, with the repetitive grinding necessary to make it to the end, not to mention problems with the main quest such as mandatory minigames, the ease of getting lost a few times despite in-game maps, and the disappointing narrative in both adventures. It’s certainly not the greatest Mario RPG of all time, but it’s far from terrible and warrants a look from fans of Nintendo games in general.

The Good:
+Enjoyable gameplay systems.
+Great aural presentation.
+Pretty graphics.
+Good lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Bowser Jr.’s Journey is fairly grindy.
-Repeated mandatory minigames.
-In-game maps don’t show everything.
-Disappointing plot.

The Bottom Line:
One of the weaker Mario RPGs, but still good.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 5/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: ~1 day per game

Overall: 8/10

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