If you were to examine my recent gaming habits, you’d notice that in between my sporadic bouts of Borderlands and my re-play of Mass Effect to prepare for the sequel, the void is filled by an unlikely source: Nintendo. More specifically, Mario. And not New Super Mario Bros., even.
One of the games on my Christmas Manifesto™ was Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story for the Ninetudo DS. It’s your basic RPG: levels, hit points, etc, etc, but one that takes place in the Mario universe (but not the Mario Galaxy). I was somewhat excited for it ever since playing Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, which I look back upon with much fondness as likely being my favorite Gamecube game.
Bowser’s Inside Story doesn’t share the same paper atmosphere as the Paper Mario franchise; it’s actually a direct successor to Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, a game I’ve long since owned for the Game Boy Advance and struggled with, to the point of abandoning it near the end of the game.
Fortunately that problem didn’t persist with the new game. I really enjoyed the characters and the humor this time around. You’ll find yourself alternating between playing as Bowser (super fun) and the Mario duo (not quite as fun), as you attempt to thwart a villain who speaks fluent Engrish. The biggest complaint I had was the extensive explanation that accompanied every new discovery or ability. You have the option to skip it, but then you risk not know what’s going on. After about 30 minutes of the game, 15 minutes of which is text, it was awesome to hear Bowser echo my sentiments: TOO MANY WORDS!.
Actually, that’s not true. The biggest complaint I had is one that I will attach to every modern Nintendo game, and that is gimmickry for gimmickry’s sake. I can live with the touch screen, but blowing into the microphone to engage certain actions (fortunately this is rare) is nothing more than a pain in the ass, and would make me ashamed to play this game in any sort of public setting. The game still remains a ton of fun to play and I enjoyed the vast majority of it, so much so that I decided to revisit Superstar Saga after a hiatus of over 6 years.
It was a little weird to try playing it again; at first I tried loading up my last save, which was at the front gate of the final area, but I quickly found myself outclassed. I cursed my past self for being so unprepared for these sorts of situations and decided it would be best to start from scratch. I’ve adopted a philosophy in playing RPG’s recently that seems to pay off more often than not: fight everybody. Fighting equals experience equals power equals victory. For comparison’s sake, the duo in my saved game was hovering around level 30, while my new game ended with them having reached level 40. That doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but trust me, it was worth the extra effort, especially when the main difference in my playing was confronting enemies that were nearby instead of avoiding them.
All of this Mario RPG-ness has made me hungry for the other games in the series. I’ve already found myself giving Super Paper Mario another chance, and Paper Mario 64 and Super Mario RPG are available on the Wii Virtual Console. As if that’s not enough, I just found out that there’s a third game in the Mario & Luigi series that will be requiring my immediate attention as soon as I can find a used copy of it. So I have to go find a used copy of it.