HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – If you’ve been hesitant to pick up an RPG (Role Playing Game), then I have the game for you. I, for one, tend to shy away from the genre due to somewhat slower, methodical gameplay. I have to say that Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for the Nintendo 3DS is not what you’d expect from the genre. Instead, it is a great entry in a growing collection of Mario RPGs. Dream Team also continues Nintendo’s Year of Luigi celebration. The green plumber is out to prove his worth.
Nintendo’s latest Mario adventure game starts off with your usual suspects, Mario, Luigi, Peach, and all the Toads being invited by a quirky character to the island of Pi’illo (you know like Pillow!) for a vacation. As you can expect, things go terribly wrong for our favorite plumber brothers. The pillow-like residents of Pi’illo have been put to sleep by a bat-like creature and are all trapped inside of a dream world. Of course, Princess Peach also ends up trapped in the dream world as well. Not a surprise there!
Normally you’d think that Mario would step into this dream world, stomp on some bad guys and save the day right? Not this time. In the very beginning of the game we find Luigi asleep, something his character is now known for apparently. Well it turns out Luigi’s ability to fall asleep at any moment is quite handy on Pi’illo. He is the only one who can access the dream world. Mario is there too though!
Mario can enter Luigi’s dreams where the player has a very unique ability to do crazy things. For instance, you can control a giant tower of mini Luigi clones to club enemies. The dream sequences are the best part of this game. We will get to that later though.
Like other Mario & Luigi entries before Dream Team, the combat is a two man game between Mario and Luigi. The player controls the brothers as one unit outside of combat and can make one or both of them jump using the A or B buttons. When you run into an enemy it triggers an RPG style combat sequence.
The combat is where this game shines. Most RPGs tend to force you to accept damage from the enemy. Not in Dream Team. In a battle with an enemy the player can perform a timed dodge of an enemy attack. What adds a layer of strategy to the dodging is an enemy can attack either Mario or Luigi. The fun part of the dodging comes into play when you have to identify the enemy’s attack pattern. I look at this as identifying a poker player’s tell! The player can jump, hammer, or slide to avoid the bad guys. You definitely can make it through fights without taking a hit as a result. I will say that it is very, very tricky at times to time your movements, but it never struck me as unfair.
Timing is also a key to your attacks. Hit the A or B button for either Mario or Luigi at just the right time when you land on top of an enemy and it will mean extra damage. Throughout the game you learn more specialized attacks like the” Bros” attacks or you gain the ability to wield a hammer for example.
I mentioned how going into Luigi’s dreams is a crazy experience. The game refers to Mario’s abilities in the dream world as “Luiginary” abilities. Funny stuff from the developer, Alpha Dream. Inside Luigi’s dreams the world switches to a 2D setting. Luigi can help Mario in a number of different ways during this time. In the dream world the top screen of your 3DS will show the 2D world Mario is in. The bottom screen? That features a goofy image of Luigi sleeping. To activate the Luiginary abilities the player has to take the stylus and pull on Luigi’s mustache. I found this to be a very clever way to use the bottom touch screen. During one sequence he splits into hundreds of little Luigis that pile on top of one another and deliver powerful attacks. The dream sequences are easily the highlight of the game. They are fantastical and really add a nice change of pace to the action. Honestly, one of my gripes about the game was I wish the entire game was spent inside the dream world.
The final piece to the combat puzzle in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is the badge system. Every single hit Mario or Luigi scores on an enemy adds points to the badge system meter. The points go towards whatever badge your character has equipped. Some badges may make you invincible for several turns or give you additional HP. These can really mix up a normal fight or a boss fight.
Mario and Luigi both level up throughout the game, like in most RPGs. The leveling system is mostly automated with the exception of one category that you can choose to place additional points into through a spinning game of chance. The chance stat can be an increase of anywhere from 1-5 bonus points. Stop the spin on a 4 and you’ll be pumping your fist in celebration, stop on a 1….not so much. The categories for leveling are HP (Health Points), POW (attack power), defense, speed, Bros Points (those are for the specials), and Stache (luck). You also acquire stat changing equipment throughout the game.
I also wanted to mention how much humor is in the game. The Mario & Luigi series is known for being quite funny and this game is no exception. One character speaks in a goofy, half-broken French accent for instance. The dialogue is just funny stuff.
Graphically the game is not the prettiest on the market for the 3DS but that doesn’t mean it looks bad. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has a unique look that fits the game. I thought the best looking portions came during the 2D dream sequences. They featured whimsical art that was quite eye catching.
In closing, I thought Mario & Luigi: Dream Team was a great game for anyone who has ever wanted to try an RPG but just hasn’t loved the genre previously. It’s also a great game for kids! The dream world is where this game shines and I wish the whole experience was spent while Luigi was snoozing. The change from dream to real world in Pi’illo keeps this game from reaching classic status but that doesn’t mean it’s not a wonderful addition to the Nintendo 3DS.