Review by ChronoCactaur
"One Of The Best Video Games Ever Made? A Dream Come True"
So here we are on the fourth installment of a 10-year old sub-series in the Mario franchise. Now, most video game series are lucky to even reach a sequel, but some video games are so good that you just want to have more, and more, and more until you think you're satisfied, but then you realize you want more anyway.
However, and this applies to fans of this series in particular, I think it's pretty easy to tell how much effort is put into a video game. Most video games that aren't given the proper development time, you can tell if it was rushed in one way or another. Some notable examples of games that were rushed, but still managed to become excellent products are The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Super Smash Bros. Melee. But wait a minute, this is a review for a Mario & Luigi game isn't it? You're absolutely right, so allow me to use a more proper example: Partners In Time.
With SuperStar Saga, the foundation was set. While it was largely inspired by Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG, you can see that it became its own thing, but it was still an infant that beared quite a resemblance to its inspirations. What set it apart from the other Mario RPGs at the time was its humorous script, memorable new characters, and new take on the relationship between the Mario Bros. Then came Partners In Time, which only came out a mere two years after the original. Now, I don't know how long it took to make SuperStar Saga, but I can tell you for sure it wasen't made in less than two years like Partners In Time was. Playing Partners In Time after playing SuperStar Saga and Bowser's Inside Story, you can immediately tell that PiT didn't receive the love it needed to be on-par with the other entries. Basically, it was below par. I don't want to dwell on this more than I have too, so I'll move on to the actual review for this game.
Whereas Partners In Time was below-par for the series, Dream Team is well above par. In fact, I can safely say that it is the strongest entry in the series. I think that every entry, barring PiT, is worthy of a 10/10. Mainly because other than the excessive tutorials at times, the games really don't have any discernable flaws, at least not ones that significantly break the game or anything. Dream Team has no flaws, but what it does have that many not appeal to everyone is a length that is approx. 1.5x the average length of SSS and BiS. This might be jarring for some, and it may hurt the replay value of the game, because as great as the game is, it does start to drag during certain portions. One example is Dozing Sands. Whereas the average area in previous M&L games would take 1 to 1 and a half hours to complete, Dozing Sands can take several, especially if you're going for all of the P'illos and such. This is because every area is split into "Real World" and "Dream World" segments, but instead of them being two halves of one world, they're actually more like two similar worlds that exist in the space of one. This means that Dream segments last a lot longer than one would expect, and they range from bite-sized segments for rescuing P'illos, to longer maze-like areas for story segments. There's also a section of the game where you have to revisit earlier areas to acquire missing pieces of a main treasure, but it's actually shorter than the previous implementations of the concept, so it's almost harmless, especially since you're discovering new portions of the areas in the process. I can't really consider Dream Team's length a flaw>/i>, per se, but I think it's still worth mentioning because not everyone has the time to play a 30+ hour game, even if it is an RPG. That is because the typical length of SSS and BiS was around 20 hours, and Partners In Time was much shorter at 12-15. Dream Team went well above the standard, and I'm sure it will be praised for it. Moving on.
The way Bros. Attacks are handled is a little different from before. This time, each bro has their own set of Bro Attacks, with only one being shared, the 3D Shell Attack. So that leaves four unique attacks for each bro. Other than the Fire Flower, they're all brand-new, though a few seem to be influenced by previous ones, if only slightly. Just like in Bowser's Inside Story, you unlock them by finding ten Attack Pieces in a specific area. In the Dream World, you learn Luiginary Attacks instead. There are six, and each one is distinct from the other. What's interesting about all of the new special moves is that none of them require the touch screen. Instead, expect lots and lots of Gyroscope controls, and while they work most of the time, don't be surprised if it suddenly craps out on you when you're in the middle of a special move or a Giant Battle.
Oh yes, the Giant battles from Bowser's Inside Story also makes a return. But instead of Bowser, you're now Giant Luigi! This brings quite a few new moves to the fold, and since the Giant Battles are in full 3D, it makes for an interesting spectacle. There are five of them scattered throughout the game, roughly one for every 5-6 hours of gameplay give-or-take. Each one is distinct, though some tactics you learn can be used on later bosses, and by the time you reach the final couple of them, you'll have learned everything there is to learn for Giant Luigi. A little disappointing that he only gets two "Bro Attacks", and two hammer actions, but actually this might be for the best. Apparently, these battles were "outsourced" from Nintendo to a third-party company. Not sure who was behind them, but they seem to be pretty stable. Be forewarned though, the Gyroscope controls for certain attacks and actions can glitch out, leaving Giant Luigi defenseless and prone to damage. Out of all of them, I would have to say the fourth one is the best one, and no I won't spoil it for you. The fifth one is a nice nod to a previous entry, but is insanely punishing compared to the previous battles.
The story is, honestly, kind of generic by Mario RPG standards. Mario and friends head to P'illo Island for a vacation, but it turns out there's an evil bat king named Antasma that wants to harness the power of the Dream Stone to create eternal nightmares for everyone... or something like that. Later in the game, you find out Bowser even gets in on the action, and the two form an unlikely villainous duo, who you fight as bosses throughout the game. Other than them, the bros run into a colorful cast of characters and bosses, most of them are new, but there are a few returning ones from previous M&L games, and a couple of them even have boss battles! I shant spoil the actual bosses, but I can say that you can expect one returning boss character from SuperStar Saga, and one from Bowser's Inside Story. There's also a Partners In Time character that shows up. Not only that, but the beanish folk from the original game are also scattered about the island to give players a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for the series' growth. At least, I like to think so, see?
The battle system is heavily based on Bowser's Inside Story,with each bro being able to do a double jump and a hammer swing, in addition to using items and special moves. This time there are "Expert Challenges" for you to complete during battles, and they all reward points that can unlock some rare gear for you to use. Pretty much trivial, but it does give you something extra to do in addition to bean hunting and finding P'illos.
All in all, Dream Team is one hell of a package deal for $39.99. I went into this game with fairly high expectations, and it either met or exceeded them greatly. While I still prefer SSS and BiS over Dream Team, that doesn't mean I don't think it's the best game in the series. In fact, to argue otherwise seems illogical to me. Then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and some are still deep in sleep, you know what I mean? ;)
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/27/13
Game Release: Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (US, 08/11/13)
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