Review by DBean
"Time is on your side!"
Partners in Time is the follow up to the highly successful GBA RPG, Superstar Saga. For the first time ever, Mario teamed up with his brother Luigi in an RPG where they rescued the awesomely named Beanbean Kingdom from the evil Princess Cackletta. Alphadream figures that if having one set of brothers was great, let's give the people two to make things really interesting. Thus, the premise of time travel is included to allow Mario and Luigi to team up with their younger selves as Partners in Time is born!
Let's quickly get one of my few disappointments with this title out of the way by stating that the time travel aspect is implemented poorly in this one. While you think you'll be traveling between the past and present of every area in the game, that couldn't be further from the truth. Unfortunately, the only place you'll be visiting in present time is Peach's Castle, which is more or less the central hub of the game. From here, every gate to the past is located within the friendly confines. Basically, the game turns out not to be so much about time travel as much as it is Mario and Luigi go back into the past to kick some Shroob, our antagonists of this adventure, backside.
All griping aside with what the plot could've been, I must say that this game is every bit as good as the first iteration of the series. Allowing the baby Mario Bros. to join up with their older selves creates some new gameplay options that keep things from getting too monotonous. You'll find the control to be on par with what was presented in Superstar Saga as well, with a specific button on the controller correlating to one of the four characters. Every thing from attacks to field controls is done like this. The concept is a simple one, yet very precise and extremely fun.
Speaking of fun, you'll be having plenty of it. Despite some comments I've heard over the brevity of this game, I can safely say that it's just as long as its predecessor was at around fifteen hours, give or take a little bit for all of you that love to backtrack. The story itself presents many funny moments as well, most notably whenever Luigi is the center of attention. If you thought he had it rough last time, just see what he has to put up with in Partners in Time! Also, I don't think I'll ever go tired of hearing the Bros. incoherent speaking. Going further on that, the sound as a whole is very well done. Many songs have the classic Mario feel to them such remixes of Peach's Castle and Yoshi's Island. The original tracks also have a good beat to them as well which ensures that you won't be turning it down throughout the course of the game.
Getting to the heart of the matter is the gameplay. While I've already touched on the aspect of one button representing one bro, that doesn't explain everything. This time around, things are a bit different. With four brothers to control, you'll find yourself doing quite a bit of breaking up when the older Bros. aren't giving their baby selves a piggyback ride. Mario and Luigi's old trick, the spin jump is back along with a new technique that allows them to roll up into a ball. This technique not only lets them speed along annoying inclined surfaces but also can allow them to squish their baby counterparts to enable them to fit through some tight spaces. The babies also have one other technique that allows them to burrow under the ground, fitting through some gates or otherwise inaccessible areas. It's really nice to see that while there aren't many techniques overall, they're used wisely and often enough that you won't find yourself wondering why they put it in the game.
The combat is slightly different as well. With Mario and Luigi having their younger selves to haul around, this enables some tag team maneuvers between past and present. For instance, to deal some extra damage for the jump attack, Baby Mario would press the X button to hit an enemy first before Mario comes crashing down a second later with the A button. This makes for a nice challenge, although most won't have any problems getting the hang of it. Also, Bros. Attacks are gone while in their place are Bros. Items. These items include many old favorites such as koopa shells or fire flowers. Again, proper button coordination will allow you to maximize damage and make some battles easier than they have any right to be.
To offset the damage you can give, this game focuses on knowing how to counter and dodge as well. If you're not careful, some enemies can really give you some troubles until you figure out the how and what of their attacks. With multiple attacks of their own, you always have to have your hands ready to evade the worst they have to offer. It makes turn-based combat a heck of a lot more fun than it usually is, and I often wish other games in this genre would give me the choice of doing this.
Breaking it down, what you get here is a nice sequel to Superstar Saga that keeps the comedy and action-oriented battle system that all know and love from the first while not going that extra mile to become the classic it could've been. If the time travel mechanic would've been added to the plot to where you could visit certain areas in present time, I think we'd have ourselves the new king of Mario RPGs. Oh well... Maybe next time. (Get it? Time? I'll leave now.)
Overall- 8/10 (32/40)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/12/06
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