Review by ConfusedGuy
"Rightful heir to SMRPG's throne"
The Super NES Super Mario RPG was, and is, highly acclaimed for its blending of minigames and platformer elements into a well-crafted RPG. Its Nintendo 64 successor, Paper Mario, went even further, so much that it seems more like a platform game with RPG elements. Mario & Luigi has brought the best of both worlds into what is, arguably, the perfect combination of platformer and RPG.
Don't think that M&L has simply borrowed from its predecessors, though. It's inherited many of its charms, but Mario & Luigi also has a number of them all its own.
Mario & Luigi's story, thankfully, takes a break from the simple classic of ''Bowser has abducted the Princess!'' Instead, the witch Cackletta, impersonating an ambassador from the neighboring kingdom of BeanBean, has magically stolen the Princess's voice to use in a sinister plan that promises doom. The plot thickens and twists along the way as well. Certainly not what you'd expect from a Mario game (along the same lines as Super Mario RPG), though, thankfully, it doesn't skimp on the humor.
M&L's greatest and most prominent asset is in the amazing depth of its gameplay. While walking around, the basic game plays like an overhead platformer. At first you can only jump, but as the game goes on, you learn more moves such as hammer thwomping and magic hand attacks. However, you're not just Mario jumping around from ledge to ledge; your brother is in tow (and you can switch them around, putting Luigi in front and Mario behind, with a tap of the Start button). The rear character follows the front one, but they act separately - if you want to get over a ledge, you'll need to make both brothers jump. The front character performs an action with the A button, while the rear acts with the B button (and their chosen actions can be changed with R and L, respectively). The brothers also have an assortment of Bros. Moves they can learn, including a high-jump, flattening each other with hammers, and several other bizarre things you'll need to use for solving the game's platform puzzles.
Don't think that the battles are underplayed, though. Taking a note from Paper Mario, battles can be initiated to your advantage or disadvantage based on how you encounter an enemy party (which appears on the field as a single enemy). Jumping on it will do an initial damage to the enemy party, unless it consists of spike-topped enemies. Hitting it with a hammer will stun the party for a short time. However, if the party encounters your rear character instead of your front one, said rear character will be unable to move until his turn. Why does this matter? - every single enemy attack is avoidable. Whereas in previous games, timed button-presses could only be used to increase attack damage or decrease damage taken by defending, in Mario & Luigi they can actually allow you to evade, and in some cases counterattack, enemy attacks. The type of evade/counter action (jumping or hammering) is chosen automatically by the game according to context, and pressing the A (for Mario) or B (for Luigi) button at the right time will enable you to beat your foes at their own game. And of course, timing is also crucial for attacks, allowing Mario and Luigi to drastically increase the damage they dish out.
But wait - there's more. As mentioned before, the brothers will learn many new moves in their travels; but these moves are rarely limited to the field. Though they begin with only basic jumping attacks, these are quickly followed by hammer attacks and magic hand attacks. What's more, Bros. Attacks (which require both brothers, and a sequence of timed button-presses) use a combination of abilities and Bros. Points to deal even more damage to the enemy. The sheer variety of moves you can carry out, moves you can dodge, and moves you can counterattack is astounding. And the game world itself is fairly interesting too - there are several key areas to visit and revisit (through Warp Pipes), and almost every field screen holds a secret of some sort. There are beans you can collect to brew coffees at the castle town's café, there are side-areas which offer nostalgic challenges for items, there are several puzzling minigames, and the game is made that much more interesting with the fact that there are no inns - you're going to have to rely on your items (which you can find or buy at a select few item shops) and your dodging abilities to survive the game.
Graphically, Mario & Luigi is drawn in a similar style to Paper Mario, though not with its flat paper gimmick. It's nicely done, and everything looks crisp and clear (even on a Game Boy Player, for which M&L offers the additional perk of Gamecube controller rumbling). The soundtrack is well-composed, and the music tracks add to the ambient feeling in their respective areas. Sound effects are great, often laugh-invoking.
Mario & Luigi isn't an epic replay offering, but it does have a myriad of special and powerful items that you'll likely miss your first time through. And while it isn't terribly long, it's not short either, easily lasting 15-20 hours even without getting everything.
Put simply, M&L is one of the greatest and most enjoyable games ever made. It has just the right combination of proven old-school greatness and new and interesting ideas, to create one of the best adventures Mario has ever embarked upon.
Overall arbitrary rating: 9.5-10/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/03
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