Review by Daredevil3181

"The third installment of the Mario RPG series shows the one area it excels in the most: Humor"

First, Mario had to collect seven stars and stop a new evil that threatened his land. Next, a two-dimensional Mario explored a three-dimensional world that was being terrorized by his old reptilian nemesis. In the third addition to the ever-popular Mario RPG series, everyone's favorite plumber jumps right in to a new land and he's brought a surprise with him: Luigi!

As the title of the game implies, Mario is not alone anymore. Luigi tags along for his first ever playable role in a Mario RPG (he did make some cameos in the previous games). And family has never proven to be as close (or hilarious) as it is here!

While taking a badly needed shower in his house, Mario is suddenly alerted of a danger in the castle. It seems as if the new ambassador from the neighboring Bean-Bean Kingdom has stolen Princess Toadstool's voice, leaving her with an explosive case of Tourette's in its stead. Donning his faithful overalls and boots, this heroic plumber sets out to do what he does best: jump on the bad guys! Employing the help of an old rival, he secures a ride to the Bean-Bean Kingdom. In a hilarious mix-up, however, the not-so-brave Luigi gets dragged along for the journey as well. The younger Mario brother quickly proves his worth, however, when the two engage in their first big battle. From here the adventure takes off and opens up a whole new world for the dynamic duo.

While the story never reaches epic proportions, it does have some memorable moments. Not everything is as it initially seems in the Bean-Bean Kingdom and it's up to the Mario brothers to get to the bottom of this. There are some very minor twists and turns, but it's nothing an experienced gamer couldn't see coming from a mile away. The plot is still functional however, and sets the game up for one of its best features: gameplay.

The two brothers work in tandem both on and off the battle screen like they were joined at the hip. Whether it be assisting each other to jump higher, shrink to a tiny size, or lighting someone's behind on fire, Mario and Luigi prove that as a team, the sum total is much greater than its parts. Oftentimes you will need to utilize the two in perfect synchrony to solve puzzles and unlock new areas. Even as they walk around the screen normally, if Mario or Luigi (you can change who is in the lead with a simple bush of a button) jumps up a step and the other brother is still on the lower level, the two cannot advance any farther. Such is the strength of the tie that binds these two (almost brings a tear to my eye...wait, that's onions).

In battle you always have control over both brothers simultaneously (except for the rare instances when they are forced to split up). Fights are done in a hybrid of real-time and turn-based. If the enemies have higher speeds, they go first. Then Mario and Luigi get a crack at it, with whoever's faster taking the initiative. Finally, if any other enemies have a slightly slower speed than the brothers they will finish up the turn until the whole cycle renews itself or one side is defeated. Sound easy enough, right? Guess again.

While fighting, everything you do requires your utmost attention. Not only do you have the opportunity to press buttons at crucial times (much akin to the other Mario RPGs) to do more damage, but you must also dodge or counterattack an enemy's move. Do this correctly and you will be rewarded with no injuries to your characters, or, in the best of situations, extra damage done to the enemy. Do this wrong and you will quickly feel the pain, as your adversaries methodically whittle down your life points. Random battles are also non-existent as you can usually see the enemy rushing at you, allowing you to act accordingly and possibly obtain the first move or inflict some extra damage if you time things correctly. The controls are a little awkward to the untrained hand, but play the game long enough and everything will become almost second nature.

That's not all of it however, since what would a game featuring brothers be without some double team moves? Probably a lot less exciting, that's for sure. No need to worry here, as this game features cooperative (or as the game calls them, Brothers) moves a plenty. Remember those button-timings from before? They're here as well, causing each Brothers move to do more damage and sometimes extend the animation sequence if performed correctly. Each of these unique moves has three different settings, with the lowest moving in slow-motion and telling you when to push a certain button and the highest moving in normal time with only a faint glimmer to remind you when you need to give each respective brother his boost. Not only do these double teams look cool, but if you do them enough times you will be rewarded with an "Advanced" version which boasts a new look, even more damage, and a whole new button sequence to perfect. Mastering the two together will turn the Mario brothers into a force to be reckoned with.

The look of this game isn't bad, but it doesn't make full use of the Game Boy Advance's hardware either. The colors are bright all the sprites serve their purpose, but it never really seems to go past that polished 16 bit feel. You can see a number of expressions and other reactions in both characters' bodies and faces, so it does the job, although it does leave one wondering what it could be like if the developers put a little more time into this area. Watching the facial expressions and other little gestures is a good deal of fun, as almost everything that happens both between and around the Marios is pure gold in the comedy department.

The music is rather light-hearted and upbeat for the most part, reflecting the encompassing mood of the game. It becomes slightly darker from time to time, but quickly reverts back to its staple of remixed classic Super Mario Brothers tunes. Although the GBA is not able to hold any overwhelming voice acting due to size limitations on its normal cartridges, this game does have a fairly decent amount of voice-overs. Each brother will announce actions currently selected on the main screen and talk to each other and some of the main characters (although I use talk loosely, as most of the time it just comes out as laughable gibberish, which just adds to the comedic effect). The sound effects for everything are nice, but can come out a little scratchy at times.

Although there aren't a hefty amount of them, a few mini-games and sidequests do exist. You can brew different blends of coffee at the local Starbucks knockoff, play some games at an arcade, and even turn Luigi into a surfboard and ride the waves. Unless you're a completist you won't feel too inclined to play each game any additional times from what's needed for it to serve its purpose. There are only so many beans you can collect until each mini-game stops becoming fun and turns into a chore.

This game shouldn't take the average gamer any longer than 25 hours, even with completing all the extras. There is no need to level your characters to their max either, as most battles can be won with solid dodging and well-timed Brothers moves. Once the final boss is beaten and the credits finish rolling, there really is no reason to load the game up again unless you wanted to try and improve upon your high score in some of the mini-games. Other than that the replay value is close to Mega Man (oh wait, I meant Zero).

Despite some of my earlier gripes I really did enjoy this game, and it deserves a 7.5/10 (but alas, I cannot include fractions in my official score). The humor is close to gargantuan proportions. Every little expression, gesture, and bit of dialogue seems to add to the overall atmosphere. New characters add flair and their own little quirks, making sure to offer memorable scenes and jokes. Don't be afraid to laugh and understand when the game is intentionally poking fun at itself and you'll have an incredibly enjoyable experience.

If by the time this game is over you haven't worked out your abdominal muscles once or twice from busting a gut, you're doing both yourself and the Mario brothers a disservice. That and you'll make Bruce Banner angry. And trust me, you won't like him when he's angry.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/24/04

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