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Game Review: Mario & Luigi Dream Team

August 31, 2013

This review is intended to be spoiler free. Any discussion about the game’s plot will not spoil major parts of game. Gameplay photos are from the game’s Amazon page, which you can check out here if you want to buy the game.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is the fourth installment in the Mario & Luigi series, one of two major Super Mario RPG series (the other being the Paper Mario series, which released a new installment late last year.) One could consider this game to be the 10th anniversary title of the Mario & Luigi series, as the first title released back in November 2003. The series focuses on using both of the Mario Bros in special combat, combining elements of your standard RPG gameplay and strategy with additional forms of gameplay, both outside of combat, and during combat to mix-up fights against enemies a bit.

Releasing in August 2013 (for North America, the rest of the world received the game in July) as the first title on the Nintendo 3DS, this title is one of many hit 3DS RPG games to release this year. In a sea of great titles that have come out (Fire Emblem: Awakening, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Etrian Odyssey IV) and are coming in the future, is Mario & Luigi: Dream Team worth your time and money? As a newcomer to the franchise (Yes, I haven’t played previous games in the series. My apologies, this review will be coming from a newcomer perspective, and won’t be judged based on the previous titles), I wondered that myself.

Regardless, let’s dive into this title and see the worth of one game’s dream.

The Basics: Gameplay and Graphcis

As stated above, this is an RPG title. You’ll be playing as both Mario and Luigi, as you must use them together to defeat enemies, solve puzzles, and accomplish other tasks. In both combat and in travel, you’ll be able to determine which brother does what action using the A button for Mario, and the B button for Luigi. For example, when walking around, if you want Mario to jump, you’ll use the A Button. If you want Luigi to jump, you’ll use the B button. They’ll both walk around using the circle pad to direct them, but individual actions are always directed by using one of those two buttons. This is the same for combat, as you’ll see a group of actions above each brother’s head when it is his turn, but you’ll need to press the A button to get Mario to select a combat option when it is his turn (pressing B when it is Mario’s turn to fight will have Luigi jump up and down in the background.) In addition, when enemies attack, you’ll need to pay attention to where enemies are attacking to defend the brothers from harm, or even perform counter attacks on your foes. You’ll also be able to use special attacks with their own abilities as you advance in the game. They’re varied in how they work, but remember, A for Mario, B for Luigi. It’s that simple to learn.

In addition to the standard form of combat/movement/puzzle solving seen above, the game also features two additional twists to the series. The first being when Mario enters the Dream World, allowing Luigi to take on a special role and transform into various objects to help out Mario. In order to do this, you’ll have to make use of a sleeping Luigi on the touch screen so you can solve puzzles. He also is no longer controlled during Dream World combat, although this allows Mario to temporarily add Luigi’s HP to his total, as well as allow multiple Luigis (We will get to this in the story section) to assist Mario with certain attacks. Other that new forms of special attacks made specifically for the dream world, the gameplay remains the same. All actions using Mario require you to press the A button. For Luigi, the B button.

The only major change combat wise occurs during special boss battles involving a Giant Luigi and a Giant Boss. You’ll be asked to flip the 3DS on its side and hold it like a book. None of the buttons will be used during these battles. Instead, it will require you to use the touch screen and occasionally the gyroscope in the 3DS by titling the handheld. While this may sound uncomfortable, and may feel awkward on first use, it’s actually not that bad to use, and most of the time works great! (Although I did have times where certain actions didn’t work properly, although I can’t tell if that’s an issue with the 3DS or if it is an error on my part. There were times where I was doing the same action the game previously said I did correctly and suddenly have it not work properly. This happened rarely though, so don’t be concerned.)

The photos in this review may not do the game justice, as the art style looks fantastic on the 3DS! Using the better hardware (when compared to the GBA and DS), while sticking to a similar art style as the sprites used in the first three games, it helps bring this creative, crazy game world have just a little more life (and a little more zaniness too!) Meanwhile, the Giant Luigi fights (which I unfortunately do not have a photo of) are much, much more detailed. Any minor gripes I have with the Giant Luigi fight are tossed aside when I look at how gorgeous the fight environments are. They really help add to the incredible feel of the boss battles.

Story: What are you trying to do?

In a plot very similar to Super Mario Sunshine, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and all the Toads/other members of the Mushroom Kingdom take a vacation to Pi’illo Island (I’m sure some of you are groaning at the pun), where they plan to relax for a little while. Unfortunately, due to the usual circumstances (Peach starts to wander, gets lost in the castle they are staying at, monsters are in that area) Mario & Luigi must hunt her down. They eventually rescue her and discover an artifact that looks like a pillow. After returning to the main area of the castle and putting the object in the artifact room, (along with a tired Luigi choosing to sleep on the special bed, as seen above) a portal appears above Luigi and, (to the surprise of no one, because even the characters admit this is a typical Tuesday for Princess Peach) sucks Peach in. With Peach lost in this dimension known as the Dream World, Mario and Luigi (who will have a special version of himself in the Dream World that can do almost anything, including clone himself for battle and certain tasks) must find Peach and stop a mysterious bad guy who appears to be related to this Dream World. Can you save Princess Peach (as per usual)? What’s up with that artifact that looks like a Pillow? And what is this mysterious bad guy up to?

Oh, and I’m pretty sure Luigi is living everyone’s dream (pun not intended) of being allowed to sleep on the job, and sleep as much as you want during the day.

Issues: Does this game have any major flaws worth noting?

One major issue I had with the game was actually the tutorial system, specifically the fact that it over-extended its welcome at times. It’s funny, as a newcomer to the series, I actually didn’t mind the fact that the game has everyone start off going over how to fight in the beginning, regardless of if you’ve played a game in the series before (You can say you know what you’re doing at times, but it frequently stops the battle to tell you how to do certain actions. This also occurs with certain tasks outside of battle, where it goes step by step on how to do something.) While the explanation is appreciated, this tutorial system was happening well into the first half of the game, with it being toned down as you started getting into the later portions. And when it was happening, man did the explanations go over every little thing. I know a lot of people complain about certain hand holding characters/things in Nintendo Titles, and although I’m usually not that bothered by them, this was a little bit too much even for me. I feel toning the tutorials down a bit, and making it clear where more detailed explanations can be found would be a good idea if a fifth game in the series is made. It really did motivate me a little less to pick up where I started in game because of this tutorial system.

Other than that though, the game doesn’t have any other major issues. It does have an easy mode in combat (with the exception of the giant battles) for those who end up losing during a fight, which some may feel cheapens the game, as it doesn’t appear to come with any downsides like other games have when you choose an easier option.However, it’s not necessary to use. The game’s difficult feels just right though, and has an unlockable Hard Mode upon beating the game.

The Recommendation: Is this game right for you?

There’s a lot of people and a lot of reasons why people enjoy playing video games. From those looking for a solo experience, to those looking to entertain. Let’s see whether or not Mario & Luigi: Dream Team can appeal to you.

For Solo Players: This game is fun and creative RPG title that throws in additional forms of gameplay to help it stand out. It’s very easy to either play for short periods of time (as a save button is always available outside of battle on the touch screen, and each world doesn’t take too long to complete individually) as well as for long periods of time for those who really get into a game. It took me about 30 hours to complete the game’s essentials, and considering I’m not the greatest RPG player, it could take less time if you’re playing the bare minimum (maybe 25+ hours) or more if you do everything the game has to offer (I’ve seen 40 hours for just about everything in normal mode. Hard Mode could take even longer.) There are some parts of the game (specifically the Giant Luigi battles) that I’d say aren’t ideal for on-the-go/away from home gaming, but other than that it is perfect for travel.

For those with more than one player: This is not a multiplayer title, despite the title of the game series being Mario & Luigi. This isn’t a title you’ll be able to interact with a friend or a sibling.

For those looking for a good story: While I wouldn’t say this title has a very deep, meaningful story (It’s a Mario RPG game after all), it is still very entertaining. It has a nice cast of characters, can poke fun at its own story elements and the Mario Universe as a whole, and can overall be very satisfying. While I feel in the first half of the game, the minor characters could have a little more variety, there’s still quite a few who stand out and are entertaining. The villain of the story isn’t the most fleshed out RPG villain (compared to previous Mario RPG titles I’ve played), but he gets the job done. Again, it’s a nice, simple story. But sometimes, simple can be just as good. It may not be Fire Emblem Awakening quality, but it will get the job done.

Overall: As a newcomer to the series not having any expectations about this game, I was surprised by how fun this game ended up being. It has its flaws, sure. And I wouldn’t say it is enough to sell a 3DS to someone like Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing and Pokemon. But for current 3DS owners, and especially RPG fans, it’s enough to stand out among the sea of RPG games both out and coming out this year. If you have a down period where you don’t have any games to play on your 3DS, consider looking into this title. If you’re interesting in playing an RPG game for the first time, I’d say the extra gameplay abilities make this game a great way to get you into this type of game.

I personally loved this game, and hope to try out more from this game series in the future. Check it out if you have the chance.

Thanks for reading this review of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team! Please feel free to comment/critique this review, or say what you thought of the game as well! Your feedback will help future reviews on the site become a much higher quality. Thanks again!

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One Comment
  1. Nice review! If you really want to try another game in the Mario and Luigi series I highly recommend Superstar Saga. It was my favorite game on the GBA and in my opinion is still the best in the series.

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