Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Review: I Dream of Luigenie
The fourth installment of the Mario & Luigi series makes its way to the 3DS, despite being the third console released since the first game, Superstar Saga. However, its release coincides with the Year of Luigi, finally putting Luigi in the limelight as somebody who is just as important, if not more, than his brother. His prominence is clearly shown by how his face is literally shown through half of the game, which in itself is integral to the game’s mechanics. Overall, Luigi’s relevance cannot be escaped, whether in the real world, or especially in the newly introduced dream world.
The real-world battles are practically identical to those of the previous games. Mario, Luigi, and each enemy get a turn to make a move. When the enemy attacks, Mario and Luigi can dodge and/or counterattack it. Similar to the prior installments, performing special attacks, called Bros. Attacks, require timed button commands, but may also require tilting the 3DS using its gyroscopic sensor, which is a nice substitute for the lack of touch screen interface, none of which the Bros. Attacks use, including the special attacks in the Dream World.
In the dream world, Mario fights alone imbued with the power of a dreamy avatar Luigi uses to explore the Dream World with him, which boosts his stats a good bit. As opposed to the two or three enemies fought in the real world in each battle, the dream world sends armies of enemies after the bros. Since there exist many copies of Luigi in his own dreams, they assist Mario with attacking multiple enemies at once, making battles just as manageable in the real world, with the added spectacle of seeing many enemies defeated quickly.
The touch screen is mainly used for solving puzzles in the dream world, where Luigi’s face can be manipulated to alter the environment. This is similar to Bowser’s Inside Story, where Bowser would perform an action that would indirectly change something happening inside his body. However, the player as direct control over how Luigi alters the environment with the touch screen, making the puzzles more innovative. In addition to touching Luigi’s face, many Luigi clones can help solve certain puzzles and bypass many obstacles. With its reality-warping qualities, the dream world sequences are complimented by the real world’s lack of ambition.
Which isn’t to say that it completely lacks ambition–though a few mechanics are reused from previous games, they are reimagined with new puzzles. In fact, other elements make a comeback, such as a variety of characters from previous games that fans will enjoy. Combined with the new characters, the supporting cast comes to life, demonstrating the variety of different faces seen throughout the series. Overall, the game presents itself very well, as the well-crafted pixel art done for the characters allows most of the 3DS’s power to go into the beautifully modeled and textured backgrounds.
With something pleasant to look at and listen to, it helps getting through the lengthy tutorials. No matter how late in the game, the player will be reminded of the exact buttons to press to perform whatever required, each input stifled by dialogue. For the most part, everything is self-explanatory, which is demonstrated on the rare instance when the game gives the option of letting the player decline a tutorial, it isn’t difficult to figure out the simple button inputs without being told. Some tutorials are indeed necessary for touch screen input, but it gets a little too overbearing most of the time.
In spite of seemingly holding your hand most of the way, the game doesn’t pull any punches with the difficulty. In this respect, the game aims to please veterans, but doesn’t harshly punish any player when they lose, as any battle can be retried right after getting a game over. Even if the battle gets too tough for newcomers, they are allowed to retry the battle in an easier mode, which reduces the enemy’s stats, and even provides a hint block. In spite of this, after completing the main story, the player is awarded with hard mode. Both sides of the difficulty spectrum are accounted for.
Considering how long the game is–easily the longest Mario & Luigi game to date–the difficulty curve is really balanced. As difficult as it becomes towards the end, it starts off pretty easy, and then the fact that the player can retry a battle allows the game to become as difficult as it wants. With so much support and mercy for players, it would feel almost dissatisfying if the game didn’t get as hard as it had become. With additional side quests, overcoming difficulty, the game leaves a lot to do even after completing the main story, as if doing the latter didn’t take up a lot of time to begin with.
- Overbearing tutorials
+ Beautiful and varied environments
+ Varied characters with hilarious personalities
+ Well-written dialogue
+ A lot of content with side quests
+ Balanced difficulty curve
+ Wonderfully composed music
AlphaDream proves that it’s the most whimsical development team Nintendo has with its latest work. While it’s a free spirit, Nintendo is there to pull in the reigns, but not too much to show something new that’s just as polished as any other Nintendo product. The series goes back to its basics by having solely the bros playable, creating a more open-ended experience like in the first game, rather than just having extra characters that end up imposing stricter regulations. With so much content to be had with using so little to begin with, it’s as much as a marvel as the first game was, if not more.