Hands-on with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for Nintendo 3DS

Ah, Mario & Luigi. I played the series’ original entry, Superstar Saga, and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door at just about the same time. Superstar Saga didn’t quite win me over, due to some iffy timing issues and the tediousness of switching not only between brothers, but between their moves just to get around on the map. Meanwhile, The Thousand Year Door remains my favorite Mario RPG of all time.

(For full disclosure, I played Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars when it came out, day one, while missing the original Paper Mario until its Virtual Console release.)

It’s funny how things can change in about a decade. While not a bad game, Paper Mario: Sticker Star deliberately chose to abandon so much of what made me love the series to begin with, leaving it feeling more like the series’ prototypical entry than its latest installment. And Mario & Luigi? It seems to just get better and better with every installment.

Though I didn’t get to review it, Bowser’s Inside Story was my favorite entry in the series to date, and it looks like Dream Team is poised to equal, if not surpass it.

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While Bowser is present, you don’t get to play as him this time around (at least, not to the same degree, if at all). Instead of bopping around the Koopa king’s insides to trigger different powers and abilities, you’ll instead get to use Luigi inside a dream world.

In a lot of ways, moving around the dream world and using Luigi’s abilities therein feel similar to moving around inside Bowser, yet still different– it feels like the ideas came from the same mindset, and so feel familiar. One instance calls upon you to use the touchscreen as Luigi’s consciousness inhabits a background part of the dream world. By pulling on his mustache in the real world, you’ll also do so with the large face on the top screen, allowing you to use it to grab Mario and slingshot him to where he needs to go.

Suffice to say, it is as bizarre as it sounds.

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Fighting is as familiar as ever, using a variety of items and actions in a timed fashion in order to attack or defend. As with navigating the platformer-like dream world, certain attacks call upon Luigi’s dream abilities, leading to dozens (or more) of Luigis coming together for mega-damaging attacks. One has you stacking crowds of Luigis on top of each other, forming an entire tower to bring down on top of your foes, provided you set them right. Another goes to 3D as Mario tries to roll up a big ball of Luigis by using the Nintendo 3DS’s motion sensors to roll the ball left and right before steamrolling the enemy.

Similarly, there are also 3D portions where you might be running towards the screen to get away from a foe or attack. In other cases, you have a surprising amount of freedom to actually move Mario around a portion of the screen to dodge attacks.

Those who miss controlling a giant Bowser in some kaiju-styled action from Bowser’s Inside Story need not worry too much, as Luigi is capable of taking on that role in this game, complete with turning your system sideways to play it. Mario rides on top and is able to provide some extra support, and even works with his brother to perform a finishing move that would make the Voltron Force and the Power Rangers alike proud.

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The series has come a long way since Superstar Saga on the Game Boy Advance, and you can really see it here. The new sprite graphics look gorgeous, and can fool you into thinking you’re looking at 3D rendered models. The controls are great– even the motion controls– though I worry about not having an alternate means of controlling those sections while on a bus or subway ride. Regarding the sound, I didn’t get to hear too much at the event; I’m just hoping they keep Bowser’s awesome voice.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team hits stores and the Nintendo eShop on Sunday, August 11th, and should be a safe investment for anyone who loved Bowser’s Inside Story, from what I can tell. If you’ve any doubts, then stay tuned for my own review.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.