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Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story

A video game by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS

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Being Inside Bowser

  • Jun 16, 2011
  • by
My first and only encounter with Super Mario RPG for the Super NES came back when the game was brand-new, back in 1995. A friend had rented it, and I was impressed with it. Since I didn't own a Super NES, however, I would have to go without the game and so I've never played it since. It made one hell of an impression on me though, and I kept hoping beyond any hope that Nintendo would someday wise up and rerelease it for one of their portable consoles. I knew I had missed out on something incredible.

Well, that never happened, but Nintendo did create a new RPG series using the Super Mario characters. The Nintendo 64 and Gamecube got the Paper Mario games, but it was the advent of the Mario and Luigi games on the Game Boy Advance which truly captured my heart. I thought it was just really cool that a game would finally feature Mario and Luigi working in tandem together, as a team. Luigi had become the forgotten sibling in the Nintendo pantheon - even his dark twin, Waluigi, was introduced in one of the Mario sports games just to provide a foil, like Wario for Mario. The Game Boy Advance gave us Superstar Saga, which introduced a fantastic new villain - Fawful - to the Mario universe and won people over with its clever in-jokes and funny writing, all taking on an epic RPG feel.

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is the second sequel to Superstar Saga. I never did get around to playing Brothers in Time, so I have to take it on word of god that Fawful wasn't in that game. He's back in Bowser's Inside Story, though, still uttering the fractured half-sentences that made him so much fun to hate in Superstar Saga. ("I HAVE CHORTLES!!!") For this go-round, Bowser goes to take the Mushroom Kingdon once again and threatens being foiled by Mario and Luigi once again. A mysterious stranger soon offers him a potion which he claims will enable him to finally beat Mario. Bowser accepts, and in the big battle at the castle, he learns just how the potion works - it is allowing him to literally inhale literally everything in sight. That includes the Princess, the Mario brothers, and a small army of toads. So now, without Bowser being aware of it, the Mario brothers have to get Bowser's normal body functions up and running the right way again. As Bowser sets off to retake his castle from Fawful lackey Midbus, the Mario brothers end up forming one of the strangest alliances with him ever seen.

The main character in the game is Bowser, at least in my mind's eye. Bowser was the one who turned the tables and set the whole plot in motion. Bowser also has more of a free roaming range than the Mario brothers - he can move in every direction, while the Mario brothers can only move in two for a large extent (although they can also go in every direction when they're on the outside of Bowser). The game largely revolves around controlling Bowser in the outside world with interludes on the inside with Mario and Luigi activating new powers for Bowser within his body by performing little tasks like freeing up Bowser's fire pipe, activating his joints, and springing him back to life whenever he gets crushed by something especially large.

This game is an RPG, so it involves character growth, a strong plot development, and earning levels and power through experience. But much of the game with the Mario brothers plays out more like a traditional platformer with RPG elements. They are occasionally able to free themselves of Bowser's innards, and can move in a full three dimensions in the world outside when they do. But there's no disruption in the styles since both sections play out in such similar fashions; you begin fights by running headlong into the bad guys, which will take you to a fight screen, and both Bowser and the Mario brothers find themselves doing a lot of puzzle solving. It's a little like Zelda, except in this case the puzzles aren't so ferocious.

The aspect of the Mario RPG's which really stands out for most people is the battles. The battle system is both turn-based and in real time, which means that after you pick an action to perform, you often have to perform a series of button presses which decide how effective it actually is. I love this system! It is a real work for reward system which removes a lot of the luck factor which can mar so many other RPG's and cause a lot of frustration if a deathblow misses, or if a spell isn't as effective as it needs to be. Of course, it has its downsides too - you need to time your attacks precisely in order to get the maximum attack value, which given your attack window can be a real pain sometimes. But the best aspect of the fight system is that it places your own defense, and the whole outsome of the fight, into your hands. There's no more hoping for a miss on the part of an attacker - it's now your full-time job to make sure the other guys miss. You also have to work every special attack by hand, which can be difficult if a particular special attack is a real pain. Sometimes, when you're controlling the Mario brothers, it's tough to dodge an attack meant for both of them, or to judge an attack which could be taking aim at either of them. Still, this dynamic keeps battles interesting.

When Bowser gets crushed and comes back, he'll turn into a giant-size Bowser and a big Godzilla-like fight will take place. This is where the touch screen comes in. You use the sylus to guide Bowser's every move. This is a blast, but it's tough to get the timing right - again - at times. Bowser can use some fun abilities, though.

Inside of Bowser's body, the Mario and Luigi segments feel a bit like a level select since you're deprived of a typical RPG world. You never know what you're going to get when you enter a new level inside Bowser's body. This is a point against Bowser's Inside Story because this is the Nintendo DS, and if you need to turn the game off, you don't know whether or not your next area will have a save point, and if it does, where it is. The lack of save points is an annoying constant throughout the game, actually, but it's a very exasperating problem inside Bowser because you're not sure of where you can go to save the game! This may be fine for kids, but adults are busy and shouldn't be standing for this kind of crap. The Toad Square section inside Bowser is a giant general store and inn, and it doesn't have any save points! That sums it all up. As a result, you have to physically go into a big dungeon - complete with enemies - just to save your game. And some of these dungeons are painfully long.

Since this game is an RPG, there is most definitely a plot which is constantly turning and developing, and that's good. Even though the characters really don't have a whole lot of depth, I'm going to bestow one of my patented rare free passes on it for that because these characters were already iconic before they were ever placed into an RPG. You can't just take a character you've already known and loved for 15 years and give him a new story which turns him into a loner because it kills what you know and love about him. So character depth is ignored, even in the case of Fawful, who was only introduced in the first Mario and Luigi game. But one of the game's main focuses is on the humor, and since the writers are as concerned with creating a fun, winking parody as they are a story fun enough to sit through, this means scenes tend to get far too drawn out to get more humor in. Some cutscenes occur in strings, and this is a real pain in the neck when you just want to finish section so-and-so, save the damn game, and get to bed! The cutscenes can stretch into absurdity, but it's the training scenes and explanations which are stretched to forever. Not only is this time-consuming, it's insulting to anyone who knows what he's doing. Worst of all: They're fucking MANDATORY.

The graphics in this game - or really any of the Mario RPG's - have never been able to reach the lush, colorful, beautifully rendered sprites they did on the Super NES, even though every console they've ever appeared on would have been able to allow it. In Bowser's Inside Story, the artists opt for a more traditional approach, using 2D sprites in a 3D world. This perhaps makes more sense because the inside Bowser sections might have looked ridiculous with 3D rendering. Anyway, there are tons of creative new friends and enemies like Monsieur Baroque and his pet, Broggy. The graphics are still bright and colorful, even if there's nothing spectacular about the animation. But the old characters haven't changed one bit.

The sounds are old Mario sounds. The coin sounds are still the same as ever, the block sounds are also the same as ever, and the music, while new and lively, can still pass for platform music. It's good stuff actually, but as noted in another review, the iconocism of the classic Mario sounds is preventing Nintendo from taking chances on sounds. I appreciate being taken back to the good old days, but I believe I have a right to expect more from a crew that, you know, took Mario away from most of the game elements we've come to know and love and throw him into an RPG world at the risk of complete alienation! This is Mario, after all, and the bold experiment that was the original Super Mario RPG could well have gone in the other direction, been a dismal failure, and put an entire generation off the genre. And they're scared to death of experimenting on the damned SOUNDS?!

Control needs to be better. Mario and Luigi control independently with different buttons. This is fine with the RPG sections, but a better control scheme would have been better inside Bowser because those sections have too many traditional platforming elements to make the button-per-brother scheme anything but a trial. Also, you can't pause battles, which really would have helped a long way.

People say this routine is getting old, but I could definitely go for two or three more games before this charming little series wears me out. Just a spectacular effort all around.

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More Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside ... reviews
review by . July 19, 2011
I haven't played video games much but it's hard for me to resist mario and zelda games. I looked online to see how long this game would take and most people said it's around 20 hours, and they were right. I figured I could finish the game quickly and it was hard to put it down at times.      Gameplay:   I played Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga for the GB Advance so learning the controls was easy. The battling with the counterattack and timed hits makes fighting …
review by . December 06, 2009
It is hard to go wrong with a Mario game for Nintendo - all of the games are age appropriate and offer hours of fun. "Mario & Luig Bowser's Inside Story" (I will call it "Inside Story" from here on out) is a great blend of all of the Mario games of the past. It is highly addictive, I have noticed that as I get older fewer and fewer games keep my interest enough to continue playing. I need for them to be fun, but not so complicated that I have to devote hours to learning the story (I just don't have …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this video game


A single player action RPG (Role-playing Game), Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story takes players on the DS literally into the belly of the beast - that beast being Bowser. Set within an off-the-wall storyline that turns the world of Nintendo on its ear and featuring the ability to toggle between playing as the team of Mario and Luigi, and playing as Bowser himself, this third installment of the Mario & Luigi franchise is not to be missed.

Mega Mushooms power-up in action in New Super Mario Bros. for DS

Split play time between Bowser.
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Map of the game worlds to visit displayed on the lower DS screen in New Super Mario Bros. for DS
And the team of Mario & Luigi.
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Mario facing Bowser in an underworld boss battle New Super Mario Bros. for DS
Two stories and gameplay paths that can affect each other in real-time.
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EA Sports Active game logo
The story of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is an atypical one in the world of Mario and Luigi in that the two plumbers team up with Bowser for the good of the Mushroom Kingdom, even if Bowser is totally unaware of it. As the game opens the Mushroom Kingdom is seen to have been struck by a sort of infection known as "The Blorbs," and exposure to it has caused out of control physical ballooning of the Toads. A council of the who's who in the Kingdom, including Mario and Peach, is assembled to try and figure out what to do about it, when right on queue, in barges Bowser, intent on dragging away Peach. He is stopped and shown the door by Mario, but later is tricked by the villain Fawful to eat a "Lucky Mushroom." Brainwashed by this, he returns to the council where the mushroom causes all the council to ...
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ESRB: Everyone
Console: Nintendo DS
Genre: Action
Release Date: September 14, 2009

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