Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros.
While Nintendo’s annual release schedule always includes a handful of Mario games, let it be said now that 2013 is the year of the Luigi. This year we’re being treated to three games about Mario’s oft-unappreciated brother: Luigi’s Mansion 2, the upcoming New Super Luigi Bros. and the focus of this review, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. Dream Team Bros. proves to not only be a worthy spotlight for Luigi, but also a worthy addition to the Nintendo 3DS’s game library.
In Dream Team Bros., players take control of both Mario and Luigi on a quest to rescue (surprise surprise) Princess Peach. This time, the rescue mission takes place on Pi’illo Island, a historical island turned tourist hotspot. The brothers soon discover a pillow-shaped artifact, which Luigi can use to open up a portal to the Dream World. Hopping through, Mario discovers a dream version of his brother – the word ‘dream’ taken both literally and figuratively! Dreamy Luigi is taller, more handsome and more confident than his real-life counterpart, who remains snoozing in the real world. Freeing the Pi’illo trapped in the dream world not only aids the lost civilisation, but also leads Mario and Luigi to more clues about Princess Peach’s whereabouts.
The brothers’ adventure on Pi’illo Island and the Dream World is heavy on exploration, and the traditionalMario platforming mechanics transitions well into the game’s level design. Players can jump around environments as well as manipulate various parts of them using the power ups they collect over the course of the game. How players control the brothers in all aspects of the game, from selecting actions during battle to jumping, is particularly interesting, with the A button mapped to Mario and the B button mapped to Luigi. For RPG players who are used to simply hammering a single button during every encounter, it’s confusing for a while, but it’s something you get used to quite quickly.
The combat system is a bit of a twist on conventional RPG battle systems too. Some RPGs, again, simply require you to hit a button repeatedly over the course of an encounter, while others attempt to pad things out and overcomplicating their whole system as a result. Dream Team Bros. does neither of these things; it keeps it simple, but also does a fantastic job of keeping you on your toes. The brothers’ basic attacks are performed by jumping on their enemies, but in order to get the most out of your turn, you can press the attack button again, with timing, for extra damage. In fact, timing and staying alert plays a huge part of the combat system. For example, different enemies have different ways of attacking, but every single one of them can be dodged – you just need to determine their patterns. This element also applies to Bros. attacks, the game’s version of special attacks. As a result of these “free passes” at multiplying damage, the game doesn’t go easy on players; even three or four mistakes sees your health whittled down a fair chunk. However, Dream Team Bros. has a number of features to help players if they are having trouble.
Fighting in the Dream World is even more of a treat, with Dreamy Luigi powering your health up prior to a battle and also multiplying to deliver more damage to foes. There are also powerful Luiginary attacks which are unlocked during the course of the game, such as the Luiginary Hammer, which sees numerous Luigis forming a hammer for Mario to use. Luigi proves useful in the Dream World in other ways as well, being able to become one with various aspects of the environment, which the player is then able to manipulate via the touch screen. For example, when Luigi fuses with a whirlwind, players can scratch the sleeping, real-world Luigi’s nose to cause him to sneeze. This will then blow any background objects forward or cause wind-powered machines to activate.
If there are any faults to be found with Dream Team Bros., they are fairly inconsequential. Firstly, the story’s pacing can occasionally lull in its attempts to pad itself out. Secondly, while the game’s visuals are for the most part pleasant, the sprites are fairly fuzzy and not quite up to the standard one would expect from a 2013 title, handheld or not. Thirdly, there’s the audio. Our two heroes are mute for the most part, though dialogue is peppered with voice clips such as “Mama Mia!” and “Let’s go!” It’s iconic and charming in theory, but gets grating quite quickly. The music has similar issues, with the soundtrack becoming quite repetitive after some time.
Dream Team Bros. is a fine example of an RPG with surprises around every corner. The combat system has been developed exceptionally well without becoming too silly and complicated and the game’s platforming elements are well-integrated. While the game is slightly held back where plot pacing, audio and visuals are concerned, it doesn’t stop it from being a rather charming and cheeky title that will no doubt find a place in the hearts of RPG and Mario fans alike. As for Luigi, it’s nice to see the guy getting the love he deserves in video games that aren’t Mario is Missing.