Sam Hansen
E3: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story Impressions
The inside scoop on Inside Story.
06.06.09 - 8:17 PM

Mario and RPGs seem to work rather well together. The combination may not result in the deepest, most thought-provoking adventures, but it's hard to turn away from the silly charm that the series is known for, and I'll stand by the whole timed hits battle system until the day I die. I've been all over that thing since it first rocked my SNES in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. And now here we are in 2009 awaiting the plumber's next addition to the genre, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. If the demo has clued me in on anything at all, it's that the series is still alive and kicking with comedic elements and tried and true gameplay intact.

This time around, the gameplay seems to revolve around the joint efforts of the Mario Bros. and their ever-persistent nemesis, Bowser. For reasons unknown, the brothers have managed to get themselves swallowed by the King of Koopas, so it would seem that the entirety of their journey will be spent exploring his flame-broiled intestinal tracts and bone marrow walkways. Players can expect to swap between the duo and their captor regularly and coordinate their efforts in order to pass obstacles within their respective worlds.

The first of the two demos started me off as Mario and Luigi. I was dropped into a pretty straightforward point A to point B area with a few enemies scattered about; nothing too strenuous. Each of the brothers is controlled with individual face buttons, and their commands (Jump and Hammer, in the demo) could be swapped out depending on what you need at the moment. It's more or less identical to system used in the previous two titles.

The end of the dungeon was where things started getting interesting. In order for Bowser to progress further in his own dungeon, Mario and Luigi needed to stimulate the brute's arm muscles to increase his strength so that he could yank a floating island over to where he stood. The game proceeded to jump into a mini-game where the brothers cooperatively whacked some sort of energy ball at the said muscles with their hammers, which eventually gave Bowser enough power to complete his own task. Players will undoubtedly be partaking in many more of these muscle spasm mini-games as their adventure continues. I really can't wait to see where in Bowser's body Nintendo decides to take us!

The Bowser section of the demo was, unfortunately, significantly less eventful. Bowser has access to a new set of abilities, such as fire breath and punch attacks, that allows him to make his way past obstacles and enter battles preemptively, but the unique tandem aspect experienced with the brothers is completely absent. This Koopa is all on his own.

Bowser's bit did, however, showcase battle segments that were quite a bit more enjoyable and made use of the DSs touch screen functionality. Battles for both parties will be instantly familiar to veterans of the series. It's a turn-based affair with a strong emphasis on button timing. If you wish to add damage to your attacks, a button press at just the right time can do just that. So if Bowser's charging a punch, you'd give your button a tap at the very peak of his windup, else you'll stumble a bit and be penalized. Defending works similarly. Tree enemies found in the demo threw sticks at me in a variety of ways, and depending on the trajectory, I would either need to punch them back or use Bowser's shell to deflect them elsewhere.

At the end of Bowser's romp, I rescued his Goomba crew, which gave him access to a brand new touch-based attack. With my stylus in hand, Goombas charged across the screen, and it was my job to tap away and send them flying into the air. Each minion I sent skyward ultimately came careening downward and caused continuous damage to the targeted enemy.

Maybe I'm biased, but I absolutely love this battle system. It's easy to pick up, easy to master, and takes the drudgery out of the oftentimes stale turn-based gameplay we see time and time again.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story will do little to shatter RPG or DS conventions, but it's going to be an appealing title to those seeking something a bit more flavorful than the norm. Expect the light-hearted when this franchise's third installment hits store shelves in early October!