The Mario & Luigi series is known for its charming characters, challenging boss fights and addictive gameplay. Fortunately, for the most part, the fourth installment – Mario & Luigi: Dream Team – is like its predecessors. And unlike another certain Mario role-playing game for Nintendo 3DS, Dream Team stays true to its roots.
The game is set in two main worlds: Pi’illo Island, a vacation spot known as the “real world”, and Luigi’s imagination – the “Dream World”. Its prelude is no different from most Mario games; Princess Peach is kidnapped, serving as the Mario brothers’ main motive for embarking on an adventure.
In the 3D, top-down real world, Mario and Luigi are side-by-side and both are controlled by the player. Mario is assigned the A button, while Luigi is controlled via the B button. The series’ RPG elements remain intact. Enemies are scattered throughout Pi’illo Island, and the brothers must defeat them in order to level up and become stronger. Battles are initiated when either of the brothers comes into contact with a baddie. The turn-based system also makes a return, and the combat is still all about timing; attack an enemy at the right moment to land the most damage, and defend yourself by dodging projectiles in the nick of time. The combat is undoubtedly the game’s strongest point and is simple to learn but difficult to conquer.
Speaking of learning, the game is designed to help players by offering various support features, such as several tutorials and giving directions and descriptions in layman’s terms. While this may be appreciated by beginners, fans of the series and RPG aficionados will quickly get tired of the incessant hand-holding.
Mario and Luigi are as adorable as ever in Dream Team. They communicate via hilarious gibberish, while all other characters chat through text bubbles, which are often long and sometimes unnecessarily confusing. Some characters like the Brocks and Starlow aren’t as likable as the bros. For some reason, Brocks – which are a species of Blocks, literally – have accents attributed to their words, making reading their dialogue a chore.
The nagging, fiery Star Sprite Starlow constantly tries to make you view tutorials for the basics, and forcibly takes you to the pause screen several times to show you how to navigate the self-explanatory menu. That’s not to mention Starlow’s smirk, which usually remains constant even during intense moments.
Akin to how characters traverse in the interior of Bowser’s body in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Dream Team’s Dream World is set in a 2D side-scrolling environment. In the imaginary world, Mario is accompanied by Dreamy Luigi – Luigi’s dream counterpart who has different abilities designed for the Dream World. Objects in the Dream World can by manipulated by Dreamy Luigi via the real, sleeping Luigi. Luigi’s handsome mug is displayed on the touch screen while Mario is in the Dream World. Players can interact with the green-garbed brother’s face to solve puzzles and reveal hidden items in an intuitive way.
Annoying characters, confusing dialogue and relentless hand-holding aside, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is a great 3DS RPG. Its addictive battle system, challenging boss fights, intuitive controls, catchy music and joyful nature all add up to provide a satisfying experience. The latest entry in the Mario & Luigi series will be enjoyed by beginners and longtime fans alike.