By Isaac Espinosa
When the Mario Brothers are trapped within the gut of their spiked-shell-backed nemesis, will the Mushroom Kingdom ever be safe again? Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is an HD enhancement of a 2009 role playing game for the 3DS. In order to sell it again (as Nintendo often does), there’s the addition of Bowser Jr. who stars in his own adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom.
The story begins on a surprisingly creepy note. An epidemic known as “the Blorbs” spreads throughout the Mushroom Kingdom, infecting the Toads by paralyzing them and blimping them up to massive sizes. In order to find a solution, Princess Peach, Mario, Luigi and other Mushroom Kingdom executives are called to a meeting to find out the cause of the Blorbs. No one can figure out what on Earth is causing this disease. Suddenly, Bowser, insulted that he wasn’t included in the meeting, crashes the party and faces off against Mario in a tutorial battle, where players learn how to fight their enemies. Mario wins, and Bowser’s thrown out of the castle. But defeating Bowser hasn’t solved the problem of the Blorbs.
The story turns to focus on Bowser, who lands within Dimble Wood, the Kingdom’s forest, where a merchant approaches him with an offer. This shady guy gives Bowser a “Lucky Shroom,” which is said to be able to help the Koopa King trounce Mario for good. But consuming the Mushroom causes Bowser to roar and inhale everything in sight. The Shroom purveyor is then revealed to be Fawful, the wild-eyed antagonist from Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, who plans to take the entire Kingdom for himself. Bowser, in his mindless rampage, returns to Peach’s Castle and consumes the Mario Bros., Peach, and everyone in the castle without a second thought. The Mushroom then makes Bowser faint, and Fawful begins to execute his plan by taking the unconscious Bowser to a desolate cave. When Bowser awakens, unaware of what he’s done, it’s up to Mario and Luigi (who Bowser has inhaled) to help the Koopa King from inside his own body. They must stop Fawful from taking over the Mushroom Kingdom and the world.
Gameplay-wise, a player uses the A and B buttons to control Mario and Luigi. In the overworld, the brothers can use their jumping and their hammers to maneuver through the terrain, and abilities like the Spin jump to get through specific battles inside of Bowser’s body. When playing as Bowser, the player uses the X and Y buttons to control the Koopa King. Bowser is a powerhouse, using his flames and punches to crush all obstacles in his wake. The Koopa King gains extra abilities, like the Body Slam and Spike Ball, to access areas he can’t get to initially. And much like the previous games, battling is where Mario, Luigi, and now Bowser, truly shine.
Strategy is key here. Sure, Mario and Luigi use their jump and hammer attacks in battle. But the powerful Bros. Attacks use the stat SP, which can be increased with every level up, or by equipping with certain gear that players can buy from several shops. Each attack has four levels of evaluation that change how much damage the enemy suffers, depending on how well the attack is performed. These range from “Okay” to “Good” to “Great!” to “Excellent!”
Bowser’s battle system differs from the Bros. in some notable ways. First, Bowser uses his fire breath and punches instead of jumps and hammer attacks. And instead of Bros. Attacks, Bowser summons his minions in his Brawl Attacks, which are all executed by using the stylus. Instead of using badges, Bowser can use his new inhaling abilities in the form of the Vacuum Block. This block allows Bowser to inhale smaller enemies and send them to Mario and Luigi for them to fight, and he can also inhale certain parts of his enemies, limiting their abilities in battle.
Bowser Jr.’s Journey is the new mode that has been added to Bowser’s Inside Story and it takes place at the same time as Bowser’s Inside Story. Bowser asks Peach why he was excluded from the meeting, since Goombas are being affected by the same Blorbs epidemic as the Toads of the Mushroom Kingdom. Meanwhile, three new characters, the Best Fitness Friends who are secretly acting as Fawful’s minions, have shown Bowser Jr. a cure for the Blorbs. To impress his father, Bowser Jr. decides to take his best “squad” to the Mushroom Kingdom and get the ingredients necessary to cure the Blorbs, with the Koopalings tagging along in order to ensure that Bowser Jr. can keep himself in one piece.
Again, planning your moves is important. Bowser Jr.’s Journey is all about taking your best squad of minions into battle and making sure they live through the barrage of enemy waves coming their way. There are three types of units that can be used: Melee, Ranged, and Flying. Melee units have the advantage over Ranged, while Ranged beats Flying, and Flying beats Melee. Keeping this weapon triangle system in mind, you can strategize by considering the enemy team’s composition in order to choose which format will work best to achieve victory. There isn’t too much interaction with the player once the squad is sent into battle. Bowser Jr., as the captain of his squad, can use Captain Abilities to turn the tide of battle, each of which uses different amounts of Captain points.
Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is, in every aspect, a major improvement over the original game. The music has been beautifully remastered, the animation and overall look of the game are both fantastic and, most importantly, the original game’s charm is still intact and more wonderful than ever.
Isaac Espinosa is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern. He’s the founder of the Lehman College Videogame Critics Circle.