Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey (3DS) – Fawful is a funny guy

One of gaming’s best comedies is remastered for the 3DS and proves once again that playing the bad guy is always more fun.

At this point it’s obvious that the 3DS is not only on life support but the only sustenance it’s receiving is from scraps scrapped from the bottom of Nintendo’s back catalogue barrel. The veteran portable has had a long and successful career but we’d rather see it go out with dignity than play host to nothing but re-releases, ports, and remasters. That said, of all the recent games to bring back, Bowser’s Inside Story is by far the most welcome.

The Mario & Luigi franchise has, like sister series Paper Mario, always been a frustratingly inconsistent one. Some are good and some are bad, but this is the only one that can be considered as truly great. In basic form it works similarly to the rest of the series: an arcade adventure with platforming elements, but where combat is resolved using a role-playing style battle system almost identical to the original Paper Mario.

All the games have different gimmicks and the set-up here is that the Mario bros. have been shrunk down and swallowed by Bowser. This isn’t actually his fault though and by journeying around his innards you must help him save Mushroom Kingdom from recurring bad guy Fawful. This results in a lot of fun mini-games, and the chance to play as Bowser himself, but the best thing about the game is just how good the script is.

Dialogue may seem an odd thing to praise a Mario game for but the original Paper Mario games were also very funny, with The Thousand-Year Door in particular having a line in dry wit and surreal non-sequiturs that you really wouldn’t expect from a game about a mute cartoon plumber. And it’s all done almost solely with text and a very minimum of animation.

The plot of Bower’s Inside Story involves a pandemic called The Blorbs, which causes all the Toads in the Mushroom Kingdom to inflate in size and roll around like overfed cats. To cut a nonsensical story short both Peach’s and Bowser’s castles are taken over by Fawful and his cronies and you must lead the fightback from within and without.

As Mario and Luigi, you explore Bowser’s murky innards in something like a traditional Mario platformer. At the same time though you also get to control Bowser himself, as he stomps around the outside world in the series’ standard top down isometric view. The viewpoints are always closely linked though, such as when massaging Bowser’s muscles from the inside in order to help him to fight. Conversely, if Bowser swallows anything – from enemies to a flood of water – it will impact Mario and Luigi inside him.

Eventually you’re able to exit his unpleasant innards but the game remains consistently inventive in its puzzles. There’s also a host of enjoyable mini-games, including a particularly satisfying one where Bowser expands to Godzilla size to fight giant enemies and you have to turn the 3DS on its side to fit him in properly.

Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey (3DS) – who needs voiceovers?

In terms of stats and items this is as simplistic as role-playing gets, and since the combat requires fast reflexes to get the most out of each attack it really does put the action into action role-player. But it’s a satisfying and versatile system, which is added to here by Bowser having minions he can call upon to perform special moves.

The original DS version of Bowser’s Inside Story was released in 2009 for the DS and so you’d think there’d be relatively little need to change anything for this 3DS edition. They did for Superstar Saga, but we assumed that was because the original Game Boy Advance graphics were deemed too old-fashioned. The DS ones still look fine but despite that the visuals have been upgraded anyway, with a more detailed, painterly style.

The other major change is the addition of Bowser Jr.’s Journey, which works similarly to the Bowser’s Minions side game from the Superstar Saga remaster. Which is to say it’s a kind of simplified real-time strategy game, where you battle Fawful’s forces and disgruntled elements of Bowser’s army. It gets old pretty quickly but it’s nicely presented and the story is quite sweet, if not as funny as the main game.

Despite all the varied mechanics, and excellent use of the 3DS’s various features, the best part of Bower’s Inside Story is still the gently humorous script. The knowing comedy, as genre clichés are simultaneously used and abused, makes this one of gaming’s few successful parodies. But the rest of the game is just as inventive and entertaining and even if there are ulterior motives behind its return this is definitely a game that deserves to be remastered and enjoyed anew.



Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey

In Short: One of the best portable role-players ever made and a joyful mix of bizarrely inventive gameplay and surprisingly sharp comedy.

Pros: The different play styles mix perfectly, with clever puzzles, a witty script, and a great turn from Bowser. A surprisingly involved remaster, with attractive new visuals.

Cons: The role-playing combat is something of a weak link, as it’s largely the same as other entries. Doesn’t get very challenging until past the halfway mark.

Score: 9/10

Formats: 3DS
Price: £34.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: AlphaDream and Arzest
Release Date: 25th January 2019
Age Rating: 3

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