Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 85/100

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Review
Publisher: Nintendo
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Reviewed by: Wencke Schuncken

What a pleonasm; Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Of course Mario and Luigi are a dream team, how else could they’ve completed dozens of levels to save Princess Peach and live happily ever after …until Bowser comes into play again with another successful kidnapping event. In this fourth installment of the Mario and Luigi series, you step into a new adventure, a new dream or could it become a nightmare in 3D on the Nintendo 3DS?

The story that back-up this little RPG game goes like this; Princess Peach, Mario, Luigi, Toadsworth and the toads are invited to Pi’illo (read “pillow”) Island by Dr. Snoozemore. The invitation came along with a hot air balloon, so no worries about how to travel to the island. Who can resist such an invite? Although the sightseeing above in the sky is beautiful, Luigi manages to fall asleep. He dreams about Mario fighting Antasma, a new evil Boss that “replaces” Bowser as the ultra, bad boss. And the dream turns into a nightmare when the balloon falls down and crashes, that’s the right time for Luigi to wake up.

When they all reach Pi’illo island and its castle, Starlow joins the team. She’s their partner and helpful guide during the game. Actually more helpful towards Mario as Luigi seems to have bonded with all kinds of Pi’illos that are scattered all over the place. Also a group of evil Smoldergeist seems to pop-up to attack the Bros brothers. Especially when one Pi’illo turns out to be the one and only Prince Dreambert. He begs Marion and Luigi to rescue all Pi’illos even when it means that the Smoldergeist will come back for even more attacks. And guess what ..Princess Peach is being kidnapped once again ..but this time not by Bowser but by Smoldergeist. Although he will claim his title of being the only one Peach kidnapper in the world. Can Mario and Luigi find and rescue all of the Pi’illos and of course Princess Peach by defeating Antasma?

For those who have played Mario and Luigi RPG games in the past, the gameplay is quite identical. The player controls Mario with the A button and Luigi follows and jumps with the B button while exploring the world. You can talk to all kinds of characters, collect coins to trade them in against items and badges to make Mario and / or Luigi stronger, competitor and healthier. Coins are hidden in the famous yellow question blocks and get them as a bonus after defeating enemies. All type of enemies will cross your path with special looks and tactics to consider. A simple example is that you start jumping on a foe to destroy it. But later on, enemies will have spikes on their head and you don’t want to let Mario or Luigi jump on those. This is when the hammer is provided to the Bros boys. Instead of jumping you can hit them with the hammer. More and more features become available while making progress.

Even special moves can be applied once you’ve earned and learned them. Collect a certain number of attack pieces to create one big special attack move. The battles are turn-based which means that each character makes its move before the other. Decide if, whom and with what tactic you’re going to attack, defend, dodge or use and item. Of course the option to flee is also available but if you’re fully prepared going into battle, this seems a useless option. The specials moves are truly fun to do as the Bros brothers team up to perform special attacks. Fun to do, cool to watch but the outcome is rather disappointing while checking how many hit-points are delivered to the enemies. Overall the battles, no matter how many, are rewarding and a fun activity. Turned-based battles are a lot relaxter to play than instant battles as you can take the time to decide what you’re going to do; pick a certain item to boost the health, how to deal damage to the enemies, and what the status is of Mario and Luigi. note that when both Luigi’s as Mario’s turn is over, the opponent(s) start their attack immediately.

A new feature of Dream Team is the ability to venture into Luigi’s dream. Whenever a pillow is found, Luigi cannot resist to take a nap on it. This opens the Dream World in which Mario can explore the deep subconscious of his brother and find / save the lives of a lost Pi’illo. It’s an adventure in an adventure and although Luigi is asleep, he will assist Mario wherever he can with an in-dream Luigi character (or even dozens of them with the Luigi constellation feature that turns all of the stars into Luigi’s.) The game turns into a 2D level type of gameplay which feels very familiar for a Mario game. In the touchscreen you can see Luigi in sleeping mode. Although is asleep, he still shows emotions (laughing when the constellation feature takes place) and you can interact with him to get extra help in the Dream world, thanks to some guidance of Starlow. Pull on his moustache in the touchscreen to grab Mario in the upper screen to launch him further and/or higher on a level. Tickle his nose in the touch screen to make him sneeze, and in the upper screen blocks will move forward so that Marion can reach them. Please do not worry that Luigi wakes up if you interact too much with him, he’s fast asleep with a nice dream or heavy nightmare. The only way to wake him up again is by finding and rescuing a Pi’illo in the Dream World, and returning safely to the real world.

While trying to reach and helping Pi’illos, more features become available. Not only increases the number and versions of items and badges, but also the actions which can be done by Mario and Luigi. Luigi can hit Mario to make him smaller to reach places he normally couldn’t reach. He even can go underground to reach hidden spots and find beans which will increase his status after collection dozens of beans. Most of the actions though aren’t new features as they also were presented in previous Mario & Luigi games. Nevertheless it’s still fun to see your brothers in action and succeeding in their quest to collect, battle, search and live happily ever after until our little Princess is kidnapped again.

Speaking of the Princess Peach, it’s somewhat surprising that Bowser isn’t the leading bad character this time to kidnap the Princess. “Thanks” to the bad character Antasma, Peach is suddenly pulled inside the dream / nightmare portal. Where did she go? Can Mario and Luigi rescue her once again?

Another female character, maybe a more helpful female character, is Starlow. Although not recognizable as a female from the outside as she’s shaped like a star. She first appeared in the Mario & Luigi game Bowser’s Inside Story and represents the Star Sprites. She’s Mario and Luigi’s partner and guide. She also causes Luigi’s in-dream reactions by pulling his mustache or tickling his nose or even pushing his hat down. Her relationship with sleepy Luigi will progress during the game.

Mario and Luigi is an excellent, enjoyable RPG game with many adventurous dreams. Some levels take longer as expected, but once a goal is completed (collecting attack pieces, beating an enemy, finding a Pi’illo), it stimulates to move on, exploring more of this little 2 world adventure. Either 3D or 2D, depending in which world you are. Although many times the game refers to Pi’llos (pillows), Luigi sleeping, and dreaming, the game won’t make you drowsy. Actually as the difficulty level is rather low, the battles are varied and fun, collecting activities to move on and to increase your character statistics, it’s a game treat for any 3DS gamer. And be honest, isn’t it somewhat a relief that the story around Princess Peach is just a bit different compared to all the other Mario games … it surprised me for sure!