The Mario & Luigi RPG series is one of my few “instant-buy” series, where I have enough faith in it to buy a new game as soon as it becomes available.
Add in criticisms leveled at it for tutorial-heavy gameplay, and I went into Mario & Luigi: Dream Team prepared for the worst.
But I did not get the worst. I got a game that is flawed, but overall worth playing.
I was quite conflicted as I played it. At times, I thought it was tedious and weak. Other times, it made me laugh out loud and I wanted everyone to play it. So let’s take a look at the good and bad of the latest Mario RPG.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is tutorial-heavy. My favorite was when, over 20 hours into the game, they carefully explained to me how to open my menu and read a list of key items. Thanks, game. I couldn’t have figured that one out.
Part of it is that there are so many gameplay features. In addition to the field abilities fans of the series are familiar with, there are a number of “Luiginary” skills usable only in the Dream World. Almost every one included a tutorial, and I’d have been happier if it focused on the core Luiginary moves and cut the others.
The abundance of tutorials factors into another problem. Dream Team has big pacing issues. The early parts of the game felt tedious and drawn-out. My opinion of it was low as I trudged through certain plot points… but at about the halfway mark, it really picked up. It kept up a good pace until the final dungeon, which was just a couple of areas too big. Without a lot happening, it felt more like filler than anything else.
During that early part, when I thought to my dismay that this might be the most tedious game in the series, one thing kept me going: the writing.
The Mario & Luigi games have great writing, and Dream Team is no exception. This game is funny. While its story is fairly basic (though a couple well-written plot twists took me by surprise), the interactions and wacky NPCs are fantastic. From the mountain-climbing tour guides obsessed with muscles and beef, to Mario and Luigi themselves, the characters bring hilarious life to this game.
Starlow returns as the player’s guide, but a second guide comes in the form of Prince Dreambert. While his character isn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked, I found him entertaining and preferred him to Starlow.
The antagonists are a good mix of sinister and silly, and while some fans dislike Bowser’s return to straight villainy, at least he is a character and has dialogue unlike in a certain game.
Antasma never reached the same depth as previous series villains, but that may have been intentional since Bowser shares the villain spotlight. He does have a good (oddly Layton-esque) theme song, though.
Dream Team has great music. I loved the soundtrack throughout the game. The boss theme kept me entertained through many long, frustrating battles.
I don’t mean that as a criticism of the battles. For the most part, it’s the usual mix of turn-based combat and action commands used in the series, but it seemed much more punishing. At the same time, you can save anywhere and try battles again once you lose. Although I died many times, I only ever lost progress due to a game-freezing glitch.
Speaking of glitches, let’s talk about the gyro. The Giant Battles force you to use the 3DS’s gyroscope. I dislike forced gyro controls in general, but Dream Team’s occasionally glitched. I lost one battle when Luigi drifted up to the corner of the screen and refused to move no matter what I did.
When Dream Team was first announced, some fans hoped the role of Luigi’s dreams would take us into the darker parts of his psyche. While that never happened, the focus on Luigi’s mind makes one thing clear: he’d do anything to protect his brother. When Mario encounters a major threat in the Dream World, Luigi’s inner “Luiginoids” fuse together into Giant Luigi, accompanied by this epic theme and thoughts like “Gotta help my bro!”
Mario is usually the strong of the two, but Luigi’s unwavering defense of him–no matter how scared he is–adds some heartwarming character development.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team suffers from definite flaws, but it’s a good game overall with a lot to enjoy. Let’s hope they keep the strong writing for Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam so the crossover can rise above Sticker Star’s disaster.
What do you think of Dream Team and the future of the Mario & Luigi series?
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