Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time Review
Written By: Magma

Overview
DeveloperAlphaDream
ESRB RatingE
# of Players1
GenreRPG
# of Levels14 (rougly)
Controllable CharactersMario, Luigi, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi
StoryProfessor E. Gadd creates a time machine, and Princess Peach uses it to travel to the past. But when she arrives in the middle of an alien invasion, it's another adventure for Mario and Luigi, as they team up with their younger counterparts to rescue the princess.


Review
FeatureRatingComments
Graphics8.5The best you're gonna get from a 2-D game. The only reason the score isn't higher is because I'm tired of developers not using the DS's graphics engine to its fullest.
Sound8The music is never bad and is always appropriate. The sound is also great for a Mario game, though everything sounds better when headphones are plugged in. The voice files are put to great use, as I doubt there will ever be any extended voiceovers in most Mario games.
Depth7The game is lucky to have gotten the above score. Unfortunately, the game is too short. I clocked in at about 21 hours, which is paltry for an RPG. However, the game is definitely fun while it lasts, but has virtually no replay value.
Gameplay9.5The overworld puzzles are easy to solve, but the battles are exciting and get the player involved more than any other turn-based RPG I know of. The storyline is funny and new. Also, the DS's unique features are actually useful, and use of the touch-screen is required at only one point in the whole game, which is something to be thankful for. Since the game is in 2-D, the controls also work well, and once you have memorized which button controls which characters, they won't seem awkward at all.
Replay Value4You might want to come back and play the game again to re-experience the game, but otherwise there is no motivation to replay the game. The lack of sidequests also contributes to the low score.


Near the end of the Super Nintendo's days, Squaresoft, acclaimed RPG creator, partnered with Nintendo and used Mario characters and locales in the awesome RPG, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Though the game was a huge success, and remains one of my favorite couple of games, Squaresoft soon broke its bond with Nintendo and went on to create games for Sony's console, the PlayStation.

Despite this, more Mario RPG games were created. First was Paper Mario, the innovative title for the Nintendo 64, where the characters were all literally 2-D paper cutouts living in a 3-D environment. The next was Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Game Boy Advance. This game improved greatly on the past Mario RPGs' timed hits system in which you pressed a button at exactly the right moment to increase damage given and decrease damage taken. This game required spot-on timing, in which powerful attacks failed if you didn't have lightning-fast fingers. In addition, not only could you dodge enemy attacks, but better timing allowed you to do damage to them instead. The game also relied heavily on comedic situations, and is known as the funniest Mario game to date.

If you'll allow me to skip the Nintendo Gamecube Paper Mario sequel, I'll go right to the game I'll be reviewing today. The title? Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, for the Nintendo DS. While most fans of the Mario RPG series agree that its predecessor is leagues better, I personally prefer this game by light-years.

This title adds a new layer of gameplay to the original. In Superstar Saga, you got to control Mario and younger brother Luigi simultaneously, making for some interesting level design and a brand new battle system that had never before been seen. In this game, not only do you control Mario and Luigi, but Baby Mario and Baby Luigi.

If you're wondering how that's possible, I'll explain the storyline now. In the past, Peach's castle is attacked by the creepy alien Shroob race. Baby Bowser, who Baby Mario had just defeated, allows the baby brothers, Baby Princess Peach, and the middle-aged Toadsworth to hitch a ride on the Koopa Cruiser, a flying airship. Meanwhile, in the present, Professor E. Gadd, a brilliant scientist, has just finished building a time machine powered by the mystical Cobalt Star. Peach, along with two Toad attendants, uses the machine to go to the past. However, trouble occurs when the time machine returns, busted. The only thing inside is the monstrous Junior Shrooboid. After defeating it, time holes start appearing in the castle, which Mario and Luigi use to go to the past in search of the princess.

They arrive at a village in the past just in time for it to be attacked by the Shroobs. When they are defeated by a UFO, Baby Mario and Baby Luigi end up rescuing them. They all ride the Koopa Cruiser to Baby Bowser's Castle. All the good guys escape to Peach's Castle, with one shard of the Cobalt Star. When they get to the castle and the Junior Shrooboid acts extremely scared of the star, E. Gadd realizes that the Cobalt Star may be able to destroy the Shroobs. From there, it's a long journey to find the rest of the shards and rescue Peach.

One thing I'll throw in before continuing is that the Shroob race speaks their own language of strange symbols. As such, it's hard to dislike and/or love them. I believe this to be a flaw in the storyline, as a good villain always makes the storyline better. And how villainous can somebody be when you can't even understand what they're saying? Even the leader of the Shroobs doesn't talk in the English tongue.

Back to my bit on controlling all four characters. You can move as a group, or easily separate the pair. The top screen is used to show a map and the bottom for gameplay. However, the top screen also displays where Baby Mario and Baby Luigi are if you separate the quartet of heroes. As far as the DS's touch-screen function goes, it is virtually unused, thankfully. There is only one scenario where it is required, where you have to rub dirt off a picture.

On the overworld, your job is basically to get from Point A to Point B. Of course, there are many puzzles to solve using the various Bros. moves you learn as you progress through the game. And if that's not the solution, you'll usually have to separate the quartet, since the babies can fit into small spaces, while the adults can jump higher. The A button controls Mario, B is Luigi, X is Baby Mario, and the Y button controls Baby Luigi. This remains true in battles as well.

Roaming the overworld are many enemies. Initiating a battle is as simple as touching them, but you can gain the upper hand by jumping on the enemy to deal damage to the whole enemy party at the beginning without wasting a turn. Likewise, if an enemy gets one of the brothers from behind, that brother becomes stunned. As far as the actual battles go, to attack you select either Jump or Hammer and then follow the given timed hits instruction. If you time the attacks just right, you'll do extra damage. You can battle as a pair or with all four characters. Mario and Luigi are stronger than their younger counterparts, who are faster than their future selves. When you battle with all four characters, your health is that of Mario and Luigi's. When one of them die, their younger selves battles in his place. Using a 1-Up Shroom will revive the character, and your team will be whole again. When you attack as a quartet, each attack involves two action commands, in which Mario and Baby Mario both attack, and likewise for Luigi and Baby Luigi.

Of course, there are special items you can use that resemble the Bros. Attacks from Superstar Saga. These are called Bros. Items, and require precise timing. However, they are much easier to perform than the Bros. Attacks of old, which is a good thing. The difficulty of Bros. Attacks was the number one complaint for Superstar Saga. However, this means that when fighting a boss character, the best attack option is always to use the strongest Bros. Item you have. To top that, you should always have enough coins to spend on restocking Bros. Items, assuming you fight every enemy you see (which you should).

And then comes the art of evading enemy attacks. It's not too hard to dodge most attacks. You simply jump or hammer when you think the attacks will miss. However, it's also entirely possible to not only evade damage, but deal damage as well when an enemy attacks. However, this is harder to time and usually results in you getting hit if you miss the timing.

In the many scenes in the game, you'll encounter tons of excellently translated dialogue. Most scenes involve incredibly hilarious situations. This is what most people liked about Superstar Saga, so the developers tried to expand on that this time around. This leads to a ton of scenes that attempts to be funny and fail, as if they're trying too hard. But back to the good points, one of my favorite scenes is when Mario and Luigi are separated from the babies, and the children have to face hypnotized Hammer Bros., who speak l33t to them. Here's how the dialogue there goes: "n00bs still not pwned! Gonna destroy! YOU WILL BE PWNIFIED." That's nothing close to how it actually goes, but it's along those lines.

I'll talk about time travel now. You'll spend about 95% of the game in the past. The only place you can explore in the present is Princess Peach's Castle, which serves as the game's hub. You return to the castle between adventures in the past. This is what irks me the most; so many innovative level design ideas and puzzles could have been added if the game included a method to explore the world in both time periods. This is really my only complaint for the game. This feature could've been utilized so much better.

You won't find a better 2-D game. I often wonder how this game would work in 3-D, but perhaps it's better for M&L to handle 2-D and Paper Mario 3-D. The sprites are all gloriously detailed and able to show emotion and body movements perfectly. The backgrounds are bright and colorful, as you would expect from any Mario game. Overworld graphics and battle graphics are different. The characters are even more detailed in battle and move fluently.

I don't believe any Mario game with a functioning storyline has disappointed me here recently. The music is always appropriate for the situation at hand, from the dismal Toad Town music to the exciting theme of Baby Bowser (two of my favorite tracks). You always know they put some work into this when even cutscenes have music made especially for them.

When it comes to sound, it has all the classic noises you'd expect from a Mario game: the jumping noise, the bling of getting a coin, etc. As with most handheld Mario games of late, the main characters are given voice files. Characters that have such voice files are Mario, Luigi, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Bowser, Bowser, Baby Princess Peach, the present-day Peach, and all of the Shroobs. Don't misinterpret me, though; they are not voice-overs, but instead various calls the characters make, such as the babies crying or the princess yelping for help. There aren't any atmospheric noises as with more realistic games, but most people don't enjoy the Mario series for its realism.

Overall, the game is a must-have if you own a DS and are a fan of Mario or RPGs. The storyline is great, and it's not easy to kill enemies with perfection. The game improves on Superstar Saga in almost every way in my own opinion, though many would disagree with me.

The innovation of controlling four characters at once keeps the Mario & Luigi formula for success fresh and doesn't allow fans of the first game to get bored with the same gameplay elements.

And for fans of the original, Fawful IS in the game, though you'll have to do a little searching.
OVERALL:

You can basically ignore the above score. The game is great; go out and get it now if you're a fan of Mario, RPGs, or Superstar Saga. The only flaw is that the time travel gimmick could have been utilized better, and the villains are less than inspiring.

Score:8.5



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