Back in 2003, Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga (Mario and Luigi RPG in Japan) were released with overall positive reviews praising it's fun gameplay, music and story. I played through about half of it before I lost the cartridge, but I remember being hooked on it back then. I didn't get a chance to play it's sequel Mario and Luigi Partners in Time, released in 2005, but was praised by critics for it's chracterisation and comic style, particularly being notable for it's use of the DS touchscreen at the time. Next up in the series was Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, also released for the DS in 2009. I loved this game's humour, the old combat style that I enjoyed from Superstar Saga returned and felt fluent, the story was interesting overall and had a great gimmick of including the ability to play as Bowser. It's a real criticism that people have with Mario games these days; they never evolve and the changes that they do make are often to the detriment to the gameplay. So after the success of Bowser's Inside Story, with both players and critics liking it, how does the newest title Mario and Luigi Dream Team hold up?
Meh. It's okay.
The scores for this game average around 8/10, which is still very good for the series. I'd agree with that score, but perhaps would more settle for a 7/10. If you're looking for a game to kill some time with, or if you're a fan of this series, it's definately worth buying. The rest of the review is spoilers and expanding on the problems that I had with the game, just as a fair warning.
I think my major problem with the game is it's plot. Let's compare the plot of this game and it's predecessor Bowser's Inside Story:
BiS: Mario and Luigi are shrunken into the body of their nemesis Bowser. They learn to assist Bowser, who is unaware of their presence, as he combats Fawful who takes over the Mushroom Kingdom.
DT: Mario and the gang are flown to Pi'llo Island where they are introduced to Antasma who teams up with Bowser. Together, Mario and Luigi must defeat them to save the island while battling enemies and traveling through Luigi's dreams along the way.
It feels very incomplete. Granted, I didn't mention the fact that Bowser eventually reveals that he had been using Antasma the whole time, but there's really not too much more to that game. Bowser's Inside Story, for as much as I summarised it, had both Mario and Luigi's story of attempting to get out of Bowser's body and defeat Fawful as well as Bowser wanting to get rid of Fawful because he believes the Mushroom Kingdom is his place alone to terrorise.
I think a lot of that has to do with my next major problem: Antasma. He has a very interesting backstory about getting the Dark Stone and having the ability to control nightmares, but all of that is told through cutscenes and dialogue. Not much else is really added to the character, one would usually expect Bowser to be the one to be used for his ultimate plans, not the other way around. Aside from destroying a few small islands surrounding Pi'llo Island that you can never visit, he doesn't really do a whole lot. Most of the game he is carrying Bowser around and Bowser is the one causing all of the destruction. It just felt like a major step back from Fawful in BiS, who was a legitimately good villain by the end of that game.
My last major problem with the game is the use of the 3DS's motion controls. When I played Pokemon X and I had to hold the 3DS upside down to evolve a Pokemon, alright...it's a gimmick evolution that I only have to use once. When it's the main focus of the giant battles in Dream Team? Please no. It doesn't always sense your movements right and even if it does, the 'center' of the 3DS will be off because you've been moving the handheld around for the boss battles. It's hard to describe in written form how frustrating it is to control, but just imagine having to constantly tilt the 3DS left or right to dodge projectiles being fired at you. Not my idea of fun.
Everything else: music and other non giant battle gameplay was very enjoyable to listen to throughout. There are a lot of genuinely funny moments spread throughout the game, so that's another positive too. I like the idea of Dreamy Luigi and using those powers were unique, a nice step-up from exploring Bowser's internal organs in the previous game.
Thanks for reading!