Super Mario Bros. can be completed within about fifteen minutes. Had you told me this information back in the 80’s, I would have never believed you (okay, I might have believed you, I was a dumb child that believed in things like Santa Claus and people who could make it past the first level of Kid Icarus), because I would routinely spend hours playing Super Mario Bros, and it was a long, long time before I ever conquered Bowser once and for all. But, if you know what you’re doing, hold down that B button, and grab all the warps, it’s actually not that difficult to sail past every last Hammer Bro into Peach’s waiting arms. And, yes, the princess is in this castle, and you made it in the time it takes to watch an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Now we can all move on to more important matters, like banishing Dracula or something.
Over time, Mario’s adventures got lengthier. While Super Mario Bros. 3 can be completed in… three minutes? Really? Okay, let’s say fifteen minutes again, that sounds more sane. Super Mario World is in the same boat, but already Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island hits the “you will complete every level” bar, bumping its speedrun times up to at least an hour. Super Mario 64 is similarly at the “ready in about an hour” bar, and Super Mario Sunshine continues the trend. Yes, these giant, sprawling 3-D Mario games still maintain a “speed path” that allows for some insane acrobatics and practically instantaneous princess saving. Forget Wee Goggle Bob’s confusion at modern day speedruns, Present Goggle Bob is amazed at these super-fast Marios right now. Even the entire galaxy of Super Mario Galaxy can be conquered inside of three hours!
And I mention this because, in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, it seems like one battle lasts roughly three hours.
M&L:BIS is a Mario RPG. Somehow, there are now three different Mario RPG “branches”. There’s Super Mario RPG, the Mario/Square jaunt that was basically a Final Fantasy game (complete with random kingdom in the sky and ancient caves abound) with Mario characters and a slightly active battle system. Unfortunately, this branch kind of died on the vine (… is that how metaphors work?), and we never saw another Mario RPG quite like it. Then we got Paper Mario, which is adorable, and features a sort of “evolved” version of Mario RPG’s battle system. Maybe “devolved” is the proper term? Get ready to see an HP count that never exceeds double digits, and a damage count that can’t even clear the number five. Personally, I love the aesthetic and not arbitrarily doing 1,200 HP damage every round, but I can see how it all adds up to something that seems very… childish. It’s like a pop-up book with tiny, easily counted numbers! Your little brother will love it!
And then there’s the Mario and Luigi franchise. I kind of hate the Mario and Luigi franchise.
Mario and Luigi, at first glance, is very much like Mario RPG or Paper Mario. You’ve got Mario and Luigi, and they’re in JRPG-style battles, and you better learn about timed hits, or you’re going to lose a lot of health points. Generally, in M&L games, it all starts off simple enough, and you jump to dodge, and hit the button at the right time to get a few extra points in, and, easy peasy, you’re done with the opening areas inside of a few hours. But then it gets… tricky. More special attacks are introduced, more ways to move and attack start trickling in, and then, by the time the final boss rolls on in, you’re swept up in a torrent of jump jump slide attack that would put Mega Man 8 to shame. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve played some minigames in other JRPGs that are less complex than one round of combat in a Mario and Luigi game.
And it’s exhausting!
I want to say that it leads to some overwhelming feeling of satisfaction when you complete each round of these Mario & Luigi trials, but… not so much. One boss might challenge M&L to a metaphorical game of jump rope every other round, but, end of the day, once that boss is defeated, it’s just another boss down, have some EXP, end of story. The JRPG trappings of Mario & Luigi make it similar to every JRPG that has existed since Erdrick’s descendant first picked up his blade, except every battle plays out like a damn exercise routine instead of aiming the cursor at “fight” and calling it a day. And, make no mistake, the other JRPG trappings are here, too, so you’ve got to resource manage, equip proper armor (overalls), and explore puzzle-y dungeon mazes between those grueling battles. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (aka M&L1) is one of the few games I’ve ever played where I got to the final boss, lost a couple of times, and then said, “Screw it, I’m gonna play something else.” And it’s all because the final boss’s attack sequences each, individually, seemed to take entire hours of my life. Who has time for that (gigantic exaggeration)!?
In fact, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is the only Mario & Luigi game I’ve ever completed. Why? Well, as much as people complain about some of the minigames in this game (and their endless tutorials), I found that some of those distractions (and super giant Bowser) are enough of an interruption from the usual gameplay that it… is “refreshed” the right word? Yes, the silly minigames made me want to play the game more because the normal game is so exhausting. I beat M&L:BIS, felt happy to have accomplished such a feat, and then never picked up another M&L game ever again. Brothers, I don’t care if your writing is really clever and your sprites are delightful, I got better things to do than dodge a shy guy over and over and over again.
And that’s why I’m unlikely to play another Mario & Luigi game again. It’s not that Mario & Luigi games are bad. Quite the opposite, despite how much vitriol has been spewed all over this post. M&L games are well crafted and charming, with colorful characters and interesting variations on established Mario characters. Unfortunately, the games also take forever, and for the exact same “reward” as any other Mario game. You saved Peach. You defeated Bowser (even if he was helpful at one point). You stomped a lot of goombas, and had fun doing it. It just took days, when other Mario adventures can take minutes. I don’t want to take five minutes to show a koopa troopa who’s boss when it can take a button press.
I’ve got limited time for turtle stomping nowadays, and fifteen minutes should be the entire game, not one battle.
FGC #240 Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
- System: Nintendo DS. This one make it to the Virtual Console? No? Okay.
- Number of players: Despite the obvious two player title, it’s a one player affair. JRPGs, ya know.
- Uh, dude, you barely mentioned Bowser: Well! I already talked about him a lot during the Paper Mario article! It happens. But seriously, probably the other half of “why I beat this game” is that the Bowser portions are a hoot, and he’s a lot less taxing to control than the brothers. Really, half the problem I have with these games is the “dual dodging” thing, which is why I gave up Partners in Time (with quad dodging) almost immediately.
- Also, Fat Toads: Blorbs are adorbs.
- Favorite Boss: Midbus is the obvious choice here. I feel like anytime Bowser gets a decent rival, fun times are had. Okay, maybe he’s not really a decent rival, but he’s at least amusing, and I like him better than Fawful. You heard me, Fawful-fans! Your fav is one note!
- Did you know: There are unused Yoshi voice clips hiding in the code. One would assume this means Yoshi was originally intended to have a greater role… but isn’t there already enough swallowing going on in this game? Though I would likely play a new Mario & Luigi game that explored the digestive/reproductive system of your average Yoshi…
- Would I play again? Another situation where the article answers this question entirely. Just for the statistics, the answer is a plain no.
What’s next? Random ROB… is taking some time off for Valentine’s Day. But we’re going to have content. Oh yes, we’re going to have a full week of moderately Valentine’s Day related content. Though… probably not what you’re thinking. Come back Monday to find out what’s on the agenda for the week. Please look forward to it!