Bowser's Inside Story Review


Now, I'm going to get real here for a second: I've ALWAYS wanted a truly dedicated Bowser spinoff for the Mario franchise, and while the Mario & Luigi saga's infamously overrated third installment, Bowser's Inside Story, certainly delivers on that front, it could have been SO much more.

Honestly, the entire Mario RPG franchise in general (prior to Dream Team and Sticker Star) has always been incredibly overrated in my opinion, perhaps considerably even more so than Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger and the regular Mario series. While BIS, disregarding its ingenious "inside of Bowser" concept combined with my horribly bittersweet nostalgic feelings that I happen to have towards it since I extremely unfortunately lost it during childhood and only recently got it back via Amazon, really doesn't do much of anything to change that AT ALL, I've personally been waiting to deliver the (cringes deeply) inside scoop on it for QUITE some time, so here we go...

STORY: Eh...I've got profoundly mixed feelings regarding this particular aspect of this game, honestly. Judging it by the overall writing quality of its actual STORYTELLING and not just its (almost Conker levels of boring, overrated and unfunny) HUMOR, it's honestly pretty weak indeed.

Basically, Mario and Luigi get sent to Peach's Castle for a press conference that they rather unsettlingly notice on the way to that many of the local Toads in Toad Town have been afflicted with a ridiculously-named disease called the Blorbs, which basically turns them into giant inflated Deviantart balloons of themselves (cough, getting REALLY bad memories of Um Jammer Lammy's third stage here, cough). Of course, predictably enough, Bowser attempts to crash the party and ends up getting his arse whooped literally halfway across the overworld by Mario, where he conveniently lands right in the middle of a dark creepy forest.

After a short but satisfying trek through the local thickets, Bowser finds himself face-to-face with literally EVERYONE'S favorite Mario & Luigi villain, whose name is none other than...wait for it...WAIT FOR IT...

Fawful, mentally deranged Engrish-speaking scientist and blatant-Invader-Zim-wannabe extraordinaire, who (in the classic, irresistibly charming way that everyone remembers from Superstar Saga, of course) offers to give him a very worryingly-colored "Vacuum Shroom" that this game irritatingly (but hilariously) portrays Bowser as being amazingly stupid enough to accept. Upon eating it, he gains his iconic inhalation power, then immediately heads back to Peach's castle and uses it on everyone (or at the very least, everyone important) there, which naturally is where the REAL meat (not to mention titling motivation) of the game begins.

Mario and Luigi (and Peach, and a bunch of the other Toads) find themselves trapped in Bowser's ridiculously larger-on-the-inside body and end up having to ironically help HIM achieve HIS ridiculously selfish and villainous goals in order to save themselves from sure destruction (and hopefully from digestion as well), as the numerous overworld fast-travel pipes located deep inside his right-ear-canal area have been plot-conveniently blocked off by...oh, for crying out that is slightly taller than the rest.

More importantly, Fawful (whose promotion to the role of lead villain in this game was clearly done PURELY for the sake of gratuitous fetishistic fanservice, as if the profoundly unsettling amount of Bowser vore present in this game didn't already provide considerably more than enough of that) is joined by an even more blatant wannabe of Ganondorf's pig form from the Zelda franchise named Midbus, and the two of them team up to not only completely take over and outright STEAL Bowser's castle, but also do the same to Peach's as well! (Thankfully, Peach herself is basically their last priority.)

Now, at first glance, this certainly DOES seem like an astonishingly deep plot for a Mario RPG...that is, until you take a closer look and see what the thing that Fawful and Midbus use as the catalyst for their already-incredibly-cliched world-dominating scheme is (and is referred to as...)

Yup, you guessed it, it's a straight-up Dark Star...that the bros later end up having to collect GOOD stars in order to break the castle-wide evil forcefield of, and also throw a bunch of SHOOTING stars at in in order to defeat its final boss form.

And from there, the plot pretty much completely falls apart altogether.

That being said, however, I already mentioned way up above that where this game REALLY shines is in the delivery of its...dialogue (honestly, actually funny humor is a rather priceless commodity in this game, though it's still easily BY FAR the funniest Mario RPG of all time and one of the top 20 funniest RPGs in general without a doubt regardless) and ESPECIALLY characterization and character dynamics.

Seriously, the ENTIRE cast of characters for this game is hilariously goofy and quirky in general, but just TRY to watch all of the banter that goes on between Bowser, Midbus and Fawful throughout this game without busting out laughing at least once, I DARE you.

GRAPHICS: While the visual aesthetics of Bowser's Inside Story might not necessarily push the game's resident hardware nearly as much as those of its predecessors, the game still looks absolutely GORGEOUS on so many levels. It's brilliantly and often very comedically animated and captures the game's cartoonish feel perfectly while still being one of the most meticulously detailed sprite-based video games to date in the process. Bravo, Nintendo.

SOUND: Absolutely perfect. Nothing more to say on the matter.

GAMEPLAY: Again, EHH...I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll admit that I enjoyed the gameplay aspect of Bowser's Inside Story vastly more than those of ANY of the other ones, but really not by much. It's inventive, don't get me wrong, just nowhere near as much so as it should be.

Combat, when playing as the bros, is THANKFULLY just a straight upgrade to Superstar Saga rather than the completely overdone ridiculousness that Partners In Time was. Press A for Mario's attack/dodge commands, press B for Luigi's; that's ALL there is to it. Nothing more, nothing less. Simple but brilliant. (That, and also, the Bros Attacks in this game are quite easily some of the most spectacular in the entire series, so there's also that, too.)

When playing as Bowser, however, it can get INCREDIBLY annoying and tedious. He's basically just an even MORE brokenly overpowered counterpart to the bros (you know, as a way of emphasizing his incredible brute strength), and his style of dodging in particular gets REALLY old REALLY fast.

While the general combat is normally easy as pie with several different types of ice cream AND whipped cream layered on top (take note of that), equipping the secret Challenge Badge (won in one of the Challenge Node's Green Shell challenges, of course) turns the tables entirely by making the enemies fittingly gargantuan damage sponges and increasing their already un-naturally high attack power to obscene extremes that render certain sections of the game (cough, Energy Hold, cough) virtually IMPOSSIBLE. So uh, yeah, have fun trying to get through the entire game with THAT accursed thing equipped the whole time...

(grumble grumble, the final boss is also absolutely pathetic, grumble) Anyway, disregarding combat, this game has an overall very bland, dull and linear overworld compared to Superstar Saga, but the fact that the level design had to be adapted to be able to fit both Bowser AND the bros into it quite honestly justifies it in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the side-scrolling Bowser-spelunking "voretion" of the game is delegated almost solely to gimmicky and ultimately forgettable performance-enhancing minigames, but on the rare occasion that it actually does give the bros a full-fledged level to explore, the unique puzzle-platforming aspect that it lends to the game is always a welcome nod to Superstar Saga and the old Paper Mario trilogy, and I especially love how the main three areas I'm talking about (Water Works, Energy Hold, Airway) creatively utilize outside influences to affect the environment INSIDE Bowser's body. Seriously, it's fantastic stuff.

And yes; even without mentioning the Giant Bowser segments, every single one of this game's boss battles is absolutely amazing. Seriously. Every. Single. Bloody. One.

OVERALL: While Bowser's Inside Story might not be even REMOTELY what local Internet meme culture hypes it up to be, it is still a decent "baby's first" RPG in its own right, if rather weak compared to Chrono Trigger and the Mother-2-and-beyond portion of the Earthbound/Undertale series (and hell, even the original Paper Mario on N64, for that matter) and is undeniably one of THE funniest games ever made...well, specifically within the role-playing genre, at least.

Even though it's insultingly easy (and often WAY too agonizingly difficult with the Challenge Medal equipped for using said badge to even really be worth the hassle) and really doesn't offer anything exceptionally new to its series' table besides the "Fantastic Voyage Plot" trope (which, even then, going inside giant lizard creatures' stomachs in a remarkably fetishistic manner at least once per game had already been an established trademark tradition for the entire series up to this point, thanks to Bowletta and the Yoob), Bowser's Inside Story is still EASILY the crown jewel of Mario & Luigi...but not quite the crown jewel of the Mario RPGs in general, let's just leave it at that.

In surprisingly close agreement with htoutlaws, 8.25/10