RPG Review #62: Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

NuMetalManiak And it's back to the action commands once again with this particular RPG. 31 reviews ago I reviewed Superstar Saga, which actually was one of my more memorable RPGs of my early days when I owned a Game Boy Advance. Yes, I was a kid back in the 2000s, getting used to all these video games, and when I got a hold of a Nintendo DS Lite (which I still own), I wanted to try a whole lot more than what I used to. Now, 31 reviews later, I decided to review the second game in this semi-successful group of games utilizing the Mario Bros. This is also my first ever review for a game for the Nintendo DS (and no, the terrible Final Fantasy remakes will not count because those games were way too tough for me to handle).

Gameplay: And if you are familiar with how Superstar Saga works, this one won't be too tough either. Heck, they even give you tutorials on what to do. A seasoned RPG player probably wouldn't like it that much, but as a kid back then I had to know how to do things. Bear in mind, I didn't read Internet FAQs back then either. The general gist is not only do we have the bros, Mario and Luigi, but their baby counterparts as well, meaning not just the A and B buttons, but the X and Y buttons as well. Special field abilities do return for puzzle solving and the like, some of which will involve separation of the bros in the party. Though this time, Mario and Luigi will never split up; this time, splits usually involve babies splitting from the adults to solve puzzles in tinier areas. Yep, some creative puzzles to be had around here.

As far as battles go, more action commands take place for more damage. Notably, only the babies get to wield hammers, and there are no hand powers like in Superstar Saga. BP from the first game is also completely removed. For the Bros. attacks, they got real creative. They decided to use them as items, meaning that they are obviously consumable, but they can go on for quite some time for those incredibly skilled with the usage of action commands. Naturally, it can wear on you, having to memorize each of the respective four buttons for each bro involved. But hey, that's the fun of it. Dodging aspect of course returns, and the masters of this game can avoid damage altogether if they are really good. In most battles, the adults hold the babies on their back, so they take all the damage, if one is knocked out, the baby takes their place. Though this pretty much needs to be avoided still, it removes the ability to use the Bros items and makes it harder to dodge.

So yes, there's quite a lot to this game as you see. And with two screens, it makes things way more fun. I don't recall if I mentioned it yet, but this was a game that I beat the first time in only four days. The second time I beat it? Only two. Yeah, I spent a whole lot of time playing it back then. Revisiting again, it still doesn't take me too long. It's not that short of a game, but I've gotten good over the years and what not. Grade: A

Characters: Chances are, you know all about the characters in the Mario series, so not a whole lot of detail is needed. Though, this is probably the first official game I know of that featured the adults and babies together in a serious game (because obviously the Mario Kart game that first showed the babies, Double Dash I think, was a party game). For what you should know, adult Mario and Luigi can jump high, while baby Mario and Luigi have much less jump height, and are generally weaker. Though, the adults can't use hammers this time around. The main enemy this game features are a brand new enemy, known as Shroobs, and they are actually aliens! If you were expecting a different kingdom like in Superstar Saga, nope, we are back in the Mushroom Kingdom, this time in an alien invasion. Fawful makes only a cameo appearance here, before his time to shine comes in Bowsers Inside Story. Grade: A-

Plot: Back then, I remember seeing so much of the plot of this game that it actually terrified me. The fact that an alien nation came to invade the home of iconic video game heroes was like a fanfiction come true, a rather terrifying one considering that these Shroobs were aliens who were incapable of speaking regularly. The concept of time travel, often used in RPGs, makes its appearance as a central plot point for Partners in Time, and not just for getting the adults and babies connected. See, the Mushroom Kingdom in the present is actually quite fine, but in the past, the kingdom was actually conquered and Peach's castle overrun by Shroobs.

While the baby versions of characters fight in the beginning, the present features E. Gadd (remember that guy?) and his time machine. As I'd expect after playing Chrono Trigger, things go wrong when Peach enters, and this ugly Shrooboid came in. Now adult Mario & Luigi journey to the past to get her back, as usual, but find out what goes on, and lose to a group of Shroobs in an unwinnable fight (yet strangely, this is the only appearance of regular Shroobs in a battle, all others are variants). Meanwhile, the baby Mario and Luigi end up finding them, and they all team up at past Bowser's Castle (if you remember, this was the last dungeon in the first game, now it's a tutorial dungeon!). Eventually, all returns to the present.

E. Gadd's time machine was powered up by this important star. Much like the Beanstar, this game's Cobalt Star is an important plot point, and apparently the pieces of the Cobalt Star shattered and scattered after Peach went in. The four bros. decided to get the remaining Cobalt Star shards that scattered, using the time holes that were created, which were passages to the past. Also baby Bowser is a recurring antagonist in this game, and at one point Kamek is helping him (you all remember who Kamek is, hopefully). The bros journey through such locales such as Toadwood Forest (this place is really nasty due to a Shroob factory that actually drains Toad's energy, some are passed out on trees and such, really does spark nightmares), Yoshi's Island (with the gigantic shroobified Yoob that has its own dungeon). Gritzy Desert (where we get to see our big bad, Princess Shroob, the first time), Thwomp Volcano (inside is where we fight both Bowsers at once, funny enough, NEITHER recognizes each other), Toad Town (already destroyed), Star Hill, and Star Shrine. And then it's on to the Shroobified version of Peach's Castle, where the toughest challenges await.

At the top of this place is when things are revealed. First of all, for those that haven't gotten the memo as they played, the Peach with the purple shroom on her face was obviously Princess Shroob in disguise. Even Bowser (adult Bowser that is), didn't know that, but inadvertently slowed her plan down. The real Peach tried to keep the Cobalt Star from being reformed, which was revealed basically close to the end. In other words, after you take down Princess Shroob, it was revealed that the Cobalt Star (which unfortunately that mischievous Baby Bowser ended up putting together to spite our heroes) held captive Shroob's elder sister, a huge abomination that was way tougher and a fitting boss. Back at the present after that final battle, Bowser eats a shroom and ends up being an easier final boss (though technically, there's not a whole lot of control other than attack dodging), and that's it. Pretty much everything bad that happened as a result of the Shroob invasion comes back to normal. It's one of those happy endings that pretty much I would consider well EARNED, and given how much this game had scared me when I was little, it was one worth pulling through. Grade: A+

Music: Standard Mario fare channels a good chunk of this music, while some happy-go-lucky tunes were used for some other themes as well. The battle themes do get weary after awhile. I'd say this was a weak point in the game, but sometimes I just don't pay attention to music that much so maybe it's just me. Grade: B-

Overall Grade: A

One of my first DS games, and one that actually was worth revisiting, even I've gotten acquainted to it rather well. Good gameplay, terrifying but enticing plot all the same. And of course the humor. I actually left that part out. But you know it's got humor in it, and that's always nice to see. Great job with this one.