For several years now, Mario and Luigi have teamed up to save the various worlds of or around the Mushroom Kingdom. They make their 3DS debut in their latest RPG outing, heading into the mind and dreams of little bro Luigi. Manipulation, orientation, and growing to tremendous sizes are the name of the game, and with nice 3D aspects and that ever-satisfying combat, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is a nice, but really uninteresting, continuation of the series.
In this particular tale, Mario, Luigi, Peach, and friends waste little time getting into trouble as nearly five minutes after they’re in the air on their way to Pi’illo Island, the main villain attacks. After a bit more exposition, it’s once again up to the Mario Bros. to save the day and princess again. Retaining the smart humor, in-jokes, and writing of the series, Dream Team definitely has what the series always has had in the story department, but how much longer is that model going to hold? How many more times are we to subject to another loose “here’s a typical setup and rescue scenario” and expect to still care by endgame?
Like all Mario & Luigi RPGs before it, Dream Team follows the familiar template of exploration, combat, and storytelling. Exploration is the same as before: some areas are open for now, others are closed off for later portions, etc. and so forth. Combat is still dependent on player involvement as timed strikes increase damage and prevent harm. It’s always been a nice combat system, helping to make battles feel more personal and hands-on rather than jamming on a button to just get XP and continue the story. The boss battles are usually great examples of what Nintendo can do with the combat, specifically the Giant Luigi battles. Lumbering sprites onscreen, hammering one another for dominance? Hell yes!
I’ve personally been a fan of the series dating back to Super Mario RPG on the SNES. Unfortunately, the idea’s getting a bit stale and repetitive. It certainly adds a level to the fights that make it less about your character’s stats, but I still found myself getting screwed heavily in a boss battle because the inputs weren’t 100% precise. Having to restart a long boss battle because of a 0.001% delay on striking a fireball back is frustrating and only makes the “easy mode” more appealing just to progress along.
As for the story of Dream Team, again, it is razor thin as far as why you’re doing what you’re doing, but it offers laughs and nearly enough motivation to get you to the end. Taking me just over 50 hours for the credits to start rolling, there’s plenty of content here to have gamers returning to the dream world and Pi’illo Island’s surrounding areas to gather beans, decrypt photos, and find everything. One could easily pad it out to 65 hours to do everything Dream Team has to offer.
I should also mention that this is the first 3DS title where I’ve had the 3DS viewer on most of the time. Nintendo really did some very interesting and cool ideas with the 3D; more than simply throwing things at your face (though a few of those moments creep in every so often). I only turned the mode off late at night or after long exposure as it does affect you heavily after a while. If more 3rd party games did 3D like Nintendo, I’d absolutely turn the slider up more often than I do, but you can always trust Nintendo to deliver on the quality.
I know, I said the story has a lot of laughs and such, but it’s seemingly endless a lot of the time. Most instances I felt I’d be nearing the end or final boss, then the story added another indistinguishable layer to the mix that prolonged the inevitable. If the endless additions don’t turn you off, the 30-hour hand-holding just might. Despite teaching you a lot in the beginning, Dream Team will still be providing tutorials and stopping the action just enough to break the flow. “Look, a new point to interact with; let’s enter an impossible-to-skip dialogue to explain it!” I realize that Dream Team is for all ages, but need I remind you in the olden days of how few tutorials we got in NES and SNES games? “We had to walk 15 miles uphill in the snow before we ever got a tutorial…” and so on and so forth.
Needless hand-holding aside, the rest of the series going forward has to develop a different approach around why Mario and Luigi are doing what they’re doing. It’s such a tired idea and trope that it’s really going to be hard for me to care. Will I still play it? Likely, but it wouldn’t be for the plot, only for the combat. Of course, like I mentioned, even the combat can be frustrating at times. By the end, I was skipping battles or avoiding enemies simply to save time and get it over with. The charm of the constant conflict wanes after 50 hours, I guess!
While Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is by no means a nightmare of a game, it’s a game I do not want Nintendo to dream up again in the future. Tired ideas, gameplay, and characters are really killing the series for me. I did enjoy several of the new implementations, but it’s all been slathered over a similar coat of paint. Sure, it’s greener than red this time, but the fact still stands: Mario and & Luigi RPGs should actually go on an extended vacation for now and return with refreshed, reignited vigor in a few years. Maybe return with Geno and other SNES friends at that time?
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Review Platform: Nintendo 3DS