Mario & Luigi: Dream Team preview: apt subtitle

By Andrew Yoon, Apr 18, 2013 10:30am PDT

The Mario & Luigi franchise has been consistently amazing. With every iteration, developer AlphaDream takes the Super Mario RPG formula and injects it with an abundance of charm. Then, Nintendo of America's localization takes it another step further, with a biting, self-referential script. Unsurprisingly, it looks as though the franchise's first 3DS game, Dream Team, will continue the series' winning streak.

Dream Team features all the lovable qualities of its predecessors. Most importantly, the combat system is just as lively as ever, integrating platforming and timing mechanics into an accessible turn-based RPG combat system. Whether you're jumping over fireballs, or dodging a marching line of villains, there's plenty of diversions mid-battle to keep things fresh.

Every Mario & Luigi game features a gimmick, and this time, it's the ability to enter Luigi's dreams. While most of the game may be presented in isometric 3D, Luigi's dreams are presented in 2D, making these sequences more reminiscent of classic Mario platformers. In the dream world, Luigi gains a number of new abilities, activated by touching different parts of Luigi's face on the bottom screen. For example, grabbing his nose will have him sneeze, blowing items from the background into the foreground. Grabbing his mustache will let Luigi-as-a-tree grab Mario and launch him to new areas. We're interested to see what other (hopefully G-rated) activities we'll be able to do to Luigi as he slumbers.

In combat, "Dreamy Luigi" has the ability to summon dozens of clones of himself. From a Luigi Katamari rolling down enemies to a cavalcade of Luigi's raining down on baddies, it seems like AlphaDream will think of all sorts of zany ways to Luigify the game. It's hilarious, and adorable too.

Transition to 3DS hasn't hurt the newest Mario & Luigi. While not a 3D showcase like Nintendo's other first-party titles, it's still quite the looker, with gorgeous sprite art that's lovingly animated. An incredible amount of detail had to be poured into the visuals in order to give it the feel of a 3D game, while still retaining the look of a 2D one.

Not much of the story was seen in the demo that we played, although it's unlikely people are playing the M&L games for their thought-provoking narratives. Once again, Peach is in trouble, carried away into the dream world. By rescuing the not-very-creatively-named Pi'ilows in Luigi's various dreams, Mario & Luigi get one step closer in defeating new baddie Antasma and rescuing the princess yet again.

It may be a tired premise, but so long as the gameplay remains compelling, it's a serviceable enough excuse for a new adventure.

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