Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (Nintendo DS) - Review by Matt
One blissful day in the Mushroom Kingdom, genius inventor Professor E. Gadd constructed a time machine, which was fueled by the awesome power of the Cobalt Star. Princess Peach was overjoyed with his creation, and immediately set off to visit the Mushroom Kingdom's past. Of course, her faithful ward Toadsworth was filled with such worry for his charge that he promptly collapsed.
Shortly thereafter the time machine returned, but it was a wreck and it brought back not the princess, but a creepy alien of unknown origin. According to the professor, Princess Peach was stranded somewhere in the past! To top it off, mysterious time holes leading back in time began popping up throughout the castle! Who better to answer the call to adventure than Mario and Luigi? Nobody, that's who!
The mustachioed brothers leapt into action, plunged through a time hole, and set off on a rescue mission through time. Once they arrived in the past, the brothers met up with their childhood selves and formed the greatest team of heroes in history. Can the brothers Mario overcome all obstacles and rescue Princess Peach? Only time will tell!? (Instruction Booklet Prologue)
Thus begins the brother's strangest adventure yet. Going back in time they find out the strange shroobs aren't all that easy to deal with, team up with their younger selves, find the young Princess Peach and Toadsworth, and test Luigi's courage to the fullest. The game isn't as funny as the original, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, but still has some great moments. One of the most enjoyable parts of the games is when the Toadsworths teach you new moves to make the Baby Princess happy, saying much more will ruin it though.
Playing this game is enjoyable, even though it is not quite as comical as the original. Use of the rumble pak helps to make it more enjoyable to play, so you might want to pick up one before playing. The battles, though challenging, can become incredibly easy with the acquisition of the proper badges. Badges and Pants are able to be worn in the game to increase stats, and grant special powers. The best can be bought at a secret store in the castle with Beans, which the Baby Bros can dig up from special locations in the ground. Playing through the game is simple enough that anyone can progress, yet challenging enough that if skill is lacking many Game Overs are in the future.
The time required to beat the game is somewhat short, only about 20 hours or so, though there are enough challenges to keep one busy for a long time. One such challenge requires making the Baby Bros collect 50 gems while spiraling downward, much easier said than done. Even though doing everything is not required, it makes the game well worth a second time through to see what was missed. Finding originally unobserved secrets, watching the Toadsworths squabble again, and observing Luigi's antics in the face of danger can all be more fun the second time.
Battling in the game is so unique that if you enjoyed it, many more hours will be spent playing this game. Learning to dodge every attack, as well as how to execute all the attacks perfectly will keep you busy several times through the game, and discovering the timing for perfect counter attacks will make it even longer. The discoveries of how to level up the perfect stats for you, as well as keeping Bros Item attacks going on indefinitely will greatly increase the satisfaction gleaned from the game.
The controls work well, but are sometimes a little glitchy, as switching between Bros doesn't always work properly (sometimes you have to press the button twice to actually get to them). D-pad is used for moving around, while the A, B, X, and Y are used to control each of the different Bros moves. Mario's actions use A, Luigi's use B, Baby Mario's use X, and Baby Luigi's use Y. Switching between jumps and special moves is a cinch with L or R, while the button for the Mario currently in the lead is used for interacting when possible. It is impossible to switch specials when the elder Bros are carrying their younger selves, but getting the Baby Bros off the Big Bros back is simple with either Baby Bro button. After progressing a little through the game it will be possible to do several special moves with each set of Bros. The Baby Bros will learn to use hammers to decimate walls, spit water, and drill into the ground. The Big Bros will discover how to work together as a ball, do long spin jumps, launch the babies high into the air, and even squash their younger counterparts flat.
The Bros work best all together, but can battle separately if the need comes up. When they go into a battle together the Baby Bros will be on the Big Bros backs, allowing for more powerful attacks and Big Bros getting replaced by Baby Bros if one of the former faints. To begin an attack it must first be selected with the command block. The command blocks are Jump, Hammer (only when Babies are in battle, and after they have the hammers), Bros Item (if you have any), Item (if you have any) and Run. Selecting which one to use is simple with the D-pad and the proper Bro button. To score large hits one must have good timing and hit the Bro's button at the proper time in the attack. When using Bro Items this can become challenging, but with fast reactions and accurate observation it is possible to keep the attack going on indefinitely.
This games graphics, though they fit the style very well, are just a little better than the original game on the GBA. The map on the top screen works well, and the areas are all very unique. Thwomp Mountain is all Thwomps, and the Star Shrine has hundreds of stars. Everything is very Mario-ish, which is nice. The battle graphics work great, and allow you to know the exact timing for everything. The backgrounds are fun to watch, and seeing the enemies wondering around allows attacking easily. No graphical glitches are seen, while the animation runs wonderfully smooth. Everything flows together smoothly to create very enjoyable visuals that makes everything stunning to see for the first time, though individual parts are not nearly as impressive.
Music excels in this game, and the sound effects are superb. Each area of the game has different background music, making it even more fun to advance through the game. Listening to the beautiful, inspired masterpieces of musical orchestrating is purely wonderful.
Even classic Mario Bros tunes made it into the game to bring back old memories. Sound effects are perfect for a Mario game, from the thwomp? of landing on enemies to the sound of voices. If you have ever played a Mario game before it will all bring back the memories, and inspire you to play the older games through again after you have beat this game.
During most of the game, the bottom screen will be used to show wherever the whole team is in the adventure; where you're playing. On the top screen will be the map of wherever you are. It will show an icon of whichever brothers are with you at the moment of gameplay, and the icon will move only when the team moves to a different room/area. At some times, when the babies are somewhere which the brothers can't be, or just aren't, the top screen will be used to show where the babies are, so the player can keep track of both sets of brothers.
Also, with the top screen, during battles, it will be used to show the sky, or the upper part of whatever area you're battling in. Sometimes, enemies will stretch to be that tall, which is another use for that top screen. And some attacks, from you or your opponents, will need to have the top screen incorporated. For example, there is a Bros. Item which allows all four of the brothers to be set in corners, and they all must form the biggest fire ball they can, using combined fire-power from the whole team. This fire ball will be created in the middle of the top screen, and will descend its fate to the enemies you're facing.
Though this is a great game, I would recommend the original over it. If you are planning to get both games anyway, and haven't played the first one yet I would recommend playing Superstar Saga before you start Partners in Time. Playing through this game would be much more enjoyable then, and unless you enjoy the four person battle system a lot more than the two person your joy from this game will turn into ecstasy on the original. I would recommend this game to those who have played the original also, if you don't mind less humor and mini-games. Four people are harder to control than two, making it a fun challenge to play though. If you have a DS but don't enjoy using the touch screen or microphone a lot, this is the game for you. This game is a great investment if you have extra money and no other games you want to get, though I would recommend several others before getting this one if you are considering several.
Pro: Simple Controls, Challenging Gameplay.
Con: Poor Story, Little Touch-screen Use.
Final score: 8.7