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Inception Intro: Mario is everywhere now, he’s been in every gaming genre there is. Sports, Racing, Platformers and when Square released Legend of The Seven Stars came out, Mario has started his own RPGs. Super Mario RPG: Legend of The Seven Stars was a solid beginning in the Mario RPG series. But then it passed the torch to Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi. And in 2013 also known as “The Year of Luigi” Alpha Dream released the fourth game in the Mario and Luigi series. Dream Team, a fitting and clever name to an interesting concept. So how far did it go? That’s the question I intend to answer here. Story: Dream Team lives up to its name in both story and gameplay. The story of the game starts when Mario, Luigi and Peach take a vacation to Pi’llo Island. However, their vacation is cut short by Antasma and Bowser, the villains teamed up with each other to conquer the world, because that’s what all the cool villains want nowadays. Antasma is an evil being spawned by nightmares and hatred, he once fought a war against the Pi’llo folk lead by Prince Dreambert. And now, he wants to work with Bowser to steal the dream stone so he can get what he wants. So the brothers’ goal is to save Pi’llo Island from Antasma and Bowser by using Luigi’s mysterious ability to manipulate dreams to his will. The humor is still as solid as it always was, Alpha Dream still manages to deliver hilarious dialogue into the characters without feeling old. Along the journey, the brothers will encounter a cast of new and familiar characters. Familiar ones including Bowser (Obviously) Peach, Toadsworth, Broque Monsieur, Broque Madame and Starlow. The new characters however, are the ones who stole the show. Such as the hilarious Brickle, the beefy Massif Bros and the badass Antasma. And the story has a lot of cool hidden texts and references that add more depth to the storyline for players who care to explore them. Antasma is a particularly strong character because of how he was inspired by Dracula but his character wasn’t cliche, he wasn’t a vampire lord looking to suck people’s blood or build his own castle. He’s a nightmare creature who wants to help Bowser get what he wants so that they can both combine their power to conquer the world. While the characters are great, the actual plot of the game suffers from pacing issues. It gives you too many different arcs to solve and never focusing on the main goal. The Ultibed part for example was completely unnecessary and felt like it was there just to pad out the game’s length. Overall, the game’s story is decent, but it’s nowhere near as good or as well focused as Bowser’s inside story. Graphics and Presentation: Mario and Luigi’s first outing in 3D is visually astonishing. The game’s textures look nice and the visual effects are particularly impressive. The particle effects when Dreamy Luigi fuses with Mario, the Luiginary attacks, they all look pretty good. But the one problem here is the game uses sprites for its characters, and the only characters that are 3D meshes are the ones in the giant battles. Those sprites still look pretty good, but I would’ve much preferred if they haven’t cut corners and went all out 3D if they wanted to make the first 3D M&L game. The sound design is good, I like how punchy they made the hammers sound and all of the other sound effects are pretty good. The soundtrack is epic, I’d say it’s on par with Bowser’s Inside Story. Every environment has a music track for it and a music track for the dreamy version of it. And they are for the most part, memorable. Gameplay: If you are unfamiliar with how the Mario and Luigi series play, the are turn based action RPGs in the vain of Final Fantasy. But it still feels very much like a Mario game. You use blocks instead of menus for your actions, your items are mushrooms and nuts for healing, and a 1-UP mushroom for reviving. What sets this game apart from other RPGs are action commands and reaction commands, which exist in Paper Mario and Legend of The Seven Stars but here, they are done better. As you can completely avoid damage if you time your evasions and counters right instead of reducing damage. Each bro has two actions for solo attacks, hammers and jumping, both deal similar damage in this game but aerial enemies can only be hit by jumping attacks, and spiked enemies can only be hit by hammer attacks. And that’s the extent of hit rate in this game, there’s no RNG to stop you from hitting or avoiding attacks, it’s all dictated by user input, which makes Mario and Luigi more skill based than your typical turn based RPGs, allowing players to potentially go through the entire journey without taking a single point of unscripted damage. So the combat in these games are superb, and it still shines here. One clear difference, though, is there are some enemies that are deceptive and move during your turn such as the crabs, watch out for those. This game’s primary gimmick is the dream world segments. Mario can use Luiginary works (Spawned from Luigi’s imagination) to manipulate the environments around him, change the way how it works by changing its speed, freezing it, burning it, flying across it in zero gravity and even spawn Luiginoids to create different shapes for him to use, he can also extend Luigi’s mustache to shoot him across a room which is pretty funny. The game’s controls for these segments can sometimes feel too cumbersome, particularly in the Luiginary wheel, but otherwise, it controls fine. The time puzzles in the dream world are pretty fun and well designed, needing you to slow down for higher jumps or fast forward for jumping further, and it was a smart design choice to require one jump for blocks that need slowing down, it cuts down the tedium of jumping slowly over and over again. The combat in the dream world is also different, as Mario and Luigi combine their stats to make up for the fact that Luigi isn’t there to help (Just dreamy Luigi) and instead of Bros. attacks, Mario can use Luiginary attacks which are some of the most powerful attacks in the game. Some of the special attacks (Bros. and Luiginary) use the 3DS’ motion controls which when you get used to it will be quite easy for you to pull of. And I like how the special attacks have their own action commands, requiring not only BP to do, but also skillful player input to allow you to dish out some damage/status effects. Unlike in other turn based RPGs where you only require mana for such attacks. The combat of the game is hard to adapt to since they made attack timing much more different, but when you do adapt to it, the combat will be much easier than BIS’ combat (Bowser’s Inside Story). It appears that Alpha Dream are making their game much more accessible for newcomers, they even allow you to restart battles at any time without needing retry clocks like you did previously. And you can draw your hammer forever unlike in BIS where you have a specific amount of time of how much you can draw your hammer. Returning from BIS are giant battles, and they are even better than ever. You play as giant Luigi and now have a bunch of options of how you wanna tackle your oversized enemy. You can throw him to the background, throw him across the screen or jump on top of him. The battles feel a lot more epic because of how much tension they added to the reaction commands, such as a certain fight with the Zeekeeper where you have to touch his legs on the touchscreen and then pull down with the stylus so that you can drag him down to the ground. As for the role-playing elements of this game, there are badges. Each bro has a set of badges that they can choose and combining different badges will give vastly different effects. There are a lot more badges than in BIS, and all of the different effects are fun to use and can be synergized to give different effects. For example, the badge that gives all allies and enemies increased POW sounds terrible on paper because of its extremely high risk vs reward, but when combined with the badge that removes all status effects from enemies, it can be wonderful. Other RP elements are things such as customizing the bros’ equipment to your liking, but there’s sadly not that much role playing in this game to excuse it’s insane 56 hour length. I’m an explorative player and I love finding exciting new areas/loot, but Dream Team doesn’t have that much of it. The overworld is dull and devoid of any exploration, the only things that are there for the players to discover are the hidden beans which increase certain stats by a point each. That, combined with the badges is not enough to excuse the fact that the game is too long. BIS took me 30 hours to beat while this game was close enough to 60. But BIS had more depth because of the extra party member this game doesn’t have, Bowser. He played much differently than the brothers, and while you can argue that Mario in the dream world was different enough, that still doesn’t change the fact that he is still Mario. You can’t customize the bros to your liking enough, there are no RPG archetypes here, the bros are mostly damage dealers who can support each other, the reason why it’s okay for games like Final Fantasy and Fire Emblem to be as long as they are is because of their job/class systems. While the adventure is grand, it doesn’t feel like a drag because trying out different specialization makes it feel always fresh and engaging. While in this game, the game already feels too long without the Ultibed quest, which is just padding, padding, padding, it’s inexcusable to have it there, it’s just there to hurt the game’s pacing. And the tutorials are riddled with too much dialogue shoved upon the player’s throat. It can also be annoying, such as the times where Dreambert makes the most astute observations by telling you exactly what just happened in great detail “Oh, it looks like turning this wheel has made it faster/slower” No shit Sherlock! And why i the map purely touchscreen? And why does it move back to its origin once the bros move? That’s a bad design choice, I say. I dunno why can’t the game allow the player to pause and hover through the map at will. The bosses are some of the strongest points in the game for a lot of people, but I mostly find them to be mostly too easy. And it takes quite a while for you to get to the good ones, the ones that are more interesting and complex, but when you get there, they are spectacular. There are challenges in the game that you can get different rewards for. And most of these aren’t particularly difficult, but rewarding nonetheless. The game doesn’t have many technical problems although it did once break for me, the camera glitched and all characters disappeared which was thankfully solved by saving and reloading the game. And with all of these things covered, let’s get to the final verdict. Final Verdict: Dream Team is another good entry in the Mario and Luigi series of RPGs, it’s the first one in 3D and it had great improvements and addition of new gameplay mechanics, and it kept the series fresh and managed to be quite impressive on a technical side, especially in those miraculous giant battles. It’s a good game, but not a great one. It suffers from a lot of pacing issues, especially in the late game, and it just felt like a drag in the second half, and didn’t need to be this long for it’s lack of robust enough RPG elements so it also overstayed its welcome. I hope Alpha Dream takes all of this feedback into consideration as they’re making Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam. Because Bowser’s Inside Story was a phenomenal game, it had almost flawless pacing and it was really hard to find major faults with it. It’s disappointing that they didn’t hit the same level of quality here but I’m hoping they do that for Paper Jam. Overall, I recommend this game for Mario RPG fans who are craving for a new type of adventure that focuses more on the cooler brother. Final Score: 7/10 Good. Update on Upcoming Reviews: After finishing Dream Team, now I have time to revisit titles that I need to finish. Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword aka Fire Emblem aka Fire Emblem 7 may be my next game to review. Though I am unsure, it could also be Captain Toad, Batman: Arkham Knight, Superstar Saga or Okami. I actually have a lot more shelved games than those. Deciding on which to review is going to be quite difficult. But it’s most likely gonna be Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword. It’s gonna be more difficult to review it since I haven’t jotted down any notes and I just finished Lyn’s arc. But hopefully, there won’t be a writer’s block for me.