Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
Score: 8.4 / 10
Itís a bit odd, really -- within the past five years, this is the fourth Mario RPGs but weíve only seen one real Mario platformer. Not that you could call this a bad thing. Both Paper Marios were fantastic, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was equally excellent, bringing a dose of action and humor into a genre that was known for being a bit moody and unexciting. Developer Alphadream Corporation is at the helm once again to bring to the sequel to the DS, Partners in Time.
infuses quite a bit of Super Mario World 2: Yoshiís
Much like its predecessor, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time demands extremely fast reflexes if you want to succeed in battle. Itís simple enough to just hit the A or B button right before youíre about to land, although you can command the babies to attack for a bit of extra damage. The challenge comes in dodging your opponents, who usually have a couple of attack patterns that they switch up to keep the action fresh. Furthermore, if
you time your attacks JUST right, you can
counter them for a bit of extra damage. It can become frustrating when
you enter a new area, because your foes are quite powerful, even if
youíve buffed up your defense and HP. But once you become familiar
with the timing and study the enemyís movements, the game does become
much smoother. There are still some annoyances
that crop up Ė some enemies attack from the upper screen, and itís
hard to judge which character it's heading towards without looking at
of this twitch-gaming does grow a bit old after awhile, but it does have
an upside. Since your success depends on your reflexes rather than your
stats, you really never need to level grind, at all. Gaining experience
will give you a wider margin of error or make the battles go faster, but
it's a brilliant way to balance a game in a genre that can occasionally
get overly repetitive. There aren't any random battles anyway, so you
can dodge most encounters if you like.
The dungeons in Mario & Luigi 2 arenít particularly huge, but they are filled with plenty of puzzles. Theyíre never as difficult as a Zelda game, but they make the levels a little bit more engaging than your usual RPG. Making use of the dual screens, there are plenty of times where the babies need to separate from their older selves in order to progress. This can be a bit aggravating because the toddlers are extremely weak, and they tend to get thrashed pretty quickly in battle. Each of the four buttons on the DS correspond to one of your characters, and the shoulder buttons switch between functions. Itís definitely less confusing than the original - you no longer need to have the brothers switch positions Ė but it doesnít feel as simple as it should be. Trying to hop up stairs or on platforms can also get annoying, since you need to keep your characters together, and hit both buttons at the same time to jump.
for the most part, the gameplay is just as solid as Superstar Saga. The
only downfall Ė and itís a big one, unfortunately Ė is that itís
not nearly as funny. Fawful, the lovable doofus with a failing grasp on
the English language, proved to be one of the most memorable characters
Nintendo has ever created. And yet, here, heís only relegated to a
brief cameo. Sure, Kid Bowser is cute, as are the rest of the junior
renditions and their amusing baby babble. Thereís an amusing run-in
with 133t speaking Hammer Brothers. And Stuffwell, your talking suitcase
who tends to make up large words, has a number of good lines (Iím
particularly amused by his
shame cycles.) But they donít really have the same charm as
some of the characters from Superstar Saga or Paper Mario 2. Even some
of the little touches are gone, as Mario and Luigi no longer dance
during battle or after leveling up. Itís not that it isnít funny Ė
itís just not AS funny, even though the translation is just as
excellent as youíd expect out of Nintendo.
This time around, the appeal lies more in nostalgia - other than
the return of the baby brothers, youíll visit Yoshiís
than the minor uses of the two screens, thereís not much here that
really takes advantage of the DS. The graphics are barely any better
than the original, and while the music is technically of better quality,
the compositions arenít quite as memorable. If you happen to have the
Rumble Pak that came with Metroid Prime Pinball, you can use it here,
which gives battles a little bit of extra pizzazz.
& Luigi 2: Partners in Time is at an odd spot for a sequel.
Itís more of the same, a little bit different, but not necessarily
better. It's also fairly short and linear. But otherwise, itís hard to
complain Ė itís still pleasant, lighthearted fun and legions better
than the embarrassing Lunar: Dragon Song, making it the uncontested
champion of DS RPGs.
- Kurt Kalata
(January 31, 2006)
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