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November 2005


- Battle system challenges you to be active

- Lots of Super Mario World 2 references

- Lighthearted story

- Well designed dungeons



- Battle system does get a bit tiresome after awhile

- Not quite as funny as its predecessor

- Very short and scant on subquests



Review: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA)

Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)

Review: Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)



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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.


mario & luigi partners in time          mario & luigi partners in time


Alphadream infuses quite a bit of Super Mario World 2: Yoshiís Island in this installment. The loony Professor E. Gadd first starts a fiasco by opening up time rifts everywhere, which causes the brothers and Princess Toadstool to get sucked into the past. But thatís not quite the worst of it Ė an evil alien race called the Shroobs have invaded the Mushroom Kingdom , and are out to take over the planet (and kidnap princesses, apparently.) Only by teaming up with their diaper-wearing doppelgangers and zipping through time can Mario and Luigi hope to save the day.





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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 its shadow.


All 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.


mario & luigi partners in time          mario & luigi partners in time


So, 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 Island , listen to some familiar music and engage in combat with the turtle wizard Kamek. Itís a pleasant trip down memory lane, at the very least. Alas, the game is quite short for an RPG Ė expect to last in-between ten to fifteen hours.


Other 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.


Mario & 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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