Malik (2/16/06)

Mario and Luigi 2: Partners in Time (DS)

From Nintendo

Riding off of the success of the previous Mario and Luigi game for the GBA, Nintendo took a chance at taking advantage of the DS hardware while trying to please their fans. 

Where the original was perfectly suited for the GBA, Nintendo had to keep things fresh and different to apply the same sense of innovation with a DS based sequel. While you could control Mario's jump with one button on the GBA, and Luigi with the other face button, the DS offered a bit more in the way of controls. With two additional face buttons and the single additional screen, the game went in what seemed like a natural direction; either go with another set of brothers (Wario and Waluigi, perhaps...) or go with an alternate duo of the same good old Mario boys. 

While the idea of controlling four characters with a single d-pad and four face buttons may sound quite intimidating to the uninitiated, old fans of the original know what this means; innovation and addictive puzzle-based RPG fun. 


Love it or hate it, Mario and Luigi 2 does not offer a deep and emotionally stirring plot like fellow RPGs may promise. Instead, Nintendo goes in a far more refreshing and appropriate direction for a portable RPG. Enter Nintendo's unique sense of humor. 

The basic plot starts with two sets, or times, of Mario and Luigi. One in the same present day world in which we all know and love. The other set being in a contradictory (if you're a Mario affectioniato, as it were) and more annoying time. In other words, we are shown a set of adult brothers enjoying an example of E. Gad's (the inventor of Luigi's Mansion infamy) latest invention, a time machine. At the same time (from the player's perspective, not the plot's) two infantile brothers face a threat from baby Bowser. While the younger brothers defeat Bowser, an even more important threat looms on the horizon; alien invasion. 

If you're confused at this point, let's just clarify things by saying some random shit happens in typical Nintendo style. While some developers may ease new plot developments on the player, Nintendo has never been afraid to be a bit more...ummmm...blunt. 

So, Shroobs (alien mushrooms) attack the past Mushroom Kingdom, which is being visited by the adult Princess Peach, thanks to her testing of E. Gad's time machine, along with two of her assistants. Some random shit happens (I could try to explain, but Nintendo is one random company that usually defies explanation), and time portals start to open across the Mushroom Kingdom. So, in order to find their lost Princess, adult Mario and Luigi set off into the past to find what happened. It is around this time that they stumble upon their infant selves, and they soon decide to team up. 

The plot doesn't really sort itself out too much from there. However, this is an RPG that is less about the overall plot, and more about the situation at hand. While there is a large plot that rules over everything, it is vague, random, and of little interest. However, the smaller instances that make up each moment of the game are where the game really shines. This is where Nintendo pulls out one of the best senses of humor seem by a game developer. 

In fact, the main plot will do little for an average gamer, but it will actually cause potential anger by Nintendo fanboys around the world. For example, in what many of you may have already noticed by my recap of the initial plot, baby Mario and baby Luigi are in the past with baby Princess Peach, despite how they arrived in the Mushroom Kingdom (according to the Mario chronology) as adult plumbers from New York. Other instances of this type of conundrum occur throughout the game. However, unless you're an easily agitated fanboy, this won't be a problem. 

In the end, the plot will always be silly, it will always be fun to experience, and it will always show some great character interactions between the brave and gallant Mario and the cowardly and clumsy Luigi. This is not even mentioning the wonderful relationship that forms between Bowser's adult and baby forms, which work together and battle each other, while never knowing who each version is truly dealing with. 

Game Play 

If you've played any Mario RPG game before, you should know the basic concept. If you haven't, here's another chance to be confused and amazed by Nintendo's unique approach to all things RPG. 

To start things off, each brother (Mario, Luigi, baby Mario, and baby Luigi) has a face button mapped out to them. Mario is always controlled with the A button. If you ever want to make Mario jump, you will hit the A button. If you want him to perform some other ability, you will hit the A button. The same applies to B and Luigi, X and baby Mario, and Y and baby Luigi. It really is that simple. Since you will always be controlling two brothers (either the baby versions, the adult versions, or the adult versions carrying the baby versions) at a given time, this means you will have to time jumps and other actions accordingly. For example, if you are approaching a pitfall, you will have to hit A then B to complete the jump, since Mario always leads with Luigi following. 

This may sound confusing. In fact, it should. If you have never played a Mario and Luigi game before, it will take a little practice to get this concept down. For the first hour of the game, you will probably find yourself failing a lot of easy jumps, since you'll forget to have each brother jump. Luckily, Nintendo is pretty forgiving with this, and they will give you plenty of time and lessons on how to handle these controls. 

It almost goes without saying, but every aspect of this game involves action. You don't have a simple world map to move around on in 2D, like many RPGs employ. Instead, you will always have a 3D based environment to navigate. These will include many pits (to jump over), ledges (to climb with jumping), hidden areas (to access with unique brother dependant abilities), and enemies moving around in real time. 

While the game starts with each brother only having the ability to jump, new powers will be unlocked with time. For example, the younger brothers will soon obtain hammers, which can be used to strike foes, hit switches, and to do some rather unusual things with (like baby Mario drinking a lot of water, and baby Luigi striking him with his hammer to use the baby as a sprinkler). While the babies are the only ones to get hammers, the adults get their own special abilities. Luigi can initiate a spinning jump while on Mario's shoulders to hover like a helicopter for short periods, and Mario can control a formation with Luigi that makes them into a wheel shape to speed around the land. Plus, Mario and Luigi can always carry their baby forms whenever the two groups cross paths. 

All of these abilities, put together, equal a unique chance for an RPG. While many games will just focus on non-battle and non-story sequences as a chance to either gain experience or to just get from point A to point B, Mario and Luigi 2 goes a completely different route. Each map you traverse will be filled with small puzzles to accomplish, requiring unique uses of each brothers' abilities, and small sections of pseudo-action sequences. 

However, the action continues in more areas than just the maps. When battle is initiated, by coming into contact with an enemy, the action continues. Just starting a battle can be a bit tense, as the way you initiate contact will determine how the fight begins. If you touch an enemy, then you will simply fight. However, if an enemy hits you from an awkward angle (like from behind), you will usually start the combat in a stunned state (allowing free attacks to be delivered on your sorry asses). The tables can be turned as well, and if you start a battle by leaping on an enemy's head, they will start the fight taking damage from a jump attack. Plus, if battle begins with a baby brother hitting a foe with a hammer, then the enemy will start stunned. 

Once battle begins, action and RPG will blend nicely, yet calmly. When it's your turn, the game will halt while you browse your menus for what action to perform. You can chose few at the start of the game, but this list will grow as you gain abilities and unique items. These attacks will include jumping, striking with a hammer (assuming the babies are present, since they do own the hammers in this game), using healing and buff items, and special "Bro Items" to launch special offensive strikes. 

While combat actions may be initiated with simple menus, the completing of these maneuvers require more reflexes and coordination. When you jump on a foe, you can tap the button that corresponds to the attacking brother at the right time to deal extra damage. If you swing a hammer, you can hit the button at the right time as the baby in questions pulls back with his swing to deal a little extra damage. If the adults are carrying the babies, you will be able to time things correctly and get both involved in the bonus damage (by using both the adult's and baby's buttons correctly). 

All of this goes a step further with the introduction of Bro Items. While previous Mario RPG games have involved a use of some sort of magic point system, M&L2 disposes of this system entirely. Instead, you collect/purchase/find special offensive items throughout the game. Some are common, some rare, some cheap, some expensive, and some unlock as you progress through the game. 

These Bro Items are all variations on classic Mario tools and items. There are turtle shells, fire flowers, chain chomps, and plenty of variations on these basic themes. When you use an item, the top screen of the DS will give you an informative lesson on the proper use of said item, and on how to time your button presses. Each item will require a quick successive pressing of the buttons that correspond to the brothers being used in the attack. For example, a turtle shell will be kicked by one brother, bounced off an enemy (to deal damage), and then bounced back to the opposite brother to kick back. For each hit (either to the brothers or the foe) you will have a button press to ensure either the shell remains in play or that the enemy gets a little extra damage. 

All of the items come down to this type of mechanic of timed button presses or rapid successful strikes of a button (button mashing of the correct button at the correct time). While repeated button timings may sound annoying, the inclusion of a dozen or so Bro Items will help to ensure that you never have a chance to get bored with this combat engine. 

The rest of the game plays much like a standard RPG. Slaying enemies will give you money (gold coins) and experience. Experience will be used to raise your level and thus boost your stats. The money will be used to buy new armor (overalls) and items. You will fight bosses, you will explore dungeons, and you will talk to friendly characters. It's all standard issue RPG on the surface, but silly and unique at it's heart. 


The visuals for Mario and Luigi 2 are honestly not much improved over the original M&L. This is a bit of a disappointment, considering how much more powerful of a graphical processor the DS has over the GBA. In fact, while games like Animal Crossing, Nintendogs, and Mario 64 DS look like they could never have been made for the GBA, this is not the case for M&L2. 

While this is a bit of a complaint, this is also not too bad of an issue. While it would be nice to see some greatly improved visuals for a game on this powerful little handheld, it still does not take away from the overall experience. The visuals are nowhere near being "bad". They just suffer from being mediocre and uninspired when compared to the original, which came from an inferior game system. 


There are three main aspects to the audio of this game. On one hand, you have some really forgettable music. You will not leave this game with any of the soundtrack stuck in your head. In fact, you will probably not be able to recall any of the music from this game only 5 minutes after you put it down. That is not to say that the music isn't's also not saying that the music isn't bad. It simply doesn't effect the game one way or another. 

The sound effects fall into the same general category as the music, but with one key difference. You have heard these same sounds ever since Mario first graced the gaming world. Just like how Dragon Quest games will usually use the same sound effects as the older games in that series, Nintendo likes to keep the classical Mario sounds. Like with the music, this is not good or simply is. 

The voice acting, if you can call it that, however, is excellent. There has never, in my opinion, been such a great job of voice work in an RPG before. While the voice acting is only a little more refined than the babbling of talk in The Sims, it is quite appropriate. Considering how we've rarely heard Mario actually speak (outside of "It's ah-me...ah-Mario!"), Nintendo did the right thing in keeping our hero almost mute. However, you will get dialogue, spoken, from the four brothers (not to mention the two Bowsers, and a few other characters), but it will amount to a few real words buried in a bunch of gibberish.

However, this gibberish is golden. Mario will occasionally call for "Luigi" or the "Babies" by name, while filling in the majority of the rest of his words with gibberish. In the end, only a few words are clearly said, including "Oh No!", a few names, and the occasional "mama mia!". While some people (mainly those who played The Sims too many times) will look at this style of speech as annoying, it fits the game perfectly. Beyond that, it works perfectly in keeping Mario as a special figure in the gaming world; a silent, yet noisy man of mystery. 


In the end, there are some definite negative aspects to this game. On it's own, this game can look to be a technological stumbling block for Nintendo, who didn't capitalize on the power of their still new DS. The visuals just don't live up to what the DS has already shown us.

Also, there's a matter of how long it takes to finish this game. When someone plays a Mario game, they don't typically come into the game expecting a long adventure. However, when it turns out that this Mario game is an RPG, 15-20 hours will definitely make many people think of this as way too short of a game.

In the end, however, opinions can change when the sum of it's parts is far inferior to the final package. The game is shorter than most RPGs, but it offers a lot of fun, and it's designed to be a great diversion for a handheld unit. The visuals may not impress, but they don't hurt the game in any way. Throw in the brilliant "voice work", the refreshing plot, and the addictive game play style, and the game will leave you wanting more. Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time earns a 8.75 out of 10.  Not the best game ever...but well worth playing.