Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is a RPG for the Nintendo 3DS. AlphaDream, previously developing Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, handled developer duties again with Nintendo publishing the title. In Dream Team Nintendo brings out the big guns to show an old dog sporting a few, if not new, at least refined tricks. The fourth installment to the Mario & Luigi series brings the familiar mustachioed plumbers back to the realm of over world navigation and turn-based combat in dazzling 3D. The new art style seeks to impress with a new visual appeal to the Mario universe as well as a plot that will offer some solid variation on the formulaic “Bowser versus Mario” scenario.
As with the other games in the Mario & Luigi series, Dream Team strays away from a standard formula to introduce new villains that the game will pit the brothers against. This time around the Mario Brothers (As well as Peach, Toadsworth and a toad entourage) are invited to a special island getaway on the tropical paradise of Pi’illo. From there on the main villain Antasma is introduced, and the plumbing duo sets off to thwart his evil plot to take over the world. As far as this Mario & Luigi story goes, it’s novel in some aspects as it departs from the typical Mushroom Kingdom series of enemies, but does show a bit of age as the leaving of the Mushroom Kingdom is no longer an entirely new concept to the Mario universe. However, the humor that Dream Team brings into the plot is refreshing. It features the typical slapstick humor of the series, over-the-top personalities of the supporting cast and, in one particularly hilarious instance, a rather petty “death” monologue in which the speaker seems to pass away only to state immediately that they are in fact “not dead” and want to be helped up.
While the story for Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has a fair share of flaws, the gameplay is nothing short of excellent. The timed action commands make a triumphant return and take full advantage of the graphical capabilities of the 3DS and its touch-screen. Many of the action commands require more than just a simple timed button press and some will truly test the player’s dexterity and mental coordination. The “Dream World” also challenges the player’s as the combat system gets a tweak. In the “Dream World”, Mario must move up and down to avoid enemies, while also correctly timing action commands to avoid damage. A simple idea yet one that plays out beautifully and offers diversity between battles in the dream and real worlds. The only complaint about the combat is that oftentimes (if the player is smart with managing their points at level-up) some battles can seem rather easy, but the game accounts for the challenge by having it scale with the game (also inversely if things do get too rough there is an “easy-mode” for less experienced players.)
If the world of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team does get a touch too challenging, at least the art style and music of the game should relax the player enough to trudge onward. The visuals of the game take on a new style, which gives the world and characters a rather painted aesthetic. This aesthetic combined with the dazzling 3D of the 3DS creates beautiful “mini-artworks” out of settings and locations within the world. As well it gives combat itself a very new and appealing look. The sound and music are both catchy and upbeat, but more importantly: fitting. Everything flows with the sound and the music, nothing seems out of place or too much or too little, the subtly of some of the music will get lost if players do not listen closely. One of the highlights of this mesh of the new art style and sound/music is when the player ventures into the “deep-dream” area where Mario encounters all of Luigi’s innermost thoughts and subconscious. The simple yet eloquent flashing of Luigi’s thoughts mixed with neon silhouettes of Luigi himself, combined with a somber yet engaging melody creates a very serious moment. Player-be-warned, heart strings will be tugged.
Prior to release, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team tantalized players with a promise of something new, and the game certainly delivered. While not an entirely new beast in and of itself, players looking for something comforting in the recognizable mascots, but also wanting to drift away from the “usual” Mario formula will be pleasantly surprised. The “new car smell” of the series has definitely faded with this fourth iteration to the Mario & Luigi series, but the 3DS still breathes some impressive life into this release. For fans of the series, they will not be disappointed, for newcomers, Dream Team may not be the perfect starting place. However, if you are craving something different, Dream is definitely worth a bite.