The beginning of Mario & Luigi Dream Team is familiar: Mario and Princess Peach (and Luigi) are on vacation, this time to the cleverly named Pi’illo Island. Of course, things immediately begin to go wrong when Bowser appears and teams up with a new villain, Antasma. The main objective of the game is the same as it is in nearly all Mario games: defeat Bowser, rescue Peach, save the world. However, the means of doing this are much different than usual. By sleeping on petrified Pi’illos or on certain spots, Luigi is able to open up a portal into a dream world where Mario is able to roam around and complete various tasks. In the dream world, Mario is accompanied by a dream version of Luigi. The game takes players through a long ride full of humorous characters and addicting, yet sometimes punishing, gameplay.
Fans of the Mario & Luigi franchise will notice one thing immediately: there has been a change in art style. The art style that began in Superstar Saga has been thrown away in favor of an art style much more reminiscent of Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo. The art style does not affect much besides allowing for a little more detail to be noticed here and there, but it gives the game a fresh coat of paint over other Mario & Luigi games. I occasionally ran into an issue where, due to the art style, it appeared that I was out of range of a certain enemy, only to be dragged into battle because the game said it touched my character. Of course, this is only a minor complaint when compared to the rest of the game’s many accomplishments.
Battles in the Mario & Luigi games have always taken place by touching an enemy on the field and being taken to a small side-view battlefield where you control Mario with the ‘A’ button and Luigi with ‘B.’ While exploring Pi’illo Island, this does not change much, but once Mario leaps into Luigi’s dream world, the battle system gets a small overhaul. Instead of fighting alongside you, the dream version of Luigi lends his power to Mario, increasing all of his stats, and making it so the ‘A’ button is really the only button you’ll be pressing through these battles. Of course, without Luigi, Mario is restricted from using any Bros. attacks, which paves the way for Luiginary attacks. These involve creating multiple copies of Luigi in order to deal massive amounts of damage to enemies. Several of the special moves in Dream Team take advantage of the 3DS’ gyroscopic controls, and they manage to pull it off most of the time. At certain points I ran into problems with the gyroscope not reading my movements correctly, but it was never enough to severely hinder my progress.
In the beginning, I found myself switching between the real world and the dream world quite frequently, but near the end game I was rarely doing anything significant in the real world, making Luigi’s constant gain of experience and levels odd to me, as I never got a good indication of whether or not Luigi’s stats affected anything when in the dream world and not in control of him. Nonetheless, the leveling up in Dream Team has not changed much from Bowser’s Inside Story. When a character levels up, they get an increase to all of their stats, and allow the player to assign a small, random value to another stat of their choice. Also returning from BIS is the rank system, however, the rewards for ranking up are much more flexible this time around. Instead of a predetermined boost, the player is allowed to choose from a handful of effects to give to Mario or Luigi, such as raising their attack power to 125%, or allowing an extra slot for gear. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team also seem to have a stronger focus on side quests, as you will constantly stumble upon a new quest or parts of an already active one. The rewards for completing such side quests vary, and they are all completely optional, although worth the time if you have it.
The humor in the Mario & Luigi franchise has always been one of its strong suits, and Dream Team definitely did not disappoint in that regard. I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion, due to the natures of certain characters, or just humorous dialogue. Luigi’s animations also got me at times, as he tends to constantly be afraid or overly dramatic about certain situations.
Mario & Luigi Dream Team will without a doubt appeal to fans of the series and genre. The graphics are sharp, the story is well-written and humorous, and the gameplay changes are addicting and add a nice new layer to the Mario & Luigi franchise that I hope to see return. I would recommend Mario & Luigi Dream Team to any fans of the RPG genre. If you are still looking for something to play on your 3DS, do yourself a favor and pick up Dream Team as soon as possible.