Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Drew Hurley 22.01.2019

Review for Mario & Luigi: Bowser

For those yet to pick up a Switch, Nintendo is still pumping out quality titles on the 3DS, both new and remasters of fan favourites. This latest is the latter, as Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story first launched almost a decade ago on the original DS, the third in the popular Mario RPG series - now back with a fresh graphical overhaul, with the addition of a new side-game titled Bowser Jr's Journey.

For those who never played the classic on DS, Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story sees the brothers once again on a quest to save the Mushroom Kingdom. A strange disease known as the 'Blorbs' has infected the Mushroom people, transforming them into… well, Blorbs is a pretty accurate description - huge, bloated versions of themselves. Their corpulent new forms unable to move as their tiny arms and legs flail uselessly. Mario and Luigi don't get very far in their quest though, as the iconic series villain soon brings everything crashing down. Fawful. Yup, Fawful, not Bowser. Fawful, the insane and cackling bean-ish creature, has long taken the spot of the antagonist from Bowser in the RPG series, and in this instalment especially, as Bowser takes more of a hero's role. Though that doesn't mean he's particularly heroic, in fact, when the game opens, Bowser is once again up to his old tricks and attempting to kidnap Princess Peach.

As usual, the Mario Bros. give Bowser a swift tail beating, and he slopes off into the forest. Here, things go from bad to worse for him as a disguised Fawful tricks him into eating a vacuum shroom. This forceful fungi pulls anything in the area into Bowser's big gob, resulting in Mario, Luigi, Peach, and a host of Toad characters all finding themselves trapped quite literally in the belly of the beast. This gives two different perspectives when playing through the game. First off, Bowser is on a quest to take back his castle and his minions from the usurper Fawful, who has hypnotised Goomba and Koopa alike to work for him. Then, while Bowser is on his quest for revenge, the real heroes of the story are on a quest to save themselves! Mario and Luigi have to find their fellow captives and find some way out of Bowser's belly. Though, while doing so, they find themselves indelibly linked with Bowser's Story.

Taking on objectives within him to help him on the bigger scale, strengthening his muscles, fortifying his body and healing his wounds. On top of all of this, there's Fawful's plan, where he's hoping to use Peach to unleash an ancient powerful evil. The story is wonderfully silly, and even with the game being almost a decade old, it really hasn't dated at all. With many titles like this, the writing feels of its time, filled with dated slang and jokes. Not here. The comedy is still on point, witty and genuinely funny throughout. Something the Mario RPG series has always excelled at.

Screenshot for Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey on Nintendo 3DS

The gameplay itself comes down to wandering through a 2.5D overworld, filled with obstructions that require progress in the story to be able to pass. When playing as Bowser it means stomping around, burning trees, punching through block, and ground pounding on huge squidgy buttons to open up paths. There's not so much jumping involved for the King of the Koopas. While playing as Mario and Luigi the jumping is very much the focus. Both characters are controlled at the same time with Mario leading and Luigi following close behind. There's a button to make either jump or swing their hammer, along with a button to make them both jump at the same time. It's a neat feature that works well in the platforming sections, requiring delayed timing of jumps between the two for the pair to actually overcome difficult jumps. If Luigi falls, more often than not, the entire jump has to be reattempted as Mario cannot move too far from his useless little brother.

Later on, new abilities are unlocked which require the pair to work together more than ever. For example, Luigi can squish Mario to half size with his hammer to get through small gaps, and the pair can perform spinning duo jumps to hover across gaps. It's the usual kind of progression seen in games like this that rewards returning to older areas with the new abilities to hunt down bonus rewards, usually in the form of permanent stat boosting items.

The land is overrun with enemies to take on, but it's not going to be as simple as a single jump to the cranium to dispatch them this time, though fittingly for the franchise, a good old head jump is one of the first attacks! The combat is turn-based regardless of whether Bowser or the Bros. are currently taking centre stage. The Bros. can perform the aforementioned stomp or a whack of their familiar hammer as a standard attack, but the strongest attacks can be unlocked over the course of the game. Hunting down "Attack Pieces" out in the world unlock powerful Bros. Attacks that take up BP to unleash but can deliver huge damage. Each of these Bros. Attacks take familiar elements from the series history, kicking a green shell between the Bros. and the enemies faces, lighting up with a Fire Flower and unleashing a barrage of fireballs, or using warp pipes to fire Mario and Luigi like human cannonballs at the opposing mobs. Meanwhile, Bowser comes with a powerful punch or a huge breath of fire that envelops all foes. Bowser has special "Brawl" attacks to unleash too, by hunting down his minions and returning them to service. Bowling with Shy Guys, igniting Goombas to turn them into flaming comets, and sending Bob-ombs marching in time.

Screenshot for Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey on Nintendo 3DS

Where Bowser's Inside Story differs from most turn-based RPGs of its ilk, is that the combat system integrates mini-game style button prompt into the attacks to keep its audience's attention. For example, the basic attacks of Mario and Luigi give bonus damage based on a well-timed button press just as a foot lands atop an enemy skull or just as the hammer reaches the optimal arc. A mistimed attack results in the head falling off the hammer, dealing a pittance of its full power. Equally, Bowser cocks his fist back more and more, or take a breath deeper and deeper for his flame breath, each time waiting for the tap of a button to deliver its zenith of strength. This is very much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the attack interfaces though. With the Bros. Attacks and Bowser's Brawl Attacks requiring much more effort for the player, requiring carefully timed hits of the stylus, quick mashing of a button, or drawing specific shapes on the touch screen.

The combat system has an additional facet that is quite unlike most turn-based combat systems: the heroes always have a way of avoiding or even countering any damage coming their way. In much the same way as how the offensive attacks reward the skill of the player, the defensive works the same way. Mario and Luigi can time a jump to avoid an attack or occasionally even land on a charging enemy to result in the enemy taking damage instead of dealing it. Some enemy attacks will prompt for the hammer instead and can be used to reflect enemy projectile of smash burrowing moles back where they came from. Bowser meanwhile can knock the teeth out of enemies that get too close by throwing a hefty haymaker or retract down into his shell to deflect falling threats from above.

Outside of the combat, there's a host of RPG elements mixed in here. The characters level up and have stats to increase upon each level up, after so many level ups they rank up for passive bonuses. There are items to equip and money to collect. It's not particularly deep but it adds another little element onto the whole package that helps to make it even better.

Screenshot for Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey on Nintendo 3DS

Being a remake, this release comes with some new features. The graphical overhaul is, of course, the biggest, but there are some small tweaks to the gameplay, like altering how much BP is required for a special move and altering how the equipable items work, no-longer locking them behind rank ups. Despite being on 3DS, there's no 3D functionality here. This new version isn't just adding some improved visuals and tightening up the mechanics though, there's a whole new story bundled up here too. While Koopa heads out at the start of Bowser's Inside Story, Bowser Jr and the Koopa kids are left back at Koopa castle, when Fawful's trio of muscular minions known as the Best Fitness Friends bust in to take over the place.

This new story plays entirely differently to Bowser's Inside Story. Bowser Jr has his own way of fighting, which basically consists of forcing his minions to run headfirst into anything that threatens him. Battles play out automatically, with little button prompts when characters clash to give small damage bonuses like in the main game. The majority of the gameplay is in setting up a party to send out into the field which will repeatedly bump heads (quite literally) with an enemy force. Somewhat reminiscent of a Tower Defense in that a party is set and then left to run, to see if it succeeds or not, with no real intervention.

The party can be made up of nine mobs, and there is a mixed bunch to find and recruit over the course of the game, using them in battles levels them up and utilising groups of the same type unlock special attacks. There's also a rock-paper-scissors style of strengths and weaknesses to the combat. The mobs are classed as ranged, flying, or melee. Ranged beats flying, flying beats melee, and melee beats ranged. So choosing the appropriate minions is essential. Essential is the antithesis of this add-on package though. While the story has the same funny and high-quality writing, the core gameplay is dull and repetitive.

Screenshot for Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

In an age where remakes and remasters are as hotly anticipated as the biggest AAA title, it's great to see yet another gem from yesteryear arrive, giving players who never experienced it the first time around a second chance and letting players who enjoyed it originally revisit just what made it stand out to them. The Mario RPG series is a perfect example. It is criminally underrated and deserves to be lauded far more. Any new opportunity to do that is a blessing. This was an awesome game almost a decade ago and now it has gotten a fresh lick of paint and it is looking better than ever.






Turn Based RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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