I'm trying to make it! But I don't know if I will. So much to DO. I am trying to do NaNo this year, but everything is conspiring against me (including myself) to keep me from it. So, in lieu, here's a review.
So I was honestly not aware that rather unoriginally-named Super Mario RPG had spawned other Mario RPGs. I guess the Paper Mario series is all RPG stuff! Had I known, I would have been playing them instead of ignoring them this whole time. However, I really enjoyed SMRPG, so bear that in mind while I head off and begin my latest review for Bowser's Inside Story.
So the story begins in the Toad Kingdom, with a sudden outbreak of what are called 'the blorbs', aptly named because they cause toads to blorb - that is, grow to huge size, but their arms and legs are still stumpy short, so they can't move. An emergency meeting is called, of which Bowser crashes, wanting to keep in the loop of things, but Mario's presence sets him off on his usual angry ways and they fight, with Bowser getting trounced once again. After he is magically flung away by Peach, he wanders through the forest only to find a strange shopkeeper who sells him a 'Lucky Shroom' to give him the strength to beat Mario. Bowser immediately eats it, only to find that it is actually a Vacuum Shrrom, which causes him to swallow people around him, including Mario, Luigi, Peach and a number of Toads. The mysterious shopkeeper reveals himself to be Fawful, a madman bent on controlling both Koopa Kingdom and Toad Kingdom, plus the world.
Thus begins an slightly horrific tale as you alternate between stomping around the main world as Bowser and exploring his insides as the Bros. As somewhat disturbing as it is to explore the recesses of Bowser's body, it makes you wonder a little if the wandering and killing of the things that inhabit him might not have some kind of detrimental effect to the Koopa King in the long run. But let's not think too much about that, because that's not what this crazy game is about!
When I say 'stomping' I mean it in seriousness - Bowser's every step makes it sound like he is seriously stomping around, pissed as hell, and to be fair, he has a lot of reason to be. His castle is getting taken over, his minions are being brainwashed, and Fawful is trying to kill him at every turn. What makes this game more enjoyable is that you don't just walk around, fight baddies, and carry yourself from one place to the next - Bowser gets a series of skills that are unlocked throughout the course of the game to help him solve puzzles and traverse the terrain better. You get a good old fashioned punch to break bricks, his traditional fire breath to burn down trees and cause forest fires, a charging haymaker that sends you across the screen, a jumping slam to break things beneath you, and the ability to roll into a spiky ball and zoom about, breaking things and climbing up soft walls. It's a lot of fun to make use of these different skills, and it made stomping around even more fun because you could break things up with the occasionally flying haymaker or rolling about.
While half of the game you spend storming around as the Koopa King, the other half is with the Bros. This is a slightly bizarre part of the game, and not just because of the context they are in. Controlling the Bros, you use the D-pad to move them as one. But, they have separate jumping buttons! At first, this seemed really strange and useless to me, but then once we got into the platforming sections I began to see the merit in it. Platforming in a Mario game is usually just relegated to 'jump here' and 'don't jump here', and while this is a simple thing that has so far proved to be widely successful, adding in a second jump button makes the platforming more challenging. Like Bowser, Mario and Luigi get a series of abilities to help them get around as well. The thing that sets them apart is that each Bro uses these skills for different purposes. They have their jumps, of course, and then you get the hammers. Mario's hammer lets him break things and hit switches, while Luigi's hammer shrinks Mario, allowing him to explore new areas. Then Mario get's a whirl spin move that allows the Bros to get across larger gaps and fly in strong winds, and then Luigi gets a drill move that lets the Bros tunnel underground to get through very narrow areas and dig up items.
There are also sections in the game where Bowser attempts to perform some kind of superhuman task, and the Bros help him out by going to different parts of his body and doing little mini games. These mini games are actually all very fun, and at most you do them three times, keeping them still fresh and fun each time you do them. Some of them made me hearken back to Patapon, but for the most part these are all very easy and can be accomplished on the first try. Even if you fail, you only lose a tiny number of coins and are given the chance to try again as many times as need be. This is, however, where some of the more fucked up parts of the game happen...like when Bowser gains a lot of weight suddenly and you go into the flab area of his body. Or where to find a password he forgot, you go into his memory banks and fight his memory defense program. There is even a point where you go massage Bowser's back and the game tells you to put down the DS and take a break for a few minutes. It's bizarre. But, without a doubt, the best part is when Bowser is crushed by something, and you play a little Raiden game to jolt his energy, and he ends up growing into Giga Bowser.
Let's segway into the combat! The Mario RPG style returns here. Combat is more involved that in other RPGs, because not only do you need to time your attacks in order to do the most amount of damage, but you can also dodge and counter enemy attacks. Once you get the hang of it, you can take no damage from any enemy. Your characters all have two attacks: the Bros get their jump attack and a hammer attack, and Bowser gets his punch and his fire breath. You also get a wide variety of special attacks, which vary in usefulness. Almost all of Bowser's special attacks are useful in any situation, and are executed using the stylus, while the Bros have about twice as many attacks, but the name number of useful ones. I found a lot of their attacks to be trivial or just not as good as earlier ones, and some of the later ones are just really hard to perform. The Pipe one Is in my opinion way too much trouble for what it can do, and I'd rather just hit meteors with a hammer, thanks. During the parts where Bowser grows into Giga Bowser, you turn the DS sideways and use the stylus to perform his attacks and counters. I personally loved these parts, because you really get the feeling of being unstoppabally powerful. Each punch sends the enemy shooting back, and the entire screen shakes.
Leveling is done in the traditional way: kill enemies, get EXP. But one thing the Mario RPG does is allows you a certain amount of customization with your characters. When they level, they get the regular stat increases, but you also pick one stat and a slot machine ring appears, with random numbers. If you can time it right, you can give that stat a boost anywhere from 1-7, depending on how high the stat is already and how much it increased by this level. So you can balance your stats our evenly, or just beef up one really high. I tended to boost my Pow almost every level, so everyone was stupid strong by the end. After you gain enough levels, you also increase in rank. This allows you to equip more items, and for M&L allows them to shop at the higher-end stores.
So I've talked about the game mechanics long enough, let's talk about other things. In case you haven't picked up on this yet, let me reiterate: this game is fun. Even if you don't like RPGs much, this game is incredibly entertaining. Even setting aside the almost phenomonally messed up concept, the dialogue was the icing on the already tasty cake. Bowser kinda takes main stage here and does most of the talking, and it's hard to say what kind of character he is. He's certainly not intelligent, but he's not stupid, and is downright determined to not let anything get in his way. And might I add, his opening line is quite possibly the best thing EVER (Did someone just page the king of awesome?). Adding on to his already humorous dialogue, Fawful is even more entertaining. He spouts out lines that only barely make any semblance of sense, or come out as just plain awkward. Grammar fiends must cringe at reading some of his lines. He says things like 'I have chortles!' and 'The going must be done now!', and has a bouncer named Midbus who says things that make zero sense. All in all, the dialogue is fun and makes the game even more entertaining to play through.
I'd say my only real beef with the game is that outside of the main story, there isn't much else to do. There are a few sidequests and mini games you can play, but the rewards aren't much and some aren't really worth anything. That shouldn't keep you from doing them: the one where Bowser performs an endless version of his special attacks until you fail too many times in order to attack the back of a block woman desperately needing a massage of epic proportions is not only hilariously strange, but a ton of fun. I feel I should note here that Bowser reveals himself to be apparently a very experienced masseur. Oh, I have one other, tiny beef - the game is incredibly easy. It's a game aimed at kids, I understand, but you really should have no problem getting through the game on your first try.
Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. The game is fun, and I mean it when I say, if you own a DS, you really have no excuse to not get this game. It's also close to 20 hours of gameplay, so it's worth the money, and is entertaining enough that you could play through it multiple times and enjoy the dialogue each time. I really do recommend it; if you played and enjoyed Super Mario RPG, then you will definately like this one.
To put my November in a super nerdy way, as I did to Jose: "I am being comboed by games. It's like Mario DS hit me with Swift Blade, and then FFXI fired off a Tachi: Gekko, opening up a Darkness Skillchain on me...and Assassin's Creed 2 is on the horizon, casting Freeze II to Magic Burst my ass."