Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

Mario and Luigi Dream TeamI’m a few hours into Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for the 3DS and wow, it’s a bit of a departure from the Mario games I’m used to. Aside from New Super Mario Bros, which is about as perfect an update to the original games as you can get, Super Mario Bros 3 was the last Mario game I played, and gosh but things have changed a lot since then. For a start, Luigi is now more than Green Mario Who Can Jump Higher.

What started as a single-screen platformer in Mario Bros became one of the world’s most iconic and influential games in Super Mario Bros. Lost Levels and Super Mario Bros 2 largely continued the format, with Super Mario Bros 3 adding item collection, maps and branching paths, removing much of the linearity. And that’s as far as I ever got really. Since then it’s gone 3D, into space, action RPG, brawling, racing, dancing, operating, golfing, and even handing over the reins to Luigi on occasion. In fact, there are 167 entries in Wikipedia’s list of Mario universe games so the percentage of Mario games I’ve played is trending towards zero as the years go by.

You! Why is there a moving rocket platform there in the first place?

Released in 2013 Dream Team is the fourth installment in the “Mario & Luigi” RPG series, but the format was all new to me. It switches between isometric map exploration and 2D platforming sections, with shops, healers and… blah blah blah. A hundred reviews will tell you all this. I just wanted to comment on the story and the tone. A few hours in, I’m still entirely unsure if the game is entirely lacks self-awareness or if it’s too self-aware for its own good.

I don’t believe it counts as a spoiler to tell you that Princess Peach gets kidnapped near the start by the game’s main antagonist. So far so pass√©. But Bowser inevitably shows up and when he learns that someone else has kidnapped her he flies into a rage. That’s his gig! Perhaps this has been gone over before in earlier instalments, but it really struck me as odd. There’s no shortage of fan-art on the internet showing Peach and Bowser as a couple and the kidnap thing is just a ruse, or where Bowser really loves Peach and kidnap is the only way he knows to express it. But Dream Team is the closest Nintendo have come to actually putting this forward themselves. Bowser all but says that the kidnapping isn’t a means to an end, it’s the whole point. He’s not trying to take over the kingdom or extract a ransom, he just really, really like kidnapping her.

And that’s a bit weird, no? Perhaps in Mario & Luigi 5 Peach will confess that she enjoys… no, that way lies bad fan-fic and the internet is already too full of that. But seriously. Dream Team is a weird and beautiful thing.

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