Recently, it snowed several inches where I live, and I spent the whole day at home, comfy and content knowing that I didn’t have to step foot outside. I sat in my big bean bag chair, made some tea, and snuggled up with a blanket and my 3DS. I then sank many hours into Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey, which very well might be the perfect way to experience this game.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is a remake of the original beloved RPG for the 3DS, and it just might have the longest name of any video game ever made. This version offers updated graphics as well as the new Bowser Jr.’s Journey, a completely separate game mode tied to the original story. You’ll get to play as Bowser’s adorable and stubborn son, with a totally different style of gameplay than the main story. In Bowser’s Inside Story, Bowser eats a mysterious mushroom from a random guy in the forest — as one tends to do — which causes him to vacuum up the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom into his body, including the Mario brothers. The game cleverly utilizes the 3DS to show the Mario bros. on the bottom screen traversing through the side-scrolling platformer inside Bowser’s body, while Bowser explores the overworld on the top screen. Players switch between controlling the characters as necessary, and they cooperate in some weird ways.
Even the premise of the game is silly and unconventional. The evil villain Fawful tricks Bowser into sucking up the kingdom. Meanwhile, others are being plagued by “the blorbs”, a disease which causes people to balloon up into giant balls. Admittedly, my favorite thing is that when this happens, they say the person got “blorbed.” The resulting gameplay where Mario and Luigi platform and fight enemies inside of Bowser is no less strange. Bowser’s Inside Story certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it lets players have fun without too much of a challenge. That isn’t to say that one of the boss fights didn’t make me switch to easy mode, because I absolutely did, and I have no shame. Typically, though, the combat isn’t too difficult.
In Bowser’s Inside Story, timing is everything. Like a typical RPG, you level up characters, enhance their traits — such as their HP — and gain new abilities along the way. Using these abilities in combat requires perfect timing to do the most damage, while also timing your defenses and counterattacks to avoid damage. Some enemies require the use of specific abilities, so finding out the best course of action while in combat is a puzzle in itself. For example, when playing as Bowser, it may be best to use his fire attacks against angry trees (yes, that’s a thing).
As Mario and Luigi, if you come up against an enemy with a spiky back, it may be a bad idea to jump on them, so the hammer or a special “Bros. Attack” would be better options. I loved figuring out which abilities work best against different enemies. I didn’t particularly love the constant tutorials and explanations for every new attack and new enemies, though. I understood the main component of combat: time everything correctly. But with the introduction of many new special abilities, the game wanted to slow down and explain even when it didn’t feel necessary. This frequently slowed the pace of the game and took me out of the action.
As for Bowser Jr.’s Journey, timing is still relevant, but combat works in a completely different way. Bowser Jr. forms an army of minions that attack opposing armies in a constant clash, with little input from the player. There is some timing involved in executing special attacks or denying enemy attacks, but these occur at random. There is plenty of strategy involved, however, when it comes to forming armies. Following a combat triangle — not unlike the Fire Emblem series — certain enemy types are stronger against others, so players must pick the optimal loadout and formation of soldiers. This mode is a fun little diversion from the main story, but it doesn’t offer much more than that.
For returning players, the addition of Bowser Jr.’s Journey may not provide enough new content to compel another playthrough. However, this is a great way for new players to experience the much-loved game, with its classic, quirky humor. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is simply a fun, relaxing RPG, and I highly recommend playing it while cozying up on a snow day.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game. A review copy was provided by Nintendo.
Bowser Jr.'s Journey may not offer a ton of new content, but the core game is as good as ever. It might not be as enticing for returning players, but those on the hunt for a fun, relaxing RPG with quirky humor and a silly story will feel right at home.