3DStination.com reviews Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, the fourth installment in Nintendo’s humor-driven platforming/role-playing handheld series:“[Mario & Luigi: Dream Team] seems determined to keep things as interesting and fresh as possible every step of the way…With such amusing and genuinely funny dialogue, the series has the range to appeal to younger gamers and adults players alike – almost like the best cartoons or animated films…Dream Team emerges as perhaps the most inventive and purely insane game in the franchise.”
review - Mario & Luigi: Dream Team ///
Game Details ///
Review Details ///
Time Played: 49 hours, 19 minutes (via Save Data Menu)
Game Progress: Roughly 85-90% (currently in Neo Bowser Castle/Dream World)
Pi’llo Folk Saved: 40 / 51
Beans Collected: 107 / 143
Attack Pieces Found: 147 / 160 (includes Dream World Attack Pieces)
Expert Challenge Points: 549
I rarely try to begin the review of one game with a direct comparison to another, particularly when the two are only marginally related…but I cannot really help myself in this case, so bear with me.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (the fourth Mario & Luigi title to date, and the first on the Nintendo 3DS) was barely a blip on my radar throughout most of 2013. This normally would not have been the case, as I was a huge fan of Superstar Saga and Bowser’s Inside Story – both would make my personal lists for “favorite Game Boy Advance/Nintendo DS games”.
My lack of excitement for Dream Team had nothing to do with Mario & Luigi, and everything to do with another Mario-based RPG for the 3DS…Paper Mario: Sticker Star. You see, the release of Paper Mario: Sticker Star in late 2012 was something of a crushing disappointment to me. I had all but decided ahead of time that Dream Team would stumble with its dream-based gimmicks, much like Sticker Star botched nearly everything about its sticker mechanics. Surely, AlphaDream would get lost in its own bizarre concepts and the fundamentals of the series would be watered down by the developer’s fumbled attempt to do something different.
Turns out, I was completely wrong: I decided to take the dive and check out Mario & Luigi: Dream Team regardless of my skepticism. In the end, I could not be more thrilled about the decision. Dream Team emerges as the most inventive and purely insane game in the entire franchise – a major compliment after the previous game, Bowser’s Inside Story, which was just as much a hit with me as it was my fellow critics.
To a certain extent, I know that I should have had more faith in Dream Team: after all, this series has always been one of my favorite Mario spin-offs. The idea of manipulating Luigi’s dreams to interact with the environment and perform attacks in battle does sound pretty nifty…and it is, believe me.
Summary & Basics ///
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team follows up Bowser’s Inside Story, taking place almost entirely on Pi’llo Island. In Dream Team, Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad and Toadsworth receive an invitation from Professor Snoozemore, the head the island. Once they arrive, it is only a matter of time before Bowser and a new foe named Anatasma set out to steal the Dream Stone, a sacred relic that grants the user endlesses wishes. Along with Prince Dreambert, Mario and Luigi set out to save the island and stop Bowser and Antasma.
Like previous Mario & Luigi games, Dream Team is highly focused on its humor and charm, split between sections of exploration and turn-based combat. Also like its predecessors, the game forces players to simultaneously control Mario and Luigi throughout the adventure, pressing the corresponding button commands (A or B) and using the brothers’ special abilities to make their way through the different regions of Pi’llo island. These hub-like areas are explored from a top-down perspective, while the wacky Dream World sections switch to a side-scrolling viewpoint.
The basic gameplay remains largely the same, though Dream Team seems determined to keep things as interesting and fresh as possible every step of the way, particularly in the Dream World stages. Everything about navigating the stages, attacking in battle, and solving puzzles seems to change in these bizarre sections: as Luigi sleeps in the real world, Mario jumps into his dreams. In the dream world, Mario explores alongside Dreamy Luigi (basically Luigi, as seen by himself), interacting in many ways with his sleeping brother (using the touch screen) to push through the environments and move further into his dreams.
Yay’s & Nay’s ///
With all of that being said, I would like to move on to the things I liked the most about Dream Team, and the parts of the game I did not enjoy as much:
Brilliant design and clever execution of the dream-inspired ideas; follows up its predecessors very well with its blend of exploration and turn-based battles.
If there was one thing that really stood out in the last Mario & Luigi game, it was the interaction with Bowser – fitting, as the game was called Bowser’s Inside Story, and was just as dedicated to its Bowser-based sections as Dream Team is to the dream-inspired stages. Everything in this game seems to be based on sleeping or dreaming, from the names of the locations (Mount Pajamaja, Wakeport, Pi’llo Castle) to the cast of characters (Professor Snoozemore, the Zeekeeper, Prince Dreambert). In what is becoming “typical Mario & Luigi fashion”, Dream Team pulls off its clever gimmicks very well, going beyond just the theme – its game design is heavily influenced on similar ideas.
Dream Team also plays like its predecessors, starting with its general exploration – the “overworld” hub areas are played from a top-down perspective, similar to past Mario & Luigi titles. In these areas, Mario and Luigi can talk to NPCs, explore buildings and other landmarks, search for hidden areas, and use their out-of-battle skills (Mario’s hovering spin-jump, Luigi’s hammer skill that smashes Mario into the ground, etc.) to solve puzzles and interact with the environment.
Things change quite a bit whenever Mario enters the “Dream World” through Luigi’s dreams – the perspective changes entirely, switching to a side-scrolling view that should be familiar to classic Super Mario Bros. fans. In the Dream World, Mario can navigate the environment using the sleeping Luigi on the bottom screen. Luigi gains various abilities throughout the game that allow Mario to do all kinds of things – for example, early on in the game you can stretch Luigi’s mustache and launch Mario across the screen (seen in the image to the left). Soon after, you can tickle his nose and cause him to sneeze, blasting away anything blocking your path. The Dream World areas really keep things fresh and different, frequently challenging you with something new.
The last major part of the game design – the battle system – has mostly been ported from past Mario & Luigi games; this means you still participate in the turn-based fights by using properly-timed button presses to attack, dodge and counter enemies. The A button is mapped to Mario, while B is used for Luigi – part of the challenge has always been keeping an eye out for both characters as enemies start attacking, and an equally-important factor is learning the patterns and movements of the various foes. For the most part, the system is intact – in addition to their basic “Jump” and “Hammer” strikes, Mario and Luigi can also perform “Bros. Attacks”. These powerful moves that have almost entirely been redesigned to use various features of the 3DS: for example, some of them require you to use the gyroscope in order to aim, direct, or “balance” something on the screen. This is an interesting design choice that I really enjoyed, seeing as many 3DS games completely ignore some of the lesser-advertised hardware features.
Battles are slightly different in the Dream World; Dreamy Luigi breaks apart into “Luiginoids” that essentially fuse with Mario whenever he attacks. The Jump attack becomes Mario’s power move, while the Hammer hits all targets – useful for sweeping weaker foes. The Bros. Attacks work differently in the Dream World; they are replaced by “Luiginary Attacks”, which end up being some of the flashiest and most interesting abilities in the game. For example, one of the Luiginary Attacks forces you to run on top of a giant “Luigi ball” (seen in the image above), rolling over the Luiginoids scattered along the path, all while using the gyroscope to steer Mario.
The presentation is top-notch: genuinely funny dialogue, wacky characters, gorgeous graphics, detailed stages, slick 3D effects, and an excellent soundtrack to boot.
Dream Team may not have quite the same crisp visual style as Paper Mario: Sticker Star (one of the few things I might have liked better about Sticker Star), but for what it’s worth, the presentation is absolutely fantastic. AlphaDream clearly wanted to go with the same cartoon-like style of previous Mario & Luigi games, and the result looks great on the 3DS – the environments in Dream Team are stunning, loaded with detail, and feature a very diverse but always-colorful palette that is brimming with charm.
The various locales throughout Pi’llo Island are all quite nice to look at – the hotels and shops of Wakeport, the palm trees and clear-water beaches of Dozing Sands, the majestic corridors and decor of Pi’llo Castle, the lava-filled pits and carpeted stairways of Neo Bowser Castle. As I said before, each area is absolutely loaded with detail – enough that it can sometimes be tricky to spot some of the hidden pathways and collectible goodies that are tucked just out-of-sight.
Again, things really get interesting in the Dream World, where the side-scrolling perspective gives you a great view of some really trippy-looking backgrounds. With the 3D effects activated, these stages are some of the best-looking moments of Dream Team - and definitely some of the most unique.
One of my favorite parts about the original Mario & Luigi game, Superstar Saga, was its cast of characters and its comedic dialogue – again, the game was very reminiscent of a cartoon based on the wacky exploits of Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and countless others. Dream Team does not hold anything back in this regard; although some of its scenes tend to drag on a little bit, there are plenty of laugh-inducing moments, hilarious one-liners and other off-the-wall scenarios. There are some returning characters, but some of the new ones – such as Big Massif and Lil’ Massif, seen to the right – really stood out to me. These quirky characters serve as tour guides to Mario and Luigi as they set out for the summit of Mount Pajamaja; in the end, you’ll explore their dreams and battle against different parts of their personality, resulting in some of the funniest moments in the game. I also really enjoyed Bowser’s minions; their interactions with each other, Mario and Luigi, and of course their boss always led to laughter.
Finally, I feel like it would be a disservice to end this part of the review without mentioning the background music and soundtrack in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Long before I had put almost 50 hours into the game, I had hummed the battle theme dozens of times to myself – the music is infectious. From the area themes to the boss battle music tracks, Dream Team really deserves some extra credit for its soundtrack. Almost equally impressive are the sound effects – specifically the verbal cues from Mario and Luigi, which often serve as the laugh-inducing material in certain cut-scenes and conversations. Overall, Dream Team’s presentation really stands out – from the graphics to the 3D effects, the soundtrack to the characters and the writing.
The Dream World stages, puzzles, Luiginary attacks, and Giant Luigi boss battles are the high points of the game.
I have already raved about much of what makes the Dream World stages so special in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team; for now I would just like to drive home the point a bit more. To compare between the “real world” sections and the Dream World stages, Dream Team feels like a very different game – very fresh, very unique, and certainly based around its own rules and mechanics.
You actually spend a pretty good deal of time in the Dream World throughout the game; in addition to story-related sequences that take you there, you find dozens of Pi’llo Folk scattered across Pi’llo Island. The only way to rescue them from the Dream World is to enter Luigi’s dreams as Mario. From there, you generally need to navigate the level by solving puzzles, traversing obstacles, or defeaing special foes. Mario and Luigi’s out-of-battle abilities change quite a bit in the Dream World; rather than using each other/tools such as the hammer, there are points where Luigi can be vaporized into the background, at which point several different things can happen.
As I hinted at earlier, using Luigi’s special powers to navigate the Dream World really changes the way the game plays. At first, Mario can form a stack of Luigis, which he can use to spring-jump to great heights, or even slam downward to crush boxes and other obstacles. Eventually, Mario and Dreamy Luigi can do some really cool stuff, such as spin-jumping and hovering around in the air, or swinging a “ball hammer” made of Luigis to crush things in the environment. Using all of the various powers at your disposal is the only way to get through some of the tricky Dream World sections later in the game.
Moving on, I already discussed how the battles work differently in the Dream World – Luigi fuses with Mario during regular attacks, and the Bros. Attacks become special Luiginary Attacks. These aren’t the only unique Dream World battle features; there are also a few different “Giant Luigi boss battles” throughout the game, and I want to take a moment to describe just how fantastic these fights are. Easily the high points of Dream Team, each Giant Luigi boss battle starts with a confrontation with some enormous foe in the Dream World – the real-world Luigi begins tossing and turning, and the “L” on his hat will begin glowing. As the player presses down on the L on Luigi’s hat, the screen begins to turn – and the player must rotate the 3DS sideways (I like to call this “book mode”) in order to proceed.
In order to attack, dodge or counter the giant boss attacks, the player uses the stylus and touch screen and must properly time their taps or swipes, depending on the situation. There is a certain level of strategy involved, as different basic attacks can be used in various ways – a vertical hammer strike can send the opponent flying into distant hazards for extra damage, or a horizontal strike can send the giant foe toppling backward. There is even a powerful Bros. Attack, where Mario and Luigi spin-jump on top of the boss character. The action that unfolds on both screens is always very exciting and definitely larger-than-life, no pun intended. These giant boss battles are generally very cinematic, with some scripted sequences and pattern-switches as the fight moves forward. When you finally weaken the boss enough, Mario and Luigi can perform a special finishing move, which will end the battle in a spectacularly flashy way.
The series’ battle system holds up well; the timing-based commands are simple, the Bros. Attacks are fun to use, and learning the enemy patterns is a fun part of the challenge.
I have already gone into a lot of detail about how the battle system works, so I will try to avoid repeating myself. Still, it should be said that Dream Team does a great job of carrying over the turn-based setup from previous Mario & Luigi games, and keeps things fresh enough throughout its quest to be interesting from start to finish.
I always liked the timing-based attacks and counter-attacks in the Mario & Luigi games; I did not realize just how much I liked this system until I played the snore-fest Paper Mario: Sticker Star, where the consumable sticker concept totally gummed up the standard turn-based format. Using the A/B buttons to control Mario/Luigi just works well, particularly when you get into a groove and you’re quick to spot the patterns of your opponents. That was the other major part of the Mario & Luigi battle system – spotting the tell-tale signs of specific attacks, and learning how to dodge or counter them properly. Sometimes it’s a certain attack animation, other times it’s a specific sound effect or gesture from the enemy – mastering these signs when fighting new foes is always tricky, but eventually you can take out most enemies without being damaged.
Dream Team keeps the system pretty simple; you’re stuck to just the Jump and Hammer attacks, as well as your assorted Bros. Attacks – still, this is always more than enough to dispatch your enemies. As you defeat foes and earn experience points, you level up – this naturally rewards you with stronger stats, as well as the series-standard “bonus” points for any stat of your choice upon each level-up. You can find and purchase various boots and hammers for stronger attacks and special battle perks – for instance, the Flame Hammer has a chance of burning your foes, while the Farmer Boots randomly drop magic beans rather than coins upon defeating an opponent. You can also find gear and other items that alter your performance, block status effects, or reduce the amount of “Bros. Points” you spend when using your strongest moves.
Finally, Mario and Luigi can equip special badges (seen in the image above) with a variety of effects; whenever you land “Excellent” strikes in battle, a “badge meter” fills up. Eventually you are rewarded with special bonuses like healing spells, defensive barriers or powerful magic attacks. You can equip several different badges on both Mario and Luigi; unique combinations of these items change their effects. Finding as many unique badge effects as you can is both useful and fun to do – for both the purpose of having the edge in battle, and for extending the game’s replay value.
So much replay value – Expert Challenges, side quests to complete, mini-games to play, scattered Pi’llo Folk to rescue from the Dream World, magic beans to dig up and collect…
Speaking of replay value; one of the things I read about in the early reviews of Dream Team was that it was a very long game. I really could not understand just how strong of a statement that was until I found myself dozens of hours into the game, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Although this may sound somewhat negative, it is not – Mario & Luigi has the legs to go the distance, and boasts well over 40 hours of playable content, with over a dozen more if your goal is to find everything in the game.
I mentioned all of the out-of-battle abilities and hidden areas earlier; as you explore the different regions of Pi’llo Island, you will uncover all kinds of collectibles, treasure, and equipment. More specifically, diligent explorers and completion-seekers will want to look out for all of the coin blocks, buried magic beans (used to increase Mario and Luigi’s stats), lost Pi’llo Folk, special blocks containing Attack Pieces (used to earn new Bros./Luiginary Attacks), and more.
Fans of side quests will be happy to know that there are plenty of distractions in the game, not to mention a gracious assortment of mini-games that challenge you with high scores to beat and prizes to earn. Some of these mini-games are a mandatory part of the storyline, others are just great for earning extra coins or items, practicing your special moves, or burning time. One optional mini-game is the battle ring in Pi’llo Castle; this is an excellent way to practice and master your different Bros. Attacks, with the added benefit of earning rewards. Another mini-game is the Mole Hunt, where Mario and Luigi must quickly dig up moles as they burrow underground, earning as many points as possible.
Finally, there are “Expert Challenges” to complete – these in-game achievements basically reward you with points when you complete certain conditions in battle, such as a “no-hitter” (avoid taking any damage) or a set number of “excellent” strikes. These Expert Challenges serve as a great bonus for any hardcore players out there who just want to test their skill in battle, or even compare how well they are playing through the game compared to a friend. Unfortunately, there is no StreetPass function to transfer high scores or any kind of in-game data.
There are some game direction/progression issues – some early moments with too much hand-holding, and parts later on that can drag for what seems like an eternity.
If there is any design-related complaint that I had when playing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, it involves the game direction and sense of progression: although Dream Team avoids being as directionless as Paper Mario: Sticker Star (one of my biggest complaints about the game), there are points throughout the story that really drag for longer than I expected.
This issue is particularly present during the first few hours of the game, and it pops up a few more times throughout the adventure before the last few quests really test your endurance. The problem changes from too much hand-holding at the start of the game to having too much thrown at you all at once later on. Before you obtain all of Mario and Luigi’s exploration-based abilities, the overworld areas really seem restrictive and obviously cut off some of the areas that you may try to access; this forces you to resort to a lot of backtracking just to finish up with things like collectibles or side-quests. By the end of the game, if you haven’t spent a lot of time doing this backtracking process, it feels like you have missed a lot of the hidden goodies and secret areas throughout the island.
Fortunately, when it comes to having a sense of direction, Dream Team almost never falls as hard as Sticker Star often did – there were a few points throughout the game where I had to wander around for a while before I figured out where to go, but these moments are few and far between. For the most part, Dream Team keeps you moving forward at a steady pace; there are just a few parts in the story (searching the entire island for the pieces of the Ultibed, for example) that hit a low point, and they require a bit more effort to trudge through.
Platforming is not one of the game’s strong points; keeping control of both Mario and Luigi, simultaneously jumping and even just swapping through their skills can be tricky.
It seems bizarre to me that one of the weakest points of any game featuring Mario could be the platforming; however this is the case in Dream Team - and as a whole, the Mario & Luigi franchise. Although it has never been a deal-breaker, the multi-button set-up for controlling Mario and Luigi independently has never been the most intuitive, and Dream Team does little to change some of the frustrating issues I’ve experienced in past Mario & Luigi games.
For example, running and jumping through the environment is simple enough, perhaps a just bit tricky when you must jump over a simple gap with both Mario and Luigi – after all, you have to press A and then quickly press B to get the right timing for the jump. Things quickly go from “tricky” to “nightmarish” when some of the later platform sections start throwing hazards such as fireballs, projectiles from enemies, and environment-changing conditions such as icy floors or shifted gravity. Just making the gap between one moving platform and the next can become a tiresome exercise, particularly if you fail several times in a row.
The solution to this issue seems simple enough – a single button that performs the basic jump for both characters at the same time. Few of the other out-of-battle abilities are difficult to use because they rarely require you to simultaneously control Mario and Luigi; it’s the basic jumping between platforms and falling or getting stuck in annoying spots that occasionally drags down the game. I like the idea of controlling both characters at the same time, but I do not enjoy the cumbersome navigation when one character lags behind the other and stumbles into obstacles so easily.
Enemy patterns and attacks can become very repetitive, especially when you are grinding against the same mobs of foes for any length of time.
Although the battle system is still a strong point for Dream Team, there comes a point roughly half of the way through the game where you start to master the basic attacks, and even memorize a lot of the patterns of the enemies you encounter. With all of the grinding for experience points that is required to stay properly-leveled in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (believe me, there is plenty of XP-farming involved in this game), the process occasionally gets pretty repetitive.
As I have mentioned before, there are a few sections throughout the game that I seemed to linger around longer than expected – before long, I found myself trudging through each enemy encounter, dreading the next just a bit more than the last. This is because it only takes a certain amount of time before you have all the attack patterns and proper counter/dodge timing figured out, and the game becomes a breeze. If you happen to be confused about where to go next, and spend an extended period of time fighting the same mobs of bad guys, it quickly becomes tiresome.
Similarly, though Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is generally not a difficult game, some of the tougher boss fights can really test your patience by being dragged out for far too long. If you struggle to learn a certain attack pattern, you will probably take a lot of hits – at least there is no penalty for losing a fight; you’re actually given the option to start over (or try again on “Easy Mode”). That being said, the punishment isn’t so much that you lost the fight, but that you have to spend so much time playing again just to move forward. Any time I had a second attempt at a boss fight, I cleared through it without taking much damage – but the lengthy fights still tested my patience until they were over.
CONCLUSION/RECOMMENDATION /// BUY IT.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team joins the ranks of Fire Emblem: Awakening and Shin Megami Tensei IV as one of the greatest role-players on the 3DS, by now it should go without saying that fans of AlphaDream’s handheld series shouldn’t hesitate to run out and buy Dream Team, but even those who haven’t had much experience with the franchise should find a lot to enjoy. With such amusing and genuinely funny dialogue, the series has the range to appeal to younger gamers and adults players alike – almost like the best cartoons or animated films.
The latest Mario & Luigi is incredibly clever, highly entertaining, full of laughs…the fact that it demands well over 40-50 hours to completely finish is just another reason that RPG fans can’t pass this one up. If I constantly revised the Top 10 Nintendo 3DS Games article, Dream Team definitely would have made the cut.
+ Carries on the Mario & Luigi sense of humor and style; delivers on its joke-heavy dialogue and wacky cut-scenes, features a large cast of quirky characters and villains.
+ Puts its own dream-based twist on the series; does brilliant things with the Dream World, puzzles & level design, Luiginary Skills, and Giant Luigi boss battles.
+ Beautiful, highly-detailed environments (both in and out of the dream world) that look increasingly fantastic with the 3D effects active; excellent soundtrack throughout the game.
+ The series’ simple turn-based battle system holds up perfectly; the timing-based commands work as well as they always have. Dream World/Giant Luigi battles keep things very fresh.
+ There is a lot of replay value; with so much to explore and discover on Pi’llo Island, you could easily pass the 40-hour mark trying to find all the collectibles, side quests, mini-games, etc.
- The first half of the game holds your hand and plods along; certain parts of the game tend to drag on quite a bit, particularly when you are restricted by the lack of a new move to make progress.
- Controlling both Mario and Luigi can be tricky in certain areas; platforming segments can become frustrating and the timing of jumps can be difficult to judge for both characters simultaneously.
- Enemy patterns can become very repetitive as you grind for experience points; certain battles against bosses or other tricky foes can drag on for what seems like forever.
- A lot of backtracking and wandering around, feeling restricted or cut off from certain areas until you open up more out-of-battle skills and get much further in the game.
Game Design/Concept :
* * * * * * * * * * /// 9 out of 10 (Excellent)
* * * * * * * * * * /// 9.5 out of 10 (Excellent)
* * * * * * * * * * /// 9 out of 10 (Excellent)
Replay Value :
* * * * * * * * * * /// 10 out of 10 (Exceptional)