Luiginception: How many levels down will Mario go in the newest of the handheld RPG series?
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
was my favorite of the games I saw at the 3DS preview event this Wednesday. Thankfully, it also had the longest demo I've ever played at an event.
The game is set on the seemingly abandoned Pi'illo island, where soon after arriving for a vacation with the Mario Bros., Princess Peach disappears. (Of course.) The game moves between two separate areas of gameplay: Pi'illo Island locations with traditional Mario & Luigi
gameplay, and Luigi's dream world where Mario fights alone but is granted special powers and assistance by Luigi's imagination, or "Luigination."
Soon after starting the demo, a rope bridge breaks, leaving Mario and Luigi down in the ruins of the Pi'illo castle. Unable to move on, they're guided by a Pi'illo native, Dreambert, who needs Mario's block-breaking power to free his people from the dream world, some of whom may know where Peach has disappeared to. They find a pillow that, when Luigi sleeps on it, allows Mario to enter Luigi's dreams which are at the same frequency as the Pi'illo people's dreams.
Though we weren't able to see it, we were told in the presentation that Luigi is amazing in his dreams. People will talk about his amazing feats and his boldness.
On gameplay, in battles when on Pi'illo Island, you have the same timed attacks and combo attacks with Mario and Luigi from prior games in the series. You can avoid enemy attacks by making Mario or Luigi jump by pressing their respective buttons. Moving about Pi'illo island is done in a 3D environment—
a first for the series—
though the characters are still sprite-based.
In Luigi's dreams, however, the action is side-scrolling, similar to being inside Bowser in Bowser's Inside Story
. When Mario does his jump attack, if button presses are properly timed, a ton of Luigis (that the devs called "Luiginoids") will fall on the enemies after Mario finishes his attack. You also have access to Luiginary Attacks in the place of normal special combo attacks like shells.
The Luiginary Attack shown in the demo featured a Katamari
mini-game in which Mario rolled up a ball of as many Luiginoids as he could gather along a path (using the 3DS's gyroscope to steer, with the 3D mode automatically turning off during the attack), then kicked them like a giant soccer ball at his enemies. The more Luiginoids you gather, the more damage you deal.
The goal in the dream sections is for Mario to find and smash Nightmare Chunks, in which the Pi'illo people are trapped. Towards the end of the demo, Dreambert reveals that the Pi'illo people were trapped after a conflict between the Pi'illos and the villain, Antasma, who shattered the Dark Stone, creating the Nightmare Chunks.
When one of the trapped Pi'illo people suggests that they should go to the mysterious Dream's Deep, and that Antasma may have kidnapped Peach, Dreambert mentions possibly having been there. "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, Dreambert/Revan?" When I suggested that to the Nintendo rep on-hand, he just laughed but didn't indicate one way or the other.
While Luigi is sleeping, it's sometimes necessary to play with his sleeping face on the bottom screen in order to affect the action in the dream. Tweaking his mustache allows the player to use a dream version to slingshot Mario in the dream. Tickling his nose will make him sneeze, pushing items forward from the background or clearing debris.
Visually, the game is gorgeous and makes the transition handily to 3D. In the isometric Pi'illo Island areas, everything has a nice clean look to it. The characters are still sprite-basedbut have some 3D depth added so they match the background. It's an interesting shift for the series which had been wholly 2D with pixel art backgrounds. Nintendo made some waves awhile back about de-emphasizing the 3D aspect of the device to make it more marketable; if anything, their 3DS event shows that they've actually pushed the actual tech further and with better results.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
is more than a pleasant surprise that brings the series' trademark comedy and cleverness to a 3D experience. It will be available in stores and in the eShop on August 11, 2013.