Sometimes a game has great writing, and sometimes it has great gameplay. Either of these by itself can be a little tricky to find, but a game that has both is a genuine treasure. I’ve always found that the Mario and Luigi series is quite reliable for falling into that last category, which is why I had been patiently waiting for the latest installment, Bowser’s Inside Story, for quite some time before it actually came out. I played a hefty chunk of it this week, and I am happy to report that it’s just as awesome as ever.
I think the thing that has surprised me the most about the game at this point is that you actually spend a great deal more time than I was expecting playing as Bowser rather than the plumbers. This isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean that you *don’t* play as Mario and Luigi– some of the best fights are the ones in which you actually play as both (usually accomplished by having Bowser inhale something smaller and then having the boys beat it down once it’s in his body). I was just a little surprised that they chose to put so much focus on Bowser when the series has traditionally focus mostly on the 0thers. The basic mechanics of the battles stay mostly the same, though; rather than having jumps and hammers, Bowser fights with punches and flames, but it’s essentially the same idea. Where the game really draws a distinction for itself is in the mini-games it utilizes to activate certain features of Bowser’s body from within to solve puzzles or add extra power to get through tough spots. These, so far, have ranged from pumping up his muscles by batting electrical impulses into them (this one recurs, with minor changes, throughout the game), to fording a river of adrenaline to get him out from under a fallen castle, to stylus-based speedy digestion of a giant carrot in his stomach. These side-activities offer an interesting break from the normal turn-based battles, keeping things interesting and showing just how creative the folks at AlphaDream can really be. At this point, I’ve played about seven hours of the game, and I’m still completely enthralled with it. That’s part of the reason I haven’t really put much time into other stuff this week…
I didn’t really finish Dissidia so much as I hit a giant brick wall. I’m not a hundred percent sure how far you’re *supposed* to be able to get before you have to go level your character, but I made it to somewhere towards the end of Shade Impulse 3 (I assume there are five total, but I don’t really know). I didn’t want to level; I just wanted to fight. So, for my purposes, I’m finished… and this way I got to stop while it was still fun. I think that’s fair.
I’m also still playing Katamari Forever, and I have one complaint (it’s not even a big one, because how can you really have big complaints about Katamari?). I play these games because I want to roll things up into a giant ball. It’s very simple. It’s very silly. I don’t have to think about it too hard. This is why my least favorite levels have traditionally been the ones that have some sort of trick or gimmick to them: make the brightest-lit Katamari possible, for example, or roll up a cow or bear (but not just ANY cow or bear….). The remastered levels that appear from the older games, by and large, seem to be of this latter type. This isn’t universally true, but they do seem to appear with greater frequency than the simple “roll things until the Katamari is THIS big” type, which are what I prefer. I guess the tricky levels are more unique, and so make more sense to be remade, but they can occasionally be frustrating to me, and Katamari should NEVER be frustrating. As I said, a minor complaint, but there it is.
Current backlog total: 106
Now playing: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (DS); Katamari Forever (PS3); Shin Megami Tensei: Persona (PSP)
New games added: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS)
Games completed: Dissidia Final Fantasy (PSP)