Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - Reader Retroview  

Back From the Future
by JuMeSyn

Click here for game information
Less than 20 Hours
+ Whimsical Mario RPG sense
+ Inventive enemy attacks
- Rehash of the previous Mario & Luigi
- Lots of hand-holding and little exploration
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   A Mario RPG has certain quirks to immediately differentiate it from other titles in the genre. The story will never take itself seriously except near the end, the battles will hinge partly upon the player's skills with action reflexes, plentiful time-wasting minigames will be present, and the aesthetics will be bright and colorful. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time upholds all these traditions of the Mario RPGs and is entertaining on that basis alone. It feels more like an evolution of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga than something entirely new, however, and for that reason does not come across quite as well as its direct predecessor.

   The Mushroom Kingdom is in good straits when Professor E. Gadd invents a time machine and Princess Peach determines she will visit the past with it. This experiment in time travel goes awry when something that is not Princess Peach returns, causing Mario and Luigi (the latter reluctantly) to figure out what went wrong. The problem appears to be an alien race called the Shroobs which look remarkably like the mushroom inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom would if they tried the goth style. Upon arriving in the past Mario and Luigi encounter their past selves at about age 2, young enough to cry constantly but old enough to help out in combat quite a bit. Past incarnations of Bowser and Princess Peach are also wandering around, with a special mention going out to Kamek because Yoshi's Island was his only appearance until this game.

Is anyone else thinking of candy eggs here? Is anyone else thinking of candy eggs here?

   Battles are not random, with opponents wandering the areas and the player able to get in a first strike by jumping onto them. Once in combat affairs are turn-based with a twist, that twist being that if the player does not exercise excellent hand-eye coordination the battles will become much harder. As in Superstar Saga it is theoretically possible to dodge every attack in the game if one has the reflexes, for all enemy attacks follow patterns that can be either dodged or countered. Mario and Luigi have the basic attack of jumping upon their foes, and soon enough their younger selves will acquire hammers that can also be used in battle. Properly timing the strikes on these basic attacks is vital, for it will add damage from the younger Mario and Luigi (in the case of jump attacks) and is essential to getting the hammer attacks to do anything close to the damage they are capable of. The top screen is sometimes used to house adversaries that aid the foes on the bottom screen with quick attacks, followed by their disapperance. Certain high-flying special moves also require to player to watch the top screen.

   There is no magic in Partners in Time, with the game instead using something called Brothers Items. There are quite a variety of these, from turtle shells to fire flowers to trampoline attacks. All of them share a need for the player to demonstrate hand-eye coordination. Inside battle, both Marios and both Luigis are controlled by one of the four face buttons on the DS. Having the proper character strike at the proper time keeps the attack going, messing up ends the Brothers Item attack. A Brothers Item does have a natural end point if the player's reaction time is fast enough to reach it, but far more often the player will simply hit the wrong button and end the attack earlier than would be desired. Brothers Items can be bought from merchants and are found in good numbers via the ubiquitous floating blocks of Mario lore, so running out is not a major issue.

   Exploration of the environments will call the special abilities of the Mario siblings past and present into use. Jumping higher, spinning across gaps, being buried underground to pass barriers, and more will be learned to enable navigation of the world. Usually the Mario siblings will hoist their toddler selves in a piggyback fashion, but the tots are quite capable of running around on their own. If this is the case each set of siblings is controlled one at a time with two of the DS face buttons and switching between them is accomplished by pressing a button causing one not currently under player control to do something. The DS pad is a bit small for all the activity, I find - or at least I blame my frequent inadvertent switching of brother pairs on this. The game is a little lax in picking up a first attack also, I find, with it somehow having an enemy be sandwiched in between the brothers onscreen and thus not hit by the opening jump. Otherwise the controls are responsive and tight, as a Mario game leads one to expect. Menus bear mentioning only for their ease of use, with equipment and items being easy to access and use.

Mommy, what is that caterpillar doing with those flying saucers? Mommy, what is that caterpillar doing with those flying saucers?

   Visuals are a little better than Superstar Saga, but not enough to demonstrate much use of the DS hardware. That does not mean Partners in Time looks bad because its predecessor looked quite good, more that it does not strain the DS in any way. Colorful enemy designs and interesting architectural choices abound. As to the music, it does not come across as terribly memorable. Yoko Shimomura has never done a bad soundtrack in my hearing, but this is not one of her better efforts. The vocal exclamations (mostly from Mario and Luigi, though Bowser, Peach, and E. Gadd have vocalizations) is amusing.

   There is a plethora of minigames to incite interest from aficianados, but otherwise there is a dearth of additional material in Partners in Time. Thus the only replay value will come for players entertained sufficiently to play it again, which is made easier by the game's fairly short quest. Completing it within 15 hours is very easy to conceive. As to the challenge found within, it is totally dependent upon the prospective player's aptitude for timing. If the player is terrible at dodging enemy attacks and coordinating Brothers Items on offense, this will be one of the hardest games ever made.

   An odd facet of this game that may deter some players is its plentiful tutorials. They are told whimsically but are mandatory, which will likely irritate players seeking to get on with the action in the early part of the game. The humor present throughout the game is entertaining, the battles are involving and entertaining, the game as a whole is fun to play - it just feels like an upgrade of its predecessor without any brilliant new operations. For all the humor in its telling, the paradoxes of time travel are glossed over a little too much for my liking also. An entertaining title is present here but Mario's finest RPG hour this is not.

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