What do you do when you’re three games into a new series featuring characters that are decades old and you can’t stomach the thought of coughing out the same old plot again? It takes guts, but you look deep inside yourself, or in this case, deep inside Bowser, and bingo, there is your story. Nintendo certainly went to a very weird place with Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story all those years ago, essentially combining Inner Space with Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and slapping Mario and Luigi in it. Now, years later and following on from the success of their last outing, the developers at AlphaDream and Arzest fired up their relentless remake machine and rolled out Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey for us all to enjoy, and oh boy, enjoy it I did.
I’d like to see Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt run away from this suck zone…
You know, it’s not very often I indulge myself in wishful thinking when it comes to games because rarely do the things I hope for actually come to light. So it’s super funny now that when I recall my Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions review and that closing line about maybe getting a remake of Partners In Time or Bowser’s Inside Story, little did I expect we’d be getting exactly that, or quite so soon! Well, I mean soon in the general sense. A little over a year is not a huge gap between releases when you compare it to something like The Legend of Zelda or Pokémon series and their remakes. Technically speaking, there wasn’t a whole lot needed to update Bowser’s Inside Story from its original DS release, though Nintendo has always been a crowd pleaser and went above and beyond anyway. The 3DS version of this game took the time to add in a variety of new features, some excellent quality-of-life upgrades, a gorgeous visual and audio overhaul and the now-standard additional story mode, this time featuring Bowser Jr., the pint-sized punk with a plan of his own to solve the Blorb problem present in the main adventure.
For anyone who hasn’t played the original Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, here’s a quick summary of the story. Being the third entry in the M&L series, we rejoin our titular heroes just as a new epidemic of unknown causes, the Blorb disease, has struck the Mushroom Kingdom. The various residents of the land have begun bloating up to extreme sizes, and it seems no one is safe, with both good guys and baddies alike succumbing to the mysterious affliction. With the fate of the world seemingly hanging in the balance, Princess Peach calls together a council to decide how to tackle the Blorb problem during which Starlow makes their first appearance, becoming a regular companion buddy for this and future games and then, of course, Bowser crashes the show. With their usual display of ability, the Bros. and a ridiculously overpowered Peach (exactly HOW does she get kidnapped with those powers?!) swiftly send Bowser packing and then continue with the meeting. After a suspicious encounter with a particularly familiar finkrat with fury, Bowser returns to the castle powered up on weird shrooms (sounds like last weekend) that causes him to suck everyone and everything in the council chamber up inside him, which gives us our title.
“Hey bro?” “Yeah, Luigi?” “Um…so, at-a what-a point does all-a this become-a pee?” “Oh-a nooo, lets-a go Luigi! NOW!”
For the majority of the rest of the game, the two indomitable Italians squish and squelch their way through Bowser’s innards as he stomps through the Mushroom Kingdom, with battles against all sorts of opponents taking place in both planes and sometimes crossing over from one to the other. Also lost inside Bowser somewhere is Princess Peach and along the way, you’ll encounter all sorts of weird inhabitants inside the King of the Koopas on your journey to find her. From the downright odd Globins to a whole host of toads who set up a functioning trading post inside one of Bowser’s various… uh… cavities, yeah, let’s go with that, there is a whole world taking place inside Bowser, as wonderfully weird as that sounds.
Visually, there is a delightful, if somewhat disgusting design to the inside of Bowser, which if I were a doctor, I’d give him a few weeks and suggest he get his affairs in order. Somehow though, everything works inside Bowser and with some clever manipulation from the Bros. inside him, different abilities can manifest for Bowser in the normal world, allowing him to clear obstacles or gain advantages in battles. This transfer works both ways too, as things he does will alter the areas the Bros. are currently in, like drinking water will flood him and change the layout of his guts. Yuck. It’s only after quite a while (and probably with some very wet and stinky clothes) that the Bros. re-emerge into the Mushroom Kingdom to continue the story and the fight alongside Bowser and find all the secrets he couldn’t because of his size and abilities.
“Once I’m done pounding this loser, I’ll give you something to chortle about, finkrat!”
Just like the last remake, everything is as solid and entertaining as it was the first time around, with a whole host of careful and creative updates to bring the title up to the same visual standard as later entries, which when you think about what it is you’re exploring, it’s just kinda gross. Building on the already stellar work from the last remake, the same amount of attention was once again given to the characters and models, with a lot more readable expressions than the original DS title, which leads to some particularly hilarious reactions from Bowser as Mario and Luigi whack, stomp or smash his delicately disturbing inner workings. One thing that did not need any improvement though was the story, which is just as funny as it was years ago and the addition of the Bowser Jr.’s Journey side-story only serves to add further hilarious context to things that happen in the main adventure.
Moving on to the additional stuff, just like the Bowser’s Minions add-on from the first M&L remake, Bowser Jr.’s Journey is a fun series of battle adventures weaving in and out of the main plot. Comprised of mostly the same sorts of fights the minions went through previously, Bowser Jr.’s Journey even has you facing off against Captain Goomba and his squad on multiple occasions, which was a nice call-back. The simple rock-paper-scissors style of combat returns from last time, with the various units you can field being strong against another type and weak to another. Battle variety is a little better this time too, so there isn’t as much repetitiveness as last time. Bowser Jr. himself takes the place of Captain Goomba with an expanded range of abilities and can even summon a sidekick, such as Kamek, to fill a support role in the battle.
“Mamma mia!! Just-a like Madam Clairvoya said! Mariooooooo…”
As it was with Bowser’s Minions, the stakes are low, and there is next to no penalty for failing in a battle aside from having to try it again. With the exception of a few focus events in battle and some quick-time combat, the general functions are all the same as the first M&L add-on and in an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of situation, Bowser Jr.’s Journey continues on just the same. Amiibo support also returns, offering up certain bonuses depending on which figurine you scan, with most rewarding you with beans and badges that you can hoard or use at your leisure, while others award things that can be used or equipped in the main game. I still think it’d be cool to get some special unlocks depending on which amiibos you own, or even the ever elusive New Game + mode, and even though that kind of stuff is once again a no-show, everything is still just lovely without them. Bowser Jr.’s Journey is simple, fun and a suitable bit of side filler from the main adventure, or for when you’re just grossed out enough from Bowsers wiggly bits that you need to relax in some grassy fields or something and bonk some goombas.
To those who have come into this series from the first remake, it’s fair to say that Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is one heck of a step up narratively from the otherwise tame story of the previous remake. In reality, this is the third M&L game in a series that was already getting progressively and proudly weirder and weirder. With future titles Dream Team Bros. and Paper Jam Bros. being set entirely inside Luigi’s subconscious and even crafting a creative crossover with the Paper Mario franchise, we’ve only got one more remake to go to complete this series on 3DS, and that’s the second entry, Partners In Time. A trippy time travel title where the Bros. work together with their younger baby selves to save the world, if we follow a similar time frame from the last remake to this one, we can expect to see it in maybe another year and a bit, if not sooner. Seeing as I was so on the money with my previous prediction, perhaps I can try again. How about a brand new sixth Mario & Luigi title, or maybe a complete collection on the Switch? Those are pretty broad I think, so we got some good odds. Fingers crossed!
“You wait till my papa hears about this! He’s gonna be mad!”
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey was an enjoyable and familiar return to a game I thoroughly enjoyed years ago. Once again, Nintendo and the developers have delivered some top-notch work, injecting a fresh feel into this game and bringing it to a whole new audience while also delighting original fans like myself. With all the best kind of updates and smart inclusions, this title has rightfully earned a place alongside its companion titles on the 3DS system and all that’s left now is to wait for the inevitable Partners In Time remake.