Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is a game that combines elements of action and role-playing to create a unique adventure made exclusively for Nintendo’s dual-screened portable system, the DS. While this is the first experience of this kind to debut on the system, it is not the first role-playing quest to feature characters from the Mario universe. The distinction of being the premier Mario role-playing venture belongs to ‘Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars’ for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was the result of collaboration between Nintendo and Square soft, a company known throughout the gaming community for their successful fantasy role-playing games. This adventure would regrettably be one of the last great games for the aforementioned system, as Square and Nintendo would eventually part ways due to differences in opinion regarding new technology.
Once the Game Boy Advance portable system was released, gamers clamored for original content regarding their favorite character. This demand was well-understood considering that the majority of the Game Boy Advance library consisted of games that had already appeared on earlier systems. Nintendo responded by releasing ‘Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.’ While this adventure shared many similarities with Super Mario RPG, it distinguished itself by having a more ‘active’ battle system and a plot that had more context than saving the princess.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga would become one of the GBA’s (Game Boy Advance) best-selling adventures; however, it would also cause gamers to demand that Nintendo release yet another extension of the Mario RPG franchise. It seems to be the norm for games: when one becomes successful, individuals demand another.
Nintendo did not release a sequel to Mario & Luigi on the Game Boy Advance, instead choosing to debut the product on their newer system, the DS. How does this adventure fare in holding up the Mario legacy?
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is successful in supporting the heritage of Nintendo’s greatest character, although upon initial observation, you may not see much difference. The graphics in this adventure, while excellent, are not markedly different from Mario & Luigi’s previous adventure. If you have played Superstar Saga, you may wonder why the DS’s graphical muscle has not been flexed to allow greater detail.
However, while the graphics may leave an unfavorable impression, the game makes amends by including excellent play control and a dynamic story.
While role-playing games set in the Mario universe have often used the kidnapped princess scenario, they have often given this trite ruse depth by including peripheral situations outside the established context. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time follows this pattern by including time-travel. The plot reads like this: alien beings (purple mushrooms) have captured the princess and whisked her into the past. Mario and Luigi follow, but soon run into their younger counterparts. The ensuing interactions between Mario, Luigi, and the babies are the crux of this second adventure, as using their special skills, along with that of the grown-ups, are necessary for survival.
Like the previous adventure, the actions of Mario and Luigi are mapped to single buttons. Mario’s actions are controlled with the (A) button, while Luigi’s functions are set to the (B) button. In another nod to the previous quest, Mario and Luigi also have to use each other to reach inaccessible areas through maneuvers known as ‘Bros. Moves.’ However, this sequel expands on the framework introduced in the first adventure. For starters, the addition of younger companions allows the developers to include more complex puzzles. There are a wide variety of challenges that will require you to switch between the grown-ups and the babies. These expanded mechanics are set forth in battle as well. Whereas the original game had you merely focused on the welfare of Mario and Luigi, this new adventure has you concerned about the babies as well. ‘Partners in Time’ also replaces the ‘Bros. Attacks’ with ‘Bros. Items.’ Consisting of objects such as red shells, smash eggs, and fire flowers, these items are used by the team in tandem to cause damage to their enemies.
The battle system was one of the premier aspects of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. ‘Partners in Time’ honors this distinction. What separates it from other role-playing adventures are the constant instances of timing that are required. While you choose alternate actions like in most role playing experiences, the battle system of both Mario & Luigi games rewards accurate timing and constant attention. You can cause extra damage by pressing the brother’s (or baby’s in the second game) button at the point of impact, and use that same function to dodge enemy attacks.
The sound in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is satisfactory as well. The voices of Mario, Luigi, and the babies are enunciated well, and comical. While it may become annoying to hear the babies cry constantly, the sound of Mario and Luigi calming them down, or attempting to in some cases, compensates. The music is well-done as well, although the battle theme for bosses tends to become grating.
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is an outstanding experience and perfect for anyone seeking a quality role-playing adventure on the Nintendo DS. While Mario may have spread himself too thin in certain situations, he always turns in stellar work when it counts.