Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

This is the sequel to Superstar Saga, and represented a jump from GBA to DS. The main gimmick is that the brothers go back in time to team up with their baby selves, who are controlled with the DS’ X and Y buttons. The babies can also contribute to attacks in battle, making the action commands more complicated.

The game was decent but nothing outstanding. I think I liked Superstar Saga better overall.

I will say I really felt jRPG burnout in this one. Enemies have way, way too much health (especially bosses), making battles extremely repetitive. Once again, it’s more of a puzzle game than an RPG, but once you’ve figured out each boss’ puzzle, you still have to keep fighting for way longer than necessary because they just have so much HP.

The thing that probably stuck with me the most was that it was much more inconvenient to switch between special field abilities here since you need to separate the babies and adults to use them, and I was very disappointed to see the magical abilities get dropped. Restricting the hammer to the babies also made it basically useless as a first strike option, since the babies are subpar in battle.

Aside from the babies, there is another new mechanic: Special moves are now tied to special items rather than innate abilities. This leads to the complete elimination of bros. points, as your limitations are now tied purely to your item count. It’s an interesting idea, and I tend to like RPGs that focus on resource management, but the game gives you so many that resources are never an issue. I used one or more in every regular battle and used them continuously in every boss battle, and I still never came close to running out. And as before, the same also applied to healing items. Reducing both the number of encounters and the number of items you were handed would have made the game much better… and when players say “This game would have been better if there was less of it,” that’s pretty damning.

However, Bowser was, as always, a delight, doubly so since there were two of him. Baby Bowser was adorable, and I loved their (actually challenging!) team-up boss fight that mirrored the brothers’ own tactics. It’s also hilarious that he never figures out the kid is his past self, and that the brothers never bother to tell him. I am looking forward to Bowser’s Inside Story.

2 Comments

  1. mcbender says:

    Partners in Time is one of the more lacklustre entries in the series (and arguably the lowest point, though I can’t say for sure as I never played Dream Team or Paper Jam). It’s fine, it’s possible to enjoy playing it, but it doesn’t quite have the sparkle of the others and it can drag on.

    The complaint about the battles dragging on so long was so universal they actually tried to address it: the US version was released first, and they tweaked the enemies’ stats in the international (European and Japanese) releases, generally reducing enemies’ HP but increasing their damage output to compensate. I only ever played the US one, so I can’t give you any personal insight, but it sounds like it could only be an improvement. That said, that doesn’t address the issue of making resource management interesting.

    I also thought that they largely didn’t take advantage of the time travel gimmick writing-wise, or in area design. It felt like a missed opportunity that the “present era” is just the Peach’s Castle hub area, and you only ever explore areas in the past. It feels like it was just a gimmick so they could justify the babies being there (so you could use all four buttons!) and served no other purpose.

    Bowser was great though, yes. I also appreciated that Peach got to be a proactive character in this one to some degree, even if it’s all in the backstory (and Baby Peach was incredibly annoying).

    I think you’ll enjoy Bowser’s Inside Story.

    1. It felt like a missed opportunity that the “present era” is just the Peach’s Castle hub area, and you only ever explore areas in the past

      Yeah, that was very weird. I kept expecting to explore the present-day areas, since there’s a world map for both, but nope.

      I wonder if it would have worked better if the brothers were trapped in the past the whole game. That would have also avoided the absolutely nonsensical timeline in this.

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