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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Haven't I Beaten This Game?

The writing is some of the best I’ve ever seen. The music is so catchy I could easily hum every song on the soundtrack. The animations were all lovingly crafted. The gameplay is creative. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed DS games ever made.

So why the hell haven’t I beaten Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story?


All of my designer logic tells me that Inside Story should be my favorite game of all time. Just look at all the graphics! The cozy UI! The engaging, innovative combat! It’s so good.

But it’s also very flawed.


When an enemy attacks you they do this little dance to tip you off, and then you get the chance to avoid or counter a goomba, or a tree trunk, or something; and that’s cool, because when you’re attacked in most RPGs, only your stats can save you, but in Bowser’s Inside Story, you can interact during these phases to completely evade the attack.
And the whole game is built around this feature. You can’t beat Inside Story unless you’re constantly learning your enemys’ attack patterns and dodging whatever crap they throw at you. For a jaded RPG vet, it’s easy to become infatuated with the fresh mechanics and the Mushroom Kingdom’s incredible level of polish, but after a few hours, the combat’s innovative mechanics become more of a hindrance than anything else.
The problem comes when you’re working through a dungeon, and you’re on your tenth-twelfth-twentieth fight, and at this point the honeymoon is over and innovative gameplay has transformed into regular gameplay, and you can't help but notice that every time an enemy attacks the entire game has to stop so your opponent can do a little dance followed by some kind of attack, which should make you feel more involved with the combat, but instead you end up with the opposite. You're being disengaged by a mildly interactive cut-scene, and the feeling only gets worse as the battles stack up. It's as if every Monty Mole in the game can summon Knights of the Round topped off with a QTE.

After running through enough encounters you’ll be avoiding enemies like polio. Especially when the game goes lateral and you’re returning to old areas.

If Bowser's Inside Story was a forty-hour game, nobody would beat it. Even twenty hours is pushing the limit of their combat system.

I feel kind of bad writing this post. I make it sound like I hate the game, or at the very least I’m expressing some other emotion similar to hate, except shallower because I’m directing it at an entertainment product.
But Bowser’s Inside Story, just on the merits of the writing alone, kicks serious ass, and I just wanted to explore why a game I hold in such respect is also a game I’m not really interested in playing again.

They should try experimenting with an ATB system.


  1. How does this dragging combat compare with the similar mechanics in Paper Mario and Mario RPG?

  2. In Paper and RPG, enemies would (most of the time) just bump into you; and compared to the elaborate dodging ballet in Inside Story I guess these games feel much less complicated and require less of your attention, but at least they're expedient. Masterfully crafted animations aren't always a good thing. Especially if you have to watch them over and over.

    Inside Story (and the previous Mario and Luigi games) have another big advantage over Paper and RPG: Very intuitive, creative control schemes. Having "Mario" and "Luigi" buttons really gives the game its own style.