Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. is the fourth game in the Mario & Luigi RPG series, the first game was on the Game Boy Advance and the previous two were on the Nintendo DS, being the first entry for the Nintendo 3DS meant that Dream Team Bros. had to raise the bar even more and give a good first impression for both newcomers and veterans of the series alike, read on to find out if they did.
As with any RPG, there are two main types of gameplay sections in Dream Team Bros.: exploration and battle, like the previous game, Mario and Luigi must solve puzzles during the exploration part of the game in order to not only proceed the plot, but to access optional areas to find items and equipment. Monsters can be seen wandering around the field during exploration and getting the jump on them (literally) will give you a starting advantage in battle, however, the same can be said for the player, while exploring, you should take care not to let enemies sneak up on you, or you will start the battle off with a disadvantage.
The main gimmick of Dream Team Bros., if you couldn't tell from the name, is that you have the chance to explore Luigi's dream world, dotted around the world are a number of creatures known as Pi'illos that have been turned into stone pillows (haha, get it?), when Luigi sleeps on them, a dream portal opens up, allowing Mario to explore his dream world. Whereas exploration around the real world is viewed from a top-down angle, exploration in the dream world is viewed from the side in a traditional, 2D platformer-style angle. Exploring the dream world is very much similar to exploring the interior of Bowser's belly in Bowser's Inside Story, with the help of Luigi's infinite possibilities of powers, you can summon a whole army of Luigis to help you access areas you couldn't before, such as turning into a stack of Luigis or turning into a cone shape to make tornado jumps or even turn into a ball and roll down slopes to destroy obstacles and enemies.
While you're in the dream world, on the touch screen is Luigi's sleeping face, by manipulating certain parts of his face you can affect what's going on in the dream world, for example, you can rub his nose to make him sneeze and blow background objects into the foreground, you can pull his moustache to fling Mario into different locations, or you can even spin around the object he's sleeping on to manipulate gravity, it sounds very strange on paper, but once you see it, it will all make sense. These powers only appear when they are needed, so for example, in an area where you only need to make use of gravity manipulation, you won't be able to utilize his other powers, this is a bit of double-edged sword, for one, you won't confuse one gesture for another when using these powers but for another, you'll be able to figure which powers to use right away when you see the puzzle, it takes away a small amount of guesswork, but I understand why they made that decision. The dream worlds can vary greatly in size, some are just one-screen locations, others act as mini dungeons while some of the story-focused dream world locations are huge, complex dungeons.
Battles are all about timing and pattern-recognition, players with top-notch hand eye coordination and timing can make it through every battle without a scratch, in keeping with the series, pressing buttons at the right time when attacking will allowing you to deal extra damage, when you are being attacked by enemies, you must press the buttons at the right time to avoid their attack, every enemy has an attack that can be countered, you just need to know which attacks they are and when to press the button, every enemy has a unique tell before or during an attack, if you can recognize those tells, you will know whether they're attacking Mario or Luigi, or even both of them but in a set order, and you will be able to avoid their attack. Of course, some attacks are a lot more difficult to avoid than others, some enemies have really tricky attack patterns that require a lot of practice and patience to avoid them, there is no shame in getting hit for the first few times you encounter a new enemy, it can be frustrating, but once you go through a battle without getting hit once, you will feel like a king.
Battles in Luigi's dream world function a little differently, for one, you only control Mario, but Dreamy Luigi appears to help you in every battle, providing a HP and BP boost and dealing extra attacks after every standard attack you do, whether it's with a jump attack or a hammer attack. Bros. Attacks make a comeback from the previous games where you attack with the combined powers of Mario and Luigi, they have their own unique set of Bros. Attacks in real world battles, whereas in the Dream World, Mario has access to "Luiginary Attacks" which takes advantage of the legion of Luigis in order to deal huge damage to his foes. These special moves act as the "spells" of the game and requires BP to use, each of them acts as a short minigame, the better you perform, the more damage you deal.
Badges also make a return to help you in battle, you have a selection of badges in your inventory and you can make a combination of any two for different effects such as restoring your HP or BP, or making you immune to attacks for a short while, it is up to you to experiment and see which combination is best for you. As you deal attacks with perfect timing, your badge meter will be charged and once fully charge, it will stock the effect of the badge combination for you to use at any time in battle without having to use up a turn (you can stock the badge effect up to two times).
As you explore the world and progress through the story, Mario and Luigi will learn special maneuvers, allowing them to reach places they couldn't access before. The game encourages exploration and you will be rewarded for doing so, there are a lot of collectibles in the game, such as beans you use to increase your stats, Pi'illo folk that requires your rescue, or Attack Pieces that teaches you new Bros. Attacks when you collect ten of them from an area. The characters are fun, the game has some good bits of humour here and there that doesn't feel forced, the locations and mini-games are varied and the boss battles are unique, to the point where some require you to hold the system book-style and use both screens to attack.
I must point out that the soundtrack for this game is absolutely fantastic, especially the boss battle theme, just when I thought the music in Bowser's Inside Story couldn't be topped, I was proven wrong with this game. Even little things with the sound, where your footsteps sound different depending on the ground you're walking on was considered, it's truly an amazing touch of detail that puts a smile on your face.
The game took me a grand total of 36 hours to complete, and that is without rushing or collecting all the collectibles in the game, the game does not require a lot of grinding and you should be able to go through all the boss battles just fine as long you don't skip enemies and miss out on EXP, should you fail any battle however, you are given the option to retry the battle on Easy Mode which severely boosts Mario and Luigi's stats to the point where they become next to invincible and deal stupid amounts of damage. Upon completing the game, you unlock Hard Mode, which some players may find welcoming, especially for veteran players seeking a challenge on a second playthrough.
In conclusion, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. is a worthy addition to your 3DS collection and is a definite buy, you are getting a huge adventure that is going to last you a while, thrown in with lots of enjoyment, comedy, satisfying moments and challenging battles.