M&L Partners in Time: Back to the Past

January 24, 2008

Sometimes a line of games comes along that grips you and you just have to get every version that comes out.  For me, one of those lines is the Mario RPGs.  I’ve enjoyed every one of them so far, so of course when I got my DS I knew I had to get Partners in Time.

Graphics

If you’ve played Superstar Saga for the GBA, you’re not going to be surprised.  The graphics are not a bit better, and could have just as easily been done in the previous generation.  That’s fine though, because they didn’t need to be any better, and any attempts at improvements would have probably yielded a worse result on such a small screen.

Both screens are made use of.  In battle, the top screen is mostly just scenery, but some enemies will attack from the top screen.  In the world it usually shows a map of the area, but occasionally the babies will have to crawl into small spaces to navigate a puzzle, and in those cases their adventures will be shown on the top screen.  I wish a better use had been found for the top screen than an area map though, it brings the difficulty level down too far.

Sound

If  you’ve played Superstar Saga, you know what to expect.  The sound really isn’t much different.  It fits quite well, and I guess Nintendo decided not to mess with something that wasn’t broken.  Nothing sticks out in my mind as wrong, so I guess it was pretty good.

Story

Guess what, Peach has been kidnapped again.   What a shock.  THis time she went to the past, and didn’t come back.  So Mario and Luigi go back to find out what happened.  Well, Mario goes to help her–Luigi happens to fall into a time warp.  When he tries to help he screws up, when he tries to stay out he gets dragged into it, poor fella (I guess).  They meet up with their younger selves (who have already kicked Baby Bowser’s butt), and the younger Peach and Toadsworth, all of whom they wind up bringing back with them.

Anyways.  A bunch of time warps have shown up in Peach’s castle in the present, each leading to a different area of the world in the past.  Each one leads to a piece of the blue star that blew up and created the time portals in the first place.  So the four Mario brothers have to trek out and find them, beat some baddies, get eaten…oops, getting a little ahead of myself.

The story is, unfortunately, rather short.  The game can easily be finished in under 20 hours.  Replay value is pretty low too–I haven’t touched the cart since I finished it.

Gameplay

Oy vey.  This is where things really start to take a downturn.  As in the previous game, each brother is basically controlled by a different button, A and B for the older two, and X and Y for their younger counterparts.  While it works, it also makes it a little less intuitive as you try and remember what button controls each brother, and which ones need to be hit to pull off certain moves (fortunately, at least for puzzle solving you have plenty of time to figure things out).  I can’t count how many times I’ve pulled off the wrong combo on the world screen.  The touch screen gets virtually no play aside from 5 seconds spent wiping off a dirty map, as if to say “See, we didn’t forget about it”.

The real downfall to the game though is how railroaded the plot is.  No area (except the present day castle) is visited more than once, and there is literally an arrow on a map pointing you to where you need to go next, which destroys most of the fun of exploring the world.  In other words, it’s pretty much impossible to get lost, especially as the top screen is displaying said map 98% of the time.  If I needed my hand held I’d call my mother thankyouverymuch.

Overall, after Superstar Saga this game was a real letdown.  Between the shortness of the game, the handholding, and the fact that it barely requires better than GBA capabilities, this game is more of a rent than a buy.  If you’re looking at buying this, I suggest Superstar Saga instead.  It was a much more fulfilling game.

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