Mario and Luigi have been getting under nemesis Bowser's skin for nearly twenty-five years now, but in the plumbers' latest adventure, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the duo actually get inside Bowser's skin, stomach, brain, muscles, and various other parts of the Koopa king's anatomy. Swallowed by the self-proclaimed king of awesome during a raid on Princess Peach's castle, the brothers find themselves trapped inside Bowser's body. Meanwhile, Bowser must contend with the villainous sidekick from the original Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Fawful, who has returned to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom for himself. This premise may sound absurd even for a Super Mario game, but it's actually great fun. Read my review of the game over at Kombo to find out why.
Bowser's Inside Story has a lot going for it, and while the engaging gameplay and animated characters are highlights of the experience, ultimately it is the dialog that makes this latest installment in the Mario & Luigi series so much fun. Mario and Luigi remain silent protagonists aside from the occasional "Let's-a go!", but Bowser becomes a more sympathetic character throughout the course of the game. His massive ego pushes him towards heroism, as he's not about to let anyone else kidnap Peach and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. Fawful still speaks in bizarre Engrish, shouting about how he has fury and chortles. The back-and-forth verbal sparring between characters are a bright spot, and ultimately Bowser's antics overshadow the other protagonists.
This latest RPG adventure features plenty of references and callbacks to other games in the Super Mario franchise. The beans from Superstar Saga are back as status boosters, while the alien Shroobs from Partners In Time turn up in a fightable cameo. Then there's my absolute favorite reference as, late in the game, Mario and Luigi fight a clan of hopping green shoes, one of which is named Kuribo. Stick around past the ending of the credits for one last little cinematic that ties up a loose end in what has to be the sweetest, most "Awww!"-inducing moment in any Super Mario title.