dr. luigi was a surprise nintendo direct announcement at the tail end of last year that added another game starring our favorite plumber in green (and now doctor, insert joke here) to the year of luigi festivities (although related events continued through this year, even after miyamoto declared its official end in march). the release of dr. luigi can be viewed in several ways. yes, it’s an obvious ploy to add yet another iteration of the dr. mario series, previously most recently seen on wiiware, in late may of 2008 and DSiware, about a year later, and the game does reproduce almost identically almost all the modes of the wiiware release. the game also recycles the touchscreen controls, originally seen in brain age 2 on DS and which made a reappearance in the latest brain age game, brain age: concentration training on 3DS. on top of that, the game is available via various VC releases of the original NES and GB versions.
with all these options, for casual players it seems a bit hard to justify yet another iteration of what has essentially been the exact same game even though three and a half years have elapsed since the last full release, esp. since the wiiware version is playable on wii u, although it makes more sense given that nintendo’s wi-fi service for wii (and DS) is shutting down in a few days. the presentation is similarly barebones as the previous wiiware and DSiware releases: developer arika, perhaps most known for their 3D classics releases, just don’t give the games they work on much personality, even taking into account that they’re often adaptations of previous games. (although, there’s a trio of new viruses in pastel versions of the original colors — and featuring a female virus for the first time — and a couple of new tracks).
virtually all the reviews i’ve seen online have dismissed the “operation L” modes (i.e. new luigi modes) as nothing more than a gimmick, but the mode should be more appealing to newbies and dr. mario aficionados. the reason newbies should enjoy it is because on the low and medium difficulty levels it makes it much easier to form a group of four (because the L-shaped pills consist of 3 of the same color together), and thus makes the game much faster paced. the reason aficionados will enjoy it is because in general it makes you rethink your strategies, but on the hard level the game completely changes and the true brilliance of it really becomes apparent. at this level the L shapes don’t have 3 of the same color together, so clearing the board requires much more consideration. this elevates the new mode past the luigi gimmick and makes it the first true expansion to the dr. mario series’ mechanics in 23 and a half years.
it seems like most reviewers didn’t spend enough time with the operation L modes to discover how worthwhile it really is, and nintendo could have done a better job of making it more apparent (with mission and/or puzzle modes) and otherwise rounding out the $15 package with other equally fresh gameplay to make it feel more complete. even though the true worth of the game will probably remain lesser known i suppose it’s somehow fitting since luigi himself has always flown a little under the radar. still, the game is an easy recommendation for people who don’t already have one of the many versions of the game, for dr. mario vets who are eager for new wi-fi battles, and for long-time dr. mario fans who are willing to invest in the time to uncover and enjoy the more challenging aspects of the new luigi modes.
dr. luigi links in the house:
– entry on miiverse
– page on official nintendo site
– entry on metacritic
the GB edition of dr. mario was so interchangeable with the NES version that i thought i would take a peek at another edition i had on hand, dr. mario online rx for wiiware (which, incidentally, is one of the few wiiware titles you can buy outside of nintendo’s eshop via amazon). in doing so i skipped over the SNES and N64 editions, but i was interested in checking out the new co-op and worldwide wi-fi vs. modes.
the review at nintendolife.com provides a run-down of the other modes, which are mostly what you’d expect so i won’t dwell on them too much here, although i appreciated the ability to do a “hard drop” (press up to make a pill drop to the bottom, as in the modern tetris games) and the game also allows you to see the next three pills instead of just the next one. another unique feature is that you can send a demo version to friends so you can battle over wi-fi. i haven’t tried it out yet, but will def. be making use of it. the game is bright and colorful and i appreciated that it doesn’t have the maddening cheapness at the highest levels of difficulty that i mentioned in my previous post and that the viruses are distributed in a reasonable fashion. i also enjoyed the two new-to-me tracks, called “cough” and “sneeze”, which apparently were introduced in the N64 game under different monikers.
the co-op mode is no doubt inspired by the version that appeared as a stylus-controlled bonus in brain age 2. like that version the game features two nice reworkings of the classic “fever” and “chill” tunes, but this game’s mode is designed to be much more fast-paced. the size of the playing field is significantly smaller than the normal modes, and each stage starts off with only one pill dropping down at a time. this quickly increases to two and then three pills at a time, and then things get really hectic. the levels are designed to be short, and i played with someone who actually knew what she was doing and so we ended up alternating turns until the inevitable mad scramble that resulted when three pieces start dropping down at once. this was a fun, if somewhat shallow, diversion and one that would be even more stupid fun with more people.
the wi-fi mode serves as yet another reminder that my video game skillz are sorely lacking when compared to the rest of the world. this shouldn’t be that surprising, since according to the nintendo channel data the average owner of the game has played it for more than 26 hours (now up to more than 27). as with the game boy game, this has motivated me to spend more time mastering the combo system, but i’m going to have to come back to that since for now i think i’ve had my fill of dr. mario madness.
prescriptions filled with these dr. mario online rx links:
– as with other games in the series there’s an ending after beating the highest difficulty at level 20. in this case the credits roll and you see viruses and mario floating around in what is presumably some sort of petri dish.
– the reviews at metacritic seem a bit low, since this is probably the best version of the game yet
– the game was developed by arika, who’s been responsible for many a nintendo remake, including the 3-D classics series
– entry at mariowiki.com
– entry at wikipedia
it had been a few years since i’d played dr. mario on NES. the next entry in the series was the version on GB which was released just a couple of months after its older brother. when i’d played the NES version i’d been somewhat bored by how limited the combo system was compared to classics like puzzle league, but this time around i spent more time trying to make more-involved combos, in part because you get a familiar little bonus riff if you clear a certain number of pieces at once.
the combo system has turned out to be much more interesting than i’d originally thought, and i was more struck by the considerations of matching both horizontally and vertically than the first time around, although this rendition of the game itself didn’t grab me enough for me to want to invest a whole lot of time mastering the ins and outs of it. the presentation is perfectly fine for a game boy game, in terms of the graphics and sound, but the number of options is quite minimal, pretty much just your basic solo and vs. modes. i beat level 20 on the medium difficulty, but the higher levels of the high difficulty setting were incredibly cheap. i didn’t mention this in my previous post on the NES version, but as with that game at these levels the viruses are stacked so high that it really feels like it’s just a matter of luck whether or not you’ll be able to get the stack down to a point where you can actually just play the game instead of scrambling blindly. i don’t doubt that there are some dr. mario masters out there who can pwn even this level of difficulty, but for the average player it just feels unfair.
not much more to add. the game is a good portable version of the original NES classic, but with a host of modern alternatives this is a game that can be skipped over except by the most OCD of nintendo fans (like me) or those who have the nostalgia factor to contend with.
GB dr. mario makes its case for these links:
– as with the NES version there are little cut-scenes after levels 5, 10, 15, and 20 on high mode. instead of the viruses sitting in a tree and watching objects fly by, in this case they’re underwater and watching objects swim by. if you’re curious, here’s a video of the first three cut-scenes (the objects are a fish, crab, and flying fish) and a video of the final ending, which has an entertaining surprise twist
– review of 3DS VC release at nintendolife.com
– really trippy commercial from the 80’s
– entry at wikipedia
– apparently there was an operation-like board game