Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) – Part 21 – Bowser’s Castle

-Bowser’s Castle-

After some additional uneventful exploring and training, we finally decide not to waste any more of our valuable time. We head back to Hoohoo Village and talk to Blablanadon about taking us up to Bowser’s Castle. After explaining the situation, he agrees to fly us up and through an opening at the base of the castle.

Thankfully, Blablanadon is willing to wait at the entrance for us should anything go wrong. That’s very reassuring, because the lakes of lava are making me feel like we didn’t prepare enough for what’s ahead. I’m not sure why, after all my experience with bowser, I wasn’t expecting there to be lakes of lava in his castle…

To make matters worse, our infiltration of the castle did not go unnoticed. Fawful has already informed Bowletta that we are coming for her. She, however, remains utterly unconcerned. In her mind there is no possible way we will ever reach her thrown room.

Her confidence is not entirely misplaced either. Now that she is possessing Bowser’s body, she has full command of his young Koopaling army. Serving as the castle guards and boss fight of each world in previous games, the introduction of all seven of them now can only mean trouble for our heroes. While the Mario Brothers have managed to defeat all the Koopalings several time in the past, having to deal with them one after the next in a boss run within a single castle might prove to be too much for them to handle.

Then again, we might not have to worry about the Koopalings if we can’t get past the regular enemies. As would be expected of Bowser’s Castle, it is filled with the strongest enemies we have encountered yet. Enemies like the Gunner Guy will fill our heroes full of holes with their large nose guns. Or worse yet, we might get caught in Sniper Bill’s crosshairs, a bullet that uses a gun to shoot smaller bullets at us and then rams us because he is also a bullet.

Death Count: Mario – 9, Luigi – 6, Game Over – 3

Then of course there are the shy, but playfully dangerous Boos flying all about. The Boos are my personal favorite enemies in the Mario Universe, so I was happy to see them finally make an appearance. Unfortunately, their unpredictable nature ended up being a little too much for Mario, and he briefly joined their ghostly ranks.

The castle layout itself will also pose a challenge to us, as things like low hanging beams prevent us for using our Spin Jump to clear basic gaps in the platforms. While we take no damage from the fall, a single bad jump causes the need to backtrack and try the whole set again.

It doesn’t take us long before we run into Iggy, the first of the Koopalings. Catching our heroes off guard, Iggy starts dancing circles around them. Literally, as it so happens. Both of the Mario Brothers actually get quite dizzy from trying to keep up with him…

Before a battle begins, Iggy actually jumps away to a nearby platform, leaving or heroes disoriented as they try to chase him. While he didn’t travel far, the remapped directional keys used to simulate our heroes dizziness makes it somewhat difficult to avoid the small flames dancing around the platforms as we make our way around.

The key is to be patient, and wait for the flames to move away before trying to get past them. Before long, we’ll have reached Iggy and the battle can begin. Unfortunately, Iggy still insists on spinning circles around our heroes. He moves so fast it can be hard to time our counter attacks. In fact, we actually manage to drop our hammers waiting for the right timing. Maybe those Power Grips will be useful after all.

When he isn’t spinning circles all around the battlefield, Iggy will start spitting fireballs our way. This attack is particularly important for us to learn the counter attack timing, because if we do, we can actually send it flying right back at him for some decent damage.

Since he is only the first of seven Koopalings to fight us, I would imagine he is also the weakest of the lot. As such, he is quite easily defeated and we can progress deeper into the castle.

Upon defeat, a warp tunnel to the room’s entrance as well as a bridge to the next room appear. With them, we also learn what our general progression through the Castle will be. Each of the seven Koopalings will have their own room in the Castle. Each of those rooms will have a short physical challenge ending with a boss fight with one of the Koopalings. Rinse and repeat until all seven Koopalings have been defeated, and Cackletta will be waiting for us in the final room. So we have one Koopaling down, six more to go.

Death Count: Mario – 11, Luigi – 6, Game Over – 3

Navigating the second room isn’t too hard. The only real obstacles are several rows of spike strips to jump over. The enemies however are the real problem. Our first experience against the new Magikoopa troops and their rings of fire ends up being too much for Mario. They manipulate the rings as they fly through the air so that even if we manage to jump through the center, they just pull it back and catch us from behind. Either that or they sweep it across both brothers at once. I’m actually sad to say these tricks managed to take Mario down TWICE in the same battle.

Acting with a bit more caution, we manage to make it to Morton’s Room without any further incidents. When Morton does reveal himself, he does it with more hostility that Iggy did, roaring loudly and stomping the ground. He stomps so hard he actually manages to send shockwaves along the only walkway towards him. Our Heroes must jump over them as they make their approach to the second of the Koopalings.

Right from the get go, the battle with Morton shows it’s going to be rather tough. Morton’s signature attack is his shockwave attack where he jumps in the air and lands with enough force to knock our heroes on their asses. The tricky part is that the attack comes in several waves. Failing to avoid any one of the waves will stun our Heroes and guarantee they also be hit by the next ones for a very devastating amount of total damage.

If there is any saving grace to this battle, it’s that Morton also has the same fireball attack Iggy had. If we manage to knock those back at him, we can get several hits in on him as well.

We manage to defeat Morton rather quickly, avoiding any casualties in the process. We’re also lucky enough to have snagged a “Bowser Fist” badge off of him as a reward. The description says it allows the wearer to “Release Powerful, Bowser-like Attacks.” I’m not entirely sure what that means, and it lowers my overall attack power compared to what each of the brothers are currently equipped with, so it’s just going to have to remain a mystery for now. Anyway, that’s two down, five to go.

The third room offers very little in terms of challenge. There are a few gaps to spin jump over, as well as a few lava lakes that require the use of whirlwinds to cross. However, we have seen similar gaps quite often in our journey so far, so they pose no threat at all. Likewise, we encountered few enemies, and the enemies we did encounter were easily avoided.

It doesn’t take us long to make our way to the third Koopaling and it is…Iggy again? It looks like Iggy with the multi-color Mohawk. Acts like Iggy too with the way he spins around our heroes. However, Unlike Iggy, this Koopaling manages to create illusion clones of himself to surround our heroes.

We waited a moment, expecting them to close in for an attack… but they never did. All four of them just stood there like statues. Out of curiosity we bop one of them with our hammer to see if it will do anything. In a way, it does. It disappeared and the Real Koopaling started laughing at us before recasting the illusion.

When recast, we couldn’t see any clear indication which was the real one. It all happened too fast. So we simply bop the one that was that was real last time. As it turns out, this is still the real one. Unfortunately, he starts to cry which makes us feel a little bad for hitting him in the head with a hammer.

In any case, we have found the real Koopaling, and the battle begins. First things first, we learn that this is not Iggy again, this one is Lemmy. So that clears up that confusion. Now onto the actual battle, Lemmy also uses his duplication technique to create three fakes to take damage for him. However, we’ve seen this trick before, and Luigi is well equipped to take them all out in one shot.

Like his brothers, Lemmy will also spit fireballs which can be hit back with the hammer. To his credit, Lemmy does move much closer before spitting the fire ball, which gives less time to react and counterattack. Beyond that, Lemmy doesn’t seem to have any other tricks up his sleeves and is rather easily defeated.

Death Count: Mario – 12, Luigi – 6, Game Over – 3

We continue deeper into the castle, putting out fires and doing our best to fight off enemies. But once again, Luigi ends up holding his older brother up as he is beaten down again by enemies. Ever a loyal brother, Luigi ends up shielding Mario from harm in his defenseless state.

Once revived, and the enemies defeated, we come to one of my most hated challenges. We need to once again fix broken cable by shooting water at little windup toys. It’s such an easy task in concept, but actually hitting the little things is infuriating. Especially the last one which just twitches and moves randomly around the area of the cable break.

Following that, we have a little gardening project with a pair of Piranha Plant sprouts. We need to water them so they’ll grow big and strong for us, and spit out !-Blocks for us to hit.

Unfortunately, that !-Block just dropped a Magikoopa from the ceiling and we end up in another battle. There’s also a new enemy here, the Chomp Bro. This Muscular cousin to the typical Hammer Bro has somehow managed to tame a small Chain Chomp which he keeps by his side. When attacking, he will spin around and throw the Chain Chomp as if it were the hammer throw event at the Olympics. That poor little Chain Chomp.

Thankfully the remaining Piranha Plant also spits up an !-Block. This one however actually opens the door to the next chamber instead of dropping enemies on us.

This brings us to the room of Ludwig von Koopa, the oldest of the seven Koopalings. Right from the start he gives little warning before retreating into his shell and attacking with the shell spin attack the Koopa clan is so known for. We weren’t expecting it and Luigi ended up taking the full force of it.

I’d like to puff out my chest and say something cool now like “Now that we know about it, he won’t get us with that again.” but if you have been paying attention at all so far, you’d know that was not the case. It took me over a dozen times before we managed to avoid his full series of attacks.

I couldn’t help but include the frame where Ludwig is pushing his head back out of the shell. It just looks so funny.

Once Ludwig is convinced he can’t hit us anymore with his shell attack, he comes out of his shell and jumps off screen somewhere. We examine the area, but there is nowhere to go from here, so we start to leave the way we came. That’s when Ludwig drops down from the ceiling again and attacks us from behind.

Clearly not content with the previous series of spin attacks, Ludwig once again retreats into his shell and rushes our heroes. And clearly we still have not learned anything because not only does Luigi take a full force hit from the front, but then Mario takes another hit from behind when he circles back around.

Death Count: Mario – 14, Luigi – 6, Game Over – 3

In addition to his shell spin attack, Ludwig is also attacking us with the standing spin attack much like Iggy did. Ultimately, Ludwig’s fast, and rather erratic movements confuse Mario enough to fall in battle, twice. He’s lucky Luigi is with him through all this.

Mario does eventually get his act together long enough to hit Ludwig with his hammer, and end the fight. With Ludwig von Koopa down for the count, we are now more than half way through with the Koopalings.

On our way to the next room, a very curious thing happened. After performing the Thunder Bros technique on a couple of Magikoopas, Mario starts thinking and gets a great idea. He shares his idea with Luigi and just like that we have learned the Advanced version of Luigi’s Thunder Bros attack. I’m sure most people would have learned of such mechanics to the game MUCH earlier than this, but I don’t really care for the Bros Attacks, so I really never use them, with the exception of the Thunder Bros attack. Clearly once you use the normal version of each of the attacks enough times you will learn a more advanced version of it in this way.

Anyway, the navigational challenge of the next room isn’t very difficult. There is a small series of chambers that Luigi has to tunnel between before reaching the one with a button on the wall. This opens up a door with will then allow Mario to fit through the small holes in all of the walls before finding a second button to hit which will actually open the door to the next room. Easy stuff by now.

The next room however is a bit harder. A Mini Mario needs to run across the walls in an attempt to enter an otherwise inaccessible adjacent room. That in itself is rather simple, even with the somewhat large gaps he needs to jump. However, Boos start showing up along the wall to try to catch him. Thankfully, Boos are very shy creatures, and they disappear if we look at them, so just keep rushing forward and they shouldn’t touch us.

It is the adjacent room that should bring a smile to any long term Mario fan. In what is a much more traditional Bowser Castle area, Mario is forced to jump from platform to platform over pits of lava. He must also jump over dangerous rotating spikes while trying to keep pace with a moving platform. Just some of the classic elements in a typical Bowser Castle level.

The perfect cherry on top however is waiting for us at the end, where a cut out of bowser is hanging over a suspension bridge. Touching the ax at the end causes the bridge to break and drop the bowser into the lava, just like in the old games and I love it.

Sadly, there is no Peach or Toad waiting at the end for us to tell us the Princess is in another castle, instead there is just another !-Block. But that block does open up the gate to the next room, so I guess we’re still happy to see it.

From here, our heroes are presented with a series of Simu-Blocks they need to hit in order to raise the bridge to the nearby platform, and lower some deadly spikes that block our progress forward. Compared to some of the other Simu-Blocks we’ve encountered so far, this is a beginner level challenge.

Upon hitting the last set of Simu-Blocks Roy Koopa drops down ahead of us with a roar, ready to fight. Of course, we rush to join him, likewise willing to fight our way through the castle. However, as soon as we reach him, he jumps off screen, leaving the brothers a bit confused.

In Roy’s place, a warp portal appears, just like it would had we defeated him. And just like the other warp portal, we are sent back to the door and allowed to continue on our way. I guess Roy didn’t want to fight after all. Do we count that as a win? I guess we only have two left to go now.

Perhaps we have spoken too soon. After rounding the corner we are stopped in our tracks by a wall too high to jump and a button too high to press. Before we even get a chance to sort out the current problem, Roy drops in unexpectedly, knocking our heroes to the ground in the process.

It looks like we’ll be fighting Roy after all, and unlike his siblings, he isn’t playing around. Joining Roy in our battle is Time Bob-omb which will detonate if we don’t manage to defeat Roy in time. It’s currently set to 8, which I would assume is 8 turns and not 8 seconds, and that is all the time we have for this battle.

Death Count: Mario – 15, Luigi – 6, Game Over – 3

As for Roy himself, he uses a variety of attacks which make him quite challenging. He started the battle by using the same ground stomp attack that Morton Koopa Jr used. Then he followed it up with the shell spin attack that we just saw while fighting Ludwig von Koopa. Unsurprisingly at this point, that attack once again managed to take Mario out of the battle.

Death Count: Mario – 15, Luigi – 7, Game Over – 4

Luigi once again revives his older brother, but this time it seems like it may have been in vain. With our relatively weak attacks and constant healing, we were completely incapable of dealing enough damage to take out Roy before the Time Bob-omb hit zero and ended the battle for us.

We attempt the battle again, and with some luck manage to defeat Roy this time. With only 1 turn left on the Bob-Omb I might add. We also managed to win a Bowser Fang from Roy, which when equipped will grant “Bowser-Like Counterattacks” which sounds interesting. Best of all, this means we are OFFICIALLY down to just two more Koopalings.

Anyway, upon defeating Roy, a barrel conveniently drops from out of nowhere and allows us to press the button on the wall. Doing this turns on a heating vent below the button which LAUNCHES our heroes past a few ?-Blocks and up to a higher platform which would have been otherwise inaccessible. Naturally we investigate these ?-Blocks before heading forward, but there’s nothing special in them. Just an Ultra Mushroom and a Super Syrup.

With those ?-Blocks out of the way, we continue exploring the second floor and quickly get stuck in the next room. The solution is quite obvious, there is a barrel and a button on the wall. Press the button to open the door. The challenge comes from the large number of Boos floating around. We managed to count three of them, but since they can turn invisible, there’s no knowing how many there really are. I doubt they’ll leave us alone long enough to press the button, so we take the initiative to get rid of them first.

With so many of them to fight, it doesn’t take long before we see some new tricks out of them. For example, we weren’t aware that they could seal our abilities. After failing to dodge one of the Boos, it grabbed a red cube off Luigi and then claimed he was no longer able to jump. This makes it somewhat harder since we need to jump to dodge their attacks. After missing another attack with Mario this time, his Hammer became prohibited. Pretty soon they won’t be able to do anything.

Somehow we managed to survive the battles, and thankfully there were only three groups to fight. Now that the room is clear we are free to use the barrel to hit the button on the wall. As we thought, it opens the door, and we continue on our way to the next Koopaling.

Unfortunately, the next room’s puzzle isn’t quite as obvious to solve. There are no buttons, no enemies, no anything. There is just a locked door and two creepy Bowser Head Statues on pikes with no obvious way to interact with them.

It takes us some time to mull it over when suddenly the solution came to us. We can’t find the solution in this room, because the solution isn’t in this room. We need to go back and get the barrel from the last room. Now that we have the barrel, Mario is tall enough to light the flames in each of the Statue’s Mouths and open the locked door.

Following the statue room is a familiar sight by this point, the rolling spike pillars. We’ve gotten pretty good at these by now. Not good enough to do it on the first try, but these don’t slow us down much. What does surprise us is the dead end path that follows them with just a single button on the wall.

Pressing the button causes the pillars in the previous room to change direction. Now we have to get back to where we started from, and then head off to the left exit this time. Thankfully, the path from the start to the left platform is short and not much trouble at all, once we get back to the starting platform that is.

Turns out that was the last challenge before we face the next Koopaling. This time it’s Wendy O. Koopa, the only female in the group. She pops her head out of one of the pipes and with just that I can already see fighting her is going to be an annoying hide and seek battle similar to the fight with Lemmy.

Naturally we bop her with the hammer to send her flying right back down the pipe she came from. But of course she simply pops up in a different pipe. So we head over to that pipe now to hit her again.

Surprisingly, she doesn’t wait for us this time. Before we can make it over to her, she goes back to the pipe she started at and starts laughing at us. She doesn’t give us much time get across the room, even if we were to use Mario’s Firebrand to make Luigi run. That’s when our attention goes back to the gate right when we walked in. Wendy took our attention away from it earlier, but it is a very odd little gate, especially since it only has fence on one side of it. Also it’s the type of gate Luigi can tunnel under. But without anything on the other side, or a second side of fence to keep out Mario, there wasn’t any immediate purpose to it.

What it does do, however, is allow the brothers to become separated. This way, we can position one of the brothers at each of the pipes and hit her as soon as she pops up. This of course causes Wendy to go into a rage, and the battle truly begins.

Death Count: Mario – 17, Luigi – 7, Game Over – 4

The fight with Wendy is an interesting one. As predicted, she is using the same cloning ability that Lemmy did. She is ALSO using the same Timer Bob-Omb that gave us trouble while fighting Roy. However, it is her signature move that ends up causing trouble for our heroes, and once again taking Mario out of the fight. She is able to throw her gold bracelets at both of the Mario Brothers at once. That’s bad enough on its own, but being hit by them will also inflict the Heavy G status effect, making it even harder to jump and avoid further attacks.

Death Count: Mario – 18, Luigi – 8, Game Over – 5

After a poor start like that, it’s really no surprise that we couldn’t defeat Wendy before the Time Bob-omb hit zero. Once again, we have been defeated.

There’s no point dwelling on another Game Over. We just have to pick ourselves back up and try again. It didn’t feel like we made much improvement during the second attempt. However, we somehow managed to defeat her with just moments to spare on the Time Bob-Omb. That leaves just one final Koopaling standing between us and Bowletta.

We make our way to the last set of rooms before the final Koopaling, and amazingly they still manage to show us things we haven’t seen yet in the castle. The first room has us breaking our way through wall after wall trying to reach the other end within the given 13 second time limit. Of course, we don’t make it the first attempt.

The second attempt however went much smoother. We were doing it the stupid way the first time, breaking each wall one by one with a hammer. What we should have done is light a fire under Luigi and have him smash face first right through the walls. Doing it that way we had time to spare.

From there, the brothers are once again separated and need to climb an entire staircase worth of those annoying yellow blocks that we need to hit from below. Thankfully they are reunited shortly after this.

The reunion is short lived, however, as a gate in Larry’s room once again separates the brothers. Leaving Mario behind, Luigi goes forward alone to meet the last Koopaling. Much to our surprise, Larry manages to drop a barrel on top of Luigi’s head as soon as he gets close. Not only that, but he looks awfully suspicious with that tennis racket and fireball.

As it turns out, Larry has entered us against our will into a life or death tennis match. Should we miss even a single volley, the fireball will cause the flying Bob-Omb behind Luigi to explode. Thankfully, Larry is a good sport, returning the ball nearly to center court every time. We barely have to move at all. That changes of course when the ball literally explodes in his face, causing him to angrily run off.

The gate opens, and a bridge is raised so that our heroes can follow after him together. He didn’t run off far, he didn’t have far to run to after all. But a cornered, angry Larry waits up ahead, and we’re sure we are going to have one hell of a battle ahead of us.

As with the last two Koopalings, the fight with Larry is also joined by a Time Bob-Omb which will explode after 8 turns. Also similar to the other Koopaling battles, Larry spits fireballs out at our heroes which can be hit back at him with the hammers. However, Larry has held on to his tennis racket and is perfectly prepared to hit that fireball right back at our heroes.

In addition to that, Larry also uses the same spinning attack that Iggy and Ludwig used. He may have had some other abilities, but by some miracle we actually manage to defeat him in just 3 turns, so we never get to see any of them.

So that’s it. All 7 of the Koopalings are defeated and all we have left to do is face off against Bowletta and save the kingdom. We do however make one quick detour first. Heading all the way back to Little Fungitown for some quick last minute shopping to make absolutely sure we are ready for the fight ahead.