March 24, 2012
By Nick Larsen
With a five year hiatus from any major console release, the long awaited return of the Mario Party franchise has arrived, but was its return just a little too soon? Building off the previous installments and the brief run of Wii Party titles the expectations for a new, memorable, and generally good party game were high. So, were these expectations met? Well…yes and no; the game is memorable but as party games go it is not one of the better choices on the Wii, but it does surpass Mario Party 8 in almost every way.
Before we move on, let’s pick up on the few key flaws that Nintendo had in the last game and compare that to where we are today. MP8, being the first major party game on the Wii fell into the trap that all games did in the Wii’s early years; the complete and total overuse of motion control. I understand, the motion control idea was “new” and exciting and that people wanted to promote it in every way possible. Unfortunately when every time I have to roll the dice or play a mini-game leads to me making sure I have enough arm room so that I don’t punch out grandma by accident there’s a problem. MP9 steps in to the picture and goes “Hey…enough hitting grandma, let’s just press the A button and waggle the Wii-mote for a few games while using its other functions like a normal controller for others.” This creates well balanced game play; mixing the use of the motion control technology for half the game while the rest (in most cases) has you turning the controller sideways and playing the game like an old NES controller.
The second major problem in MP8, as well as most of the other installments was the movement of the characters. The Mario Party games are based along a board game, presenting a good mix of obstacles and prizes. This gives the appearance of what could in theory be a well thought out game of strategy. In some cases the added effect of game altering “candies” and “capsules”, etc. can give a player a slight advantaged when used at the right time, but with everything being based off a random number on a dice block, that strategy then turns into pure luck. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that these things add to the chaos and fun (to some extent) but when the game presents itself with the intent of having players carefully planning their actions in order to have the most stars to win the dice block takes away from the games full potential. MP9 uses the dice block once more, but with the added effect of all players moving as a unit; some strategy returns but again, with majority of movements, bonuses and game changing events based on a random dice block mechanic its full potential is hindered. I will give it credit though; this time around players can select the mini-game to play, rather than having it selected at random giving the player an added strategic movement to the game play.
Speaking of mini-games; the “four movements then mini-game” mechanic has been changed for a more fast paced game. Players move around the board rolling the dice constantly but only when they land on a mini-game space or are given a mini-game at random do they go up against each other or as a team to gain mini stars. Mini stars? Not coins? Yep, this time around players compete to gain small purple and blue stars, and whoever has the most wins becoming the “Superstar” (with a shiny gold star over their head like in the previous titles). Racing around the board to spend 20 coins on one star has been replaced by a streamlined map to a predetermined goal. In its wake players pass through mini star collection points adding to their total or mini stars, subtracting from their total instead.
Like the Wii Party titles, the maps are all set with a beginning and an end with midpoint events as filler. Gone are the days of setting turn limits between 15 to 100 moves. The boards though give you the added challenge of working as a team to make it to the end; facing off against Bowser’s hardest bosses twice in order to move forward to the finish line. The player who causes the group to move into the spots (as they all move together in a themed vehicle for the stage) is called the “Captain” and gets a predetermined “Captain Bonus Mini Stars” once the boss is defeated. One thing to note is that when entering a boss fight, the game enters a screen similar to Smash Bros. in that a field of blue divides one half of the screen with the players saying verses (insert boss here) in a field of red
Bowser takes over when the game board is nearly completed, giving the players “presets” in the form of added Bowser Spaces. These new spaces can do anything from give 10,000 mini stars, a Bowser Revolution to reverse a mini-game or giving 5 mini stars to the last place player. Personally I have never really noticed these spaces in the time that I have had to play it so far. A cut scene plays once one reaches the “Almost there” point (marked by a green flag from Super Mario Bros.) but, other than that, the spaces are not that noticeable outside of the one instance in which the end was nearly covered in them but other than that there will be maybe three Bowser Spaces when there are still 25 or so spaces left to move.
The selection of characters uses the same cast seen in many of the past titles. Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Yoshi, Birdo, Wario, Waluigi, Toad, and Koopa fill the ranks of all the selectable players from the beginning. Two unlockable characters are left in shadow *cough*Shy Guy*cough*MagiKoopa*cough* that can be brought into party mode by playing through on solo. One of my favorite improvements to the game comes through the selection of how many people can play. In previous installments if I was playing with my brother and sister we had to include a fourth computer player that would throw off the game entirely in most events. This time around I can choose to keep it a simple three player game if desired, keeping it humans only.
While this game is not my personal favorite in the series, it does make it into my top 5, and is easily one of the better released in recent years. Graphically it is comparable to the Mario Galaxy games and its controls are easy to pick up. For anyone out there looking for a good party game I recommend picking this up in the near future.
I give this game: 3 out of 5.