I’ve been a fan of the Mario Party series since the very first one back on the the Nintendo 64. I’ve played countless hours across Mario Party 1, 2 and 3, and moderately enjoyed the first couple of entries on the GameCube. Ever since then though, I’ve been waiting for an entry in the series that can capture the same level of fun as those first few entries. It’s been a very long wait through a full console cycle, boring boards and uninspired mini-games, but I think Nintendo has finally got the series back to where it needs to be.
Most people I’ve talked to who follow the Mario Party games agree that Mario Party 9 and 10 were the absolute low point for the series. Partly because the mini-games were just downright boring, but also because the sense of competition was severely curtailed. Outplaying friends on the board had pretty much gone away because every rode around in a big ol’ cart and went to all the same spaces. In Mario Party 10, mini-games were relegated to specific spaces on the board instead of end-of-turn events. So rare were these games, that a group could go a whole game without playing a single mini-game. It just wasn’t fun.
Super Mario Party is the opposite of this. It doesn’t capture all the old magic of the original games, but it does quite a lot right. For starters, the stupid cart is gone. Everybody gets their own turn and gets to make their own decisions as they move around the board. Simply winning minigames isn’t enough again; you have to make good use of the board in order to win. The mini-games are good for the most part too. They make a little too much use of the motion controls, but the motion control games are actually fun. Even among a group that’s been playing Mario Party for years, it’s not clear who’s going to win each game. The game concepts and controls are just foreign enough to get everyone on a more or less even playfield.
The game boards themselves are smaller, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Standard dice rolls have been brought down to a maximum of 6 and players now have a little more control over their movement. Rolling a 1 is no longer a wasted turn because of this change, and it’s also much harder to be doomed by bad board placement. Winning on the board is even more important than ever too, because there are only two stars instead of three, and they’re awarded for different stats every time. In other words, get those stars early because you’re probably not going to be saved by the bonus stars.
As for what I don’t like, there’s a couple things. I don’t like that battle games don’t really exist anymore. They’re still kind of there, but they’re these simple little micro-game events that have none of the tension of the old battle games. The lack of maps is annoying, the character dice being obviously weight towards the +/- coin or 0 options makes them an unattractive option most of the time, and the game’s habit of giving trailing computer players a free gold pipe is downright obnoxious. I also don’t like that I can’t have a game that lasts longer than 20 turns.
All in all though the magic is here. I’ve played 5 or 6 games with my friends so far and we’ve spent the entirety of them all trotting out our best Mario Party trash talk and laughing up a storm. If you like Mario Party at all, then Super Mario Party is definitely for you. It took an incredibly long time, but Nintendo has finally succeeded in making the game fun again!
Have you had the chance to try Super Mario Party yet? What do you like about it? What did you dislike about the previous few entries in the series?
Image from Nintendo.com Store Page