Mario Party
  • Genre:
    • Party
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 12/18/1998
    • US 02/08/1999
    • UK 03/09/1999
Score: 80%

This review was published on 11/09/2015.

Mario Party is a party video game developed by Hudson Soft and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. This is the first game in the highly successful Mario Party series, which spawned over ten games across many different platforms. It was originally released in Japan on December 18, 1998, North America on February 8, 1999, and Europe on March 9, 1999. In May 1998, Hudson and Nintendo entered into a partnership together, and this is the first game to result from that joint venture. Hudson is known far and wide for the Bomberman series, with Bomberman sort of being their company mascot. Basically, Bomberman is to Hudson as Mario is to Nintendo. In any case, Mario Party focuses on providing a stellar multiplayer experience, taking full advantage of the N64's four controller ports to support up to four players. As its name implies, Mario Party is a fun game to bring out at parties. Trust me, I know; I used to have a tradition of doing just that on my birthday every year. Now let's get this party started.

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Believe it or not, Mario Party actually has a story. Of course, it's not exactly a riveting tale of intrigue. The story starts with Mario pompously declaring to his friends that he's the biggest star of Mario Land, which would make him the Super Star. I mean, that does make sense; the land is named after him, after all. This self-centered declaration didn't sit well with Mario's pals, as they had different ideas on the matter. One by one, each of Mario's friends began listing reasons why they believe they should be the Super Star instead. That created a bit of a conundrum, because due to the arbitrary rules of Mario Land, there can only be one true Super Star. The rising tension gave rise to an uncomfortable atmosphere. Suddenly, Toad comes up with a solution to their woes: in order to determine the truest of Super Stars, they'll go on a fantastic adventure that will test their mettle. Whoever comes out on top will win the prestigious title. The fate of the Super Star is up to you, since you can pick your character. Personally, I'd rather play Kirby Super Star and call it a day.

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The basic premise to Mario Party is that you're essentially playing a virtual board game. To keep with the Mario theme, dice rolls are simulated by players hitting dice blocks with their head, which shatters the block into a randomized number. Prior to starting, four computer or human controlled players hit dice blocks to establish the turn order, and then the game officially begins. Players then take turns hitting dice blocks to determine how many spaces they will move on the giant themed board. Occasionally, there will be split paths that'll prompt players with a choice on where to go, but for the most part, your path is set in stone and all you can do is move onwards and upwards. Stopping on certain spaces will produce different effects, like how blue spaces give you coins, red spaces take away coins, question mark spaces cause special events to occur, Bowser spaces result in general misfortune for all, etc. Each board has certain gimmicks in place to vary the experience slightly, too. It's a pretty straightforward system that mimics the dynamics of a real board game, except you'll never end up debating the rules, as the game automatically handles all of that stuff for you.

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To attain victory, players must gather as many stars as possible within a set number of turns. At the start of each game, Toad will appear on a random space on the board with a star in hand. Players must reach Toad and buy the star with twenty coins, at which point, the process will begin anew. Toad will generally appear deep into the board, requiring players to travel far to get their prize. Basically, it's a race to the star. Because of that, rolling high is usually highly desirable, as that'll get you to the star faster. There are other, far more devious ways to get stars, though. For instance, some boards have a Boo space, and if you land on it, you can pay Boo a large quantity of coins to steal someone else's star. In the event that the game ends with two or more players tying in stars, the tie will then be broken by whoever has the most coins. The furious battle for star and coin supremacy keeps the game exhilarating all throughout due to the constant suspense of who'll end up on top.

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Mini-games are what make Mario Party what it is. After everyone's turn has ended, players will be forced to play a randomly selected mini-game together. All mini-games are divided into different categories, like free-for-all, two versus two, one versus three, and a couple of single player challenges. There are a whopping fifty mini-games in all, each one having you doing different things. The controls and objectives change from one mini-game to the next, and there's a little tutorial screen that pops up before each game begins that explains the rules for that specific game. The winner is typically awarded a bunch of coins, and this is the main way players earn money to buy stars. Among the mini-games you'll encounter, some will task players with bumping each other off a small platform with balls, carve pictures into the ground with jackhammers, play a game of hot potato with a bomb, race on a tiny track, and other wacky stuff. None of the mini-games have the depth of a fully fledged game, and they generally only last a minute or so. Despite that, most of the mini-games are pretty enjoyable, being that they're creative and usually frantically fast paced.

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Some mini-games require players to rapidly rotate the analog stick, like this one where you have to pedal on a bike to power a light bulb to scare off an incoming Boo. This actually resulted in a controversy for Nintendo, as there were many complaints that this activity resulted in blisters, friction burns, and even lacerations on people's hands. No lawsuits were ever filed, but Nintendo of America went along with a settlement that consisted of sending out gloves to anyone who had injured their hands while playing the game. Ever since then, Nintendo has seldom used the gimmick of rotating analog sticks in future entries in the gargantuan Mario Party series. That's honestly a good move on their part, because on top of these mini-games being bad for your hands, they also wore down the analog stick on your controller. Plus, these particular mini-games were almost always incredibly frustrating to play.

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In addition to the main adventure mode, which can be played with or without friends, there is one additional mode that is strictly single player. The mode in question is referred to as Mini-Game Island. This mode has you progressing through a giant map, one space at a time, with each space constituting a single mini-game. In order to progress to the next space, you have to beat the mini-game on the space you're currently on. There are nine worlds with anywhere from four to eight mini-games apiece. You also have limited lives during this mode that you can increase by beating mini-games or collecting a hundred coins; losing all of your lives sends you back to where you last saved. Mini-Game Island is essentially a different way to appreciate Mario Party's many mini-games, especially since you don't have to worry about the board game aspect. Conceptually, this is a great mode, but there are huge, sporadic difficulty spikes that could potentially ruin the experience. A few mini-games feel almost impossible. Don't even get me started on Slot Car Derby...

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As you play the game, you'll have the opportunity to unlock various things. The things in question include new boards, new items, new modes, new features, and new options. You can use the coins you get in adventure mode to purchase additional items and features from various shops. The coolest of these shops is the mini-game house, where you can buy mini-games you played during the main game and then play them here at any time individually. All of this gives you a greater incentive to play the game, but some of the additional content is way too tedious to unlock. One of the extra boards requires that you collect around a hundred stars throughout all of your play sessions, which is very time consuming. The good thing is that you can unlock most of the stuff even while playing with friends, so that makes the tediousness a little more bearable.

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With Mario Party, the party never ends. The large quantity of fanciful mini-games, the colorful boards, the countless unlockables, and fun four player experience make Mario Party a real party pleaser. Most of what happens in the board sections of the game comes down to luck, but the mini-games themselves are often skill based, testing your reflexes, hand eye coordination, and sometimes memory. That combination of luck and skill creates a casual atmosphere that allows players of all skill levels to have a good time, yet the game still retains a modicum of fairness. Sometimes you can get a little too unlucky, though, and that can be frustrating. As long as you don't take thing things too seriously, Mario Party is a swell multiplayer game.

Word Count: 1,583

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