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Mario Party (Nintendo 64) artwork

Mario Party (Nintendo 64) review

"Mini games are generally designed to be a distraction from the main game - a fun little addition to keep you busy if you get bored with the big picture. Other times mini games are cleverly squeezed into the main game as a way to beat enemies, get through some maze, or find an item. But Mario Party is unique in the way it implements its mini games: as the main part of its gameplay. "

Mini games are generally designed to be a distraction from the main game - a fun little addition to keep you busy if you get bored with the big picture. Other times mini games are cleverly squeezed into the main game as a way to beat enemies, get through some maze, or find an item. But Mario Party is unique in the way it implements its mini games: as the main part of its gameplay.

In an attempt to make this more of a real game instead of just a collection of mini games, the developers included a story. It is described in the two-minute-long opener that appears before the title screen. We see a group of our favorite videogame characters of the time: Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Wario, Yoshi, and Peach, having what appears to be a little meeting in a grassy field. By eavesdropping on their conversation, we hear (or read, rather) them discussing a scrumptious-sounding title as SuperStar. Where this thought came from, we don't know, but they all seem to really want this title. An argument breaks out over who the true SuperStar should be. Each thinks that they deserve it the most. Thankfully before a fistfight between Donkey Kong and Peach the princess (would be a bit one-sided, I think) breaks out, Toad, the peaceful mushroom-head (clearly not a drug joke), suggests that they all compete for the lucrative title while also helping overcome the evil Bowser. The characters agree that even though this is a bit lame, it's the best way to prove their superiority, and the game begins.

Now reading about this you might be thinking, "That story is complete BS." To be honest, I would agree with you. This mini plot came completely out of nowhere, and has little to do with anything. But that's okay, because the game really doesn't need a plot. Why they attempted to squeeze in some quick little explanation is beyond me, because it added nothing to the game. But anyway, once this random scene ends we are taken to a little town with a few buildings and a big-ass green pipe in the middle leading to who knows where. Taking a quick glance around at the buildings we see a bank, a store, a weird place with seemingly no use, and an "Options House". Aptly named too. Anyway, more interesting is the river running through town that has a little raft on it that says "Mini Game Island" over it. But let's not worry about that now, because the large pipe looks more exciting.

Jumping in we find, not surprisingly, it's a warp pipe. With pipe rushing up and up in the background, we see plummeting Toad. He/She/It is asking us for specifics on the game we want to play. After selecting a map, a number of moves, and your character and the computer's characters, the game is about to begin. We are sucked through the warp pipe at last and arrive at our destination. After a quick scan over the entire level, we land next to good old Koopa. He tells us quite a bit, and in his little prepared speech he also mentions the goal of the board. This is usually something simple like helping a trapped Yoshi escape or lighting a giant birthday cake. This is done by the winner of the game to show how awesome they are because they helped out.

But how to win? Well the game plays like a giant, pixelated board game in which you are the piece. You jump up and hit the random number block, the game's version of rolling a dice, and then you move that many places on the board. You collect 3 coins from landing on the blue circles, lose 3 for landing on a red one, and you get to play a one-player mini-game for landing on a mini-game circle. There's also the question mark circle which will do different things depending on the level you're playing on, and the exclamation mark circle which starts a little Chance Time game, where two players are randomly selected and end up either giving the other one coins or stars, all selected by the dice rolls. There's the mushroom circle for getting an extra roll or losing a turn. Finally and perhaps most importantly, there's the Bowser space.

Now rarely is a flaming devilish-looking space on a board game a good thing, and in this game it most definitely is not. Landing on a Bowser space will drag your ass over to Bowser, where he will randomly select a way to torment you and steal your coins. So the goal of all of this board-game action is to get as many stars as possible. But you don't just get handed stars, no, you have to buy them with coins. It's 20 coins and you also have to make your way across the sometimes very complicated board to get to the spot. So where do the mini-games come in on all of this? Well, after each turn (when all four players go once), a random mini-game is selected. This game could be every-player-for-themselves, two-on-two, or even three-on-one, depending on the last turn. The winner or winners of the mini-game earn coins to add to their total and then another turn begins.

The mini-games are therefore a huge part of the game. The winner of the most mini-games will easily have the best chance to win the game altogether, but let's not jump ahead. First let's look at the mini-games themselves. They range from as simple as jumping up at a bunch of blocks and collecting the coins that come out to playing two-on-two "bombsketball" (exactly what it sounds like), to playing bash the player dressed like Bowser with a hammer. The games are all incredibly unique and wide-spread enough that they keep things interesting. Rarely will you play the same game multiple times in one game, and even more rarely will you find a mini-game you absolutely despise. Before each game, an instruction screen pops up that gives you plenty of time to read exactly what to do along with reading the controls to do it. You can take as long as you need to read, which means you'll never be shoved into a game confused.

Once you're in, you need to do whatever the game asks to get as many coins as possible. Some games you actually literally collect the coins yourself by destroying as many boxes as you can or fishing for floating money bags. Other games you race to the end and the winner gets a prize while the other players get nothing. In other games still, one player will gain coins while others lose coins. No two games are too similar either in how they play or how the coins are earned, so things don't feel too repetitive. Each style of game plays well, whether you're on your own or playing two-on-two with a friend or computer-controlled player. While some of the mini-games are chosen completely by luck, and one or two seem almost impossible to beat, most of them will get easier with practice.

Anyway, once you play through a certain number of turns, the stakes are increased, as each space on the board is doubled in coin value. This opens the door for late-game comebacks. Once the game ends, all four players are lined up, and the final stars are handed out. It's not always the player who had the most stars from the game board that wins, because you can win stars at the end for different things. One is given out to the player who held the most coins at one time, another is given to the winner of the most mini-games, another is given to the person who is given to the player who landed on the most question-mark circles. This way, everyone still has a chance up to the end.

But after all the stars are handed out and added to the totals from the board game, the SuperStar is finally chosen. The player with the most stars will win, and if there's a tie then the player with more coins will win. The winner gets the title of SuperStar and dances around a bit in celebration. A cool animation follows showing the second and third place finishers, and the last place player is shown being eaten by a giant fish and stuff. It's a good way to comically display the loser before the winner is given a nice freeze frame showing them with their arms in the air and the message "You are the SUPERSTAR!" above them. And that's all there is to it. After that, the title screen will change to display the most recent winner kicking ass in some random situation. Pretty cool add-on.

After each game, the coin totals you collected (along with the other human-controlled players' coins) go into your bank. You can use those coins to go to the aforementioned store and buy new levels and other things to enhance gameplay. You can also check out the mini-game island where you can play through each mini-game to move onto the next one. You're challenged to win each one, and it gets pretty challenging later on. It leads you on a long path to the finish. A fun way to play all the mini-games without having to play an actual game.

The graphics in the game are very impressive for its time. The levels have some marvelous features like clouds and whirlpools. I enjoy the little details and the overall cleanness of it. There's few graphical problems if any and little repetition, so everything looks good and you're always impressed with each new board you play on. The sound isn't anything special, but it's Mario-like and up-beat to keep the fun boardgame feel going. The only music that I think I found actually irritating was the instruction screen music. It was just a bit overplayed I think and it started to bother me. The music in the mini-games are excellent, always properly fitting the environment. Notables were the bongo tune for the limbo mini-game and the sea tunes for the ones out on the water.

So all in all, I was impressed with this game. Though I was bored from the start with the weakly thrown in story, I was immediately hooked on the mini-games. It's a great multiple-person game, as friends tend to be more fun to beat than computers in mini-games. The graphics and board-designs are at the perfect balance between complex and simple to keep things smooth. The mini-games themselves are original and always fun to play. The store keeps things interesting game after game, by challenging you to collect more coins to buy new things to play with. The replay value is high, as the game seems to never get old when you're playing with a buddy or two. So grab some and play, this is a classic that you need to play before you buy your copy of Mario Party 34, or whatever number they're up to these days.

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Community review by iamtheprodigy (August 02, 2007)

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