Monday, April 13, 2015

Mario Party 10 Review

Let's have a party! A party where everyone kills each other in the end...

Oh Mario Party. I love you, yet I hate you. I think some of your games are pure bliss, while others are tedious and boring. Everyone has an opinion about what their favorite Mario Party is and others think that the series has always been bad an horribly imbalanced. While your mileage with the series may vary, each game essentially is its own new experience. Some games are better than others, while other games are outright bad to play. Essentially, don't judge the series as a whole, but judge it by each of its individual entries. Which brings us to Mario Party 10, the first game in the series to be on the Wii U. Is it good? Parts.

Mario Party 10 is divided into three separate parts, each with their own unique gameplay modes and ways to play. There's your standard Mario Party, Bowser Party, and Amiibo Party. Regardless of which mode you choose, you'll be able to select a character to play with and play through a variety of mini games to win the game. Some modes will have you work with partners to win while others will have you work by yourself to win. No matter what happens though, friendships will be tested and relationships will be lost.

You know, the very idea that Mario Party ruins friendships is something that changes with each game. I've had the "honor" to play through the first four Mario Party games with a group of friends, and each game has stimulated fine results. And by fine, I mean constant yelling and rage at each other. In later games though that I've played with other friends, the results have never been as aggressive. I know that it comes down to the people that play the game, but each game has its own different type of balance and fairness. The earlier games had more elements of chance and luck, which makes it more frustrating for players that lose. They could have lost by a bad dice roll, or by another player being incredibly lucky. Later games in the series balanced out the ratio of luck to skill, which affected the core elements of the series. Paradoxically, the fairer the game became, the less people have enjoyed the series. That's why most entries after 8 have had such a lukewarm response. 8, 9, and Island Tour attempted to make the series more fair and balanced, to the series' detriment.

So, is Mario Party 10 fair or unfair? Personally, I think that the game is balanced. It's not too unfair to players, but fair enough so that the last place player has a shot at winning the whole game. Unfortunately though, the game is balanced in ways that are not traditional to the core of the franchise. The winners of the game are determined by mini stars, not by coins and stars. Mini stars are little stars that players can collect en masse though mini games or passing spaces (more on that in a second), and the player with the most amount of mini stars win. There's very little strategy in the game besides "which space do I move to in this fork in the road?" Before, a player could have multiple items to use, different spaces to go to and different people to encounter. Now, all of the boards are just one long path to the end, so player choice is completely neglected. You are literally a victim to the dice in this game.

However, I will say the game is balanced because every player moves together. All of the players are placed in a single car and move with each dice roll. So, if a player is six spaces away from a group of mini stars, yet a player rolls a 4, the next play only needs to roll a 2 to collect the mini stars, Keeping everyone together evens out the game just a bit so that players have a chance to steal victory based solely on dice rolls. Everyone is in the same boat, so everyone has a chance. Add in the plethora of mini games, which are very good in this game, and you'll have a fun time stealing victory from a player. Yeah you'll blame the dice rolls for your lose, which is unfair, but it's better than having other players be directly responsible for making you lose.

That's all the Mario Party mode though. Mario Party has everyone move together through five different boards while competing against each other. Bowser Party is where everything really changes up and is one of the better parts of the game. Now, instead of each of the four players in the car fighting against each other, they must now work together to outrun Bowser before he defeats everyone. Bowser can be played by a fifth player using the Gamepad, and has to catch up to the players in order to fight them. Players now have hearts instead of mini stars, and Bowser mini games replace normal mini games. When Bowser catches up the players, a Bowser mini game ensues where players have to try and survive against Bowser. If Bowser damages the players during these mini games, they'll lose some of their hearts, and if a player loses all of their hearts, they cannot move the car anymore until they receive more hearts through either spaces or events.

Bowser Party throws away individual team work and allows groups to work together in a surprisingly fair mode. Players are still at the mercy of the dice rolls, but if a player lose all of their hearts, they can give specific dice blocks to the group still alive. These dice blocks are actually very particular and helpful, allowing players to escape Bowser much easier. Bowser Party games are always very close and can either result in Bowser winning or Bowser losing. I've seen plenty of matches that were down to the wire where both parties inevitably won. I'm just as surprised as anyone else that Bowser Party is very fair and balanced, but here I am saying the truth.

I will say though that the board selection is awful in this game. None of the boards are that particularly interesting or unique, and the numbers are incredibly low and small. Mario Party mode has 5 different boards, while Bowser Party has only 3, and those boards are carbon copy clones of the boards offered in Mario Party mode. In truth, there are only 5 very small boards to play on that are narrow, have one singular path, and only a few are slightly modified for Bowser Party.

Amiibo Party is much different though and is by far the best part of the game. It's a much smaller and lighter version of a traditional game of Mario Party 1. It's a small board, only a square with only 28 spaces, but you can get coins, buy stars, and play mini games at the end of each turn. Yes each game is only 10 turns long, but who cares! It's a classic game of Mario Party! You can screw over other players! You can steal stars! You can ruin your friendships again! It's been nearly 8 years since we've had a traditional Mario Party game, so seeing a return to form is really appreciated.

The biggest problem, of course, comes inherent with the nature of Amiibos. Amiibos, Nintendo's new NFC figures, are small and fun to play with, but are incredibly hard to find. I'm not going to get into this here, but several of the characters have Amiibos that are incredibly rare and hard to find, so you may never be able to play as them in this game. When you place the Amiibo on the gamepad (you need to place it on there to register your character), you can customize their appearance and give them a specific item to use during the game. You can also change one of the four sections of the board to make it a section based around your character i.e., if you place a Luigi Amiibo on the board, one of the sections will become a Luigi section, covered with ghosts, boos, and banks.

However, nothing can be this simple. In order to play Amiibo Party, you need an Amiibo for each player and can only roll by touching the Amiibo to the gamepad. When it's my turn. I have to place my Peach Amiibo on the gamepad to roll, and I'll have to do this again whenever I want to take an item, roll again, or use my item. Even worse is that I also have to hold my Wii remote to play the mini games, so I have to hold two separate objects to fully play this mode, which is cumbersome at best. In short, yes we get a classic Mario Party experience, but even with its hindrances for a full experience, I'm still grateful and thankful we have this mode.

Bottom line, good game, but flawed game. Some elements work very well, like Amiibo Party and Bowser Party, but the series is still stuck in a mire that is hard to get out of. For a while, the franchise hasn't been as decisive or as exciting as it has been over a decade ago, which is fine for Nintendo's modern persona, but a bit disappointing for older gamers that have stuck with the series for years. We want classic Nintendo games, not new Nintendo games that kinda-sorta understand where their predecessors came from. This game is a family friendly Mario Party game, plain and simple. It's new Nintendo, for better or worse. I still had fun with i, but I missed what made the series one of the best party franchises of all time.


And yes, I'm going to finish the Pokemon Retrospective. Just give me some time is all.

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