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004: Star Hoarder or That Time Mario Had a Party

Posted By SoraRabbit77 665 days ago on Entertainment - As mentioned in my previous post, my first online poll dictated the next subject I would tackle would be Mario Party. So here we go!If you know me, you know I love me some board games. Some of my happiest memories are game nights either at my brother's houses or at my house in our game room. Cocoashade and I have a growing collection of tabletop games.

Our collection.

My love of board games started in childhood, playing games like Monopoly, Sorry, Scrabble, Battleship... and lots more. When I became an adult, my play dropped off quite a bit, but my brothers helped me rediscover my love for tabletop games. I recall being invited to game night where they taught me how to play the Battlestar Galactica game by Fantasy Flight. My mind was blown. This was not like the games I had grown up on. This game was complex. This game was filled with psychological elements. You had to second and third guess your decisions. (Sometimes more.) And strangest of all... there was the possibility of dying. In one of my first games my inexperience and questionable choices led to me being airlocked. I had to start over as a whole new character. (In another play through my character got depressed and shot herself in the head with no way for me to stop her. Heavy stuff.)But I digress. I brought this up because it rekindled my interest in tabletop games and got me collecting my own. My favorites right now are Killer Bunnies and Dominion, but I will always love Battlestar. I got my own copy and all the expansions, and every now and then we have a Battlestar game night. (Not often enough. We're about due for another one, if any of my peeps are reading!)So board games are one great love of mine. What's another? Well, video games, obviously. And so if you combine the two? Well, you usually get boring, plodding crap. (Have you ever tried to play Monopoly on the NES? Yikes.) But one of the times it was done right was Mario Party.

Party Time! (Credit: Nintendo)

Once again (and you're going to see a pattern emerging here) my brothers were the ones who introduced me to Mario Party. It was Part 3 that we played that first time. I was Donkey Kong. I was always Donkey Kong. (At least until they took him away as an option. Sigh. I miss my smelly monkey.) I was an immediate fan. It combined the flashiness and cutesiness of Super Mario with the strategy and luck of a dice-based board game. Brilliance.

Yes, that is a terrifying anthropomorphic dice-man. And no, I don’t know why. (Credit: Nintendo)

Breakdown time: Mario Party is a long-running series of games on Nintendo that stars Mario, his friends, and his enemies. It can be played with up to four human players, but any less than that and computer players fill up the spots. You work your way around a board depending on an RNG dice roll. As you travel you collect coins in an effort to afford a star. Once you pass the space containing the star merchant, you buy the star and are one step closer to being the Party Star. At the end of every round all the players compete in mini games for coins. There are also items to help you on the way and various events happen on the different spaces on the board. (Such as the dreaded Bowser attacks.) At the end of the game, bonus stars may be awarded based on different criteria and whoever has the most stars wins. In the case of a star tie, the player with the most coins win.One time, and only one time, Cocoashade and I tied with both stars and coins. That was on our Friday the 13th play session that I mentioned in my first post. I did not know this could happen. It was amazing.

This has only happened to me once in all the time I've ever played. (Credit: Nintendo)

Mario Party 1-3 were on the Nintendo 64. Parts 4-7 were on GameCube. Parts 8 and 9 were on the Wii. Part 10 was on Wii U. And the latest in the series, Super Mario Party is on the Switch. (There are also 5 handheld versions and one for e-Reader, but I've only played the console entries.) I haven't played 9 and 10 yet... those are notable for changing up the game play in ways the fans weren't very fond of. Since I'm a completionist, I'm sure I will eventually get them and decide for myself. Sometimes I like things no one else likes. I'm cool like that.Each installment has its own feel and different mechanics. For instance, in Part 2 everyone is in costume depending on which board you play on. Part 4 is all about growing and shrinking using mushrooms. Part 6 has a day and night mechanic that changes game play depending on what phase the board is in. Parts 6 and 7 incorporated the GameCube microphone in some of the mini games. Part 8 and onward use motion control. Adding to the variety, each game has 6-15 different boards, each one with different game play.

This has got to be the stickiest game board in existence. (Credit: Nintendo)

Throwing chaos on the game, as usual, is Bowser. Landing on a Bowser space can seriously mess up your day. Bowser likes to steal your stars, your coins, Peach, your items... everything you love. And he laughs obnoxiously as he does it. After finishing all the main boards, there is usually a Bowser board you can unlock or purchase. These boards are typically more difficult and lava-filled.Until Super Mario Party, you couldn't actually play as Bowser. In Part 3, however, you could get a Bowser Suit and attack your opponents. That was fun.

Is this cosplay or cross-dressing? (Credit: Nintendo)

Helping you on your way is a changing set of items. These items are different depending on the game. Items were introduced in Part 2, but you could only have one of them. Starting with Part 3, you could have three items at a time. Items add to the strategy of the game. You can use them to modify your dice roll, attack your enemies, and sometimes even take you directly to the star.

Actually, no. Let's take you directly to a salad bar, big guy. (Credit: Nintendo)

There are various ways to gain coins in the game. Landing on a blue space at the end of your turn nets you 3 - 6. Occasionally you can trigger events on the board or find hidden chests. There are sometimes single player mini games that give you coins. With the Boo and some items you can steal coins from your opponents. The main method of increasing your spending money, however, are the mini games.The mini games give you challenge and variety. After everyone has taken a turn, a randomly-selected mini game plays. Depending on where you land on the board, the mini game can be 4 vs 4, 2 vs 2, or 3 vs 1. There are a lot of different types of mini games. Platforming, memory, timing challenges, puzzle, luck based, etc. The winner (or winners) of the mini game is awarded coins. In most of the games there are also battle mini games where everyone wagers a set number of their own coins, with the winners getting the majority of the pot. There can also be duel mini games where two players face off to steal coins or stars from each other. The games have a rotating group of characters you can play as. Each game includes Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and Wario. Part 3 added Waluigi and Daisy to the permanent roster. One of the positives about this game is the variety of characters. Whether you're male, female, fungus, terrapin, or undead, there are characters to represent you.

Happy monkey is happy. (Credit: Nintendo)

In the first games I was always Donkey Kong. Mostly because I found it amusing seeing a big, lanky ape doing some of the mini games. Also, he just looks so happy when he wins. Then with Part 5 they took DK away as a choice. I was a sad monkey. I started playing as Boo instead. Partly because I like Boo. He was my friend in the majority of the games when he was an NPC because he would steal money or stars from my enemies. (For a price!) Also I thought it was hilarious to see him floating around in the mini games. He would still slide on the ice even though he has no legs, and his little flipper arms couldn't possibly perform most of the tasks.

Lookit his little flipper arms! Also why jump when you always hover? (Credit: Nintendo)

In Super Mario Party I play as Goomba. He has no arms. This amuses me to no end. How the hell is he holding a tennis racket?

This raises so many questions. (Credit: Nintendo)

As mentioned, Part 9 and 10 changed things up a bit. Instead of individually moving around the game board, everyone now moves together in a car. Instead of accumulating stars, the players gather Mini Stars. Overall, fans were not pleased with these changes to the tried-and-tested game play and the reviews reflect this. Super Mario Party for the Switch marked a return to the traditional game play.There are more game modes and variations among the games, including the ability to have 8 players in Part 7 and online play in Super. But I think I have all the basics explained now.Mario Party has been a go-to game for me since I was first introduced to it by my brothers. I haven't played as often with my brothers as I would like, but each time has been memorable. The best time was at my bachelor party. That was the first time I tried Super Mario Party. I have also played with various ex's, and alone. (Going back to the N64 games for some of these screenshots was a jarring experience after playing the more modern releases.) I have the most fun playing with Cocoashade. We have a lot of laughs and gang up on the computer characters. It's a great way to pass the evening and unwind from a long week.My favorite installment has changed a couple of times. At first it was Part 3, mainly because it was more advanced than the first two, and it was my first exposure to the series. I'm doggedly nostalgic, so my introduction to something I love commonly becomes my preferred version. After a time, Part 4 won out, becoming my favorite. There were more options and I felt it was a better experience then the preceding games. The Mario Party games put out for the GameCube were smoother and I felt that this was most evident in Part 4. (5-7 seemed a tad cookie cutter, but they were still enjoyable. They didn't stand out to me by comparison, is all.) Another plus for Part 4 was making Donkey Kong enormous to stomp on people. Giant monkey is terrifying.

“Did somebody say terrifying?” (Credit: Nintendo)

But then Super Mario Party came out. As soon as I experienced this one, it instantly became my new favorite. The graphics are amazing-- everything is shiny and bright, smoothly rendered and easy on the eyes. There are more characters, including the return of Donkey Kong! (I know, he came back in Part 10, but I haven't tried that one yet.) Every character from the past installments were included, plus a few newcomers. This one finally included Bowser as a playable character, as mentioned earlier. Each character has their own die with different values, making for even more strategy. All unchosen characters can be randomly assigned to you as allies that follow you around the board, giving you even more dice to choose from. There are several game modes, some of which you need to play to unlock some of the charaters. The joycons are easy to use and very responsive. Plus they add in fun little tasks with them such as punching the dice block and high-fiving your partner after winning a mini game.All in all, Super Mario Party raises the standard for the series and I'm excited to see how they try to top it for the next game.

Of course I'm a damn winner. Look at me. (Credit: Nintendo)

Obviously, I'm a huge fan of the series. But in the interest of fairness, here are some pros and cons of the series as a whole:Downsides of these games: The luck aspect. Luck can completely turn and change the status quo with no way to prevent it. (That goes for pretty much every tabletop game, but I know a lot of people complain about luck in games, so I figured it was worth mentioning.) It can get frustrating to be winning and then have everyone gang up on you. The computer characters can be pretty ruthless, especially if playing on the harder difficulties. They typically single out whoever is in the lead. Oh, and it's much more fun with friends. One player mode is pretty weak on all the editions I tried it on. (Granted, I haven't tried all of them yet.) If you're playing the first game, there were several mini games involving rotating the control stick. This could hurt your hand and could wear out your controller. Beware of those. Some of the mini games suffer from unintuitive objectives and unresponsive or awkward controls.Upsides: This may seem like a smaller list, but I had upsides all through this post. As mentioned, these games are a lot of fun to play with friends and family. The unpredictability of the computer players can add challenge to the game. There's a lot of variety, with 11 different console games, 100 boards, and a total of 804 mini games altogether. The games overall are bright and cheerful. And shiny. Very, very shiny.

So shiny. (Credit: Nintendo)

Every game play experience is different. There are so many boards, mini games, and characters that you never play the same game twice. The computer players and random chance bring an interesting aspect of chaos to the proceedings. Luck can shift at any time, flipping the entire thing over on you with no warning. But there's a lot of strategy too… mostly in the use of your items to help you or hinder your opponents. It’s not always a mad dash to the next star. Sometimes you’re trying to drain your opponent’s bank account so they can’t get a star. Or calling on the Boo to steal their hard-won star away. There’s even teamwork involved. Some games are team affairs, with two or three players teaming up against the others. So in those cases you have to weigh how much you want the coins against the danger of giving an enemy the same amount of coins.

Boo is da man. (Credit: Nintendo)

A big aspect of this game is ease. It’s got the mechanics of a board game: the board, game pieces, dice, events. But you don’t have to set up the board, brush up on the rules, worry about getting a rule wrong and wrecking the experience. There is also no clean up. The game takes care of all that for you. It’s the fun of a board game with the convenience of a video game. This makes it a uncomplicated and easy option to fill an idle evening or a rainy day.Clearly, I'm a bit biased by good experiences with the games. Your experiences may vary, depending on your tastes and who you're playing with. For instance, playing with a sore loser may taint the whole thing. But as long as you have a good rapport with those you're playing against (or at least a healthy sense of competition and sportsmanship) it should go fine.

Yoshi’s evil. I knew it. (Credit: Nintendo)

So there you have it. My overview/review of the Mario Party series. I do recommend trying out any or all of the games, but if you want a good introduction and have a Nintendo Switch, try out Super Mario Party for sure. IMO it's the best of the series. If you're also a fan, let me know your favorite installment in the comments below and why it’s your favorite. I’d love to hear from you!Special shout out to those of you who voted in my recent poll. I hope you enjoyed this post. Also thanks go out to Cocoashade for helping me with the screenshots and playing lots of Mario Party with me while I developed this post. Next up is my long-promised review of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. See you all then!

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