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Nintendo’s Mario Party franchise has been one of those “wow they’re still going” type of franchises. It started back in 1999 for the Nintendo 64 and now they’re at the 10th entry for the Wii U. I wouldn’t say they were great games, but the first three iterations have that dorm room feeling Mario Kart 64 and Goldeneye 007 had. In other words, there’s plenty of fun with Mario Party, specifically with local friends, but the formula hasn’t changed significantly till the 9th game because of a different developer. Mario Party 10 is the Wii U debut for the franchise and the 2nd one by ND Cube. While there’s some interesting ideas, this party feels like one of those parties where the one that supposed to bring the alcohol didn’t.
This is actually my first Mario Party game since the third one, so I missed all the GameCube and Wii entries. The big change with Mario Party 9 because of ND Cube’s first foray with the series is that all players move together in a vehicle through the boards. The player with the most mini-stars that can be accumulated moving through the boards and doing well in the minigames wins the game. Speaking of the minigames, they are now only in specific spaces instead of after a full turn revolution. In addition, there is rarely any opportunities to screw over your opponents or make a comeback run compared to past games. The main party mode in Mario Party 10 is more of the same of what ND Cube started in the last game and those expected a classic return to form with this mode will be disappointed. Most of the luck with this mode is on the dice rolls and getting special ones does mix in some strategy in terms of whether to keep going to the boss minigames, moving to a specific space or trying to get your opponents to mess up. I can see why the series wanted to go in this direction for the sake of faster games, but the second time is not the charm for the vehicle mechanics.
The marquee attraction for Mario Party 10 especially based on how Nintendo has been promoting this sequel is Bowser Party. This different spin on the core party mode gives Bowser his most pivotal role yet in the series where it is him against Mario and crew. This is surprisingly Nintendo’s take on asynchronous multiplayer with some interesting ideas, but I just wish there’s more of it. The four characters have to make to the goal of the board like the regular Mario Party mode, but Bowser will be at their tails taking away their hearts by his specific mini-games. If all four run out of hearts, Bowser wins the game. Bowser Party provides most usage of the gamepad compared to the rest of the modes where the Bowser player uses the gamepad while the other players have Wiimotes. Unfortunately, you can’t use the gamepad in the regular mode as another Wiimote, which sucks for those short of controllers. Bowser Party’s big flaw is the lack of game boards (only three of the six boards are playable) and mini-games, which there are only a dozen of them with Bowser involved. For being the big new thing for this Mario Party sequel, Bowser Party ends up as another bummer.
Then there’s Amiibo Party as Mario Party 10 is Nintendo’s second big game with amiibo support to the point a new line of amiibos came out the same day as the game. The special edition of the game is bundled with a new Mario amiibo since you need one to play the mode. Amiibo Party is also the closest to classic Mario Party out of the rest of the modes. There’s a small square game board and you collect stars for ten turns just like the earlier games with minigames after every turn. However, just like the two other modes, there are rare chances for comeback plays and not many opportunities to steal coins or stars from opponents. Plus, the gimmicks in character-specific boards based on your amiibos don’t shake up the game that much. Amiibo Party is a reminder that fans are nostalgic for classic Mario Party and wish that the vehicle concept never existed.
The minigames themselves have been hit and miss throughout the franchise and it is no exception in this sequel. There’s some good ones here, some are newer versions of older games with a different twist, but there while others fall flat especially those that require motion controls. In general I wish there was more minigames because after playing through all the regular boards once, I played all of them. The challenges system from Super Smash Bros. is in Mario Party 10 and most of those are mini-game specific, so there is at least replay value trying to complete specific tasks to beat those challenges. In addition there’s an in-game shop to buy two more characters, new vehicles, music and more.
Graphically, Mario Party 10 looks great. It’s aesthetic is reminiscent of all the other Mario games out on Wii U, more like Super Mario 3D World compared to other titles. The load times are however, surprisingly longer than average for a Nintendo game. Telling everyone to hold your Wiimote in a pointer stance after every minigame gets grating and annoying, but I can see why Nintendo and ND Cube made this design decision for the sake of kids playing. The variety of game boards are your expected mix of Mario staples from a Mushroom Kingdom-esque theme park, a Boo themed board, water board, airships and Bowser’s Castle.
Mario Party’s Wii U debut in a nutshell your by-the-numbers Mario Party sequel with more of the same vehicle-based mechanics some fans are not happy to see come back, new mini-games and boards to play in. There were some interesting ideas with the gamepad-focused Bowser Party mode and using amiibos in Amiibo Party, but Amiibo Party feels like a slap into the face of those wanting classic Mario Party back and got a stripped down version as a result. Bowser Party has more potential and it’s moments despite lack of content. Of course playing with friends will provide some fun, but you’re better off playing Nintendo Land, Fortune Street or Wii Party U if you’re looking for something similar. Even for the many that are nostalgic for classic Mario Party, the first three games are still on the Wii Virtual Console assuming you got the controllers to play it on the Wii U. Mario Party 10 should give a Nintendo a wakeup call to go back with the drawing board for the series if they want to keep going beyond ten.