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Mario Party is the type of game that needs no introduction. I have such fond memories of the original Mario Party so I was extremely excited to get my hands on the new addition to the series! Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch came out on October 5th and is bringing back the elements that made this game so amazing.
Let’s start with what this game is all about for those of you living under a rock. Super Mario Party is a multiplayer party game primarily focused on getting one to four players in a room to compete and see who will be the “Super Star”. At its most basic level, you’re playing a board game where each character rolls a die, moves a few spaces, and gains/loses coins doing so. After each player’s turn, you battle in a random mini-game and receive coins for the place you come in. You use those coins to buy stars which will appear in random spaces. The person with the most stars at the end wins! The game, of course, has more depth when it comes to event spaces for each board, random blocks that will appear, and the always frustrating, bonus stars awarded at the end of the game.
Anyone who has played a Mario Party game (excluding 9 and 10) already knows all of that though. So what does Super Mario Party add to make this entry memorable? For starters, they threw away the strange concept they had in Mario Party 9 and 10 where all characters were forced to ride together in a single vessel through the board. You can finally stretch your legs and roll a 6 to escape your competitors. They also added many quality of life additions to the game such as quick indicators of how many spots you are away from the star to make quicker decisions and an in-menu practice run of the mini-game you are about to play. It doesn’t seem like much but Super Mario Party, with these few changes, takes the game back to its roots.
Some of these new additions now include each character having their own dice block that will give them various perks in the game. Maybe you want a character with a balanced feel, like Mario, who has a dice block that will allow you to either move 1, 3, 5 or 6 spaces with three chances of rolling a 3. On the other hand, maybe you want a higher risk character like Bowser, who has a dice block that will allow you to either move 1, 8, 9 or 10 spaces but also two chances to roll and move 0 spaces while losing three coins. This adds a fun element to give you more options and feel like you have a little more power depending on your character. That being said, not all dice are created equally. For example, Monty Mole has a dice block where the only difference from the standard die is instead of moving 1 space he just gets +1 coin. Who would pick this guy?!?
Another fun addition to the game is the concept of allies. Landing on ally spaces or getting an ally phone item will allow you to get a random ally that will follow you throughout the rest of the game. They will provide you their dice block to use as well as always roll a 1 or 2 added to your roll. This can be both useful and annoying at times but the crazy thing is that you can have up to 4 allies joining you. This means you can have of an additional 8 spaces added to your roll. They also help in certain mini-games that you play where even if you get knocked out of a game, you can still come in first place if your ally wins instead. This change was frustrating at first because I felt like I rarely landed on this space but does add more layers to the game, which I appreciate. Fun new perks and the inclusion of a retro style is all well and good, but I also have several issues with the game. My major gripe is that there are only 4 boards to play and most of them feel way too small. It feels like they tried to speed up the traversal through the map but it instead just feels like I am getting less area to play with. The worlds seem chunked down and only have one or two major things that differentiate them from one another. This becomes super frustrating because the star spawns can be so close to one another. Someone can end up rolling a large enough number, (especially with the allies) getting a star and walking right to the next spawn point to buy a second star. This shortening concept is strengthened by the fact that stars only cost 10 rather than 20 coins and the maximum amount of turns has been lowered from 50 to 20. Those last two points don’t bother me as much as the maps. I only like about 1 or 2 of the maps and those still seem way too small in comparison to previous titles.
My Second major concern is their concept of online play or lack thereof. Yes, you can play Super Mario Party online, but only a marathon of mini-games. Playing any of the main party boards is restricted in online mode and I think this is a huge mistake. I had planned for this game to be the one that finally pushes me to buy the online Switch service. However, having such a small fraction of the game available online just doesn’t feel like enough. This feels like it could have been a big push for the online service but perhaps they are simply trying to focus on getting more people together and actually having a party in person.
There are also a few additional things about the game that I think could be improved. The same script is repeated a million times if you keep playing the same boards and game modes. They really need to add more skip buttons (I might lose it if I have to hear another Toad tip everytime I open the map). That and the fact that the rhythm-based game mode, in my eyes, could have just been extra mini-games in the standard Mario party game instead. Why limit the times where you can force players to get up and dance just to a specific game mode type?
Although I mentioned a marathon of mini-games not being enough for online, don’t let that fool you on the quality of these games. A majority of these minigames are fantastic. They utilize the joy con in silly ways like making you jiggle the remote to get candy out of a jar or flying a plane through a swarm of fuzzy monsters. Each game feels smooth and responsive using the remote. Plus, they have enough variety when it comes to joy con jiggling to more standard minigames using the analog stick or a button. I personally found myself laughing and screaming with my competitors in quite a few of those mini-games which is what you need for a couch co-op game. Of course, there are always a few duds when it comes to some of the minigames in Mario Party Games. I’m looking at you “Sort of Fun” (The minigame title says it all really)!
All in all, though, this game is a true Mario Party title and delivers when you are with a group of friends and just want to have a good time. My wife and I love playing it and flaws aside, I can see this being something I don’t stop for a long time. I would still recommend this to die-hard fans of the series and for anyone looking for a good party game on the Switch. I hope that the next title can improve on some of those negatives I pointed out but it is definitely a step in the right direction for the series.