No new Nintendo console system would complete without the release of updates of several mainstays of their library. We’ve had excellent and perhaps definitive versions of Mario Kart and Smash Bros., and a fantastic 3D platformer in the form of Super Mario 3D World. So, what’s next? Mario Party, that’s what. The Mario Party games have been a regular since it debuted on the N64 console in 1998. It was no surprise when Mario Party 10 was announced for the Wii U.
It’s a series that seems to fill everyone with indifference. The releases always get middling sales, probably due to the average reviews each receives. Indeed, the MetaCritic score received by each title had been getting progressively worse since its debut, though Mario Party 9 reclaimed some ground with some innovative gameplay and presentation techniques. The graph below ignores handheld games Advance, DS and Island Tour, but you can see it resembles something of a ski slope.
The following graph shows the sales for the same console games as a percentage of the total console sales. The results are again quite interesting – with the exception of Mario Party 7 the sales of the games on each console peak with the debut release then decrease in popularity with each release (source: Video Games Sales Wiki).
So as we can see, there’s a market for the games, but it’s not particularly massive in comparison to the big hitters like Mario Kart. So what reason has Nintendo given us to invest our hard-earned money in the latest release, given almost everyone who has a Wii U has one of the earlier releases, or did at one point? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot.
One of the big angles is the use of asymmetrical gaming (remember that?) through Bowser Mode, which actually provides a lot of fun, especially if you’re using the gamepad. The fun comes from the fact that you have a real person screwing you over instead of the computer, and it makes it even better when you can hear them laughing away at your misfortune. To play out in this mode you have one person using the gamepad, whilst up to four others control play via remotes and work as a team to try to escape Bowser. Each regular player rolls a die on their go and gets to move a cart forwards and individually reaps the benefit from whatever space they land on. Then Bowser rolls four dice in one and more often than not catches them up, leading to a mini-game.
The mini-games are a lot of fun, and usually leads to a lot of swearing from four people in the room and a lot of laughing from the other one. One drawback to this is the waiting time between mini-games. I think Nintendo got too involved with the animation and activities between the mini-games and didn’t take step back and realise that all it is doing is delaying the time before we get to play more mini-games. You know, the fun bit.
Another angle Nintendo are employing is the use of Amiibo. This isn’t a unique selling point as much as a way to get people that have already invested heavily in the Amiibos to buy the game. There are six launch Amiibii – Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, Peach and Toad, in his Amiibo debut – that interact with the game, though I understand that the Smash Bros. versions of the Amiibo also function in the same way. As I’ve previously discussed, Amiibo are incredibly, almost unfathomably, popular and linking in this game they will be able to increase games sales. Additionally, the Toad Amiibo will function with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (which I have previously reviewed) and Yoshi will function with Yoshi’s Woolly World.
The downside of this is that using the Amiibo with the game is a complete pain. The Amiibo Mode involves using your model to unlock a specific character-related board game. Then you and up to three other players battle out around the board to play mini-games to earn coins to buy stars. The winner is the one with the most stars. When playing in this mode, everyone else in the room was able to roll the dice with a quick flick of the remote, whilst I was sat in the corner switching between the gamepad (which had to be plugged in due to the unimpressive battery life), the remote and the Toad Amiibo I was using. The action to get it to register also wasn’t too great and I was the one slowing the game down drastically by using the Amiibo. A quick update would remove the need to use the Amiibo to roll the dice and would severely speed up this process.
The other modes are pretty cool. The standard Mario Party was what you’d expect and a lot of fun, and the Coin Challenge mode simplifies the gameplay a little too by removing the chance aspect and rewarding the one with the most coins at the end of seven mini-games. The mini-games themselves really weren’t repetitive (the box claims there are more than 70 new ones). I think it took about three hours before we encountered a game we’d already played.
Another big downside is the inability to make a custom playlist where you can select a series of mini-games from the total list with no breaks in gameplay between, which would mean you could select just the ones you enjoy based on difficulty and personal preference. Instead we are in the hands of the console and often have to play through games that are too easy before getting a real challenge.
I have enjoyed my time with Mario Party 10 so far and I’m sure it will be used many times in a party situation soon. However, I think some critically slow loading times and too much between-mini-game faffing will cause the game to be a bit of a drain on the excitement at a party rather than a catalyst for more enjoyment. Couple that with a lack of online multiplayer and you have a game that has potential but falls short. Though I’m sure that will be sorted out when Mario Party 11 is release in 18 months.