MISHAWAKA – The latest installment of the Mario Party series is here: Mario Party Superstars. As a proud owner of Super Mario Party, I expected Mario Party Superstars to be more of the same, with some new maps, items, and music. Unfortunately, that is not quite the case. Mario Party Superstars is not a port of Super Mario Party, but its own game. To me, that is fine, but there is not enough content of substance to warrant making this its own game. A majority of the minigames in this entry are recycled from previous Mario Party games. Nintendo seems to have overplayed their hand into nostalgia, and, as someone who did not play too many of the older titles, it has not worked out for me. I have only played Mario Party 7, 8, 9 and Super Party. This game was built for fans who have played most or all of the games. I am saying this now to make sure my opinion, and all potential biases in it, are plain.
I do not think that it is a controversial statement that Mario Party has always had a “refined” selection of maps on which to play. Its strength lies in the diversity and addictive nature of its minigames, so complaining about boards is akin to complaining about the color of your dessert plate: focus on enjoying your food. However, the more recent games, especially, have suffered from having an almost criminally low number of boards. In Super Mario Party, there were four party boards, which were densely packed, but considering the shortest game lasted an hour, you would inevitably see everything there was to see sooner or later. If you played a different board for every game, you would exhaust all the board content in some four hours. Aside from aesthetic, there were few reasons to select one over the other. To illustrate my point, I often chose which map I played based on what song I liked the best.
I do want to reiterate, however, the boards are not the main interest of Mario Party; the prime draw is the selection of minigames. There is not much to say on this front, save for the fact that there are a lot of minigames, and a selection of greats from each of the previous games. Many people who do have nostalgia for those earlier entries state that the developers have done a great job representing each game with its best minigames, which is as ringing an endorsement from those kinds of gamers as is possible.
There are minigames that are designed for three players against one, two against two, and the traditional free “four” all. Some minigames feature different objectives; there are those that are simply competitive where your standing will determine your coin earnings, others that have players attempting to win prizes directly (one features a player using a high striker to win items that help them on the board) and others are simple cash-grab games, like the Ticket Tornado from Chuck E. Cheese, except with solid gold coins that (somehow) equal those tickets in real-world value.
Board play in Superstars is more of a return to form. In Super Mario Party, the base price of stars was ten, half of the traditional fee. Proving that times are tough everywhere, not just in the real world, Superstars set the price back up to 20 gold coins. There are many more opportunities to earn money and, consequently, many more opportunities to lose it. Each player gets a ten-coin bonus for making it around the board, lucky spaces are more plentiful, “Chance Time spaces” move money around frequently, and later turns can double coin values, coming and going. In other news, Bowser spaces and Bad Luck spaces dish out the usual underwhelming punishments, event spaces inconvenience everybody, and “Vs.” spaces are for people who cannot wait until the end of the round to lose to luck in a minigame. On one board, there is even a piggy bank that exacts a fee from passersby, hoarding coins until such a time as Koopa Troopa sees fit to liquidize his assets.
As a sidenote, Koopa Troopa and Yoshi are my favorite Mario characters, but while one of them takes his rightful place on the roster, being cute, green and big-nosed, the other gets demoted from player to tutorial NPC. Here’s a hint: his name rhymes with Troopa Koopa. Evidently, Nintendo does not see much “star power” in the faithful foot soldier of Bowser’s army, despite being adorable, bright and making a similar series of unintelligible-yet-cute noises to the aforementioned green dinosaur. Donkey Kong, a character with his own series, made it back in, but Koopa Troopa, whose only playable appearances are in the spinoff titles, tells me how a board game works and then has to call it a day? That is low, Nintendo.
The character dice blocks from Super Mario Party have been dropped in favor of upping the standard die from six sides to ten sides. Add a host of objectively unfair items that help you and hinder your opponents, branching and interconnected paths and indisputably ridiculous warp pipes, and player mobility has skyrocketed.
The ending ceremony for each game has remained more or less unchanged from Super Mario Party: two random bonus stars are presented and then the victor is announced. The best addition is a sequence following the end-game statistics, like stars, coins, spaces traveled, etc., which presents the players with a postcard-esque picture of the characters posing on the board, with the highest-ranking closest to the camera. It is a very neat addition to commemorate what was an hour-long adventure (or longer).
Realistically, this is a modern Mario Party game, meaning it streamlines a lot of formerly tedious processes, coming across a bit spartan in the process, but it is ultimately a fun party game. The minigames are the perfect balance between chaotic and accessible; the pacing, though a bit jumpy, appropriately ramps up towards the end; the music is good, as per usual; and I can definitely see myself having fun with people at a get-together, shindig, hoedown, soiree, fiesta or any other synonym for a word that, throughout this piece, has lost all meaning thanks to Mario Party Superstars.