Let's party like it's 2000.
Some gamers might be partied out from Mario's partying escapades and for good reason. Mario has had eight outings, soon to be nine in 2012 with the Wii's Mario Party 9. That doesn't stop the N64 classic of Mario Party 2 from being a great offering in the series. Gather some friends, some soda (or alcoholic beverages if you're old enough-- you know who you are), and have a blast with Mario's second fiesta. He's having a party, and everyone is invited. Should you RSVP?
Our simplistic story begins with Mario and friends trying to and failing to come up with a name for a theme park-styled area. Mario, of course, wants to name it Mario Land while his rival in Wario desires nothing more than to have the place called Wario Land. Even Princess Peach Toadstool gets in on the feud and is interested in calling the land Peach Land. Unbeknownst to them, however, Bowser is hatching a sinister and nefarious plan of his own. A koopa troopa gets word of this and informs Mario and company. His cries fall on deaf ears as the group continue with their raucous bickering. Finally, Toad steps in and advises that whoever can become the superstar will have the name of the land all to themselves. Sounds like a plan and plot point for Mario Party 2 to me! And thus our six playable heroes in Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Wario, and Donkey Kong set out to beat the villainous Bowser, become the superstar, and have the land named for them.
For those new to the Mario Party series, Mario Party is a board game where four players take turns rolling the die, moving spaces, landing on specially-marked areas, and then playing mini-games for coins. Coins are used to purchase stars from Toad who is usually randomly located somewhere on one of the game's six unique boards from the swashbuckling Pirate Land to the spaghetti Western Land. At the end of twenty, thirty-five or fifty turns, the player with the most stars is the winner. Bonus stars are awarded at the conclusion of the game for players who have earned the most coins in mini-games, gathered the highest amount of coins at one time, and who have landed on the most happening spaces. These bonus stars are usually the difference between victory and defeat.
There's a plethora of space types in Mario Party 2. Blue spaces award the player with three coins while red spaces take three away. As players pass by the bank, they are forced to deposit five coins into the bank. The player who lands on the green bank space earns all of the coins in storage. Happening spaces make their return from the original Mario Party, and these have different effects depending on the board and location. Some may launch cannonballs at unsuspecting players, sending them back to the beginning of the board, while others might call a parade of Bowser's baddies to cause trouble for everybody. The battle space starts a four-player mini-game where players put a certain amount of coins into a pool. The first and second place winners of the mini-game earn the majority of the coins. Not all spaces are beneficial. Landing on a Bowser space can cause certain doom for unlucky players who land on it. Bowser can distribute coins evenly to all players, take away coins, and even steal stars on rare occasions. Finally, there's a brand-new item space. Landing on this launches a board-specific mini-game where one player attempts to gain a new item.
Items are an entirely fresh feature introduced to the Mario Party series. Some are helpful like the Mushroom and Golden Mushroom. The Mushroom allows a player to roll a pair of dice instead of just one die while a Golden Mushroom gives a player three die to work with for the chance to move a maximum of thirty spaces (10+10+10). The Skeleton Key opens locked doors, usually leading to shortcuts while the Boo Bell summons the ghastly and ghostly Boo who will steal coins or an opponent's star (for a price, of course). Then there's the Plunder Chest that steals an item from a foe, the Warp Block which changes places with another player, the Dueling Glove which pits two players against each other for a duel mini-game, the Bowser Suit which when worn steals twenty coins from every player the wearer passes, and the Magic Lamp that transports the user to the location of the star. Just hope you have the twenty coins it costs to purchase that all-important star! Not every item is a positive one. Earning a Bowser Bomb turns Baby Bowser into Big Bowser who rolls three dice blocks. Any player he reaches will lose all of their coinage. Not cool, Bowser. Not cool. Items can either be purchased at shops for coins or won via item mini-games.
As stated previously, there's six boards to play through in Mario Party 2 with one of which needing to be unlocked: Pirate Land, Western Land, Space Land, Mystery Land, Horror Land, and Bowser Land. Each is progressively more challenging and fiendishly designed than the last. Pirate Land has players trekking across rickety bridges, avoiding cannon fire, taking a ride on Sushi the shark for a shortcut across the sea, and paying the Thwomps' toll to pass on by them. On the other hand, Space Land has a beam that slowly counts down. Players hit by the beam lose all of their coins, so timing is everything. Each board has its own characters that inhabit them and personality. No two boards are alike, and the variety is more than welcomed.
After a turn ends, a mini-game is played by all players. Depending on the spaces the players have landed on, either a four-player, two-on-two, or one vs. three mini-game will ensue. For example, if Mario and Luigi land on red spaces while Wario and Yoshi land on blue, a two-on-two game will commence. Furthermore, if Donkey Kong lands on red, and everyone else lands on blue, a one vs. three game will begin. The winner or winners of each mini-game earn a minimum of ten coins unless it's a bonus mini-game where players can earn more.
Gone from Mario Party 2 are the blister-inducing games from the original where players had to ferociously rotate the analog stick with either the palm of their hand or their thumb. Yes, there are a handful of returning mini-games from the first Mario Party, but most are brand-new. The ones that do return have alterations such as Bumper Balls which is played on one of three islands: a grassy knoll, a volcanic rock, or a slick and icy island. Some games have new names like Mushroom Mix-Up has been turned into Hexagon Heat. It's a game where Toad raises a colored flag, and players must race to stand on that colored platform while the other hexagons lower into the hot, bubbly lava. The last player standing wins. The two-on-two games require teamwork whether players like it or not. One has players riding a bobsled down an obstacle-ridden track with bottomless pits, speed boosts, and wall-less curves while another has players alternating button presses as they commandeer a handcar while trying not to take turns to fast. Otherwise you'll both careen off the track! Most mini-games are skill-based, but there's an occasional game thrown in that's purely controlled by lady luck. As if there weren't already enough variables to worry about!
Apart from playing alone or with friends (where the Mario Party franchise truly shines), there's Mini-Game Land where players can try out games they've already experienced, buy new ones, and try out Mini-Game Stadium or the Mini-Game Coaster, a single-player mode. Perhaps something good will happen if this mode is completed...
Moving to presentation, Mario Party 2 is decidedly dated in graphics. The characters are jagged little caricatures of themselves and look pretty gnarly. The boards themselves are full of rich colors and have many details given to them which make them pleasant to look at even if the characters aren't. The framerate pretty much stays at 30 fps with little in the way of dipping, and the game runs smoothly for the most part. Sound-wise, the whoops and quips of Mario and the gang are what you've come to expect from a Mario title. The music is especially catchy with plenty of tunes that will have you tapping your toes and humming along happily. That is, if you aren't cursing the computer for somehow getting yet another hidden block containing a star.
Depending on whether or not you have another person or party to play with, Mario Party 2 may or may not be recommended. If you lack friends or family to experience this game with, avoid Mario's second party outing as the computer tends to cheat, get all the breaks, and gang up on you. With friends and family, at least hooting and hollering at each other is much more enjoyable. With six boards, approximately fifty mini-games, and six characters to select from, Mario Party 2 remains my favorite of the franchise. Those who don't want to track down an original Nintendo 64 copy can purchase the game on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service for the modest price of ten dollars or 1,000 points. Party on, Mario and friends. Party on.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]