Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mario Party: The Top 100 (3DS) Review

Man, doesn't it feel like April! It's just felt like a really long month for March. It's almost like these reviews for March are late or something! Regardless, while I nervously sweat in this corner, check out this review of Mario Party: The Top 100 for the Nintendo 3DS.

A party where everyone goes home at 9:30


Mario Party has been around since 1999, where it initially debuted on the Nintendo 64. Since then, repeated sequels released that saw the party getting even crazier with new rules and strategies to consider. For instance, Mario Party 2 added items and duel games while Mario Party 9 added a car mechanic that put all four players in one vehicle, riding together across a linear board. The latter two numbered Mario Party games innovated on the franchise, though to many, it was for the worse. Still, that hasn't stopped developer of the series ND Cube from continuing to try its hand at mixing up the franchise.

Despite all of the changes to the formula that ND Cube and Nintendo have made to Mario Party as a series, one thing that hasn't been altered and one thing that remains a common element is that of the mini-games. Enter Mario Party: The Top 100 for the Nintendo 3DS. Now, taking ten mini-games from each mainline numbered Mario Party and putting them into one game sounds like the formula for easy success, right? Unfortunately, Mario Party: The Top 100 contains some issues that greatly detract from the overall experience, making for a party that ends too soon.

Right away if you like, you can leap right into the mini-games, selecting one of dozens that are initially already available. In order to have the full array of mini-games at your access, you'll need to partake in the single player campaign mode. This mode consists of moving across a New Super Mario Bros.-style map where instead of each spot on the map being a level to play, it's instead a mini-game. The mini-games start off with ones that are simple to grasp and win, and against AI opponents that pose little-to-no challenge whatsoever.

Minigame Island is Mario Party: The Top 100's short-lived single player mode.
As you progress through the four "worlds" of the single player mode, the AI gets more taxing, throwing at you "Hard" and "Very Hard" difficulty opponents as well as pitting you in 1 vs. 3 mini-games where you have to fend for yourself. It's never anything too daunting, as all you have to do is get better than last place in a mini-game to move on. If you fail a mini-game, however, you lose a life. Lose all of your lives, and it's game over. It's not as much of a pressure-filled situation as you might think at first because you're able to earn coins from completed mini-games and from specific coin roulette boxes that appear regularly on the map. While the goal is to just pass a mini-game without being in dead last, completionists will want to aim for first in every mini-game, as you're rewarded Mini-Stars for victories. Earn all of the Mini-Stars in the single player mode, and you earn an unlockable. Sadly, it's nothing as cool as a new character (there are no secret characters in Top 100), but it's an unlockable nevertheless.

One of the mainstays of Mario Party games outside of the obvious and already mentioned mini-games is that of the boards. It's always a blast to roll a die, plot a path through a board, and hope luck is on your side. With Mario Party: The Top 100, one of the important halves of the Mario Party experience is almost completely missing. What is here instead is in another mode of The Top 100, one for four players. It's a Mario Party: Star Rush-style board where all players roll a different die and move across the board simultaneously while moving around a grid-based board. This board commonly gets balloons of varying types floating down onto it, such as mini-game balloons and Power Star balloons. The goal of the mode is to earn coins by winning mini-games, landing on specific spaces, among other means, and purchasing stars from the popped Power Star balloons. The player at the end of the set number of turns is the winner. While at the beginning of the board, 1-3 Power Stars in a balloon are common, by the end of the game, there can be a Power Star balloon worth five stars to run into, though it does cost 50 coins to nab, as a Power Star costs 10 coins each.

After being the bane of many players' existence in 2D Mario games,
doesn't it feel great to hammer these Pokeys to smithereens?
At the start of this mode, each player picks a package that possesses five mini-games. These are all themed in some way, whether they're sports mini-games, action mini-games, or mini-games from a particular Mario Party entry, to just name a few. Each time a mini-game balloon is popped, a mini-game selection screen comes up. Players select between their package of mini-games for the one they'd like to play, and a hand spins around a wheel with players hoping the hand lands in their portion of the wheel. Not only will they get their chosen mini-game selected, then, but they will also earn double the amount of coins based on their position in the mini-game. Being the one who popped the mini-game balloon nets the player more real estate space on the mini-game wheel in order to increase the chances their mini-game gets selected.

Either Yoshi's gotten larger or Waluigi, Luigi and Peach have gotten smaller.
This particular mode that is built for single players to compete against three AI opponents or for multiple human players (or a combination of both human and AI) is wonderfully fun and worth playing. It's a really cool take on the Mario Party formula. The big problem with this mode, though, is that there is only the one board. Again, Mario Party is all about the boards, and seeing a Mario Party game have so little to offer when it comes to that is severely disappointing. There are only so many times you can play the same small board over and over again before you get tired of it and the mode in general. It happens as quickly as you might think, too.

That's the main problem with Mario Party: The Top 100 that seeps through the game's other modes. There is just too little content in the modes, so much so that you'll only want to play through them once and then realize you've seen everything they have to offer. With The Top 100, there is no real mode with enough longevity and variety to complement all of the excellent mini-games (stupid, luck-based ones notwithstanding) the game contains.

Ah yes. If it isn't my old nemesis, Bowser's Big Blast.
Those darn eyes counting down to my destruction will forever haunt my dreams.
It's a shame, too, because the mini-game selection in Mario Party: The Top 100 is really dynamite. There's a lot to like with fan faves like Bumper Balls, Shy Guy Says, Face Lift, Hexagon Heat, Slot Car Derby, Speed Hockey, Chip Shot Challenge, Eatsa Pizza, Ice Rink Risk, Three Throw, Trace Race, Dinger Derby, Later Skater, Snow Whirled, Track & Yield, Aim of the Game, Speeding Bullets, Tackle Takedown, Jewel Drop, and Soar to Score. The embarrassment of enjoyable mini-game riches only makes it hurt even more that they're not tied into a better package of modes. Instead, all you have is a sequence of repeated mini-games that shortly becomes monotonous to play for an extended length of time. These little gameplay bursts aren't enough to hold a game on their own, and this is where Mario Party: The Top 100 seriously disappoints.

Poor Luigi gets the shock of his life in Track & Yield.
While Mario Party: The Top 100 is not an awful game, it is an awful entry in the Mario Party series. It misses the point of what makes the series so entertaining. It isn't just the mini-games that fans love about Mario Party; it's the combination of the mini-games, the boards, and the strategy of play that fans continue to crave from the series. Even with Download Play where only one person needs the game to allow other 3DS owners to play on their own systems as a cool inclusion, as is, Mario Party: The Top 100's collection of mini-games, while mostly pleasing, come in a package that is just too shallow to wholeheartedly recommend.

[SPC Says: D+]

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