Thursday, May 6, 2021

Three Mario Games That Really Turned Things Around with Updates

With the advent of patches and updates to video games, games can now have new additional modes, characters, and enhancements added to them. While that is a pro, there is also a con of having certain games shipped incomplete or bugged, with a later promise of fixing said issues in a future update or patch. Not even Nintendo, one of the most prolific (if not THE most prolific) publishers around, escapes this issue, nor does its main mascot, Mr. Video Game himself, Mario, evade having games that require updates to end up in a satisfying condition. 

While there is a motley crew of Nintendo titles that started off weak when they released, this particular article focuses on a trio of Mario games that began rather poorly or not up to their potential when they launched, but have since become pretty great games now, even better than they were when they originally released.

The most Mario recent game to get an update is one that was quite a surprise. Not only was the update significant, but it was a long-requested one for the franchise that finally came over two years after the game released. I'm of course referring to Super Mario Party. In the original SuperPhillip Central review, I ended up really enjoying the latest entry in the long-running series of party games, but there was one major caveat. That caveat was the haphazard, half-hearted implementation of online to the series. 

Fans, such as myself, have been clamoring for online for the Mario Party series for over a decade now, and Nintendo and developer ND Cube's approach to finally implementing it into the series with Super Mario Party was less than satisfying. That's a charitable statement, as well. The Online Mariothon originally was the only online play available in Super Mario Party, offering five random mini-games for four players to compete against each other for the highest score. 

Of course, that's not really what fans wanted from the series' online. It was somewhat of a monkey's paw wish gone bad. No, the real wish was for the boards of Mario Party to become available to play online, and as of last week, Genie Nintendo made that wish come true. 

Not only is the board game mode, whether the free-for-all traditional Mario Party mode or the Partner Party mode--which pits two teams of two against one another on a grid-like board--now available to play online, but so, too, is the ability to play the majority of mini-games online with friends as well. The only caveat now is that there isn't any matchmaking, but you can simply tell total strangers online your three-digit room code to have them join--thus it's not just limited to playing with your friends.

Last night I was able to finally try out the Mario Party mode online with a dear friend of mine who lives in the same state as I do. Now, I live in the suburbs while we lives more in the rural country part of the state. I'm pleased to say that the online connection was pretty much flawless for the two of us. The only lag present was during a random board sequence rather than an actual, much more intensive mini-game. We both enjoyed ourselves, and are both interested in playing another board really soon.

And really, this update is perfect for the current harrowing times we find ourselves in, what with the pandemic and all. Despite some parts of the world seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in some ways with mass vaccinations, the timing is still rather great. Of course, it would have been better if Nintendo had this online update for Super Mario Party earlier in the pandemic, but perhaps this update itself was built out of necessity, made during the pandemic so people could continue to enjoy Super Mario Party while staying apart from one another. Either way, it's a most welcome addition, and one that will keep me coming back and partying like it's 1999 all over again, only this time I'm enjoying the party online with friends as opposed to at a sleepover.

While Super Mario Party is the most recent game to get a major update, Mario Kart Tour, meanwhile, is a game that is perpetually getting updates since it's a live-service game. I was pretty harsh on the game in my review around this mobile racer's original launch, but I have to admit that after returning behind the steering wheel with Mario Kart Tour, I discovered a game that was much improved and decidedly rather enjoyable now.

For one, the amount of characters and more importantly courses to Mario Kart Tour has increased considerably. For the former, characters are less of a challenge to acquire. Now, there's certainly still dreaded, scummy "gacha" elements present in the game, but there are both more opportunities to acquire the rubies needed to pull from the game's pipes, as well as more opportunities to earn characters without rubies as well. One of the best things implemented now in Mario Kart Tour is how the game awards you with pipe pulls from simply earning Grand Stars, won from performing well in offline races and completing challenges. There are four green pipes that give you one free pull apiece, which can sometimes reward you with a High-End pull if you're fortunate enough, but there's also a All-Clear Pipe now, which automatically rewards you with a High-End character, kart, or glider for completing a given cup. Since all cups last two weeks, that's a free High-End each week.

Furthermore, there is a Medal shop now, which doesn't require you to spend money at all to earn the wares inside. The shop is updated with each cup, presenting goods like characters, karts, gliders, tickets (which are used to enhance your characters, karts, and gliders), as well as rubies and coin bundles. These are purchased with medals collected in races, and how you earn medals changes with each cup. Sometimes they're lying on tracks like regular coins, while other times you earn them from hitting opponents with a specific item like a green shell or a banana, for instance.

The amount of tracks has increased immensely as well, offering the enjoyable city-themed tracks, such as the most recent Sydney Sprint, but there's also now wholly original tracks not based off of any real world city at all. While there's just been two of these thus far with Merry Mountain and Ninja Hideaway--the latter of which is one of the most impressive tracks in Mario Kart series history with all of the routes incorporated into it--they are a ton of fun to race on.

Finally, there's the addition of something that was greatly amiss at the launch of Tour: online multiplayer. This allows multiple players to join either matchmaking races or friend-based races, and compete against one another. Of course, this type of competition does not rival Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as you might expect, but it's an entertaining enough distraction--well worth checking out at least once. 

I'm pleasantly surprised by the 180 I've had with Mario Kart Tour. It was a game I found detestable at launch and promptly deleted it off my phone (of course, that was partly due to the game always crashing on my old phone after a race or two), but now not only do I participate in every Grand Prix in every cup every two weeks, but now I even subscribe to the Gold Pass, that $5 susbcription each month. It's not because I feel I need to in order to have an advantage or to keep up with the whales (good luck with that, by the way), but it's more due to the fact that I'm actually loving Mario Kart Tour that much.

Moving on from parties and kart racing, we turn to our final Mario game that most certainly turned things around with its updates: Mario Tennis Aces. This game seems timely to talk about as the game I'm honestly most anticipating that has a firm release date this year is Mario Golf: Super Rush. That's another Camelot game, and no doubt as soon as Mario Tennis Aces finished development, Camelot went directly on to start work on the latest Mario Golf while a skeleton team worked on some much needed updates for Mario Tennis Aces. 

Aces was another game I didn't take too much of a shining to, as it was rather bare-bones and lacking in content. My review tagline pretty much said all you needed to know about my opinion of the game at the time. However, like Mario Kart Tour, I did a 180 with Aces, essentially moving to the other side of the court--to use a tennis analogy. Now don't get me wrong--I enjoyed the tennis gameplay for the most part of Aces, but characters weren't very balanced. The fighting game analogy for Mario Tennis Aces is really apt, as matches really are like battles where you duke it out on the court and try to outsmart and outplay your opponents. Heck, you can even break their rackets with well timed power shots, even them--immediately disqualifying them from the match!

Thankfully, Camelot worked extra hard to make Mario Tennis Aces a terrific tennis game instead of a middling one. It took some effort and some time, of course, but the addition of a new character each month for over a year, the inclusion of some fine-tuning to all characters so not one of them was broken (looking at you Waluigi, Boo, and especially YOU, Bowser Jr.), and the appearance of new modes like a Yoshi-based Ring Shot and even an addition to the Story Mode made all the difference. If I ever decide to go back to Mario Tennis Aces for an updated review, my tagline would have to be updated, too. No longer would it be "Game, Set, Suck", instead it'd most likely be "Game, Set, Wow!"


Have you played any of the three games I mentioned in this article? If so, did you play them before or after their patches/updates? Do you still play any of these games? Let the SPC community know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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