Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Mario Party Superstars (NSW) Review

We did our unpacking on Monday, and now since that is done, it's party time with Mario Party Superstars, SuperPhillip Central's latest review! Let's see how Mario's latest shindig is with this, the SPC review!

An entry that does this party favors.

In 1999, Nintendo and developer Hudson Soft teamed up together to release a new spin-off franchise in the much beloved Mario series. Introducing Mario Party on the Nintendo 64, a virtual board game where players rolled dice to earn coins in order to purchase the most stars by the end of the game. Interspersed between turns was an assortment of wild and wacky mini-games that every player participated in to win coins. 

Mario Party as a series would become an almost annual tradition for Nintendo systems with two more Mario Party games releasing on the Nintendo 64, four entries coming out on the N64's successor, the GameCube, and both numbered and non-mainline entries launching on various other systems. Essentially, every major Nintendo platform got a Mario Party game of some sort. Heck, even the failed e-Reader peripheral from Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance got in on the party action.

Now, after the major, breakout success of Super Mario Party on the Switch, breaking records for the series in a big way, now developer ND Cube (who took over the series with Mario Party 9) has what can be described as a "greatest hits" collection of Mario Party. A collection that is far greater than the rather dud of a party that the 3DS's "Mario Party: The Top 100" ended up being. This is Mario Party Superstars, offering five classic, remixed boards from the Nintendo 64 games, and a collection of over 100 mini-games selected from Mario Party 1-10. 

The flow of Mario Party Superstars harks back to the Nintendo 64 era of the Mario Party series. That makes sense since not only does Superstars borrow its collection of boards from the N64 trilogy of games, but it also features a heavier selection of mini-games from the earlier Mario Parties rather than the later ones. One could easily argue that this is because later Mario Party games relied more heavily on motion controls, which Mario Party Superstars does not include an option for whatsoever.

Reach Toadette with 20 coins to earn a much coveted Power Star.

Regardless, with each of the game's boards, the goal is the same: navigate around the myriad spaces to reach where Toadette is located. If a player has 20 coins (or 10 in some rarer occasions), they can purchase a Power Star from her. Some boards shuffle the location of where Toadette goes after a Star has been collected, while others Toadette remains in the same spot. Each turn players roll a dice block that goes from 1-10 and land on spaces around the boards with varying attributes. Some award coins, while some take them away. Some spaces reward lucky rollers with items, while others can initiate a battle mini-game or Chance Time, where the lander of the space hits a trio of dice block roulettes to determine which player gives what to whom, whether that be coins or worse case scenario: Stars.

Returning from earlier Mario Party games is that of items. Each player can purchase them from special stores around a given board for coins, and these range from adding spaces to a player's roll, slowing down another player, shuffling locations with another player on the board, stealing an item from another player, or being transported directly to the location of the Star. The economy in Mario Party Superstars offers lots of opportunities to earn coins and items due to the immense amount of Lucky Spaces and such, but this only adds to the fun in my book. It doesn't devalue any aspect of the game overall.

After a turn has ended, all four players participate in a mini-game for coins. Most mini-games have a familiar and similar payout of 10 coins for first place, 3 for second, 2 for third, and 0 for last place, but some are coin mini-games where players keep what they grab coin-wise in the mini-games. Depending on what space each player landed on in their turn, the type of mini-game can change from a free-for-all (where all players land on the same colored space) to a team-based mini-game like an even 2-vs-2 or a more skewed 1-vs-3. 

Revenge! In this mini-game, the bonk-ers have become the bonk-ees! 

The mini-games in Mario Party Superstars are all cherrypicked from past Mario Party games, namely the mainline numbered entries from the very first on the N64 to the Wii U's Mario Party 10. Most mini-games demand some level of skill to win (the occasional luck-based one does rear its head in, however, though these make for some hilarious moments, too), but each is easy enough to learn and is accessible enough to let all players enjoy themselves no matter their age or gaming experience. From mini-games where you bump into one another while rolling along bouncy balls, attempting to knock each other off a circular platform, to less stimulating games like carefully counting a cavalcade of parading, passing Goombas, the mini-games on offer are usually quick enough to never outwear their welcome. Well, that's save for a select handful, and these are usually dreaded when they come up in rotation by me.

Even though it's "Hammer Time", you definitely don't want to "stop" here in this mini-game!

Mario Party Superstars sports five unique boards: two from Mario Party with Yoshi's Tropical Island and Peach's Birthday Cake, two from Mario Party 2 with Space Land and Horror Land, and the odd game out, Mario Party 3, with only one represented board: Woody Woods. Each board has its own gimmicks to it. For example, despite its name, Yoshi's Tropical Island actually features two major isles. Both have a selection of spaces to move over, and are connected by two bridges guarded by hulking stone blocks known as Thwomps. Each time a player wishes to cross a bridge, they need to pay a coin toll. Players can raise the toll and set it as high as they can afford it to make it difficult for other players to cross. Meanwhile, stepping on specially marked green spaces results in the Toadette and Bowser's locations being switched, meaning that you can really mess over other players or yourself if you land on the right space at the wrong time. 

Even though it's Yoshi's Tropical Island, Thwomp doesn't play favorites.
Everyone's got to pay the toll to cross.

On the other end of the chaos spectrum with Mario Party Superstars are boards like Horror Land, where day and night passes every few turns, blocking pathways that were accessible during the day but are now unavailable at night and vice versa. Throw in a King Boo who can not only steal coins from all players, but also a single Star from each player (for the right price, of course), and you can have a high amount of havoc and hijinks.

And that's really what Mario Party as a series is known for: havoc and hijinks, and most players wouldn't have it any other way. If you're fine with the fact that the most skilled player doesn't always win, you're sure to have a terrific time. It comes down to a mixture of luck and skill, with sometimes a heavier focus on one over the other. You can do poorly in mini-games, and have your luck turn around with a stolen Star in your favor via Chance Time, or get rewarded via Bonus Stars at the end of the game from getting the best rolls or landing on the most spaces of some type. 

The most exciting part of Mario Party Superstars is that of online play. While Super Mario Party received online play via a late update, it never really cut the mustard in the end. I faced multiple disconnections, and at the same time, it was a bit too little too late, despite being most welcomed as an addition. Conversely with Mario Party Superstars, online play, with friends or random players, is present right out of the box, and overall, it works wonderfully. The game's stickers and stamps that can be used during the board sections of the game are great for communicating (or just grief-ing other players, of course, but *I* wouldn't do that...), and lag is surprisingly uncommon in games. 

Games can be saved and exited after a given turn to be picked up and resumed for later, and if a player exits mid-game, a CPU opponent takes over instead of just killing the game right then and there. Private lobbies can be made for friends, and these allow a lovely amount of customization of the rules. You can choose turn amount, if post-game Bonus Stars are on (and if they follow classic or modern Mario Party Bonus Star rules), and if you want to set a Star handicap for any particular players.

Hit a homer, and knock one (or several, ideally) out of the park in Dinger Derby.

Mario Party Superstars also sports its own series of achievements from completing certain in-game goals, some of which are tougher to obtain than others (especially those online-focused ones), and also its own shop. The shop, where you spend coins earned from participating in games, has a wide assortment of goodies--from stickers to spam with your friends and to total strangers alike, to songs to listen to outside of games, there is no shortage of extra stuff to unlock for players who would like some extended enjoyment out of their Mario Party if somehow just fun with friends and family isn't enough.

Some mini-games force would-be competitors to work together for some interesting dynamics.

There is one sizable issue I do have with Mario Party Superstars. While the five boards on offer are fun to play on, the amount is a bit paltry overall. The fact that Mario Party 3 does not have a second board is a bit of a shame, and it would have been nice to see some boards from later games in the series. Alas, perhaps as DLC or we'll just have to wait for a sequel for that. However, some more boards from Mario Party 1-3 would go a long way in extended the length and fun to be found in this game. 

Mario Party Superstars delivers a supersized party package that really feels like a proper successor to the Mario Party crown after all of this time. While for me, annual releases of the series did make for a dull series, requiring a change to the formula at the time, I'm very glad that ND Cube has returned the Mario Party series to its roots in utterly fantastic fashion. The number of boards is disappointing, and some mini-games chosen are a bit boring and worthy of a head scratch, but all in all, Mario Party Superstars is a bonafide bountiful bash worth celebrating with a few friends, family members, or thanks to online play, complete strangers as well.

[SPC Says: B+]

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