On Poetry, Prose, and Videogames

JLawrence Kenny

Friday Night Retro: Mario Party

on October 15, 2011

Within the seemingly endless number of videogame and videogame sequels popping up this year, it’s nice to fall back on familiar classics that everyone knows. And easily the most recognizable videogame character is Mario, that pudgy Italian plumber that’s always one step behind his eternal rival Bowser and his lovely lady Princess Peach. He is Nintendo’s poster-character, and is synonymous with old-school gaming. He has aged quite a bit better than most of his 8-bit friends like Sonic, but we all remember and love him during his early years. Nintendo has always been about multiplayer games, and so it’s no surprise that their most famous franchise has dozens of games designed specifically for party play, even one that literally calls itself that: Mario Party.

Wait, why is Wario hanging out with them? He's a villain!!!

Mario Party doesn’t have much of a story. The main characters of the Mario franchise – Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Wario – are arguing about who is the Super Star of their world. Eventually, Toad suggests that they should have a competition to decide who the best of the group is. The object of the game is for the four players, whether player or AI-controlled, to collect stars and coins on a variety of different game boards based on each of the main characters, Bowser, and a star, each with a number of unique characteristics and visual styles. The way you earn the stars changes from board to board, but they are all bound together by a few common elements. The maps are populated with a number of spaces. The majority of them are blue, which add to your coin count, and red, which subtract from your coin count, but there are also a few special spaces. Green spaces are event spaces, which effect the board in some manner, there are spaces which activate single-player minigames, and Bowser spaces, which forces the players into a minigame that almost always winds up with loss of coins from everyone; there are literally dozens of different things that can happen, from stealing other players’ coins to switching the positions of everyone on the board, and too many to go into any detail about.

Quick, run before Toad drowns you!

Of course, this brings us to the main drawing point of the game: the minigames. As this is meant to be a fun multiplayer game, with no significant plot of which to speak, the game focuses almost exlusively on the dozens of minigames that the players wind up competing in. After every round of turns, the game will randomly select a minigame for the players to play. There are four different categories of minigames, each of which are rather self-explanatory: Single player (only accessible through special squares), Free-for-all, 2-vs-2, and 1-vs-3. This is determined by the color of squares that the players land on during the round. This was always meant to be the main part of the game that the players spent their time in, and the game reflects that with a wonderful selection of minigames. Over fifty completely different games with different objectives, and all insanely fun to play. From box car derbies to “Bombsketball” to even limbo, the game has so much to do, and that’s what it was meant to do. In the same way that people can spend hours on the internet playing flash games all day, Mario Party draws its players in through the exact same thing, merely on a different console. When you really look at the games, they aren’t anything special, but the fact that it’s something you do with your friends, with a long-term goal in mind, is really what makes this game great.

That's right, bow before the Princess, losers!

The visuals in this game are nothing astonishing, and neither are the musical tracks, but they aren’t meant to be. Mario Party lives up to its title as the perfect party game. Its combination of minigames and a larger objective, as well as the company of your friends is what makes this game great. Some have criticized it, as well as the numerous other spin-off games like Mario Tennis and Mario Golf as merely capitalizing on the recognition of their mascot, but is that really such a bad thing? All that the inclusion of the recognizable characters does is make the game even more fun to play by giving the gamer the ability to play as characters that they don’t normally get to play as, although I do remember a few arguments over who got Mario. (Since I owned the game, he usually went to me) It’s a game series that has brought us fun over eight different titles with a ninth in the works, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Next Week: The Lion King

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