Mario Party Superstars
(Available for Nintendo Switch only)
Mario Party Superstars is the latest entry in the series and is meant to act as a celebration of the spin off series up to this point. For those who don’t know, Mario Party games are virtual board games where following each set of turns, the players compete in mini games with the goal being to have the most stars at the end. Each board has different rules on how to acquire the stars, but usually this revolves around going past the Todette space and using the coins you won from the mini games, to pay for a star (costs 20 coins). The game is advertised to be a massive throwback to the series roots with updated versions of 5 boards from the Nintendo 64 trilogy of games (Peach’s Birthday cake, Space land, Woody Woods and Horror Land), as well as Minigames from throughout the series. The game also took note of something that previous game Super Mario Party was lacking by having Online multiplayer available from the start. With all that goodwill put in place, has this been the game to break the recent curse, and brought us a Mario Party that feels like the games of old?
- Graphics and updates: While much of the groundwork for Mario Party Superstars has been taken from Super Mario Party, it’s undeniable how good the game looks. The models for each of the characters and the boards look great and the team at ND Cube did a good job looking at those boards and bringing them into the modern era. Speaking of the updates, while most of them are pretty accurate, the N64 incarnations that the boards have, receive some updates to account for more mechanics that can be done with the more powerful console, and they feel like they work well. The boards don’t feel too different, and the new stuff works well to fit in with the established designs
- Improved gameplay: This is mainly making up for the weaker elements of Super Mario Party. For one thing it is a great improvement that the boards are no longer grid-based so there is way more creative designs that can be done and way more interesting ideas. There are also a good few changes like raising the price of coins from 10 to 20 coins which makes the mini games and the space you land on, have way more consequence. The options for how games are set up have been improved as well with the option for not only how many turns a game will go, but also what kind of bonus stars and what kind of mini games will be played, letting you tailor the game to whatever kind of way you and your friends want to play. There are also some excellent extra modes like Mt Minigame which involves you and 3 other players competing in various minigames repeatedly if you want a quicker mode. I really enjoyed experimenting with all the modes and with everything having a feel of the older games madness which had been sorely missed it gave a sense of nostalgic bliss. ND Cube has been trying way too hard to innovate Mario Party which is why they’ve been smart and gone very back to basics for this instalment which is to its benefit. Mario Party hasn’t been this good since it’s first Wii and DS game.
- Minigame selection: There’s already been a lot of comparisons with the 3DS game Mario Party the top 100 which was a compilation 100 of the best games in the series to that point. While it was a pretty good compilation there were some duds, and this time not only are there way more but they are also a better variety. The structure allows for 1-on-1 minigames to come in as well as 4 player games. There are a few I don’t like but overall there are rare times that I’ll groan at a minigame being selected. I also (for once) look forward to 2 vs 2 games because there’s a chance that dungeon duos will be selected, and I love that mini game. The weirder choice though, is that a couple of the games that revolve around spinning the joystick in the 1st Mario Party that got Nintendo into legal trouble are here though they do come with a health and safety warning.
- Gameboard selection and number of gameboards at launch: Now I do like the 5 boards that the game has at launch, and I really enjoy playing them (especially Woody Woods and Horror Land). The only one I think has a bit of an issue is Space Land because it has a few too many event spaces which slow the pace of the game. I do however think 5 is a bit small for a Mario Party game, and if there were 2 or 3 more it’d be perfect. Fortunately, Data Miners have been looking at the games code and apparently have seen code to suggest more boards might be on the way through either a free update or paid DLC.
- Online multiplayer: Mario Party offers Online Multiplayer among both friends and random people online (playing with the latter of which allows you to feel less guilty when you steal a star). Now I did play several online matches and my experience was mixed. While some games ran flawlessly, I had a couple of games with slowdown in minigames and some where one or multiple players lost connection to the server. So, as you can tell, your experience may vary depending on what kind of connection everyone has. That being said, when it did work it was a joy. Let’s be honest it’s rare most of us would get 3 mates over for a game of Mario Party with 4 controllers (even pre-pandemic) so to have the option for everyone to have their own switch is highly welcome. If you do have connection issues, an A.I. takes over the character picked and it is possible to re-join the game. There’s obviously no voice chat on switch still, so be prepared to use discord or messenger if you want to have midgame chat though the game does let you flash stickers on the screen to express emotion which came in handy when I was playing against randos.
- A.I. can be very dumb: This is a gripe I have always had with Mario Party which still hasn’t been fixed. The A.I. opponents are so fixated on getting the star they will do idiotic things which no smart player ever would. It’s the reason I pretty much only played online matches when I was reviewing the game it allowed for way better games. Even turning the difficulty up on the computer opponents didn’t help things completely they still made stupid calls. I say this is a big issue because on the road you likely won’t have Wi-Fi potentially limiting the number of opponents you can have, and in online matches you can be stuck with computer opponents if someone loses a connection and doesn’t get it back.
Mario Party Superstars is the Mario Party I’ve wanted to play for years and is one of my favourite multiplayer experiences this year. The gameboards and minigames are great, the online multiplayer when it works is fantastic and it feels like a lot of effort has gone into addressing issues of past games. The only complaints I have are with the quality of the A.I. and I wish the net coding on the online was better, but given the way Nintendo’s online multiplayer structure works I might be screaming at a wall with that complaint. I have heard a complaint that there’s too many lucky spaces but while I think that’s kind of true, I wouldn’t say it grossly impacted any games. If you have a group of friends and you want a break from Mario Kart and Smash Bros, this is your next great multiplayer experience.
This is a great multiplayer experience though unless you have friends that have the game, or you have a lot of controllers and your mates are likely to come over, you might not get the most out of it unless your very happy playing with random people online. On that basis, I would say maybe agree to buy the game at same time as a couple of your friends because this game is best enjoyed with good company.
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