So what does it take to keep a series going for nine incarnations? It must be a tough gig, but Nintendo has pulled it off once again with Mario Party 9.
Everyone remembers the first time they played Mario Party on the Nintendo 64. Some of us probably still have scars on the palms of our hands from reeling in treasure chests. These games were the real pioneer of the party genre. Nine games and three consoles later, Nintendo has changed things up a little to keep the series fresh.
In this latest installment, the length of games is no longer measured by the number of turns chosen before beginning, as maps and boards now have a start and a finish. Moving across the board is now also a little more co-operative, albeit a kind of forced co-operation. In both Solo and Party mode, all participants travel across the game board together in a vehicle, taking turns to roll the dice and move the group forward. Coins are no longer the currency of choice, nor are Stars, as they have both been exchanged for Mini Stars. Mini Stars can be collected or lost on the board by passing through them, or won in Mini Games.
There is a substantial selection of mini-games and as it’s not necessary to play one at the end of each round, it will take a little longer to unlock and play them all. Gone are the two on two games, but the free-for-all and three on one remain.
There are a number of games that require the WiiMote to be held horizontally in NES fashion. This is great for the kids as it brings it back to basics, or at least, the basics older gamers know and love. Games also take advantage of the WiiMote in its natural state, with point and click games and using the gyro meter when tilting and flicking. As to whether it always works the way it should is occasionally a question of how pre-match instructions are interpreted. Sometimes it’s impossible to decipher what’s required. It comes down to trial and error and those errors can be mighty costly when in the heat of competition.
With eight boards in total to play from each of the game boards has its own theme and certain quirks, but their concept never really changes. To ‘complete’ a game players and teams must travel the path, collecting mini stars, defeating one of Bowser’s minors before soldiering on to the end to face the ferocious lizard himself for a yet another cluster of mini stars. Those running a little short on mini stars at the end of the game, need not fear as the bonus awards are back. These three random categories can once again make or break a campaign for victory.
This time there are no candy or gumball machines to help along the way, it just as in Vegas: all about the dice. These can be found in chests around the board. The board also contains multiple positives and negatives along the way. Bowser even insists on giving out extra Bowser spots just as players reach the home stretch – so thoughtful.
For those who, for reasons known unto themselves, like to play party games alone ther are a number of mini-game modes against COM players.
The graphics can only be faulted insofar as the Wii itself can be faulted. There are some great animations, such as Wario going arse up when he loses a mini game, lying on the ground with one leg twitching. The script is amusing and Bowser’s dialogue should always manage to elicit a smirk .
Mario Party 9 brings with it enough keep it fresh. It’s certainly one for families who get a chance to play together. A lot more luck is required this time around too.
No DK Spots.