Developed by: Hudson Soft
Published by: Nintendo
Feeling Like: Breaking Board and Party Tricks
One of the many advantages of dating a girl who is into board games is that I get to try fun board games. I don’t mean Monopoly or Risk, which somehow is the default combination of every household in North America from 1981-1996, but rather more modern, better thought out ones that don’t include interminably long run times or an incessant need to rely on completely random die rolls to determine a victor.
Before I met Kyla, but after I started to hate the game of Life, Mario Party was released to serve as an adequate bridge of board gaming and video games. It was, back in 1999, quite innovative for a Mario themed title; up to four players would enter a “board”, roll the dice to determine their positioning and attempt to have the most stars at the end of the game. Seems simple enough!
What the game doesn’t come with is a psychological warning that if you play by yourself against three AI opponents, you’ll suffer a crippling boredom. If you play with three friends, you may be down a few of them by the time the match is over. It’s quite a dichotomy, as I remember countless moments of pure joy and hilarity followed by completely, arbitrary, undeniable bullshit that led somebody to scream and yell and claim the game isn’t fair and who the hell made this stupid thing. Sounds like a board game to me!
Each player gets a turn at rolling the dice. A blue tile means you gain coins, or the main currency of the game. A red tile means you lose three coins. Each board has a unique challenge and layout and adds some variety and replayability, which is a nice touch and something most board games don’t really have. There are dozens of areas that stop you and make you pay a toll, or teleport you somewhere, or, the worst case scenario, you land on Bowser and he steals all your coins. Easy come, easy go.
The speed of the game was my major complaint, even back then. Even though other player’s turns take only a few seconds, it feels a lot longer. God forbid somebody try to use an item in their inventory, stretching out the “I’m not having fun just watching you play” time to over 15 seconds.
It’s a little funny looking back at how archaic the models look. Super Mario 64 was released nearly three years prior to this and Mario still looks as blocky as ever. The rest of the models don’t look much better, but the appeal of Mario Party isn’t in how it looks, but rather the mini-games. It’s all about the mini-games.
Once everybody’s had a roll, the game will determine the teams of a random mini game, based on your result on the board. If you were the only sucker who sucked enough to land on a red tile, guess what, you’re the one against a team of three (with a major advantage, naturally).
It is here my most vivid memories emerge. Sticking my palm on the top of my N64 controller and rotating it like my life depended on it. Mashing every button available to avoid being picked in the crane game. Screaming friendly directions in the event of a cooperative mini-game. Limbo. There are 53 mini-games in total, not a bad haul at all.
The only option to play Mario Party, and that’s any Mario Party title is with three friends, a bucket of booze and low expectations. The turns tend to go as quickly as possible since the real appeal is the mini-games at the end of each round. It wasn’t the most revolutionary idea, but any concept that spawns such hilarious Youtube videos as “Luigi wins by doing absolutely nothing” is a winner in my books.