A couple of weeks ago I was looking for something to do with my sister’s family because they were coming down for my daughter’s birthday. I decided to go out and buy Mario Party 8 and Wii Play. I decided to get Wii Play, like most people, because I wanted another controller (brought me up to 3) and I was willing to pay $10 for the mini-games. I will talk about the game in a future post.
Mario Party 8 was actually a bit of a hard decision for me though. I wanted it because it is my room mate’s favorite series of games, and I like buying games that she will play with me. But I heard a bunch of bad reviews saying this game really should have had wifi connectivity of some sort, many of the games are the same that have always been in the game, the implementation of the controller seemed forced and rushed, etc. So I was going to wait for Mario Party 9 in order to buy it on the theory that this was likely just a modified gamecube game ported to the Wii with weak controller use.
Now i have owned Mario Party previously. I have Mario Party 4 for the Gamecube so it has been a long time since I’ve gotten one. In fact, I generally don’t think you need more than 1 per system unless there is an overwhelming upgrade (as I assume there will be with the wifi in the next couple of years) and have long felt that Nintendo’s biggest mistake with this franchise has been to make it a yearly game. I think they would have been much better suited had they just put out 2 per system with a year or two between games to protect the franchise. However, that is not what they’ve done and as such this franchise has gotten worse and worse scores as it has continued and become less relevant, even for party games. (Most people would prefer Rayman now instead of Mario Party although they could create the same mistake as Rayman 2 is coming out in just a year from the previous).
I was pleasantly surprised by this game however. The graphics were much nicer than 4, the new characters were a welcome change (to me.. I love dry bones, boo, birdo and hammer bros. as additional characters). The Donkey Kong board is a brilliantly designed board, and I wish the others were to this quality but there are some interesting designs in each. Such as the train cars being mixed and moved, the random generation of rooms in the haunted house, or the monopoly like purchasing of hotels for stars. Many of the games seem fresh to me, even if they aren’t really, and the controls seem very appropriate and well done for the most part.
That isn’t to say it is perfect… controls in particular seem to be a constant annoyance. Twisting to turn or rotate in some games doesn’t seem to work all that well and everyone ends up annoyed that the computer consistently beats us because he doesn’t have to deal with the controller. Another trouble some game is where you have to flip the controller to the side in order to flip the monkey to a different side of the rope to avoid dropping coconuts, however, more often than not flipping the controller just doesn’t work at all and is an early prime contender to be taken out of the rotation if we can’t figure it out because this game will only work with 4 players being equally bad at the controller.
Another issue I have with the game is the general lack of boards. I have always found it curious that Mario Party has stuck with 6 boards since its inception on the N64. Despite growing disc size (now on DVD), they just refuse to put in more boards. Even if they didn’t want to totally design new boards, it would be nice to throw in 3-4 “classic boards” that could be unlocked in the game not unlike what you got from Mario Kart DS. This would reduce the onus of having to design new boards, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason that they don’t do this is because they later want to sell the classic Mario Parties on the Wii Shop Channel.
Overall, it was a pleasant purchase though I still believe Nintendo needs to start a low cost line of casual games in it for $39.99 instead of the traditional $49.99 as they do with the DS. This line should contain Mario Party, Big Brain Academy, Wario Ware, Cooking Mama, and other such games. The problem with many of these types of games, Mario Party included, is though it is a quality game, it often doesn’t feel like you are getting your money’s worth when you compare it to similar priced games such as Metroid, Zelda, or Mario Galaxy. I think at a $10 lower price, it would encourage more people to pick up these games in order to give them added value.