The Mario Party franchise has been inconsistent in quality ever since the franchise moved away from its roots starting with Mario Party 9 in 2012. At E3 2018, however, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for the franchise as it was announced that this new entry, Super Mario Party, would return to its roots and feature eighty brand new mini-games and even online functionality. Now that the game has been out, is this a return to form for the Mario Party series or a continuing trend of inconsistent quality?
The first aspect of the game that is a bit disappointing is that there is not a pro controller support, but it’s understandable as it seemed that the mini-games were designed with a particular play style in mind. When you boot up the game, you are greeted with a cut scene that sums up the whole reason why all these Mario characters are playing. Next, you get to select your character and difficulty, and then the game really begins.
There are four main modes of gameplay: Party Mode, Partner Party Mode, River Survivor Mode and Sound Stage Mode.
Party Mode is the traditional Mario Party, where four players take turns rolling dice on four different maps to collect the most stars by the end of the match while playing one of eighty different mini-games for coins. After playing three matches against the easiest difficulty, it felt as if the game just did not want me to win, as I got second place in all three matches. It is understandable that luck is a crucial part of any game, but with a new mechanic called Allied spaces, where a player can recruit an AI partner that provides one or two additional spaces, the play time feels as if a miracle is needed to win.
Partner Party Mode is basically a two versus two alternative to Party Mode, although this mode allows you to roll together and add up your rolls for the same amount of spaces for each team. This mode was very underwhelming. The mini games for two versus two were disappointing because there’s no major difference from regular Party Mode.
River Survivor Mode is a more cooperative mode where all players must race down in a river with limited time. More time can be gained by doing well in five exclusive mini-games, grabbing clocks scattered throughout the river and reaching specific markers on the map. This was a cool idea, and two of the mini games were enjoyable, but the problem is that this mode was way too easy. I never felt worried about losing because gaining time wasn’t a challenge in the three times I played this mode.
Finally, there is Sound Stage mode where you compete in a musical show and play rhythm-based mini games to gain the most amount of points at the end to win. This mode works the first time you use it, even with three different difficulties, but my skills were truly being challenged, and the timing for most of the mini games was so strict that my timing was often too early.
Then there is the online mode, which consists of playing different mini-games that rotate every two hours. This mode is similar to the stage and mode rotation in Splatoon 2. I played one match in this mode, and it was not enjoyable in the slightest. Online connection was lagged, making for all my command inputs feel three seconds behind. To make matters worse, I didn’t get to finish the game as I got booted from the party due to poor service. Basically, until Nintendo patches the online mode, playing Super Mario Party online is not recommended.
Although there are problems with the game, there are also some aspects that are well-executed. Outside of two mini-games, the games were entertaining. Also, when you select your character, each one has their own different dice with their own benefits and consequences for using them, adding a layer of strategy by picking a character that was missing from past entries. I wouldn’t recommend this game for the price due to the modes feeling very similar to each other and a lack of replay value if you are playing this Super Mario Party alone. In short, Super Mario Party was a step in the right direction for the series, but the game needs a better online presence and more single player variety to truly return to glory.