A Party In Your Pocket.
Never judge a book by its cover. Mario Party: The Top 100 combines two things I love most about the Mario universe; my favourite mini-games amongst the flurry of bite-sized micro-games littered throughout each title of the Mario Party series, and the ‘world-level style’ semantics a standard Mario platformer offers – this time, via Minigame Island. While Mario Party: The Top 100 appears to be a fairly shallow attempt at a party game compilation at first glance, it’s surprisingly entertaining and lengthy Minigame Island mode, well-executed Download Play implementation, and a stockpile of unlockable mini-games and other goodies makes Mario Party: The Top 100 an easy recommendation for long-time Mario Party fans and newcomers alike, and positions itself as a hidden gem amongst the strong 3DS titles released this annum.
The Mario Party series, in many ways, has long encompassed a slew of my childhood memories with Nintendo. Whilst never having the opportunity to own a Nintendo 64 console myself, I capitalised on the donated console we once had at my primary school some fifteen years ago. Mario Party for the Nintendo 64 was just one of those titles that never left the cartridge slot; seldom swapped out occasionally for Pokemon Stadium, Mario Kart 64, or, if your parents were late on pick up and you were the only kid left, Super Mario 64. Whilst I haven’t had the opportunity to revisit the many mini-games I’d played countless times over all those years ago, the memories of raw fun and social interactions I’d experienced with this game over a decade past shot through me like electricity. I’d remembered the titles, the control scheme, the little intricacies I’d discovered way back to get the upper hand over my school buddies.
Mario Party: The Top 100 captures this all very well from the outset, presenting several game modes to satiate your mini-game munchies. A free play mode allows you to plot away at the initially available mini-games (you’ll need to progress certain modes of the game to unlock all games) at your own leisure and is perfect for when you just need to scratch that Mario Party itch. You’ll find (most) of your favourite mini-games here – notably, ‘Shy Guy Says’, ‘Face Lift’, ‘Handcar Havoc’ and my all-time favourite, ‘Desert Dash’. These cult classic mini-games form a part of some 55 titles you’ll have day one access to from the free-play mode, the rest of which you’ll need to unlock later. To do this, you’ll need to venture into the remaining game modes, including Minigame Island, Championship Battle, and Minigame Match.
Minigame Island is, in my opinion, the most ambitious mode that Mario Party: The Top 100 has to offer. You’ll be presented initially with a world-level style configuration, whereby each level is assigned to a mini-game – you’ll receive a star rating out of a total three stars based on your placing (1st gets you all three stars, 2nd gets two stars, and 3rd lands you the single star rating). Difficulty is automatically scaled as you progress, where each of the CPU players are assigned a difficulty. As you approach World 6, all opponents will be set to Hard, making many mini-games a serious chore to contend with. However, difficulty for the first three to four worlds was a walk in the park and offered little resistance. Progressing through all mini-games in each world plots you commonly against an evil Bowser at world’s end, and as cliché as this might be, it’s a fun little twist on something you might not see in a Mario Party title. Overall, Minigame Island is immensely fun, and its where I had the most fun in this instance – your mileage may vary.
While Championship Battle forms as a run-of-the-mill ‘best of x’ quasi-tournament mode, Minigame Match returns a familiar recipe to a seemingly unsuited game compilation environment. Minigame Match will likely be the most resemblant game mode, offering somewhat of a standard game of Mario Party. For the uninformed, Mario Party titles are based on a board game style setup, whereby players traverse a game board, spin a virtual dice, and play minigames against or with each other to reach the end of the board first. While this idea is fantastic, and something I would have welcomed with open arms, Nd Cube has served up a barebones, stripped version of the Mario Party formula. Whilst I didn’t expect a full-blown Mario Party game mode, the barren board selection (one board) gets tiresome just a few matches in, and there’s a complete absence of intermission gameplay – there is no mechanism of unpredictability as per the original titles, but rather a stale representation of the originality and magic captured in the mainline games.
The ‘multiplayability’ of titles in the Mario Party series has long been the attraction; so much so, that it’s almost difficult to recommend playing a Mario Party title in its solo dressup. The Multiplayer featureset of Mario Party: The Top 100 is no disappointment here, offering an expansive selection of game modes and play styles for almost any Multiplayer situation -that is, if you’re looking for a local Mario Party session (Online modes are sadly missing here). The Download Play feature plays right into Mario Party: The Top 100’s wheelhouse, expanding the standard two player limit on Download Play to a 3 player total, which should cover you in any couch hangout or handheld gaming night. There seems to be little distinguish between multi -cartridge or single-cartridge via Download Play, with Championship Battle and Minigame Matches both available to play, which should make parents hosting a school playdate very happy (and slightly richer) campers.
Graphics and Sound
While the Nintendo 3DS hardware is certainly beginning to show its age as it quickly reaches its 8th birthday, Mario Party: The Top 100 looks great, and slots itself snug, somewhere between Super Mario 3D Land and New Super Mario Bros 2 in regard to graphical prowess. The fuzziness that sneaks its way into many Nintendo 3DS titles is of course here, but the colourful charm and vibrant nature we’ve become accustomed to in 1st party Nintendo handheld titles is no exception in Mario Party: The Top 100. The chirpy, happy and thematic sounds are here to set the sensory scene for you, with some of the original minigame music making a comeback – although, I would have welcomed back the Mario Party 1 announcer with open arms. I mean, who can forget that mind-numbingly reminiscent ‘START!’ barked at you time and time over?
Mario Party: The Top 100 is exactly what you’d expect from a ‘best of’ collection of Mario Party minigames – pure, unadulterated fun, even if that fun is short-lived in some instances. With a solid offering of mini-games across the Mario Party franchise, as well as a surprisingly well-executed Multiplayer system, Mario Party: The Top 100 will set alight your Mario Party nostalgia in just the right ways, and best yet – over three generations worth of Mario Party mini-games neatly nestled in your pocket.
Thank you to Nintendo for providing a copy of Mario Party: The Top 100 for review.