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June 20, 2014

Mario Party 2

He who said “There's no such thing as bad luck” is a moron who has never played any Mario Party games. 

He has also never been to a casino or played a luck game. The franchise is an infamous friendship destroyer, and for good reason. Have you ever played a Mario Party game with friends? They all get together to try and take down the player who owns the game. And don't get me started on the mini-games that require luck!

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start by the beginning. In the Nintendo 64 era came out a little game known as Mario Party. It was an extremely creative concept mixing board game, mini-games, and the Mario series. It was a lot of fun to play. There was only one problem: Among the mini-games created, there was a couple that required the player to spin around the joystick on the N64 controller. This led to hundreds of players getting sore thumbs and even sore palms from spinning the joystick. After this disastrous entrance for the franchise, Nintendo tried to correct this by putting no joystick-spinning games in the subsequent Mario Party games. They couldn't predict, however, the “un-fairplay-ness” of gamers all around the world, who would throw temper tantrums each time things don't go right in a Mario Party game. Why?

Because board games and video games are two very different things. You can practice all you want on video games, but it's a little more difficult to practice your strategies in an actual board game if you cannot play it without someone else. When playing a board game against friends, if you know their usual strategies you can predict what they'll do, but most of the time they'll try to surprise you nonetheless. Video games can be played in single player mode, which means the game's owner will always have a head start due to knowing what the game contains, the boards' layouts, how to play each mini-game and what they have in stock for the player, etc. In Mario Party, there's four-player matches, but by the end there's only one thing everyone will do: Dethrone whoever is in first place at the moment, usually the game's owner, and to Hell if they have to team up against him/her for that! It makes sense, as the game's owner has more experience and therefore represents the menace to take down. After that, the dethroned one can complain all he/she wants, he/she was just an obstacle after all! Mario Party breaks friendships because, in many cases, one is gonna become the target of everyone else.

Lived it.

But I'm not here to enact revenge on a series that I don't like too much.

...Okay, a little.

But! Like all games here, I must review it, see what's good about the game, what's bad, and come to a conclusion that disregards the “friendship-killing” aspect of the franchise.

This is Mario Party 2, and I hope I'm not regretting this already.

C ome on, you can solve this on any SSBB battlefield!
Alright, so, every game in the series has a (relatively contrived) reason why the characters are battling on board games. What is it this time around? Well, a new park has opened in the Mushroom Kingdom. Clearly, it must be named Mario Land!

...God I wish.

But Mario is surrounded by five of his “friends”: Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, Wario and Donkey Kong. They all want the park to be named after them! Even Peach jumps in and says her name should be on top. Which, by the way, makes sense to me, as she was the one with the resources and the budget to build a giant park like this.

However, Bowser also has set his eyes on ????? Land and is hoping to make it Bowser Land! He invades the park! A Toad joins the six and tells them that whoever will defeat Bowser at the end will have the park named after him. Or her, for Peach.

Bowser has extended his influence on all six regions of the park, all of which are themed. There's Pirate Land, Western Land, Space Land, Mystery Land, Horror Land and Bowser Land. I suspect that last one wasn't part of the original park and was built by Bowser's forces to stroke the turtle-dragon's massive ego.

Therefore, the game is on, as the six main characters are now battling on game boards to see who can kick Bowser – and his five aliases – out of each park, become the Superstar, and save the worl- er, I mean, save ????? Land!

A mini-game at the end of every turn.
To all of you who haven't played any Mario Party game: There's always four players battling on a board. At the start, they all get 10 coins. Each player rolls the die and moves that number of spaces. When the character lands on a space, an effect is triggered: Blue space, they win coins, red space, they lose coins, green space, something else happens. There's other special spaces, like the Koopa Bank, the dreaded Bowser Space, the Item Space, the Battle Space... When any reaches a fork in the path, he or she can select the path to follow. Some paths may be behind locked doors, however. Plus, there's a possibility to buy items in shops. To win on a board, you have to be the player who collects the most Stars; at the beginning, a Star is placed randomly on the field. Each Star costs 20 Coins, and whenever one is bought, the next one appears on another spot on the map. At the end of every turn, players all participate in a mini-game. The selection of mini-games is varied; in fact, if it weren't for those boards, the games would only contain mini-games and it would already be pretty fun that way (It worked fine for the Rabbids, as far as I know!).The mini-games are separated in how they're played (4-way Battle Royale, 2-VS-2, 1-VS-3, and so on), and during board play, the mini-game's winner(s) would get 10 coins. At the end of the match, bonus Stars will be given out (if you've chosen so), and then the victor is revealed: It's the one with the most stars and, in case of a tie there, it's the one with the most Stars and the most coins.

If you've ever played a Mario Party game, this is one of your phobias.

In Mario Party 2, before playing on any board, you first pick your character, then the computer characters (three to zero depending on how many human players there are), then the difficulty setting for each computer character, the number of turns and finally the option to get bonus Stars at the end. For the number of turns, you choose between 20, 35 and 50. Keep in mind that the average length of each turn is of about 3 minutes, so be ready to play around 60, 105 or 150 minutes on the board you've picked. And that's if you're not also practicing every mini-game with your friends because they're new to the game. In later games, the minimum of turns is actually 10, which makes for half-hour long games, a much more reasonable time. Like all games in the series, it's possible in Mario Party 2 to access a separate mode in which you can replay, at will, the many mini-games available in it.

Just so you know, this Mario Party game has exactly 65 mini-games. Here's the catch, however: To unlock a mini-game in free play, you must buy it. And to buy it, you need, well, coins. But how do you get coins? Well, at the end of every game played on a board, you keep the amount of coins you had; also, every Star you owned is traded for 50 coins. Oh, but that's not all. The same happens to the opponents' coins and Stars, so in a way, even your opponents help you in buying all the mini-games.

All these mini-games can be accessed in Mini-Game Land, a place where you can play them as much as you want. In Mini-Game Park, you can select mini-games and play them at your leisure. The other modes include the Stadium, which plays like a board game without the Stars, only the coins; the Trial, with very few mini-games and a simplified board; the Duel mode, in which players play mini-games until one has reached a number of wins; and finally, the Coaster, in which you have to play every single mini-game and beat them, like a Story Mode of sorts. These modes are all sort of bland, but at the same time there isn't really anything else you can do. The Coaster mode is fun, but you have an amount of lives, so be careful not to lose too often.

If only we could actually customize the characters...
How awesome would that be?
Now that I've covered the technical aspects, let's get into the meat: The plot! Or rather, the plot after the intro. Whenever you pick one of the five main boards, you are treated to... the sight of the main characters dressed in costumes fitting the board's theme. This is the only Mario Party game in which this happens, and it does look nice to see Mario & Co. dressed as pirates, astronauts, cowboys... The only board for which it doesn't happen is the last one. Also, Bowser shows all two dimensions of his character... by appearing on every board to cause mischief and trouble, always under a different alias, each one as ridiculous as the preceding one. Don't get me started on how much it seems to be based on a trend from the TV show. Cap'n Bowser, REALLY? I mean, this show was bad enough, I don't think it deserves to be referenced in a game! On every board, the players are battling to know who will get the chance to fight Bowser and kick him out of that part of ????? Land.

As an example, this is Western Land. It even got a milk bar!

At the end of a game, after the bonus stars have been awarded, the winner is about to be known... when the ceremony is interrupted by a Koopa. Hey, I've been playing this damn thing for one hour! Piss off, I want to know if I won! But the Koopa says that Bowser is near! So the four characters who played on the board head to where Bowser is... and ultimately, the board's winner is revealed as the one facing Bowser and beating him. In a way, it makes your victories even better. Your character beats Bowser! Yes, even if it's Luigi! Or Wario! Or Yoshi! Or Donkey Kong! ...Or even Peach! Princess friggin' Peach can BEAT BOWSER! Thanks to the power of the Stars! Now that's freaking awesome.

Once the five boards have been played once, Bowser's troops literally invade the game's hub world and a new board is made available: Bowser Land. This is a Hellish board in every meaning of the term, with features that make one cringe and impossible Star placements that worsen the gaming experience. When this hour-long torture is finally over, the Bonus Stars are awarded. As the winner is revealed, a Koopa comes by - AGAIN! - and tells the cast that Bowser is up to mischief again! The Superstar has to stop him, fast!

Before I cover the ending, I must add this: I was playing with Princess Peach for this one, because dammit, if there's one Mario character who needs more awesome moments, it's her. So I played through the board and had an excruciatingly hard time beating the other characters, all CPUs, on the board. In the minigames, I was alright. But the board was really Hell. Looked like Hell, felt like Hell, annoying as Hell.

If you listen to that board's tune in slow-mo and turn the volume to the
maximum, you can hear the tortured screams of a gamer captured by
Bowser. It's muffled because it comes from the blimp.

So, at the end, even with the Bonus Stars being awarded, I ended up in... fourth position. I was angry, of course. Then the Koopa came around, said that Bowser was up to no good, and the board's winner went to battle him. It was revealed to be Luigi! The green bro, using the power of the Stars, defeats a Metal-powered Bowser and literally knocks him all around the world, defeating him.

After which Mario and the rest of the crew climb over Bowser to prove their victory over evil. Now that Luigi has defeated Bowser and saved the park, does that mean it will be called Luigi Land?



They call it Mario Land.



Ahem. … ...


Phew. ...


...calm down, calm down...

AAA-OK, why is this wrong? Why is calling the park Mario Land such a wrong thing that I basically went out of character, into Angry Video Game Nerd Mode for a moment? Well, for starters, whichever character you picked, the ending will STILL say that the park got called Mario Land. Even if you don't win, if another character wins on the final board, one that is NOT Mario, even if Mario was NOT on the final board, the park is still called Mario Land at the end. You see the problem? This is the most obvious, the most painful, the most insulting example of Mariocentrism in the entire series. Yes, Mariocentrism. Literally, showing that the series revolves around Mario and all the others seem are too minor of characters to be actually important. It's not THAT common of an occurrence, as the series had given the spotlight to many other characters over time... But this is just an insult to the player, an insult to the minimum of six hours spent playing Mario Party 2, an insult to whoever could possibly have hoped for his character getting the incredible reward of having the park named after him or her.

It spits in the player's face, saying “Unless you picked Mario, you won't get the reward of having the park bear your character's name”. Which means five times out of six.

It goes beyond that. Most Mario games feature, well, Mario as the hero who kicks Bowser's ass and saves everyone. But in the Mario Party games, it's different. Each game has a plot, and by the end the winner on a board is pretty much the hero on that board. The plot is resolved by playing on the boards, after selecting the player character and the computer characters. And when the plot resolves, it's hopefully thanks to the player winning on the boards, or even with any of the computer characters. ...To put it simply, ANYONE among the playable characters has a chance to be the hero in that Mario Party game. Not just Mario, not just Luigi, Yoshi or Peach, but everyone. Even Wario, Daisy, Donkey Kong, Waluigi, Toad, anybody playable! Hell, when I play Mario Party DS, I prefer to use characters like Daisy, Waluigi or Toad because I want to see them as the heroes for a change!

It is enraging when the ending forgets the true victor and instead ends with one character (obviously, the already privileged Mario) still being the hero, because screw you, he's the main character of the entire franchise, we don't care what you think. In a game where all six playable characters are supposed to have equal chances of getting the game's final reward... which is completely disregarded here.

Fuck this motherfucking ending.

It's really hard to judge this game faithfully now that I've revealed the ending. I'm so angry that I punched a wall. I've hurt my knuckles because of this stupid game! ...Okay, be faithful Nicolas, be faithful. What's good about this game? Well, the graphics are just all right, I guess, for the N64 era. Nothing really special. The music is fine too, nothing amazing, just... okay I guess. The boards are creative too, I suppose. I mean, the designers had to keep true to a theme for every board, build the board's layout according to this theme. They had to make sure each board was challenging but possible to beat nonetheless. With strategy and some luck, obviously. So I applaud the effort, but then again...

Pictured here: A luck mini-game.
Not pictured: My frustration.
The real treat here is the mini-games. Play each of them once and you're guaranteed to have fun for more than an hour. Every mini-game is fun in its own way, though some of them are better than others. Some of them rely on luck, which is something I really despise. Where's the challenge if at the end, it's all decided through dumb luck? This is why I stopped playing Snakes and Ladders. But the non-luck games are fun. You just gotta learn how to play and try to find the better strategies against the computer opponents. Of course, the higher their set difficulty, the smarter the CPUs become. And most of all, more annoying they become on the boards! Still, the mini-games are and remain, to me anyway, the best part of every Mario Party game. That's probably why I liked playing Mario Party Advance on an emulator, but I'm straying from the point here. Point is, they could make a Mario game based entirely around mini-games and it would sell anyway. (Also, how awesome would that be to customize Mario and crew??)

I would be perfectly satisfied just playing the mini-games and leaving the boards aside.

My biggest beef with this game is still the plot. How can you not hate it? It's like someone sending you on a quest only to reveal, once you've come back with the requested item, that he already had the exact same item, in enough copies for your entire family. It's a stupid plot, especially by Mario Party standards (which are already damn low, I gotta give that). Some later games in the franchise have better stories, let's just think of Mario Party 6 with its dueling icons of day and night... or the actual plot of Mario Party DS, in which Bowser shrinks all eight characters and they have to make their way to Bowser's Castle to retrieve their normal size! While playing on boards at the same time, but... it's still more freaking creative than for this one! Here, all that happens is that the characters argue on what the park's name should be, but Bowser takes it over before they can find a name. You spend the game playing characters who want to have the park named after them... and by the end, all those efforts are for naught because the story ends with the park being named MARIO LAND. Even if Mario had no part in the fucking climax! RAAAAAAUGH!

Calm down, Nicolas. You've made your points, now tell your final words. That will calm you down. So... *deep breaths* Did I like this game? Only the mini-game aspect, because the plot is a giant steaming pile of crap, the boards are not fun and the only thing that gives me any enjoyment is the mini-game mode, which lets you play through the many mini-games and even gives you the option to play in little competitions based around them. Do I recommend this game? Absolutely not, unless you're a huge Mario Party fan and you don't mind the absolute annoyance that will be felt after playing this game for too long. It's available for 1,000 Points (10 bucks) on the Wii Shop Channel, which was not closed along with the Wi-Fi on the Wii. But keep in mind that you'll have to play alone unless you buy more than one Classic Controller, and also if you have more than one Wiimote, of course.

I don't believe it's worth paying so much for one of the lesser games in a series that is already infamous for breaking friendships. I do believe the series has had better games, but this one definitely doesn't count.

I plan on reviewing Mario Party DS at some point. Expect that review to be much happier. And sorry for the burst of cursing earlier. It's not gonna happen again. ...Frequently. We never know when's the next time I see a game's plot that angers me to unimaginable levels...

Still, stay tuned next week for a new Top 12: The best one-time Nintendo final bosses. That one should be fun.