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Wednesday 29/03/2017: Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink

January 23, 2015

Mario Party DS (Part 1)


You might remember me getting really pissed at the last Mario Party game I reviewed. It's because the plot played a mean trick on us, and as a result all of the player's efforts were for naught, making the game a complete waste of time. That problem does not show up here, so I'm already a little happier. There will be moments of anger. I seem to have a lot of triggers these days. But I don't think this review will be as negative. In fact, I will be a LOT more positive for this one.

Even princesses get in on the fun!
Mario Party DS is a party game on the Nintendo DS featuring famous characters from the Mario series, in case the title didn't make it obvious. This one was developed by Hudson Soft. Like all Mario Party games, the characters are playing on gigantic boards with blue spaces, red spaces, green spaces, etc. They roll a die, move a number of spaces, something may or may not happen to them, etc. They can also use an object before rolling the die, such as a double die, a bag to steal an item, or a Hex (a new mechanic that is only in this game). Once all four characters have completed their turn, a minigame is played. The characters are pit against each other (in a Battle Rotale, or sometimes in teams of 2-VS2 or 1-VS-3), and the mini-game's winner(s) earn 10 coins (each, if more than one winner). The goal of the game is to run around the board and collect Stars: One Star costs 20 coins (though, since all the boards have their own gimmicks, that price can change), and since all players start with only 10 coins, that means they'll usually need to win a mini-game before they can buy one. After the last turn, optional Bonus Stars can be earned according to random achievements (landing on the most green spaces, winning the most mini-games, using the most items, collecting the most coins, etc.), and then the winner is declared. It's the character with the most Stars. And if two or more characters have the same amount of stars, it's the one among those who has the most coins who wins. That's how it works.

There's only one difference this time: The boards are a LOT smaller than usual. No, not the way you think. What I mean by this is that the boards aren't bigger than, say, a room in a house... because the characters are tiny! Yeah, that might sound off, but there's a theme in this game. A theme that will be explained as I take a look at the plot.

Make a wish!
"I wished Peach would upgrade
her castle's security system, for once!"


Honey, I shrunk the partygoers!
One night, five dazzling objects are seen flying across the skies and fall in the Mushroom Kingdom. One of them falls near Mario. On the next day, the plumber shows it to his friends and allies: Luigi, Yoshi, Princesses Peach and Daisy, Wario, Waluigi and Toad. It's a Sky Crystal! (Hey, as long as it's not a meteorite piece, we're fine.) At the same time, Kamek the Magikoopa flies by and tosses invitations to Mario and crew. They're from Bowser, who's... throwing a party to apologize for being such a jerk. There's also gonna be a banquet! Not very subtle, Bowser. I've seen a LOT of traps that were a lot less obvious than that. By the way, Donkey and Diddy Kong also receive the invitation, and since DK wants food, he hurries there with his nephew. So, the cast goes to Bowser's castle, and there really is a banquet... but it was still a trap! The eight characters find themselves in a cage. Bowser arrives, claiming he wants the Sky Crystal. ...why? We'll see in due time. Since the heroes refuse, Bowser uses his new magic scepter, the Minimizer, which shrinks the eight heroes! Bowser picks up the Crystal, and then asks Kamek to fling all eight characters far, far away from the castle... while they're still tiny. However, all hope isn't lost: Mario convinces the others to fight their way towards Bowser's Castle so they can retrieve their normal sizes! Who will reach Bowser? Who will defeat Bowser? Will our heroes go back to normal? Of course! But what's awaiting them on the way? ...Party boards. ….Yep.

Guess that Venus Fire Trap is playing King of the Yard.
...Wow, it looks a lot smaller on this picture...
So, the heroes start walking and reach Wiggler's Garden, a beautiful place with lots of flowers... oh, and a nasty Venus Fire Trap that wants to burn it all down. Wiggler asks for their help! They must defeat the evil plant! And everyone wants to do it, but only one of them can! How will they decide who goes to battle the Venus Fire Trap? On a board, of course! Quite literally, the one who has the most Stars will go fight the plant.

Now that the plot has been explained, I should give just a little explanation of this game's special elements. Mario Party games like to have a defining feature that isn't in the other games. Mario Party 2 had the Koopa Bank and the alternate costumes on every board for all the heroes. This one has Hexes. When you pick up a Hex, it is instantly added to your Items if you don't already have three (the maximum). The Hex pickup isn't a Space, so don't count it as one. When you have a Hex in your items, you can select it and place it on a blue or red space near yours. If you step on your own Hex, it will disappear, but you'll gain 5 coins. If another player steps on it, an effect will happen. The effects range from “Steal 10 coins” to “Swap coins” to “Steal one Star” to “Swap positions”, and there are a few other effects. On the boards in this game, there are also Friend/Duel Spaces. Those are Friend Spaces for all turns except the final 5, and when a character lands on the Friend space, it will pick another character and both will earn 5 coins. (CPU characters will usually pick the character in fourth place when giving coins.) Five turns before the end, though, Bowser will show up! He will give a bonus to the player in fourth place (not that it will help much, most of the time), and then all Friend Spaces will turn into Duel Spaces. When you land on a space like this, you pick a character to duel against, then the stakes are decided (both players put the amount of coins or Stars, which is chosen randomly with a roulette), and then the winner gets the coins or Stars.

Let's D-D-D-D-D-DDD-DUEL!

Eat mah bomb, meanie!
That's the “new stuff” in this game. Oh, also, there are Boss mini-games. In Story Mode, when you win on a board, you have to face that board's boss in a mini-game. Did I mention that if you lose at that mini-game you have to start the board all over again? As in, you have to play another 10-turns game against three CPU opponents? Yes, it's every bit as annoying as I make it to be... but thankfully you can practice the boss mini-games, so you can try them over and over until you've got a good hang of the mini-game.

And there's a mini-game like this after each board. Once the match on the Wiggler's Garden board is over, the winner goes to battle the Venus Fire Trap. In the battle minigame, it is fought by catching the explosive balls it inhales and then spits at you, and throwing them back in its mouth while it's open.. Oh, by the way, you must stay in the air or else the plant will eat you. Still, the plant is defeated quickly, so the heroes move on to the next board... but not before Wiggler hands the Mario crew an odd thingy – a Sky Crystal!

How much money does she have to own all these instruments?
On their way, the eight tiny heroes meet up with Toadette, the most complicated character ever created for the Mario series. Shigeru Miyamoto says that the Toads don't have genders, but Toad acts like a boy, and Toadette is very girly, it's even in her name, so either she is a girl or a very very girly man. And honestly, that last option just sounds plain wrong. Anyway, a Hammer Bro has invaded her music room and is causing all sorts of troubles. Get rid of him! But first, you have to play the board in Toadette's music room... because the plot says so. And also because your Stars somehow give you power, so the one with the most Stars is the one most capable of fighting the villain or something like that. Whatever sense that makes.

This kind of minigame again?
Simon Says is everywhere!

And so, the board is played, and the winner goes to battle the Hammer Brother in an epic... Simon Says super showdown. He smashes drums and you have to smash the same drums to hurt him. That summons a large golden note that will destroy his evil black notes and punch him in the face. Again, I'm not kidding.

Poor DK, being relegated to background decoration...
Once Hammer Bro is defeated, Toadette thanks the heroes by giving them another Sky Crystal, and then the eight characters continue on their way. They reach a jungle and meet with Diddy Kong! He's panicking... because a Dry Bones turned DK into stone! ...Wait, I thought Magikoopas were the ones with magic powers??? Oh whatever. You need to play on a board (conveniently placed around Donkey Kong's stone body) and earn more stars, and then kick Dry Bones' skeletal butt with your tiny feet, in order to save the ape! Why? Because Mario Party is like Yu-Gi-Oh!: Everything is an excuse to play a game, even if it makes no goddamn sense.

On this board, there is only one location for the Star, so it never moves... but when you reach it, you can buy as many as you want! Reaching it can be a difficult task, however. Anyway, ten turns on this board, and a half-hour later we get to see who will fight Dry Bones. The winner will have to defeat the skeleton by smashing enchanted buttons around it and creating a spell that will go and hit it, thrice. Once Dry Bones is defeated, it literally falls apart (Magic kept it alive as a skeleton? That might explain a few things, actually), DK is freed, Diddy hands the team a Sky Crystal, and the two primates run towards Bowser's Castle. The eight tiny heroes continue on their way.

Oh God... Just thinking about this one triggers my
"Auto-Hatred" button...
They reach Kamek's Library, where a Koopa tells them that the evil Magikoopa Kamek trapped his grandfather in a book! You have to rescue him by beating Kamek... but you know what that means: Party board game! I really hate that board because its tricks are pretty nasty. First off, there is no “Star” on the board; instead, there are three jars, but only one of them contains a Star. Opening one of those jars costs 10 coins. Only one has the Statr, another gives 5 coins and the other is a monster in disguise that sends you back to the Start space. Oh, also, the board is split in two halves, and the only way you can go from a half to another is by using portals inside magic books. All that would be fine and dandy if you could choose not to use them... but each time you land on these books' spaces, you are forced to use them. Oh, and if someone else steps on the portal book space where you're standing? You get teleported along with him/her! Who's the smartass who thought that mechanic up? Are the folks at Nintendo feasting on our tears of rage? No, that's more Atlus' thing.

It doesn't matter anyway, as you still need to win to access Kamek. You fight the Magikoopa in some kind of shoot'em up where you shoot ink at incoming flying books in a large hallway, in which there are also moving book shelves. ...No, really. And the fight against Kemek is pretty fun too: You shoot ink in the Magikoopa's face and blind him... after which he swings madly his magic wand, which causes a huge book to fall on his head. Hah! After three hits, Kamek is defeated, the Koopa's grandfather is freed, they give you another Sky Crystal and you can move on to the final board.

Or rather, the heroes reach Bowser's Castle and are immediately picked up by Bowser and put in a giant pinball machine...

Pictured: A bad party. Why not "the worst Party ever"?
Because that was Mario Party 2. Hah!

OH NO, IT'S MARIO PINBALL LAND ALL OVER AGAIN!

No, not quite. There is a party board in that pinball machine, how convenient. And Stars and spaces and everything. This one is HARD. Very difficult. The theme? Gambling. A lot of gambling stuff around that board. It's like Hell, a casino and a Monopoly board all rolled into one. ...Not like there are many differences. And since I'm an unlucky guy... Oh, whatever. I said all I could say about this board, so now let's get to the boss.

After the board's winner was decided, we get a cutscene. Bowser gets pissed and menaces to shrink the heroes even further... but then the Kongs run in the castle! They run by Bowser, knocking him to the ground and breaking the scepter. As a result, the heroes are back to their normal size! Your character must fight Bowser. But the turtle-dragon has another secret weapon: The Megamorph Belt!


...No, not that one.

With it, he turns into a mass of steel blocks that can reshape themselves into a larger block, a pyramid or a snake. You have to repeatedly kick the block with the Bowser symbol to hurt this boss. Once you've hit him enough times ahile he's in his third form, he reverts to normal and faints. Yay! You got the last Sky Crystal! What happens when you put them all together? They morph into a diamond-like Nintendo DS! ...one without buttons, ain't that weird. Anyway, Bowser reveals that he wanted this new thingamajig, and he didn't want them to get their hands on it... but to his (and his son's) great surprise, the heroes invite him to play with them! The new game, Triangle Twister, can be enjoyed by everyone!

Go Triangle-Twisting with Bowser, indeed! And Heck, he actually looks happy to play with them! The group gets together to twist some triangles, and we get a big group shot (Heh! Mario's gang is full of hipsters: They did group selfies before it was cool! Take that, Ellen DeGeneres!).

The characters in the Mario gang are such hipsters.

As for Donkey Kong and Diddy, they ate the entire buffet. Huh, guess the food was safe. The end.

Oh, but wait... that's just the plot! Next Monday, I will continue this review with everything else that is in the game!