Come on Nintendo, you’re killing me. I have been a fan of the Mario Party game series since its debut back in the late 90’s. I, in addition to many others, fell in love with the series due to its unique charm and refreshing digital take on the board game and party game genre. It’s no secret that Nintendo has struggled to maintain the Mario Party franchise’s reputation over the years and has been trying to breathe life back into the beloved series with each new rendition of the game. History has shown us that the franchise has experienced large fluctuations in game quality over time because of Nintendo’s continued attempts at revitalizing the series.
With the most recent game, Mario Party: Star Rush, Nintendo has shown us that they have been actively trying to take steps in the right direction. They have shown us that they have been listening and have presented us with a game that is innovative and addresses many of the complaints regarding gameplay in predecessors in the series. However, regardless of how innovative new aspects of the game may be, Mario Party: Star Rush falls short and fails to capture the true essence of the series.
The original Mario Party was released back in 1998 and featured the game mode that the Mario Party series would later be known for called Party Mode. In Party Mode, up to four players could play through a turn-based board game, traveling along linear paths, and competing in minigames at the end of each round all in hopes of being the player that collects the most stars by the end of the game. This game mode focused heavily on the board game aspect of the game and threw minigames into the mix to keep things fun exciting. This was what made the Mario Party game series popular.
Fast forward to now and it’s been a little less than two decades since the first Mario Party was released and the most recent title added to the franchise is Mario Party: Star Rush. Mario Party-ers rejoice, Nintendo has given us a new game! Obviously, Mario Party games are better when they are played with other people as opposed to solo and this game is no different. But be aware, this game has some key differences from the rest of the franchise. Mario Party: Star Rush has completely abandoned the traditional, turn-based, board game style Party Mode. The game mode that Mario Party games have been known for for almost two decades is not in the new game. Instead, Party Mode has been replaced by three smaller and shorter game modes: Toad Scramble, Coinathalon, and Ballon Bash.
Toad Scramble is the default game mode for Mario Party: Star Rush. In this game mode, you and up to 3 other players each start as a Toad and are placed on a board that resembles a grid. Thanks to the grid-like board, the game path is now no longer linear and players are free to move in whichever direction they see fit. Players also no longer take individual turns. Now, instead of taking turns one at time like in previous Mario Party titles, players all take their turns and move around the board at the same time. As players move around the board, they can recruit other characters from the Mario Party cast as allies to help them fight against the level’s bosses. Stars are only earned in this game mode by being the winning the boss battles. While this game mode does significantly shorten the length of the game and eliminate idle time, the central idea of the game doesn’t feel all that well developed. This is my least favorite of the three game modes.
Coinathalon is a game mode that resembles a race. In this game mode, there are no turns at all. You are constantly playing one of the 3 predetermined minigames. Once you’ve completed all 3 of the minigames, you cycle through them again until one of the players finishes the race. To move forward in the race, you collect coins in the minigames. This game mode is extremely fast, but repetitive and since there is only a small selection of minigames that can be played during this game mode, the minigames repeat often and get old quick.
The final game mode, Balloon Bash, is my personal favorite because it most closely resembles the original Party Mode games. Like the Toad Scramble game mode, in Balloon Bash you take turns and move around the board in unison with everyone else. The thing that is most similar to the original Mario Party games is that you move across the board to collect coins and exchange them for stars. Coin balloons and star redemption balloons are randomly placed on the board and players try to reach them first in order to claim them. This on its own makes playing the Balloon Bash game mode enticing. Minigames are then played at the end of each round if one of the balloons on the board is popped. Although this game mode does seem to be very much like the original Party Mode, Balloon Bash comes nowhere close to being as fun or entertaining. There is far less going on around the game board and there seems to be very little emphasis on the minigames themselves despite being there. This is also probably the longest of the three game modes length wise, but it is still relatively short game.
Mario Party: Star Rush is not what I expected nor what I wanted. The game was made for short bursts of entertainment and does not feel like it is substantial enough for hour upon hours of solo play. I found myself bored and frustrated after barely making it through two rounds of Toad Scramble. I just don’t see the appeal or the incentive to keep playing when I’m not getting anything out of it. Don’t get me wrong, by no means is Mario Party: Star Rush a bad game. The game is cheerful and does feature a wide variety of well-made minigames. There are many people, ranging from children to adults, who will love this game. I just can’t help but feel that the developers spent so much time trying to speed up the game and change things around that they lost sight of what they were losing and what made the franchise so appealing in the first place. Nintendo focused so much on creating a new gameplay experience and cutting down on game length that they de-emphasized much of the board game experience and failed to capture the true essence of the Mario Party game series. My only hope is that Nintendo keeps listening and attempting to move forward with the series.