In anticipation of the release of Mario Party 10 on March 20, Mario Party Legacy is taking a look back at the Mario Party series to recount all the good and bad that has come in the last 16 years. You can see our schedule and vote in our polls here.
After four consecutive entries in the Mario Party series, it was time for something new to shake up the next installment. This isn’t to say that the formula that worked for the past four titles was bad, but like any series that was releasing new iterations on a yearly basis, change is something that helps innovate and keep the interest of fans. Thankfully, Mario Party 5 began to take steps to make those necessarily changes.
Unfortunately, the changes that Mario Party 5 brought to the table didn’t bode well for the game overall. The ideas that Mario Party 5 introduced were interesting and unique, but it wouldn’t be until future installments that these changes were made in smart and fun ways. The new item system used Capsules, little orb-like balls that contained a single item inside. You could either spend a few coins to use the item on yourself, or you could save your cash and throw it onto a space, allowing anyone who lands on the space to receive the effects of the item.
To put it plainly, Mario Party 5 is boring. It’s slow, uneventful, and in many regards, unimaginative. For a game that basis its theme on dreams, this party came out pretty bland. The boards were simple and each one relied on the players to fill up the spaces with the different capsules. Again, cool concept, but what you would end up with is a board full of blue spaces. Not only that, but the flawed capsule system didn’t help even things out. Every capsule you got was random, and throwing them onto spaces did not guarantee anything for you. Thankfully, future Mario Party titles fixed this problem and got it right.
Like always, Mario Party 5 comes with a number of minigames, many of which are considered fan favorites. To name a few, you’ve got Coney Island, Hotel Goomba, Triple Jump, Heat Stroke, and bonus minigames like Ice Hockey and Card Party. DK was removed from the playable roster in Mario Party 5, but in exchange we got newcomers Toad, Boo, and Koopa Kid. DK minigames also make their first appearance.
Mario Party 5 also introduced Super Duel Mode, a special mode that had two characters facing off in custom built machines with parts collected in the other modes in the game. Mario Party 5 also introduced a Story Mode where a single player would fight against three different colored Koopa Kids. The boards for this mode were altered and made smaller, and all three Koopa Kids moved at once. A neat little idea that unfortunately has not returned since then.
It’s funny that at the start of this retrospective, I made a big deal about the importance of change when it comes to a series that is constantly releasing new games. In the case of Mario Party Advance, too much change can also have disastrous results. Mario Party Advance was the first handheld Mario Party title, and as such, the developers felt the need to make a single player focused Mario Party. Sounds like a good idea, right? Handhelds are primary made with single player in mind, so who would question this kind of decision? Well, the problem begins with the fact that the Mario Party series is almost entirely a multiplayer series.
Mario Party Advance had a single large map. This time you hopped into a car (kind of like Mario Party 9) and rode around the board stopping at various locations to help fulfill a number of the resident’s quests. The quests ranged from playing minigames, solving mysteries, delivering items back and forth across the board, and answering series of questions. At times it was fun, but in other and more often times, it was a chore.
With that in mind, the game did feature a good variety of single player minigames that proved that this was actually a Mario Party title. Some were based on classic Mario Party ideas, while others introduced new minigame concepts that would fit well within any other Mario Party game. There were also some separate modes that allowed for multiplayer connectivity between different Game Boy Advance systems. Fun, but they were only a small part of the larger game.
Mario Party 5 and Mario Party Advance showed us a bit of a low point for the series, at least from the first four games that seemed to understand the direction the series was heading in. Luckily, this is only the halfway point for the series, and there is still plenty more to see, both good and bad, in the games to come!