Mario Party 9 and Mario Party: Island Tour Retrospective

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 the release of Mario Party DS in November of 2007, the Mario Party series took a nice long break. Shortly after the handheld game was released, Hudson Soft, the developers behind every Mario Party game at this point, was disbanded. Those who worked on the Mario Party series were no longer around, and the series was put to rest.

Fast forward to E3 2011. Just as the Nintendo press conference was coming to a close, a number of logos appeared on the screen, showcasing Nintendo’s upcoming titles, both announced and unannounced, and that’s where Mario Party 9 was spotted for the first time. It wasn’t long before we got our full trailer and screens. The game went on to be released in March of 2012.

Now under the development of Nd Cube, a Nintendo subsidiary that is home to many of Hudson’s old staff, Mario Party 9 brought a number of changes to the series. The first and most obvious change was the removal of free roaming characters on a board. Instead, players worked together to reach the end of each board while taking turns moving in a vehicle. The car mechanic was a fresh and new idea, but it wasn’t without its own problems.

Mario Party games need to have a good balance of luck and skill. The new car mechanic had a lot of promise and could have made for a very enjoyable experience, but the small details and design choices made this new mode one you’d want to avoid. For starters, almost every board had some kind of mechanic where it’s possible to lose half of your Mini-Stars, the collectible items needed to win the game. And this was very common. What was the purpose of trying to win in minigames if you knew you were going to lose them all later down the line? Speaking of minigames, why even try when the payout is unfiar? Second place gets just a bit less than first? There is a reward for getting last?

You also had the dice blocks to worry about. Items in past Mario Party games ensured players some kind of strategy and skill by not relying on luck. Unfortunately, the dice blocks you collect in this game help slim your chances of getting bad luck, but the result is still random. That balance needs to be there if you want anyone to try!

With the mediocre board gameplay explained, it’s time to dive into the minigames. Mario Party 9 did a phenomenal job with minigames. Almost every single minigame is a blast to play, and every single minigame was clearly crafted with quality in mind. Any trace of bad Wii Remote usage from Mario Party 8 is gone, and each minigame feels natural and easy to play. There are so many to spotlight, but some favorites include Chain Event, Skipping Class, Smash Compactor, Billistics, Pit or Platter, Magma Mayhem, and Fungi Frenzy.

Outside of that, you’ve got plenty of your typical Mario Party modes and extras. The new Perspective Mode allowed players to play certain minigames up close and with a new camera angle, and the Museum offered an interesting shop and relaxing feel to look at the different unlockables you’ve collected. Mario Party 9 also had great visuals, making it the best looking Mario Party to date.

Then we had Mario Party: Island Tour for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013. Fans who wanted the classic style of play from the past Mario Party games were delighted to see that the car was not returning in this installment, but it was a bit short lived as players realized that a new type of gameplay was being introduced once again.

Island Tour laid out a great foundation for what a Mario Party game without the classic style of collecting coins and grabbing the most stars should be. Each board introduced new and interesting mechanics that showed that Nd Cube is capable of creating a fun and creative Mario Party game. Perilous Palace Path had players fighting to make it to the end of the board, thanks to the return of items. Winning minigames earned you extra dice blocks, and there was a real incentive to win. Bowser’s Peculiar Peak actually asks players to advance the least amount of spaces, causing the first player to reach the end to lose.

There were a lot of innovative ideas, but they were only the foundation. Island Tour doesn’t go very deep with these concepts, and things stay pretty simple. Many boards are too reliant on luck once again, while others are simply straightforward and at times, boring. Outside the board gameplay, Island Tour doesn’t offer up too much else. The minigame modes are lacking, the unlockables are laughable, and the new Bowser Tower mode is nice, but doesn’t offer too much replay value.

However, Nd Cube once again did a tremendous job with the minigames. Some standouts include Claiming the Cube, Tragic Carpet Ride, Starring Artist, Meteor Melee, and Slip Not.

And with that, we’re done with our retrospective of the Mario Party series! Check our Countdown to Mario Party 10 post to see what’s next!

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