Amiibo crash Bowser’s party.
With Super Smash Bros. came the advent of the amiibo. They’ve started a bit of a consumer frenzy due to their scarcity and collectability, and as you’ve seen, even defects are fetching a pretty penny on bidding sites. But not all is so glorious about amiibo, as their seemingly last-minute addition to Mario Party 10 may have detracted from what could have been the best Mario Party yet.
Instead, Mario Party 10 feels as if it’s almost three separate games in one: a typical but admittedly lacking regular Mario Party game; an absolutely fantastic yet under-developed Bowser Party; and an awkward amiibo board game that at times can be interesting and fun but whose poor execution make it a chore to play.
Back at E3 2014, Mario Party 10 seemed more focused on finally giving players the chance to be the bad guy with the Bowser Party mode. Using the GamePad, a single player takes on the role of being a giant spike-shell thorn in the side of Mario and his pals. The GamePad offers a window into Bowser’s evil-doing that can’t be replicated by standard controllers and gives the Wii U’s GamePad some meaning—at least as it applies to Mario Party 10. One such example has players blowing on the GamePad mic to make Bowser breathe fireballs at his enemies, while another uses the touchscreen to play Bowser BINGO.
These unique gameplay scenarios, coupled with the liberating feeling of being the prick, make Bowser Party mode the standout in Mario Party 10—to the point where it probably deserves its own standalone title, eventually. Bowser’s idea of a party is more akin to an underage kegger in the woods, whereas the standard Mario Party is more like a child’s birthday party—there’s yummy cake, presents, and goodie bags, but they don’t have the danger element that adult fun has room for.
Even though Bowser Party is charming and delightful, changing up the typical board game style just enough to be interesting and having excellent mini-games, there isn’t much more included outside of what I already tried out at a simple demo of the game at E3. There's little more than a couple handfuls of mini-games to try, so the mode gets old too fast. The sheer lack of variety kills all of the positives that Bowser mode offers and will keep players from revisiting the mode after several playthroughs. Such a shame, too, as there is potential there. I can’t shake the feeling that development on Bowser Party was halted to incorporate amiibo support so Nintendo could sell another series of the NFC-enabled toys that are all the rage right now. As the company has been struggling with profits, who can really blame them? But for Mario Party fans, it’s a crying shame.
This would have been more acceptable if the Amiibo Party mode was better executed. It’s still fun—hell, it’s still Mario Party-ish and you really can’t go wrong if you enjoy a good party game or board game. Plus, amiibo are definitely fun to collect and customize, so there are some external benefits to their addition here. Unfortunately, the mode requires all players to gather around the GamePad to use their amiibo to roll dice, collect tokens, and other actions. Forget playing on the couch with a bunch of friends. Instead, you have to either pass around the GamePad like a princess kidnapped from castle to castle, or huddle around the GamePad, taking your eyes off the TV and the action. It makes for an uncomfortable experience, which detracts from any of the fun that can be found within the gameplay.
Taken altogether, Mario Party 10 tries to do too much at once. Fans of the series who have bought nine other iterations before it will be left unsatisfied, because the actual meat of the Mario Party mode isn’t there this time. There are fewer boards, fewer unlockables, and overall, less innovation in the mini-games than ever before (apart from those in Bowser Party). And you’d think that the first time the series graces the Wii U, there would be some mini-games that utilize the GamePad outside of the Bowser mini-games that require it, but no, nothing.
Aside from those nitpicks of the main Mario Party mode, this is still Mario Party. It’s a board game-esque party game with random mini-games that can range from annoying to downright awesome, with Bowser and fam being royal pains in the ass. After ten iterations of Mario Party, you know what to expect here. There’s just less of it overall, which leaves it feeling less of an evolution this time around. You are still going to enjoy kicking your friends' butts in mini-game after mini-game, and Bowser is still going to come in halfway through to steal all of your stars and haughtily make the first 20 minutes you played in the game meaningless. But that’s Mario Party—and you love it or hate it.
Beyond the main modes, there is a bit more to do. Mario and friends can pose for a photo shoot, and you can unlock in-game music, vehicles for Mario Party mode, and new characters. You can earn new bases for your in-game amiibo, play mini-games, and there is even an achievement system of challenges that add some longevity to the gameplay and give players something to strive for. Nintendo has also included a few other mini-games that aren’t available through normal gameplay, like a jewel-based puzzler (hint, hint, wink wink) and Badminton. Surprisingly, Badminton is a stellar addition despite it seeming out of place from the rest of the game. But hey, more gameplay options are always welcome, especially if they’re as strangely satisfying as these.
As a total package, Mario Party 10 is still good—very good, even. But it’s easy to see where development took a wrong turn, where resources were allocated to the wrong areas, and why the game’s stronger points aren’t as fully fleshed out as they could have been. Mario Party fans and party-game fans in general are in for a treat regardless, and now amiibo collectors have another set of rare toys to bid on via eBay. It’s a win for Nintendo, but less so for those paying $50 for the game and who need to spend more on amiibo to compliment what’s available to start.