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Mario Party 5 Review

GR_Chimp By:
GR_Chimp
12/01/03
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Puzzle 
PLAYERS 1- 4 
PUBLISHER Nintendo 
DEVELOPER Nintendo 
RELEASE DATE  
E Contains Comic Mischief

What do these ratings mean?

This party's a dud.

Hey gaming buddies! Guess-a who!

It's-a me again! Maaaario!

Guess-a what! That's right “ it's a party time, excellent!

Huh? Whazzat? You tired of-a my parties? Maybe you come to my after-parties! And den after the after-party and the after-after party, we alla go down to the hotel lobby for even-a more party!

Come on! I'm-a sure you'll have-a fun. We'll take-a that no good monkey to the cleaners (he smelled-a like a wet bananna!) and bring in-a some new friends. We alla watch that Peach dance a sexy numbah!

Huh? Whazzat? You still no wanna come?

Oh, okay. If you don't-a mind, I'm-a just gonna cry-a my eyes out. It's-a MY party after all! I don't- a need you! You leave-a Mario alone or I'm-a gonna throw a fireball at you!

Love,
Maaaario

Mario Party has been a surprising staple for Nintendo since the first bash came out in 1999. When you have the right mix of willing players, the game can certainly be fun. The mini-games have been quirky and charming and little tweaks have steadily been added since its N64 inception.

But unfortunately, the party has come to something of an end with Mario Party 5, a by-the-numbers regressive and somewhat uninspired sequel.

Right off the bat, there aren't any huge visual or audio improvements from Mario Party 4. It carries over the fairly standard, efficient cartoon look and gloss. The sounds are classic cheeky, sugary Nintendo. More noticeable are the change-ups in the character lineup, with Ghost, Baby Bowser, and Toad giving the big boot to Donkey Kong. As annoying as Toad is, I miss his gravelly voice in his former role as ringmaster of the game boards.

The new game boards are large, but lack the frenetic energy found in earlier versions. Sometimes it feels like they are just big for the sake of being big. Even though the characters move around the board quickly, they seem to drag themselves from spot to spot. It can be annoying waiting for the CPU players to take their turn.

A new single-player mode tries to alleviate the painful waiting by pitting you against three Baby Bowsers that move at the same time.  If one crosses your path, then it's onto a duel.  This is a step in the right direction, but in a world of instant gratification, it's not enough to cut the mustard. Irritatingly, you must also play through the game boards to unlock the mini-games. I just want to be let loose on a large sampling of games from the get-go.

The new power-up system is here as well, but winds up making the game more obtuse. A power-up is earned when you pass one of the vending dispenser machines on the game board.  There are many random items and the effect of each is not immediately clear. These items can then be dropped on any spot on the board to attempt to nail a random passerby.

In Mario Party 4, the key to the basic mushroom power-up was that you could grow big and stomp away 10 coins from any opponent you happen to cross. There was a certain strategy involved; do you trigger the mushroom now or wait until you're sure to squash a guy in front of you? The drop-and-pray items in Mario Party 5 lack that edge.

The mini-games are mostly rehashed concepts, with far too many games that just revolve around mashing a button as fast as you can.  Twists on that formula include mashing TWO buttons as fast as you can. There are a few bright spots, but this time, there really aren't any standouts. Why not revisit previous Mario Parties and pick and choose the best of the bunch?

Besides the Group game, normal single player, and the single player against Bowsers, there's a mode that lets you play the game like a traditional board game without any mini-games. There are also some extra mini-games - volleyball, ice hockey, a card hopping game “ that aren't as fun to play as the full-scale equivalents.

Rather than just add longer mini-games, Nintendo should have taken a cue from the excellent GBA game Wario Ware.  Now there's a guy who knows how to party!  Wario Ware's pick-up-and-play value is brilliant, yet at the same time throwing you all kinds of creative situations. From picking your nose to duplicating the best of classic 8-bit Nintendo games, those were truly inspired mini-games. There was never a dull moment.

Conversely, Mario's parties have become haggard and tired. Mario Party 5 is a step backward for the series with its needless vending machine set up and bland mini-games. Fans of the formula will still like it, but newcomers are better off with last year's bash. Nintendo should ditch or rebuild the game board, reinvigorate the mini-games, and pump some new life into this series. At least we can look forward to the upcoming Wario Ware for the Gamecube. I think its time to ask for a Wario Party.

C Revolution report card
  • Sticks to a proven formula
  • Big boards, lots of mini-games
  • That are strictly by the books
  • Awkward new vending machine set up
  • Not enough innovation for a series this old

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