|Release: March 11, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
When you get to the ninth iteration of any video game franchise, it's bound to be a little boring unless the developers change things up. Nintendo knows this, and they've designed Mario Party 9 to be unlike anything you have seen in the Mario Party series before. Coins and stars are gone, boards have a defined beginning and end, and minigames are far less common, instead letting the board game itself take center stage. Nintendo has essentially made an entirely new game and just put the Mario Party title on it. While this is a refreshing change of pace from the "get coins/buy stars" formula of the past, it brings with it a whole new set of problems that may frustrate Mario Party purists.
As I said before, coins and stars are gone. Instead, you are battling to see who can earn the most "mini-stars" before the end of the game. Mini-stars can be picked up by finding them on the board or winning them in minigames. Similarly, there are spaces on the board that make you lose mini-stars, and minigames where you will have to wager your mini-stars against your opponents.
You would think this means that the person who is best at minigames simply wins, but that's not true here. Unlike previous Mario Party titles, Mario Party 9 doesn't force you to play a minigame every four turns. Instead, minigames are only triggered when you land on a minigame space. There are varieties of different minigame types such as Free-For-All, 1vAll, Battle, and even Bower Jr. minigames, and, unlike past Mario Party titles, the games aren't chosen randomly. Instead, the player who triggers the game gets to pick, allowing some degree of advantage.
Most of your time will be spent traversing the board itself. Instead of moving around the board individually, all the players hop into a vehicle of some sort and move around the board together. You take turns being captain of this vehicle, and while the captain is able to roll the dice and collect mini-stars, he or she also suffers all the positive or negative consequences of spaces landed on. Of course, there are also event spaces that effect passengers in the vehicle as well. Your ultimate goal is to gather as many mini-stars as you can while indirectly screwing over everyone else.
This turn-by-turn play continues until you reach the end of the board. Yes, boards are now created with a beginning and an end, though you may take many different paths to get there. In the middle and the end of each board is a "boss" which you fight by playing a boss minigame. All players work together to defeat the boss, but the player who performs the best gets the most mini-stars. After the final boss of the map is defeated, everyone's mini-star total is tallied up and the player with the most stars wins.
There are about eighty minigames in Mario Party 9, and they are all fairly decent. Like previous Mario Party titles, they are simple and easy to learn, though the boss minigames generally have multiple parts to them. Most of these minigames don't allow you to interact with the other players though, instead asking you to perform better than your opponents without giving you any direct way to screw them over. Unfortunately, this makes some of the games quite boring. You'll probably soon find yourself longing for the games that actually let you interact with other players.
For example, there are plenty of variations of "shoot at the target" style minigames. Most of the time this takes place in four-player splitscreen, so everyone has an equal chance to succeed. Everyone gets the exact same targets every time, and after you all play the game once or twice you will end up getting tie after tie because you can't affect your opponents in any way. Having everyone shoot at the same target with the quickest shot scoring points would have been much more interesting.
Since you don't play minigames every four turns, you'll see a lot less of them over the course of a game. While it was common to play around twenty of these over the course of a short Mario Party 8 game, it's normal to see less than ten in a game of Mario Party 9. As a result, it will take longer to play every minigame available, which does give the game some much-needed replay value.
All of these gameplay changes address problems of past Mario Party titles. For example, since minigames are played less often, turns move much more quickly. Since there are no more coins to spend, you won't find people taking forever in shops or randomly bursting ahead because they bought several triple-die blocks. Since you move along the board together, you never really feel like you are missing your chance to land on a good space. Since you are always heading toward the end, you won't catch yourself traveling in loops without knowing where to go. Since you are just trying to gather mini-stars, you no longer face the frustration of getting only a few spaces away from the star before having some random board event move it. The game just feels like it progresses in a smoother fashion, which keeps people interested in seeing the game through to the end. Also, there are no more 2v2 minigames, so you can play a game with any number of players without having to deal with A.I. opponents. That's a nice touch.