Mario Party Superstars, the review of the King of party games for Nintendo Switch



Here’s our review of Mario Party Superstars, a tribute to the first titles in the series, with the introduction of online and a vocation for local multiplayer

Mario Party Superstars will arrive on Friday, October 29 on Nintendo Switch: this is the second game in the series to land on the hybrid console, after 2018’s Super Mario Party. The latter is also the best-selling chapter of the saga, with more than fifteen million units placed – before it, no one had ever exceeded ten million copies. However, its charge is slowly dying down, and so Nintendo has thought of releasing a sequel: not a direct sequel, but a modernized collection of past classics… with the addition of online.

Mario Party is a series that originated between 1998 and 1999 on Nintendo 64 and spread party games internationally. The progenitor was developed by Hudson Soft, a company that was largely absorbed by NDcube, a Japanese software house owned by Nintendo, which since 2010 is the sole author of the company’s party games. We’re not quoting the history of the series unnecessarily, but rather going through it precisely because Mario Party Superstars is a tribute to the first chapters for Nintendo 64: many of the mini-games come from there, all five of the boards present are derived from Mario Party, Mario Party 2 and Mario Party 3. The “nostalgia” for Nintendo’s first three-dimensional console is not as strong as that for the NES and SNES (it’s no coincidence that a Nintendo 64 mini was never released), but this platform, despite losing the commercial duel with PlayStation, has gradually gained prestige over the years. The nostalgia factor is never dominant, do not be afraid: those who lived those chapters at the time will find pleasant “amarcord”, but the title is packaged perfectly to be appreciated even – and especially – by a clientele that ignores them completely.

In fact, we doubt that the real reason for being of Mario Party Superstars lies in nostalgia: that’s rather the facade. NDcube has chosen this path to draw on a vast repertoire of extremely good mini-games (selecting about one hundred), essentially unknown outside of fans: the three initial games, in fact, have not exceeded, added, the seven million copies. Given the temporal distance, for those who remember them, click precisely “the nostalgia effect”, rather than the recycling effect.

There is another reason why it made sense to publish Mario Party Superstars: to take advantage of the online mode right from the launch and to untie itself from the uniqueness of the Nintendo console. Yes, you heard me right: if Super Mario Party took full advantage of the specificity of the Joy-Con, Mario Party Superstars bets everything on the versatility of Switch. The mini-games do not take advantage of motion sensors, but are playable by anyone in any way: with the console in portability, in table mode, inserted in the Dock, with the Pro Controller, with a single Joy-Con, with more than one console (locally) to double the screens.

How did it go? Let’s find out in the Mario Party Superstars review.

Mario Party

Mario Party Superstars: does the setting remind you of something?

If you do not know Mario Party, it is basically a board game with Nintendo characters (which are ten, in this particular chapter and as far as we have tried we doubt there are any to unlock). In the main mode you always play in four, regardless of how many users are led by AI or humans. There are five game boards in Mario Party Superstars, and again there are no unlocks. Each board is full of unexpected events and, depending on its complexity, allows a more or less strategic approach to the game. At your turn you can consult the map of the track, so as to plan your next moves, and at the end you roll a dice (with the classic cube shape, but with ten faces) to see how many squares the character will move.

The objective of the game is to get more Superstars than the opponents: these are bought during the journey and the box in which they reside varies over time. They can also be stolen through the Boo, and there are special items that facilitate their achievement, such as the Golden Pipes. In addition, at the end of the game, bonus Superstars are granted that can overturn the ranking: to the unluckiest player, for example. The coins needed to buy them, which are also an important factor in determining the final ranking, are won by ending up on the blue squares, through lucky breaks or simply by winning mini-games.

Mario Party Superstars: Space Station, one of the scoreboards taken from Mario Party 2

Of the mini-games we will talk in more detail in the next paragraph, for now let’s just say that there is at least one at the end of each round. Speaking of rounds, Mario Party Superstars provides a considerable customization: in the number of rounds of the game (which, if too long, can also be resumed at a later time), in the presence or absence of Superstars final (and any mode of delivery), in the nature and difficulty of the same minigames that will be drawn. The main mode of the game, the one of which we have spoken so far, can also be experienced online.

The Mario Party Superstars game boards, as we said, are only five; a number that could have been higher, even considering that they are modernizations of boards from the past. We have nothing to complain about, however, those selected: from the Tropical Island of Yoshi to the Land of Terror, are commendable for both the level design and the gradual increase in complexity. We do feel a little sorry for the absence of an iconic board like Mario Party 2’s Western Land, and in general it’s hard to understand why NDcube limited itself to Nintendo 64 boards, considering that the minigames also come from the GameCube era.

Minigames

Mario Party Superstars: Peach has just won a game in

Without mini-games, Mario Party wouldn’t work at all: they give dynamism to the game, making it more enjoyable. The contribution of the scoreboards, in fact, lies in giving a visual, narrative and partially strategic context to the sequence of mini-games. These can be all against all, two against two, one against three: we can not complain about the number (a hundred) or the variety of those selected, as written earlier from both episodes for the Nintendo 64 and GameCube.

Some – few – are perhaps repetitive, and being a collection is a shame, but they are largely balanced by those that, alone, allow you to have fun for hours. Of the mini-games that would only need a little depth and diversification of features (in Mario Party all the protagonists have the same features, regardless of weight or height) to function as stand-alone products. There aren’t many of them, but they greatly enrich the Mario Party Superstars offer. We refer in particular to the sports titles, not for personal taste but for their depth. Field hockey, soccer with goombas instead of goals, but especially beach volleyball: the latter is a cut above any other mini-game, a single game can last up to fifteen minutes (selecting the maximum score) and allows you to beat, jump, dunk (directing the shot) and even make a wall.

Mario Party Superstars: in this mini-game you must modify Bowser's face to make it look like the one in the center

Just because the real focus of Mario Party is not the main mode, but the mini-games, it is possible to experience them even outside the scoreboards: just go to the (surprise!) Minigame Mount. Here there are various modes, such as a race on trolleys that ends after five rounds and the one who has collected the most coins wins. There is also the possibility, much more simply, to choose and play them freely, selecting rules and participants. The cataloging is varied, and can differ based on the content (“sports”, precisely), the date of creation (“GameCube”) or the difficulty of the same. The online endurance race (the winner is the one who, in a succession of mini-games, doesn’t make a mistake) would seem to give additional longevity to the experience, but we haven’t been able to test it enough to guarantee it.

Archives and Graphics

Mario Party Superstars: one of the three-on-one minigames

It is almost comical to say this considering the gigantism and the size of the game mentioned, but in some ways Mario Party Superstars is the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate of the saga: not only because it features some of the best mini-games of the past, but also for some archival and anthology ambitions, even appreciable, but almost ridiculous compared to the mammoth work of Masahiro Sakurai.

You can spend the coins collected in the initial area of the game, in Toad’s store or in Kamek’s store. Here you can buy more stickers (used to communicate with opponents), but also and above all the archive music, original and rearranged, from the old Mario Party. Not only that, it was also inserted a small encyclopedia of which you can buy pages: all you’ll get, however, is a brief history, related only to Mario Party, of a particular character. Waluigi, for example: a picture, a quick description of the character, the games of the series in which he appeared. Again, we don’t want to praise or criticize this approach: the fact is that entering this territory it’s impossible not to relate to Super Smash Bros., and relating to Super Smash Bros. in this area anyone would come out not only defeated, but devastated.

Mario Party Superstars: overwriting the snow tracks of your opponents is a lot of fun, but be careful not to get caught by other people's balls

On a sound level, the title offers many rearrangements of melodies from the past: it doesn’t dare much, but we fully promote it. The selected music celebrates the lightness of the game, entertaining without tiring. From the technical point of view we can only appreciate what has been done. In particular we liked the care taken in the reconstruction of certain materials (such as cookies in Peach’s Birthday Cake): however, as always, this series does not stand out for graphical ambition. The Nintendo characters appear here in the most standard version possible, both as polygonal modeling, both as complexity of animations. Compared to other productions of the company, Mario Party is definitely more anonymous.

Offline and online multiplayer

Mario Party Superstars: you can play with any type of Switch, with more than one console, with any available pad

Mario Party Superstars, like any other episode of the saga, finds full fruition only through the multiplayer mode: if alone is a title at best discreet (at most), in multiplayer is exalted, and improves, like few others. Help the unforeseen events of the board, helps a lot the nature of the mini-games: they are intuitive enough and structured (on average) to entertain a beginner, and not to bore an experienced player. From this point of view, we can only praise Mario Party Superstars: it forgoes the specifics of the Joy-Con (such as motion controls, or the infrared sensor) to make itself playable with every pad, in every situation and way possible with Switch.

By selecting “online game” from the home screen, you can experience each mode as if you were offline. Even coins collected in a game managed by another user become expendable in your own save file. It all works very well, but the final quality of the experience will depend -of course- on your connection and that of your fellow players. All this without prejudice to the fact that the main experience of Mario Party is local, with three friends on the couch and any – and likely – mutual offense. In this perspective, the absence (for now) of a voice chat, makes the online multiplayer even more distant from the offline one.

Let’s add one last detail: there are two sections within Mount Minigames that are specifically made for playing online alone: by “alone” we mean without local friends, but also without online friends. They are called “Survival” and “Challenge of the Day”, and they allow you to challenge your opponents focusing on chasing the record, so you can delve into the nuances of the various minigames.

Comment

Leaving aside the archival ambitions, which pale in comparison to those of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and leaving aside the nostalgia effect, which will involve a negligible percentage of users, Mario Party Superstars is a very successful party game. It renounces to exploit the uniqueness of the Joy-Con (such as motion sensors) to make itself enjoyable in any way, with any controller: and that’s the most important thing, since, as always, this game gives its best through offline multiplayer. We found the online experience to be functional: it’s a shame that there’s no voice chat support. We would have liked a few more scoreboards, but overall the selection of mini-games is great. If you like to play local multiplayer, perhaps with inexperienced people or family members, it might be ideal for your needs: more so than Super Mario Party, probably.

PRO

  • Multiplayer is great fun
  • The mini-games are many (100) and ingenious
  • Can be played with any pad, in any way
  • We would have liked some more scoreboards
  • Alone, despite the online, we do not recommend it.
  • Encyclopedia and archives are limited
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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