Mario Party 8 Review
The Nintendo 64 was definitely a fun system. Sure, the games were expensive due to the antiquated cartridge system (60-70 bucks as opposed to 40-50 for similar PS1 titles), but the system featured all the characters we have grown up with and love to this day – Mario, Link, Fox McCloud and the rest of the gang were all here. Games like Super Smash Brothers and Mario Party often featured these characters in situations you wouldn't expect them to be in. I mean, really, you don't expect a red hat wearing plumber to do battle with an electric mouse, do you?
Both of those games were successful and spawned sequels. While only the third Super Smash Brothers game is in development, we have seen a total of eight Mario Party games now, spanning the N64 and the GameCube. Each has added new minigames, some new elements for the control and different game boards. Some change around the single player gameplay some and put forth an effort to make a game that appeals to the person that doesn't want to have to have friends over to enjoy the game. Throughout the series, though, one thing has remained constant – Mario Party is far better in multiplayer.
Hudson's latest, Mario Party 8, is the first appearance for the series on the Wii. With the jump to the new console, people would obviously expect improved graphics, new boards, new minigames and, because it's the Wii, new control methods. Well, we've gotten three of the four with the transition. The graphics have pretty much stayed the same and, disappointingly, aren't 16:9. The new boards and minigames, however, are quite fun. The ones that make use of the Wiimote are even more entertaining, though not quite as common as you would hope.
First things first – the game's graphics didn't improve much, if at all, in the transition. I mean, maybe it is because I haven;t played a Mario Party game for awhile, but I have watched and compared videos – 8 really doesn't look any better. Now, while I realize the Wii isn't leaps and bounds more powerful than the GameCube, it does still have a bit more oomph under the hood. The biggest issue with the graphics, though, is the lack of 16:9 support. While I'm not too sure about the prevalence of 16:9 TVs vs those that own a Wii, HDTVs are appearing in homes at a rate that is exponentially higher than that of even a year ago. No 16:9 support will end up being a major annoyance.
Thankfully, the rest of the game does make strides to help atone for this lack of widescreen support. Some of these game boards are an absolute blast, though my favorite was one where you were a sort of real estate investor. Now, anyone that has played a Mario Party game in the past knows that you move around the map, collect coins and eventually spend 20 of them to buy a star. Well, on this board, there aren't any normal star spaces, per se. Instead, there are hotels that players can invest coins in. The person with the top investment gets however many stars the hotel is worth. You can put some coins in a hotel and put more in later if you come back around to it, too. The kicker in all of this is that at certain coin totals, the hotel will be worth more stars – if your enemy takes it from you, you lose however many stars you originally got from it, and they'll gain however many stars it is currently worth. I can definitely see this board getting cutthroat among friends.
The minigames are also pretty neat this time around. Many of them involve using the Wiimote as if it were an NES controller. The games are just as simple as they have been in the past – you'll try to collect a lot of a certain item, water ski and collect coins or maybe drive cars along a track to pop balloons. One of my favorite minigames was also one of the simplest. Your character is sitting in this hovercraft looking thing and has a bar of light on top. There are green and pink vials to either side of you and energy balls falling down from the top of the screen. Your goal is to tilt this bar so that the right color goes into the right vial. It seems simple but is incredibly fast and will lead to tons of fun when your friends are over playing, tilting their Wiimotes to one side then frantically tilting back to catch the green ball but barely missing and then accidentally sending the next pink ball into the green vial. It's hard to describe, really, but is a blast, like many of the other games.
Overall, Mario Party 8 manages to retain one major thing that each of the past games have – it is infinitely better multiplayer. While the minigames can be fun to play, they lose their charm after awhile when you're just playing against the computer. Get a few buddies over, though, and you'll have fun. Instead of sitting idle for minutes at a time as the computer players take their turn, you'll be able to chat with your friends or relentlessly taunt your buddy that you just crushed in the last minigame. Outside of the entertaining mini games and boards, though, the game does have a couple of faults to keep in mind. Firstly, the graphics in the game, as mentioned earlier, really aren't what they could be. This really wasn't much of a gamebreaker to me, though, as I'm not worried about stuff looking pretty when playing a board game with my buddies. Secondly, this really is more of the same – while that is not a bad thing in the least, the game really doesn't change up the formula. Those of you with all of the previous games will notice this more than those like me who have skipped many of the more recent titles.
In the end, Mario Party 8 is a fun game that I'd recommend to most Wii owners. Note, however, that this statement does come with one caveat – if you would only be playing this game alone, I'd suggest that you skip over it and don't look back. It was designed around multiplayer and always has been. You're simply not going to get your money's worth if you're playing alone. Given that, this review was written from the perspective of having multiple people playing the game. With that out of the way, I'll just say one last time – Pick this one up, you and your friends will have a great time with it.