Eat, drink, and be Mario
One of the most original titles to hit the N64 in quite some time, Mario Party is the ultimate multi-player game that pits four characters (either human or computer-controlled) against each other in a variety of fun mini-games. There are six playable characters, and six gameplay boards, each with varying difficulty and objectives. Players wander around the board, taking turns with board-game style play of moving spaces after rolling the dice. After all the players have moved, one of the 50 mini-games starts, and depending on what spaces the players have landed on, they could either be playing as teams, or every man for himself.
The 50 mini-games are very varied, and range from fun and frantic to simple and dull. Some involve complicated tasks, such as working as a team to screw in a lightbulb, while others are merely tests of mashing the controller's buttons fast enough.
The graphics in Mario Party are usual Mario fare, but many of the polygonal affects seem primitive, even at the time it came out. For example, when a character bends his arm, it looks like it breaks in two, with no "skin" surrounding the joint. Such things aren't very noticeable though, as the action is usually viewed from afar. The textures in this game are very colorful and high quality, hardly ever noticeably blurry. One other cool gimmick I liked in this game were the short, yet impressive high-resolution full motion video (FMV) clips of the characters striking a winning pose after you won. Even though the clips are pretty short and small, they are still impressive for the N64 to handle so casually.
The music is very soft and "backgroundy" for the most part, but will change to suspenseful or moody jingles to suit the mini-games. I'd be lying if I said I could remember any of them. The characters spit out a few catch phrases here and there, but apparently Nintendo of America didn't bother replacing the Japanese voices with the American voice actors from Mario Kart that we've all grown used to. Thus, Wario sounds like some normal guy of the street, and Luigi speaks in horrible falsetto.
Obviously, this game is most fun with four human players, but one-player is not as bad as you'd expect. You get to play a special one-player board, and can earn all sorts of cool trinkets and bobbles than can affect normal gameplay, including two hidden game boards.
If you're tired of the slew of racing or shooting multi-players on the N64, I'm sure you'll find Mario Party a welcome change of pace. The mini-games take a long time to get old, as they get better once players are more experienced. The overworld scenes are not as fun as the mini-games obviously, but still have their moments. This is the sort of game that's good to have when friends come over for, what else, a party.
Pros & cons
Review by JJ McCullough, 01/16/99