It's been five games, they've been fun. Nintendo finally realizes that players are getting tired of the same old formula and that it's got to go.
Mario Party 5 feels like a deluxe version of all the previous Mario Party games in a bad way. As I sat down with my brothers to play, the first thing I realized was that there's too much of everything. Too much animation, too much "um, ok...", too much waiting. If there's anything you and three friends hate while watching a TV screen, wanting to beat each other up, it's waiting.
The driving force of the Mario Party series has always been the mini-games. The best games would always be ones with a vertigo factor, which you could feel while sloppily trying to control your character as he slip-slides around the screen and beats your friends up. With each passing Mario Party installment it sadly takes increasingly longer to get to those games.
The board has once again been 'improved' and this time the major new feature is being able to acquire and use capsules. Anything capsule related translates into more board-time, more board events, more board-om. Each board event and capsule has full animations and dialogues, cute, yes. The first time. Although they're about a minute in length, it felt like forever in gaming land. Now I know I have the attention span of a flea, but so does anyone at a party, and especially anyone within the target age group for playing this game. I can't imagine anyone sitting through these board scenes without making an excuse to go to the bathroom.
As before, no matter what players do at the board, there is little point to it all because of the increasing randomness of the board's gameplay. Although this makes for interesting comebacks and everyone screaming at each other or the television during the last few turns, it's nowhere near the kind of screaming and knee-slapping fun I've had with previous Mario Party games.
Back up, back up, reverse, reverse - I had a flashback! I was anticipating a day at Disneyworld but my parents took us to the most boring, most educational thing possible at Epcot Centre. Like the Kraft history of Cheese. Yeah. Cheese. So... That's what reaching our first mini-game felt like. Most of the mini-games had become brainless, or too quick and dirty to be any competitive fun. We would find ourselves going "ahhh that one sucks.." or "no, not this one again!", not once did we ever scream "YEAH! THIS GAME!". Old Mario Party mini-games which required a little dexterity, arm power and funny animation have been replaced or turned into something where you press one button and the whole round is over, or simply mash painfully located buttons mindlessly. Hell, one game is actually called "Button Mashers". I felt used. I wanted to go to Space Mountain.
After one play of the normal party mode we ended up gagging ourselves and looking at the time. We had already been dragging on for nearly an hour, and we swear we only picked the average amount of rounds possible. There was an alternative version to the party board game, but we weren't even going to go there, as being unable to choose the mini-games was getting to us. I also noticed a few different single player modes, which made my little brother say "Ain't be a party if y'all by yo'self!", to which I nodded. Nobody ever plays Mario Party solo, anyone who does can go to any other gaming portal if they wanted that covered.
We decided to go straight for the mini-game only modes. All the while we were hoping perhaps a few games could be the saving grace of Mario Party 5. You'd think after trudging through the utter torture that was party mode and unlocking nearly all of the games we would have found something worthwhile, what happened was laughable. Within 15 minutes we had scrolled through most of the games and found a handful which were replayable and fun, only if we modified the way they were played to our own "house rules" making them more skill-needy.
I don't see what makes this a huge improvement over Mario Party 4 which was the first Mario Party to be on Gamecube. If someone told me that they would kill me if I can't differentiate between 4 and 5, I'd probably die. The graphics, although cute and clear, they look the same as 4. The background songs are the same old, expected, familiar tunes, but overused and sounding like they're coming out of my NES. Completely forgettable, like this game.
However, all this Mario Party 5 hating is coming from myself, a certain breed of player who actually demands more fun, not technical improvements. I admit I played all the previous Mario Party games and found fun in each, but that amount of enjoyment has shortened with each passing release. I'm sure anyone out of the Mario Party loop couldn't care less and would probably find a way to have a great time with this game, for about 30 minutes.
If I had to choose between the first Mario Party or 5, I'd still choose the first game. It was simple, it wasn't frilled up, it wasn't filled with mini-games you can just cheese on. It reminds me of the way many people would rather replay the original MarioKart for SNES than MarioKart64, because once they've had their fill of the new game's glitz and excess, they'd realize there was something more than graphics and modes that made it fun.
There is a happy ending though, Mario Party 5 is most likely the last of it's kind. Mario Party 6 is rumored to be using the Eye Toy (and not controllers), this will give the series a much needed change. Although this sounds like it's steering the series onto the right track, the mini-games need to be fixed. They're so broke, they've been living off food stamps since Mario Party 3.
Title: Mario Party 5
Developer: Hudson Soft
Mario Party 5