Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Mario Party 2

As anyone who's seen my Backloggery knows, I am a collector of video games. As a retro game enthusiast, most of my acquisitions nowadays are done in bulk and on the cheap at conventions; the games I'm looking for are no longer carried by most brick-and-mortar retailers, and the shipping costs for ordering online are often as much as the games I'm ordering. At this point, I'm filling out my collection with lower-profile and lesser-known games (such as Solar Jetman and Star Wars: Yoda Stories), along with occasional high-profile games that are common enough to have dropped in price over the years--such as Mario Party 2.

I played the original Mario Party when it first came out, and I've enjoyed several years of dice rolling and minigames with friends and family alike, even after picking up Mario Party 4-8 (out of sequence, mind you). I have yet to see a single Mario Party game that is so superior to any of its predecessors that it renders them obsolete. Some games are better than others, to be sure, but it all comes down to which combination of characters, game boards, minigames, gimmicks, and game modes you have a hankering for.

Mario Party 2 and 3 had been missing from my collection for some time, and it wasn't until New York Comic-Con 2011 that I found both games at a reasonable price--for the cost these games go for online, I could throw my own party where the participants win real gold coins. However, it wasn't until this weekend that I got to try either of them out, with my wife and my Best Man along for the ride.

The first thing that struck me about the game was the title screen--every incarnation of Mario Party I've played so far has found a way to proudly integrate the game's number into the title, the 2 looked like a sad, tacked-on attempt to make the game seem different from the first one. Maybe it's just me.

The music was quite similar to the music of the original, but I daresay I prefer the newer soundtrack--and I'm rather partial to the first game's tunes. Mario Party 2's soundtrack--what we heard of it, at least--was upbeat and catchy, and we joked about having a Mario dance party instead.

After destroying all the hard-earned saved data of the previous owner (gotta love used games), we hopped a train to Western Land. Whereas in the first Mario Party--as well as in 4-8--the characters run around the game board as themselves, in this edition, the characters dressed up in Wild West outfits and played sheriff.

Nearly all the minigames we played in our 20-turn game were adapted or directly ripped from the first Mario Party. Variations on the "dive for the sunken treasure," "drag someone's facial features around to match the picture," and "hop on the platform whose color matches the flag I'm holding up" minigames were in abundance, with changes ranging no further than from different graphics to a slight change in goal or mechanics.

Not that I'm complaining--I always lament when my favorite minigames don't make it into the next installment--but I've never seen a Mario Party game re-use so many of the same ideas with so little to mask how much they've recycled. I've also never seen a Mario Party game with so many baffling minigame explanations--even after reading and rereading each set of directions, we still had several occasions where one or more of us managed to win without understanding the rules, or lose before figuring out what was going on.

The game board itself was also a slight bit confusing--later games mark the paths you can take through a level a bit better, but you catch on quickly after the first time you choose a road that leads you away from the star you're trying to obtain. It's also worth noting that we were playing this game on a projector screen with a fair amount of sunlight peeking through the curtains and blinds, so it's possible we may have missed some of the finer details pointing us in the right direction (though the larger viewing area of playing on a projector was totally worth it).

Overall, our first outing with Mario Party 2 was a blast. Despite one or two obtuse minigames, the in-game rewards were plentiful, the competition stayed friendly, and there were a good many laugh-out-loud moments thanks to some sight gags, amusing dialogue, a Chance Time event so horrible that it confused the announcer (you'd have to hear it to appreciate it), excessive hootenannying (seriously, hootenannying), and ridiculous minigame antics (such as Peach and Wario both bouncing around on Luigi and each other until they both ended up falling off the platform and into the drink). That's the kind of Mario Party I haven't played in a long time, and I'm looking forward to more.

1 comment:

JoeReviewer said...

Huh, I'd have thought that it would be cheaper since this Mario Party is the one out on virtual console (Mario Party 1 wasn't because of the evil control stick minigames) Speaking of a dance party, the Mario Dance Dance Revolution ripped graphics straight from Mario Part 6 or 7, can't remember. Anyways, good luck with both 2 and 3!