Available on: GBA
Developer(s): Hudson Soft
Not so long ago, there was a time I hadn't been an active Nintendo player for years. The final years of Nintendo 64's lifespan passed me by, Nintendo GameCube drove right past me altogether except for its excellent Resident Evil remake - I never played the remade version of Metal Gear Solid - and when the Wii came out, I was very intrigued by its concept, but not very interested in its exclusive products. Thanks to the Game Boy Advance, I found myself interested in Nintendo products once again, and got overwhelmed by information on all the Mario titles I had practically never even heard of: Paper Mario, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros., Super Mario Galaxy and finally, Mario Party. The first Mario Party game was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, but for some unknown reason I must've just ignored it, since two years ago, I wrote an article, or sort of a blog, on the history of Mario with the help of some additional information I dug up from the net, and realized I had no idea what Mario Party was. Well, a few helpful Wikipedia articles later, I scooped up Mario Party Advance. It was mostly harshly criticized for having crappy multiplayer (just like any other handheld game in my opinion), which had apparently always been the butter on Mario Party's bread, but to me, it sounded fine, 'cause I had no experience with the series. Now I do, and Mario Party Advance turned out a harmless little game. For a lonely 10-year old, at least... with a lot of patience.
Bored of the board
The main character of the game is you, the player. You will take on the guise of Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach or Yoshi as you make your way through Shroom City, trying to return minigames and Gaddgets to Play Land, lost due to Bowser's selfish rampage.
The graphics are of the very basic Mario fare you've gotten used to on the Game Boy Advance ever since its first Mario titles popped out. What's quite impressive is the huge amount of characters they squeezed into this game, and all the different minigame designs. All in all, the game looks very nice in a cute, colourful Nintendo sort of way... and it certainly looks diverse. The music's good, even if it might start to get on your nerves during the last few quests. You'll be spending a lot of time on the board especially in the end, thanks to Bowser and that damn annoying Koopakid, and at that point the main background tune might start to sound like a funeral march. It's a bit loud. Giving each area its own background tune, an ambient one, would've been better.
|Poor Thwomp. I... I think there's something|
in my eye.
|See Monkey? Save Monkey!|
|On a quest for a pretty flower... that must not|
be it. Oh, it is? Eye of the beholder, eye of the
|Thank you, oh great Game Mage, but you're|
a bit too late.
It seems hard to collect and maintain mushrooms at first, and you'll probably be seeing the "Game Over" screen once every five minutes, but as the less luck-based minigames become more familiar to you, therefore easier, and you learn to strategize by using the freebies on the board efficiently, you'll be on an impressive roll in no time.
The quests are conceptually simple tasks given to you by the inhabitants of Shroom City, in other words an impressive cavalcade of characters from the whole Mario franchise, as well as a few characters that are more or less exclusive to the Mario Party series, including the extremely annoying duo of Shroomlock, a private detective, and Mr. E, a cowardly adventurer, that show up in several of your quests. All of the characters have backstories that don't really fit into the Mario franchise's canon. It seems everyone's your friend in some twisted way, even Bowser despite the fact of him being the main antagonist of the game. His quests usually involve you doing battle with his Koopakids in different ways, but you also need to do some work FOR him. Like in Super Mario 64, you have to complete a certain amount of quests to be able to face off with/work for Bowser - something you'll have to do on many, many occasions to get ahead.
|Do the jungle hump.|
Being able to enter the final battle with Bowser and his Trap Floor minigame means that you've gotten everything you can in the rest of the main game, so after the credits, you're done with the mode forever... if you're not into for some serious masochism. Seriously, the last half an hour of the game will be pure, unadulterated pain. You just want the game to be over. The same minigames keep popping up and they're just as challenging as they have been for the duration of the game - just a few keep changing, like the fun and relatively tricky Sort Stack. That Koopakid's the worst pain in the ass. I can't remember the last time a basically decent game had me begging for an end at any point.
|The Jewelry Case Gaddget. Just shake the|
treasure and watch the jewelry change
All the things I've learned about the series and the things I've seen in this game prove the lack of decent multiplayer to be a quite plausible peeve. A four-player game is possible only by using an additional board that comes bundled with the game. I'm not really sure how it works, nor do I have the desire to find out. I don't believe that any portion of the game would be very much more exciting with just two players duking it out. As I said, though, I have zero experience with the rest of the Mario Party series, so I can't really point out the true grief here.
In everything other than the main game, the challenge is up to the player's courage to take on more difficult versions of the minigames. The main game isn't hard. It's damn frustrating, that's what it is, due to the difficulties to advance on the board especially nearing the end of the game - again, you're not doing anything wrong, the game is just fucking with you, plain and simple. Also, it's stupid that if you fail to beat any quest besides the lengthy errands that are frustrating for another reason, you'll have to waste another mushroom to simply retry it. In the worst case, you'll lose all of the mushrooms because of mere bad luck and have to go all the way back to the starting point, and make your way back to the same spot again, even if it means travelling from one end of the map to another. It's stupid, annoying and frustrating. Not hard.
So, my first touch with the Mario Party series was a boring one towards the end, but it started out nice and considering that it's a handheld game, there's a decent amount of minigame madness, even some entertaining games; the simple Koopa Krunch is actually more fun to play than a few critically acclaimed, major puzzle titles - this is my honest opinion. To an old school Mario fan, communicating with all those classic characters is also somewhat of a hoot, even if their "storylines" are quite dumb and naive - even in all their utter irrelevancy to the gameplay experience they're kind of disturbing. A decent compilation of minigames, that really sparked my interest in trying some of the titles on major consoles. Maybe I'll scoop up the Nintendo 64 "trilogy" at some point, huh?
Graphics : 8.9
Sound : 7.9
Playability : 7.2
Challenge : 5.9
Overall : 7.0
Toad was originally meant to be the fourth playable character instead of Luigi. That's why Luigi isn't featured on the game's cover art, but Toad (who "hosts" the game) is.
The only game in the Mario Party series which doesn't feature Wario as a playable character.