Welcome to Destructoid's second game review with our new format -- we're looking churn out at least one of these babies a week, so either get used to it, or type the phrase "wtf u gave zelda 4/10 why should I listen" into Word so you can copy and paste it as frequently as you like.
This week, Chad Concelmo and I have tackled Mario Party 8, the first-ever Mario Party title with Wii functionality. Not only that, but we've also got an exclusive Destructoid video review of the game, as well.
Are you a bad enough dude to read our reviews and then respond to them with unbridled agreement and/or vitriol? Let's find out. Hit that jump.
And always read the alt text.
Mario Party 8 is really just another Mario Party game, but with Wii functionality. That may sound like an obvious statement, but many (myself included) were hoping that the MP series would use the Wiimote to breathe entirely new life into the series, giving the minigames a new, revolutionary angle as the developers implemented more and more multiplayer uses for the Wiimote. Quite simply, that didn't happen: Mario Party 8 is pretty fun, but its Wiimote functionality isn't anything spectacular and the game doesn't truly bring anything new to the table.
Quantitatively speaking, the party mode is identical to the other entries in the MP series; there are only six boards and less than 100 minigames, as is the case with nearly every other Mario Party game ever released. The series has been completely consistent in terms of amount of content since the beginning, but I was nonetheless irritated to find myself already playing repeated games during my second go-around (even if such repeats did give me more opportunities to furiously masturbate with my Wiimote). Considering this is the series' eighth iteration, I was definitely hoping for a little more substance. But I suppose I'm picky like that. Still, though, the few maps in the game are all truly original and interesting: Goomba's Booty Boardwalk is a simple straight line with a star at the end, Shy Guy's train map is made interesting as train cars constantly shift around, and Koopa's industrial board basically plays like one big game of Monopoly. I wasn't expecting much from the maps, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with their variety -- I just wish there had been more of them.
The minigames themselves follow pretty much the same pattern as any other minigame compilation on the Wii: most of the games work decently, a few are fantastic (fapfapfap), and a few are completely broken. Generally, the pointer games work really well and the motion sensing works somewhat decently. You won't find yourself playing any games that haven't already been used in Rayman Raving Rabbids, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, or Wii Sports, but the controls are solid and the games are still pretty damn fun in a multiplayer setting. That being said, many of the games don't rely on motion sensing at all: instead, the players are forced to hold the Wiimote like an NES controller, relying solely on the buttons for movement and action. If you've got a few extra nunchucks, you'll want to use them -- simply using the d-pad on the Wiimote made me long for an analog stick.
My main beef is with the game's additional game modes. The "Extra Mode," which allows players to import their Mii for use in eight different minigames not found in the regular party mode. But with the exception of a crappy Wii Bowling ripoff, the extra games only allow for two players. Depending on which Miis you've collected on your hard drive, some of the other games make for some entertaining moments -- like watching Jesus and Satan race hovercars -- but overall, most players will almost immediately put the Extra Mode aside in favor of the regular party game. I dock no points for its shoddy implementation (no matter how you look at the Extra Mode, it is, after all, an extra), but its lackluster execution is nonetheless worth mentioning.
But most irritating is the singleplayer "Star Battle Arena." Imagine, if you will, being forced to play alone against an absurdly lucky AI opponent on a map, with no minigames at the end of each round.
I'm going to repeat that, because it bears repeating.
A single player Mario Party mode. With only one other opponent. With no minigames at the end of each round. It's like someone literally looked at the Mario Party series and asked, "how can we make a single player campaign that ignores everything that makes the original game fun?" Making a Mario Party mode without end-round minigames would be like making a Halo sequel, only there are no enemies and you aren't allowed to jump. If I could simply get away with ignoring the boring, tedious single player mode, I would -- but viciously enough, the player is forced to progress in the Star Battle Arena in order to unlock a store where additional minigames can be purchased. If you want more actual gameplay, you have to wade through six maps of non-gameplay. Goddamn irritating.
All around, the core Mario Party gameplay is intact. However you felt about the other MP titles, you won't feel any differently about Mario Party 8 -- for all the new features, it's just another Mario Party game. If you already own a Mario Party game and enjoy it, you're better off ignoring number eight: the Wiimote activities are definitely fun, but they don't really bring anything new to the table that you haven't seen in a half-dozen other minigame compilations, and some earlier Mario Party titles simply include much more entertaining games. However, if you don't own another Mario Party game that you play incessantly, it's probably in your best interest to purchase number eight: despite its absurd single player mode, overall lack of new material, and ridiculous lack of online multiplayer, it's still an undeniably fun party game that makes effective use of the Wiimote, in addition to having some truly original game boards. Since I naturally assume most people don't still play an older version of MP (if they own one at all), I'm sticking with a "Buy It" recommendation.
Verdict: Buy It!
Wow, Anthony, regarding the gameplay aspects of Mario Party 8, you pretty much took the eight paragraphs out of my mouth. Everything you said is spot-on: from the single-player monstrosity to the unique and pleasantly varied board maps, all the comfort food you remember from past Mario Party games is here, only this time it's served up with a little Wii point and waggle.
And that's the thing: when it comes to the core mechanics of Mario Party 8, everything is, well, what you come to expect. And that, for me, is usually just fine and dandy.
I loved each and every one of the seven previous Mario Party games (okay, stop laughing), so needless to say, I was very much looking forward to this new Wii version. I love Nintendo. I love the Wii. And I love Mario Party. How could anything go wrong?
Oh, my fellow Mario Party loving friends, it pains me to say this; things went slightly awry this go-round.
My disappointment (and that is the perfect word) all comes down to the one big problem I had with Mario Party 8: the presentation.
But a Mario Party game should primarily be about the minigames, right? Trust me, that is exactly what I thought and never in a million years did I think I would harp on something like aesthetics. I mean, the other Mario Party games weren't graphical works of art by any means. But when you start to play a game that actually (and obviously) takes a step back in terms of graphics and overall visual presentation you have to take notice (especially when it's on a shiny new system that should be doing these things better).
First of all, not counting the opening menus, the entire game (when played on a widescreen display) has two annoying, patterned borders on either side of the screen. And they are there through the game's entirety (yay, plasma burn-in!). True, these bars won't even show up for people playing on a standard television, but that doesn't mean their limited inclusion should just be ignored. If you, like many people out there, own a widescreen television set, be prepared to have all of your on-screen antics compressed into the center of the screen. It sounds like a minor thing, but it makes the numerous split-screen minigames look very small when next to a sea of wasted space. There is no excuse why a Nintendo-published title would choose to not support a widescreen mode on the Wii. It really makes no sense.
To make matters worse, the graphics have moved from the cute, colorful variety to a strange kind of grainy, neutral, almost "realistic" look. It is nice to see things changed up a bit, with the camera being moved more behind the characters, giving the boards a more engaging feel (complete with some nice soft focus backgrounds). But this change in graphical style, for some strange reason, doesn't mesh well with the Wii hardware and results in major slowdown throughout much of the game, completely ruining what could have been a welcome stylistic choice.
All of this sloppy presentation is a tough first impression and really detracts from the overall experience. As mentioned before, the Mario Party we know and love is there once you have the visual patience to find it, but why should you even have to search?
Without repeating too much of what Anthony said, yes, the Wiimote is used in some clever ways and, yes, of course, playing with four players is (still) a blast. But there is nothing revolutionary enough in the final product to warrant the glaring shortcomings plaguing the overall presentation. The lack of innovative between the Nintendo 64 Mario Party games and the ones on the GameCube was a lot more excusable since that console transition was more of a graphical one than anything. If this new Wii version can't even improve upon the graphics, at least offer more advanced and innovative Wiimote functionality to help launch the series forward. If anything, Mario Party 8 is a step back.
Sure, the game is fun in the long run, but I feel the only way the inevitable Mario Party 9 will genuinely innovate is for people to finally say "no" to a mediocre, rushed final product. Hopefully Mario Party 8 will be the final nail in the lazily produced coffin.
While Pushover Chad goes back and plays another round on Goomba's Booty Boardwalk with a goofy smile on his face (you get to ride dolphins, for crying out loud), Hardcore Chad is sticking to his guns and not offering his recommendation. Rent it for a series of satisfying thrills if you must, but try your best to hold out for a future, hopefully much improved, sequel.
Verdict: Rent It!
Destructoid Review Final Verdict
Final Score: 6.3
Also, a special request:
Does anyone know how to easily connect a camera/computer to a TV so you can take screenshots and/or footage from it directly? My inability to do this is why that one screenshot in this review has been from IGN, and why I simply shot the screen with my camera in the above video review. Any suggestions would be appreciated, as I do not know my technological thumb from my technological dick. This is the Reverend speaking, by the way, not Chad. I'm sure Chad knows exactly where his dick is.
It also bears mentioning that this article was proofread using the handy-dandy guide from the guys over at the Videogame Style Guide (that's right, it's one word). Unless I missed a typo or something somewhere, in which case said mistake is not their fault at all.
We're also fully aware that this score ended up almost identical to last week's Odin Sphere review, but them's the breaks with conflicting opinions.
reviewed by Anthony Burch