This is a little different from the usual stuff that I review for this blog, but my nostalgia couldn’t keep me away from writing about it. I have not bought a Mario Party game since Mario Party 2 for various reasons over the years, but the most recent reasons have been that the games just haven’t had that same level of tension that I initially came to love the series for.
I LIVED for the chaos that was brought on by earlier titles, and it’s what piqued my curiosity when Superstars was announced.
Nintendo finally gave in and packaged a game with 100 of the most beloved minigames in the series history while at the same time bringing boards from the original three games. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw this announced in the Nintendo Direct. This was exactly what I had been waiting for all this time. So let’s get this party started!
A Simple Premise
The game establishes another thin plot to set up some sort of context for why Mario and his friends are playing games together. This one boils down to the fact that they are trying to figure out who will be the “superstar” among them, and this involves revisiting some familiar stomping grounds.
The boards in this game are all taken from the first three Mario Party games, and while they are all remastered for this new game, Superstars does pay homage in its own way. They will include screenshots from the original board, and Koopa will mention the battles that happened long ago in these places. It’s not much, but I did appreciate the references.
It’s really jarring to see the original boards compared to the remasters. I knew they didn’t look good, but I can’t imagine they looked as bad as Superstars makes them out to be.
Each board retains its gimmick from before, such as the Bowser laser cannon or the Monty Mole confusion in Woody Woods. I found all of them enjoyable, and while I have mostly only been playing with AI at the moment, I look forward to trolling my siblings at the holidays this year (the real reason I bought the game).
There is a disappointing lack of unlockables, however. The game features a ranking system where you get experience points for completing games with stars and coins. After a certain amount of ranks, you get new stickers and things added to Toad’s Shop, but these are mostly just cosmetic additions. You aren’t going to get new boards or characters (at least at the moment). I just wish there were unlockables that you could use in-game or would more drastically change your playing experience.
I do really like that they track your win percentage on each minigame and that there is a list of achievements that you can work toward if you’d like. These extra elements are everything I would have loved to support real gameplay unlockables like Monty Mole as a new character or Western Land as a new map. While we don’t get these things in the base game, maybe a free DLC will launch at some point down the line.
Fun Alone or With a Friend
Of course, nothing can beat playing Mario Party with a friend, but unlike the last couple of titles in the franchise, this entry actually gives you a challenge with the AI. There are several difficulties that you can choose to set the enemy AI but hard in Superstars is arguably more difficult than hard difficulty in Super Mario Party.
However, for those of you who have mastered these minigames long ago, there is a master-level difficulty where the AI are near perfect at everything. Don’t expect to beat these guys in a game of chance because they will be ruthless in what air pump they choose. And don’t expect them to be pushovers at the skill-based game either. Games such as Trace Race are near impossible, thanks to how accurate the AI can be.
It will require a little bit of practice on your part to pull a win over an AI on the highest difficulty in some of these mini-games, and I love that. I honestly can’t remember the last time AI gave me trouble in a Nintendo game, and it makes it feel so much more viable for single-player runs.
The boards themselves are much more interesting to traverse now compared to the last entry as each have branching paths. There are strategies you can implement to give yourself a slightly better chance at pulling one over your competitors. I found myself planning for what the AI might be thinking and planning for who they might steal stars from so I could steal from someone else.
I full-on was trying to manipulate these characters to hand me the win, which worked about half the time. However, as is the case with all Mario Parties, there is an element of luck.
Since all the actions are dependent on dice throws and some random chance encounters, you might be losing or gaining stars based on the fact that Peach rolled a two and didn’t like the look on your face.
These moments may be frustrating, but they are also just fun. I like having to beat the adversity of the luck-based nature, and with friends/family, these moments can erupt into massive arguments that are always good fun.
You don’t play Mario Party to get into the top one percent of competitors; you play it to have a good time and enjoy playing some wacky minigames with people. For the past few weeks, to unwind after a long day, I have opted to play a round of Mario Party (sometimes a little more). It’s just a good time, and I have actually laughed to myself at some of the scenarios that have played out just between me and the AI or online players. It makes me super excited for the real game when I have people over.
Superstars has online support from the get-go, unlike its predecessor, which makes it so much better for those of us who don’t have company over all the time. It made it much easier to justify the price to myself, knowing that I didn’t have to wait for the handful of times a year when I had enough people over who were interested in playing the game.
Now, I can just search and find a bunch of people who are more than happy to steal all of my coins and stars. Plus, there is the new sticker system which allows you to give different messages/emotes to players. In this case, I prefer this over a voice chat. Mario Party is such a troll’s game that I can only imagine the screaming and yelling over the mic. I don’t need that in my life.
Mario Party Superstars is a return to form for the franchise. With a bundle of classic games and boards, online functionality, and ramped-up AI difficulty, it feels like a more fully realized game than Super Mario Party. I just wish that there were more interesting unlockables for those of us who enjoy in-game rewards, and a few more boards would have also been really nice to see. Hopefully, a future update will include a few more fan favorites. 8/10