There’s no party like a Mario Party! Or so they say. Who wouldn’t want to attend Mario’s get together, which typically involves board games, mini games, and a lot of cheap luck? You have to bring your own cake, but that’s not so bad, it’s good enough to simply be invited. Though as the year’s have flown on by, there is one party which stands out as the wildest amongst them all. Mario Party 2, what a party that was. I remember it like it was yesterday, and thanks to the virtual console, it probably was.
Mario Party is a multiplayer virtual board game, with four players getting together to roll dice, collect coins, and purchase power stars to beat the rest and be the best. It’s a slow-paced game, but thanks to the series of mini games, tactical items, colourful locations and the possibility of a complete turnabout at any time, few players will mind. The formula has been mixed up a little in recent entries, but from Mario Party 1 all the way to Mario Party 8, little changed. It was the closest Nintendo had to a yearly franchise, but no entry has been able to replicate the pure joy that Mario Party 2 brought forth. When you repeat the party so many times, people are bound to get a little board… bored, and start reminiscing about better times. Like those times playing Mario Party 2.
So what makes Mario Party 2 the Great Gatsby of them all? Perhaps it’s the fact that the series was still fresh at the time, it typically takes three or four releases in short succession for the rot to set in. Though a recent attempt at getting a Mario Party 2 party together with players who weren’t there in my childhood ended up being a great success. They had played through newer entries such as 8,9 and 10, so surely they would have looked at Mario Party 2 as one looks at a rotting corpse? It beats nostalgia, but it can’t possibly feel fresh to new players in 2016. The series has become too defined, even if the stars have been split into smaller chunks and the vehicle is the only way for everybody to get round in newer versions. They still play pretty much the same.
Maybe it’s the simplicity of it being an older entry? Later games introduced additional rules, capsule power up mechanics, motion controls along with button controls, microphone mini games, constant day/night cycles, eight player button sharing multiplayer, boss battles, Donkey Kong spaces, amiibo, car sharing… phew, the series has tried to mix things up a lot over the years, but Mario Party 2 wasn’t all that simple. Items allow for tactical play, and each board has a unique gimmick which allows for some sneaky moves.
Shindigs can be held on the Wild West board to push all players into one corner of the board, keeping anyone and everyone away from the previous star space. The Space Land board has counter which ticks down to zero every time a player passes. Plan your route correctly and you can have the laser wiping out your rivals coin supplies. There are a lot of complexities in place, and whilst later entries have added some unnecessary fluff, they haven’t changed to the point of being inaccessible to new party goers.
Maybe it’s the games personality? Every entry aside from 2 keeps to the general Mario models, making it all a little bit Vanilla. Mario party 2 however has Mario and the gang dressing up to fit each boards theme. Be they pirates or explorers, the crew have an outfit for the occasion, and it does provide a level of charm later entries simply can’t match. Everyone loves a costume party.
But ultimately, there is no one thing that makes Mario Party 2 the ultimate party, it was just lucky to be the first follow-up, before set rules were formed. Characters could dress up because Nintendo hadn’t decided that everyone should stay in their iconic outfits in every game. It still felt fresh because it was still fresh, yet players can still go back and enjoy it even if their first experiences to the series were with the wii and beyond, And the items introduced are probably the best implementation of items the series has seen, because every Party that followed had to change things up, even if it meant making something worse. It was just right, that’s all there is to it.
Though one thing which Mario Party 2 gets wrong, something which every Mario Party gets wrong, is trying to fashion some form of single player experience out of it. A mini game challenge is present for single players, but only after all the mini games have been unlocked, which involves playing through the boards more times than you’d like. More times than anyone would like, unless you’re the Great Gatsby himself, and can arrange great Mario Party nights every night.
But alas, adulthood doesn’t really bring those opportunities about for many. We can’t all be Great Gatsby, and most likely only share his human struggles when it comes to finding something in common with the fictional entity. People have relationships, work, a home more than a few blocks away from your own, and perhaps little desire to take the time out to come round and play some good old Mario Party. Invites can be sent, but most likely it will end with no guests, and just yourself sat at the kitchen table, whiskey bottle in one hand, controller in the other, putting up with a single player party. It’s the kind of party we’re used to having.