Mario Party Superstars
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 29/10/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Mario Party is one of those series that has stood the test of time, ever since its introduction on the N64 back in 1998/1999 (depending on where in the world you were). With several different games on each respective system, it has entertained gamers for over 20 years now. So with the Switch being in its fifth year on the market, it is time for another new entry of the iconic series. How does Mario Party Superstars compare to the previous game, Super Mario Party, on the Switch? And is this the return to form that fans of the series have been clamoring for? Let’s roll the dice and find out the result.
Mario Party, for those who aren’t in the know about the series, is a collection of board games, set within the Mushroom Kingdom, where players choose one of the playable roster of characters from the Mario Universe and compete for the highest amount of stars at the end of the game, which is dictated by the number of turns you choose. Stars are accumulated by gaining enough coins throughout the game and purchasing them from Toadette from various shifting places on the board, at a cost of 20 coins. Coins are gained for winning mini-games in between each turn. Additionally, these can also be gained by landing on green spaces, or various special spots.
Whilst it sounds like it could be complicated, the general game is incredibly simple to understand and is explained in a short but effective tutorial for new players when you start up the game. But there is also an explanation on the mechanics of each different board as well, as each has its own difficulty rating, which can be determined by the size of the board itself and various events that can occur on them, meaning gaining stars can be more frustrating.
I have been playing the series since Mario Party 2 came out on the N64 all those years ago. With that said, why do I keep mentioning previous games? That is because Mario Party Superstars is a remake in some respects, with all the boards coming back from the first 3 games in the series, and the mini-games on offer (100 to be precise) are all returning from games across the whole series, with quite a lot coming from the N64 and Gamecube games.
Don’t Call It a Remake…
The returning boards (Yoshi’s Tropical Island, Peach’s Birthday Cake from 1, Space Land, Horror Land from 2, and Woody Woods from 3), have been lovingly recreated in the engine, which appears to be modified from the one used on Super Mario Party. I got a tingle down my spine with excitement the first time I loaded up Space Lane from Mario Party 2 (my favourite board in the series) and hearing the iconic music remade was an excellent piece of nostalgia that I was looking for. Plus having mini-games playing from all across the series, rather than confining them to the boards where they originally featured, gives fans of the original games a reason to play them, rather than discounting this package as just a remaster/remake.
I wasn’t overly surprised that the formula of the general gameplay hadn’t been changed, as Mario Party in previous entries had tried to do this, to varying levels of success, and keeping the focus on the gameplay that worked in Super Mario Party was clearly key to the developers to make this package a success. However, it isn’t without its issues of course.
One of the things I really enjoyed from the original N64 games, whilst being very minor to most, was the unique endings of each board, where the winner was revealed in a fashion that fits with the board itself. For example on the Space Land board from 2, Bowser would show up at the end, causing chaos in a spaceship, and the winner, known in the game as the Superstar, would take Bowser down in what is usually a ridiculous way. However, this hasn’t been recreated in each board, which is mildly disappointing to me as it loses some of the charm that the original games had.
Graphics and Performance
If you had previously played Super Mario Party on the Switch, the visual style of the game will come as no surprise. One of the previous entry’s strong points was its graphical style. The lighting and general appearance of the characters, whilst not to the level of a Series X or PS5 game, has that very typical Nintendo charm. Colours pop on both handheld and docked mode, and it is very evident the improvements that were made in that department over its predecessor. Whilst it isn’t as graphically intensive as a game like Metroid Dread, Mario Party Superstars is still a very good-looking game on the system. It shows that Nintendo’s internal developers, as well as the second-party developers like NDCube, are incredibly familiar with the Switch’s architecture.
Performance on the other hand, whilst largely great and staying at a solid framerate, does have the odd few moments of slowdown, especially when quite a few things are happening on screen, such as multiple enemies or NPCs on a mini-game causing a mild slowdown, or a major event happening on a board, like an eye teleporter event on the Horror Land board. Whilst these moments are very mild and don’t occur that frequently, it does, unfortunately, have an effect whilst playing mini-games when you are requiring the frame rate to stay firm and steady, which can lead to some errors in input, which could result in a loss. It was a little on the unfortunate side, as graphically it is an impressive collection.
This time around, one of the key features of the game was its ability to play all modes online. As a Nintendo fan myself, it always fills me with dread whenever they put a big focus on online infrastructure, as they are notorious for being spotty to terrible in the past.
Whilst the net code isn’t perfect, it is very clear that the recent update to Super Mario Party, where they had online play on boards after nearly 2 years on the market, was the beta test for the implementation with Superstars.
But Is It Good?
With that said, whilst it is much better than it has been in the past, it isn’t without its problems of course, which is basically the way to describe Nintendo’s general output towards good netcode. There are so many incidents of data slowdown through a playthrough of a standard 15 turn game. This includes waiting for characters to move around the board after hitting the dice, slowing down whenever you land on spaces and having to wait for idle players to skip through text when it is their turn.
On the few games I played online, I was paired with players whose connections weren’t ideal (for full disclosure, I played 50% of the games online using WiFi and the other 50% using a USB Ethernet Adapter). Despite saying it wasn’t an ideal or perfect netcode, I did manage to complete the vast majority of games I had played online, with only 1 game disconnecting with around 5 turns remaining.
With that game disconnecting, it did make me discover a nice, but somewhat annoying feature within the online setting. If you manage to get disconnected from the other players, there will be a pop-up that comes up stating the disconnect. However, rather than kicking you back to the main menu, the game will continue to play, at the same point where the disconnect happened, with the same characters that had been chosen by the other players, along with the same star and coin count, but will instead be populated by the CPU.
Whilst it is nice to be able to recover a game, especially if there were a small number of turns left, it was frustrating, as the game that disconnected, I was winning with a large coin count and a few stars in the bank, however, finishing the game, even with CPU opponents, will not contribute towards the star/coin count on your profile in the game, leading to more currency for unlockables, which are relegated to titles and unlockable soundtracks from across the series.
Modes and Options
Within the package of Super Mario Superstars, you have both offline and online, where every mode can be played in both settings, which is a huge improvement from the previous entry, where only mini-games could be played online. Additionally, it also includes a Local Play option, much like various other titles on the Switch, where through wireless communication, you can play the game with others who own the game and are nearby.
When entering each different sub-menu at the front screen of the game it will lead you to the same screen, the HUB world as such, with icons for Mario Party, Toad Shop (where you can purchase the unlockables), Data Centre, and Options Houses. However, the other mode is Mt. Minigames, where you have the ability to practice and play all of the 100 mini-games on offer, either solo or with others both online or offline.
If you are a fan of the Mario Party series, you may find a lot here to keep you entertained for quite a few hours, as Party mode can take up to 2 hours on a 30 turn game, and the plethora of mini-games available. However, with only 5 boards being available, and with mini-games and said boards being unlocked from the start, it doesn’t necessarily reward you for completing the Mario Party mode, and with that, the package seems a little bit lacking for the price that Nintendo expects for this, especially since they haven’t increased the board count from Super Mario Party, and 1 less than the original N64 games had back when they first released.
Mario Party Superstars is a well-designed game that plays exactly like previous classic Mario Party games, which will excite fans of the series, but is also accessible to newer players. Playing on the nostalgia of the series, coupled alongside a bright and recognisable graphical system, makes this worthy of a purchase. But with it lacking in content, with only 5 boards, it is very possible that they will have the ability to become stale after multiple playthroughs, especially if you are playing it mainly on a solo basis.
The key component to Mario Party has always been its “couch co-op”, and with the addition of a mostly solid but slightly temperamental net code, it has returned with a bang on this game, allowing more options for players to enjoy the chaos of Mario Party, no matter where in the world your friends may be located. I just wouldn’t rely on it being your main method of play, as offline will always be the preferred way (in my opinion). But there is just about enough to entice players in, but I would recommend waiting for a price drop, or until more content is possibly added in the future.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Mario Party Superstars from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.