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Mario Party 6 – GameCube

Mario Party 6 – GameCube

Mario Party 6Platform:  GameCube

Developer:  Hudson Soft

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA):  December 6th, 2004

Genre:  Party Game

Rating:  6.5 out of 10

Will Hudson Soft ever honor the seminal Mario Party with a proper sequel?  The jury is still out, but Mario Party 6 does move a step in the right direction…sort of, at least.  If anyone remembers anything about Mario Party 6, it’s probably the GameCube Microphone. Touted as the first game ever to use the GC Mic, it is also the first of a pair of Mario Party games to make use of this rather straightforward peripheral.  Unfortunately it never really lives up to this expectation except in an entirely different mode than the board game interspersed with mini-games that we have all come to know the franchise as.  Marketing fraud aside, the sixth installment is superior to Mario Party 5 in almost every way, making large strides in the areas of graphics, pacing, and general originality and distinctiveness when it comes to both the game as a whole and the individual courses.

GameCube MicrophoneI might as well go ahead and get the big stuff out of the way, i.e. the microphone.  Nintendo’s mic is a simple add-on.  It’s little more than a plastic cylinder with a button.  With the button held down, the GameCube knows someone is speaking and does a pretty good job of interpreting it.  Being the clever folks that they are, the boys over at Nintendo were smart enough to design this instrument so that it plugs directly into one of the unused memory card slots on the GameCube.  It might not seem like a big deal nowadays with all the USB ports peppered around on modern consoles, but it was actually a novel idea at the time and shows how much forethought was put into this device to ensure that its usage didn’t compromise or otherwise interfere with 4-player games.

Mario Party 6That being said, it is only used sparingly within Mario Party 6.  Over the course of traditional gameplay (moving along the board and playing mini-games) there are only 5 instances where the mic is used.  During the last couple of days I’ve spent digging into this game, I went a straight 45 turns without a single mic game.  Another great feature of Mario Party 6 is the ability to select only mini-games that do not Mario Party 6use the mic, making the mic itself a perk and not a necessity.  There are a few new items to select on the main menu, and one of these deals exclusively in microphone-based games.  Once inside, one can play any of the 5 mini-games which use the mic, or one can choose from 2 other games completely outside of standard Mario Party gameplay.  One of them involves a sort of race where voice commands are used to run an obstacle course while carrying a star.  I won’t go into a lot of detail because honestly it’s totally pointless, but it does do a nice job of showing off how responsive the microphone is.  Most of the time voice commands are interpreted correctly without the need for over-enunciation, shouting, talking quietly, or trying to find some magic distance between mouth and mic.  The second game is structured as a sort of quiz show combining simple tasks of memory and counting with quick voice responses. It’s actually a fairly in-depth little game and quite fun on its own.

Although I hate to say it, that’s it for the microphone.  I’m not sure what the point was in not fully integrating the mic into this game, but it wasn’t.  I appreciate and respect Nintendo’s decision not to require it, but I also think it exists too far outside of context and ultimately turns into a very disparate element that only leaves people scratching their heads.

Mario Party 6In addition to a place to play with the microphone, a new feature has been introduced which will become standard in all subsequent Mario Party titles.  In this iteration it’s known as the “Star Bank,” and it’s a place that collects all the stars gathered by all the players (human and otherwise) at the end of every game.  Inside of the Star Bank certain items can be purchased as stars accumulate, the 2 most notable being the hardest board in the game and Toadette as a playable character.   Other optional purchases include an extra course for the running challenge in “Mic Mode” and an extra-hard difficulty setting.

The biggest thing on my mind when I fired up Mario Party 6 (and perhaps yours too if you’ve been following along) was the pacing.  The fifth entry was abhorrent and wasted time at every possible opportunity, even creating a multitude of opportunities to do the same.  Thankfully, Mario Party 6 moves along at a reasonable, respectable pace.  There are events that happen mid-turn, characters must still contend with duels and stores, Bowser spaces and board-specific happenings, and a few other activities here and there.  For the most part, these actions have been streamlined as much as possible and no longer are the boards arranged in a way that transforms 15 turns into 90 or 120 minutes.  

Mario Party 6

Mario Party 6Most gameplay elements from past titles carry over into this one, albeit in different and more refined forms.  No longer are players forced to pay for random “capsules.”  (This was a major issue with me in Mario Party 5.)  In this game they are known as “orbs” and while random orbs may be found along the way, they cost no money to use.  Stores are also dotted around where players can pay for and choose only the powerups they want.  There are still a number of items available, but a handful seem to show up more than others.  This helps greatly with consistency and strategy, and a largely arbitrary luck factor has been all but eliminated.  A few spaces and events still exist where players’ fortunes can change on a dime, but at last they are situated appropriately and aren’t constantly being triggered.

Mario Party 6Another welcome change comes in the form of the game boards.  Each one in Mario Party 6 is truly unique, right down to the way in which stars are collected.  For example, one stage has all stars available at one single location, though the price fluctuates from “day” to “night.”  When a player crosses over this space, they are free to buy as many stars as they can afford at the current Mario Party 6rate up to 5.  This marks a sharp shift in strategy from the courses in which stars are dotted all around.  Another course harkens back to the very first stage in the first Mario Partyhaving the star space alternate between actual stars and Bowser’s diabolical antics.  This sort of variety is a breath of fresh air into the series.  In the past, game boards have largely shared broad characteristics and only differed in the smallest of ways.

The graphics have taken a significant leap forward as well.  Backgrounds are more detailed and a sense of depth is conveyed better than in any previous Mario Party.  Small touches on the boards such as the blowing wind and sparkling of objects gives the game a more immersive feel rather than the sort of cartoon-ish drawings of past titles.  The characters themselves haven’t evolved much, but the rest of the game is 2 notches beyond anything prior.

Mario Party 6Remember in the beginning when I said that Mario Party 6 excelled beyond its predecessor in almost all respects?  Sadly, I can’t laud the mini-games as much as I’d like to.  Sure, the mini-games are fun.  They aren’t irritating or poorly done, they aren’t too hard, or too easy, or too complicated.  There’s just something about them that is utterly forgettable.  No real standout mini-games appear in this title, though I can’t quite put my finger on just what the issue is.  Many of them are updated and retooled versions of past mini-games (which is fine) but they fail to be memorable.  Perhaps it is because some of them are too simple, and even too fast?  I can’t be sure.  There’s nothing to hate about the games, but there’s nothing the write home about either.

Mario Party 6On the subject of mini-games, the computer’s idea of an “easy” setting is one of sheer incompetence.  With CPU players on “weak,” there is an extensive amount of fumbling in mini-games, as if the AI isn’t even trying.  This is especially abysmal in situations where a human and computer player have to work together.  It is impossible to make any sense out of what the Mario Party 6computer players are doing or why they are doing it.  For even slightly experienced players I’d recommend at least a “normal” setting for any and all computer opponents.  I still believe there should at least be an option to turn off watching computer opponents duel with each other.  These excruciating moments of CPU vs. CPU rage on forever, with each character being equally oblivious to the objective at hand.  It immediately takes me back to the unendurable vine swinging of Mario Party 3 and I can’t help but shudder.

Mario Party 6

Mario Party 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Games can tend to drag a little in the last few turns, but it’s nothing as sickening as Mario Party 5.  Overall, this may be the most well-paced Mario Party so far.  The lack of extensive microphone support is somewhat disappointing, but at least there’s a section to have some fun with the device, even if it has nothing to do with Mario Party proper.  Mario Party 6 doesn’t get a 6.5 for the same reasons that Mario Party 4 does.  Mario Party 4 was a great improvement and extension of the ideas and gameplay that made the first so special in the beginning, while Mario Party 6 attempts to push the envelope just a little more.  There is some hit-and-miss involved, but it’s hard to ignore the ambition that went into this sixth entry.  Rather than just improving, it seems the series is being pushed forward on a fundamental basis.  Mario Party 6 can be a bumpy ride at times, but at least it’s evident that progress is taking place.

Stay tuned for Mario Party 7.  Oh, and if you’re wondering about where or how to get a GameCube Microphone of your very own, they are widely available, usually for no more than $5.00.  I encourage anyone even slightly interested to pick one up; it’s a hell of a lot more responsive than you might think.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Mario Party Series
Main Series
Handheld

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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