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Mario Party DS – DS

Mario Party DS – DS

Mario Party DSPlatform:  Nintendo DS

Release Date (NA):  November 19th, 2007

Developer:  Hudson Soft

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Party Game

Nerd Rating:  6 out of 10

 

 

For whatever reason, I never got around to reviewing Mario Party DS back when I was on my major Mario Party binge.  But the other day, I set aside a couple of hours to refamiliarize myself with this installment.  This review might be a little lighter on comparisons than my previous articles on the series since I don’t have so many other games rattling around in my head. Mario Party DS isn’t one of the strongest in the series, but it isn’t one of the weakest either.  Sitting on solid middle ground, we’ve got a marginally unique entry in the Mario Party canon that does its best to suit the capabilities of the Nintendo DS.

Released just after Mario Party 8 and just before 9DS marks Hudson Soft’s final involvement with the series.  The flimsy storyline has the crew shrunk down to miniature size and in search of pieces of a Sky Crystal in order to stop Bowser from doing…something or another.  It’s not all that important, but the miniaturized theme sets the stage for the visuals.  In most respects Mario Party DS follows other recent games in the series.  The gang takes turns moving around a game board with the intention of collecting stars.  Facilitating and hindering this process are coins, specialized board spaces, and items that can be bought or found by the players.  All of this is Mario Party 101, and most anyone who’s played will know exactly what’s in store.

Mario Party DS

I really hate this stage. The teleportation madness is beyond frustrating.

Like Mario Party 8 (the direct predecessor to DS), this game keeps things interesting by using a different approach to star-gathering on each game board.  Sometimes the stars are changing price; other times a player may buy as many as they wish when they reach the correct spot.  There are only 5 different game boards, but this isn’t so bad for a portable.  The miniature theme is kept intact throughout, and ties the game together better than many other examples from the series.  There is an extremely irritating stage, Kamek’s Library, that requires the player to blindly teleport around in the board in desperate hopes of landing a star, but otherwise I find the variety well planned and entertaining.

A big part of collecting stars is having enough coins to do so, and winning minigames is a big part of collecting coins.  And like so many other installments in Mario Party, there’s one completely uncontrollable factor always in the forefront: luck.  I’d say that Mario Party DS leans a little heavier towards luck than most of its brethren, but it’s still fun if not slightly frustrating.  The boards are particularly intrusive here, perpetually stealing coins, teleporting players all over the board, and otherwise putting stars just that much further out of reach.

Mario Party DS

A simple but great minigame where the player builds up speed with the stylus for a long jump.

While peripheral to the main gameplay of nearly every Mario Party game, we all know that the minigames lie at the heart and soul of the experience.  And how do these stack up?  Fairly well.  The technology of the the Nintendo DS makes a number of whimsical games possible, and most are still held together with the whole “miniaturized” thread.  Besides the “regular controls,” Mario Party DS makes use of the touchscreen and microphone in interesting and workable ways.  The stylus is used for everything from turning a rotisserie to plucking out a matching Boo, while the mic interprets the sound of blowing to determine who has blown the loudest and/or longest.  (There is nothing dirty about that, I just couldn’t find any better way to say it!)  Old fashioned button-mashers are thrown in (pushing the lead out of a mechanical pencil) alongside more puzzle oriented games (a “Memory”-type card matching game) and still others rely on more traditional running and jumping platformer elements.  The assortment, as a group, is one of the strongest in the series.  Better still, depending on your environment or skill level, the player is able to choose what sets of minigames will or won’t be included before each game, with the options “All,” “Simple,” or “Mic.”

Mario Party DS

Blowing out candles via the microphone is surprisingly fun!

Mario Party DS

This game entails using the stylus to turn the crank at a speed which correctly reproduces the speed of the music played beforehand. The closer to the original tune, the more Goombas that’ll be lured in.

For the most part, I just finished going over the majority of minigames, the 4 on 4 battles.  Following with other Mario Party releases, some of the other types of minigames are a little less satisfying.  In the 1 vs. 3 bouts, the single player almost always has a disproportionately large advantage.  The Battle Minigames, which suck up a certain number of each player’s coins beforehand and redistribute them based on the results, are almost always luck based (such as blindly choosing an option and hoping it isn’t the wrong one), leading for true upsets mid-game as a hefty bag of coins randomly falls into a player’s lap.  Team Battles (2 vs. 2) are generally of the quality of 4 vs. 4, though when playing with a computer-controlled ally, you will almost always be subjected to a major flub or two.  Finally, the Boss Battles are probably the most interesting and diverse of the bunch, pitting a single player against the computer.  This small cadre of games is probably the most difficult, but also the most skill-based and most complex.

Mario Party DS

The first, and in my opinion most difficult of the boss minigames.

Time constraints are always an issue when it comes to games designed for handhelds, and I think Hudson Soft does a pretty good job of addressing them when dealing with a lengthy experience like a typical round of Mario Party (unlike the very different approach taken with Mario Party Advance).  One can easily at save at any point during a game, and several modes are available for those times when you end up stuck with your DS longer than you’d anticipated.  First up is the Story Mode, where the player moves through all 5 stages.  Well, you have to win of course, but the boss battles are integrated well, it works towards unlocking all stages and minigames in other modes, and there really is a story tucked away in there somewhere.  (Though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why Wario and Waluigi are interested in the glory befitting one who’s bested Bowser.)

Mario Party DS

Notice the giant fast food?

The player is also free to replay any of the minigames at leisure, great for killing a few minutes here and there or just brushing up on one’s skill.  Puzzle Mode is a new addition to the usual repertoire, offering up some completely different puzzles not encountered in the normal course of play.  These games are longer and more in depth than simple minigames, and can truly be elevated to “full game” status.  There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but they’re decent additions for those into puzzles.  Multiplayer has always been one of the best ways and reasons to enjoy any Mario Party game, and Mario Party DS is no different.  Unfortunately, many handheld aficionados have a tough time arranging local multiplayer matches (or is it just me?), let alone for the amount of time it takes to get through even 10 turns.  Fortunately, the wireless connection capabilities work extremely well (and you’ll only need a single cartridge); there’s no lag, no significant load times, and really nothing else to suggest that the local multiplayer setup is anything less than perfect.

The graphics aren’t necessarily the game’s strong point, but there’s nothing wrong with them either.  They’re considerably average when it comes to quality, though I do enjoy the oversized artwork and the toyetic feel.  Some of the cutscenes and minigames have hard angles where there ought to be rounded edges, reminiscent of N64 games.  When on the game board, the graphics feel just a little fuzzy and indistinct.  I expect more definition and sharpness from a high profile release like Mario, and I’m surprised at the ho-hum appearance.

Mario Party DS

I’m not sure where the hell they came up with the idea of furiously clicking lead out of mechanical pencils, but it kinda works.

Looking back, I see that I also rated Mario Party: Island Tour a 6 out of 10 as well, and I’m sure I had my reasons, but Island Tour is definitely a more engaging handheld Mario Party experience.  DS has its strengths and weaknesses like most other installments.  It’s a solid entry in the ever-growing franchise, but I suppose could be regarded as somewhat forgettable.  Casual fans may find only moderate enjoyment, though if you’ve got the chance to frequent Multiplayer Mode, going up against real opponents is always more fun than the strange and inconsistent AI.

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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