Here at Everybody Plays, we have fond memories of the Mario Party games – many, many weekends were spent wiling away the hours on the GameCube's (the predecessor to the Wii) Mario Party 4, as we trawled around the themed boards as Wario, Peach and Yoshi in Nintendo's family friendly mix of a board game and a mini game collection, in pursuit of the elusive star. We built up the Koopa Cabana by depositing coins every time we passed (only for it to be washed away when some poor unfortunate soul stepped on a certain space), playing the myriad of mini-games over and over, and taunted each other with strangely pitched versions of our familiar catchphrases courtesy of the analogue stick's pitch bending. Then the Wii came, and suddenly, things seemed to dry up a bit. Mario Party 8 wasn't anywhere near as good as those from times gone by, the Virtual Console version of Mario Party 2 reminded us of how things used to be, and then Wii Party appeared. While not a terrible game by any stretch of the imagination, there was just something missing from its board game/mini game mix. Something with blue dungarees, and expanding waist, and an iconic moustache. Without Mario and Co, Wii Party just didn't have the same charm of the Mario Party games, and, leading us to fear the end of an era – until the Electronic Entertainment Expo last summer revealed none other than Mario Party 9.
Fast forward some six months, and Nintendo have announced that Mario Party 9 will be making it's way into shops come the 2nd of March – yay! With eighty brand-new mini-games, where you'll be competing in a whole range of activities, from making pizzas, to escaping haunted mansions and racing snowmobiles, you don't even have to play the board game to have a go, as there's now a Free Play mode that'll let you playthe mini games individually. There's also a couple of extra modes in the form of Goomba Bowling (really hoping there's a 100 Goomba version similar to that of Wii Sports Resort) and a “puzzle-based Castle Clearout” game, although we don't know what that one entails, and likely won't until the disk takes up its permanent residence inside our Wii.
As usual, for Nintendo games, there's something of a pathetic attempt at a storyline underlining the mini game based madness - once again, Bowser's up to no good, and has stolen all the Mini Stars from the night's sky. As the hero(es) of the game, it's up to you to compete with each other to make your way around the board, collect coins, and recover all the stars, to become the Super Star, and envy of your peers. New to this iteration is the Party Adventure mode, which rewrites the Mario Party rules by letting all four of you move around the board as a single vehicle. Each player takes it in turns to be the captain of the vehicle, hitting the familiar dice blocks to move everyone ahead – although there also seems to be an element of competitiveness in this mode too, as you'll apparently need to “find the best routes and positions during your turn, while also pushing your opponents into trickier spots”, whatever that may mean. There's also the new Boss Battle mode, where you and your friends put your differences behind you, and work together to defeat a series of boss characters to reclaim the Mini Stars and give Bowser what for – although don't get too complacent, as whoever accumulates the most Mini Stars and deals the most damage will be crowned the winner.
Hopefully, the standard everyone-for-themselves mode still remains intact, as there's no mention of it at all in the early details we've seen – even if the Party Adventure mode does sound new and interesting, without the traditional mode... well, it's just not Mario Party. There are also going to be a few new characters making appearances, although there's no word on who yet – will they stick to characters from the Mushroom Kingdom, or is there a chance of them branching out a bit, Super Smash Bros. style, with the likes of Kirby, Pikachu and Olimar from Pikmin? We'll have to wait and see - and luckily, we don't have long to wait. The game releases on the 2nd of March - and we'll be bringing you a full review.