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Mario Party 4

The party genre was given a big kick in the pants in February 1999 when Mario Party debuted on the Nintendo 64, proving that board games didn't have to be stale and that mini-games were the ultimate answer for four-player mayhem. Since then it has carried on the tradition with cookie-cutter sequels, and Mario Party 4, the debut of the series on GameCube, is no different. It walks the same path that the previous titles did, banking on the power of 50 totally new mini-games and vastly improved graphics to do the selling. It's nothing new, but it's brimming with enough cool mini-games to keep any Mario Party fan at bay.

Features

  • Several modes to choose from including single-player Story mode, pure Mini-Game mode, Party mode, and more
  • 50 completely new, never-before-seen mini-games
  • Five all-new game boards with more events and spaces
  • Support for up to four players
  • Team play available
  • Buy items in the Item Shop to change the odds
  • Play as your favorite Nintendo characters including Mario, Peach, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Daisy, Yoshi, Wario and Waluigi

Gameplay
This franchise is widely considered to have started the party game genre. It's a simple concept: four people trek their way around an interactive game board and indulge in a wide variety of mini-games after each turn. Instead of points, you earn coins, which allow you to buy stars if you land on the correct space. The player with the most stars and coins wins. As for the very important mini-game challenges, they range from free-for-alls, to 1v3, to 2v2 matches. The free-for-alls are certainly the most reoccurring, but the design calls for teamwork occasionally. It makes for an interesting dynamic, too, when you have to team up with the enemy. On the one hand, if you win, you earn equal points for the both of you. On the other hand, if you lose, you can stymie your partner, but that will give your contenders a lead. It's not a new concept to Mario Party, but it's one that is still appreciated.

The basic setup to the game is also quite familiar. There are five totally new game boards available from the get-go. They range from haunted Boo-themed environments to something more tropical like Koopa's Seaside Soiree. The new boards aren't just about atmosphere, though. Hudson has gone ahead and expanded the size of them in addition to implementing all-new spaces and interactive elements. On Koopa's Seaside Soiree, for example, you'll be able to buy items to power-up your game. Buy a Mega Mushroom and use it to stomp coins out from your opponents as you pass over them. Or, if you can afford it, buy a Genie to warp you to the star points, which can quickly alter the face of the game. The Seaside Soiree also contains animal interaction with a dolphin to ride upon for shortcuts and a monkey that tosses bananas in your way to randomize your chosen direction. There are a whole slew of events that can happen on the various boards. They help to ease the tediousness of rolling the dice, but it all pales in comparison to the mini-games.

Like all the Mario Party titles before it, this fourth edition's main appeal is the 50 completely new mini-games. The diverse offerings range from frantically shooting three-pointers to vying for the most surface area by stamping a piece of paper with a color of paint. As always, Hudson and Nintendo know how to put that magical touch into each of the mini-games. Almost all of them are uniquely entertaining. Even the most simplistic mini-game concepts, such as stacking the most dominos (called Domination) by mashing the A-button, can easily send the room into laughing fits as you and your friends wear your thumbs out to garner the top spot. Slamming the button repeatedly is basically all there is to it, but the on-screen element is executed nicely. You and your friends must tune in to watch the results as the dominos tumble one-by-one. As each row comes to a halt, places are decided, and the victor can rightly mock the losers.

This is what keeps Mario Party 4 entertaining. The freshness of mini-games in combination with unbridled multiplayer action. However, without four players, Nintendo's newest addition to the party genre is severely wounded. With each player slot that is filled with a CPU, the fun factor drops. It's the same story as usual for the franchise. It's meant to be played with the max number of participants. It isn't remotely entertaining as a single-player game. In fact, it's pure tedium to play the game's Story Mode alone. You are wickedly subjected to watching the three CPU players make their turns. It's not so much a game at that point as it is a form of torture. The only reason one would endure Story Mode is if they were so competitive they wanted to practice all the mini-games first. We can assure you, it's not worth the pain.

Summed up, Mario Party 4 is simply a compilation of very clever mini-games. The board game element is simply a front to control the pace. This is certainly the best Mario Party yet with some of the coolest mini-games. But, that's all that it is. It is not a vast improvement on the series and is still limited to being multiplayer-only gaming, despite the tedious Story mode.

Graphics and Technology
Given the leap from Nintendo 64 to GameCube, the visuals for Mario Party 4 are a huge improvement since we last saw the franchise. The small, controlled environments leave room for a lot of varied texture work and detailed objects. Character models, composed of perhaps a few thousand polygons, are well animated and textured. They're nothing extraordinary, but they blend with the environments quite nicely instead of being blocky and unrefined like we saw on the Nintendo 64. There is a lot of specific effects work for each mini-game, as well. One of the most visually impressive has players performing the classic "butt stomp" on an inflated plastic cube. As the cube deflates, it wrinkles and squishes without looking jagged. The idea that it is just polygons and textures is removed from you as it casts glaring reflections from the sun. Overall, the visuals are quite sharp in many places. But, there are also a lot of blurry textures to be seen too. It's a mixed bag of good and bad.

There's technical merit beyond the visuals, though. With 50 different mini-games, it's impressive that all of them feel and play differently. There has been a great deal of work put into the subtle control touches and various physics models.

Like nearly all Nintendo published GCN titles, it supports progressive scan for HDTV users, which makes it look even more sharp and vibrant.

Sound
A collection of MIDI tunes, bell effects, whistles, crashing symbols, and all around circus type music. Mario Party 4 is a very lighthearted game, and the music perfectly fits that. But, the composers and sound designers haven't taken the liberty to make the sound experience a memorable one. It's meant to make the experience feel "fun," but it's also a lot of background static. There are a number of character voice effects too, which are usually just "Woahs," Heys," and "Ahhhs." Each character has their signature mutterings, but that's about as complex as the sound design gets.


source IGN Cube

Publisher
Nintendo

Developer
Nintendo

Genre
Party

Origin
Japan

Number of Players
4

Release
TBA

Peripherals
Memory Card







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