Retro: VC Weekly #152

Welcome to VC Weekly, N-Europe's guide to the wonderful world of Nintendo's download service. Written by Sam C Gittins.

If you like party games, specifically ones where a certain Italian plumber and his friends are hosting the party then you're in for a treat and what a fantastic game to mark an end to what has been a brilliant year for VC releases. Anyway enough from me and on with the game!

Available for download this week we have...

  • Mario Party 2

Points: 1000
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Hudson
Released: 2000
System: N64

In a time long before the rise to popularity of the Wii and the now all too familiar mini-game collection, there was little in the way of actual party games as it seemed to be something of an untapped market; this was spotted by Nintendo who decided to play their hand at this relatively new genre in a way that only they can, with a little help from Hudson of course. And so the first Mario Party title was born, it became a surprising hit starring Mario and friends battling it out across many themed boards and in a multitude of fun mini-games to determine who's the best; it comes as no surprise that the sequel to this title strives not only to match but manages to improve upon the magic formula.

After a brief introduction - acted out on stage in comical fashion - you are taken to a rather extravagant building situated within Mario Land which acts as your main hub from which you can either choose to tinker with settings in the Option Laboratory, purchase and play mini-games - using coins collected across the boards - in Mini-game Land or most importantly to start with you can visit Rules Land where you can learn all about how to play Mario Party 2 which I shall explain now for the benefit of those who may be new to the game.

Once you pick a themed board to play on - more on those later - you're led down a rather large warp-pipe by Toad who will guide you through the options, first off you get to select how many people are playing or how many need to be CPU controlled. After this has been determined you can choose from six characters including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Wario and Donkey Kong; then you can opt to set the difficulty of the CPU players � I tended to set their level at 'Normal' which seems to translate as a reasonable challenge while not being too easy - like on the lower difficulty - or seemingly likely to 'cheat' which is how the 'Hard' setting seems to come across and finally you can opt to make the game last either twenty, thirty-five or even fifty turns... twenty seems to be more than enough, plus there's a bonus setting which awards more stars at the end based on play-style.

Having chosen all the options you're now set to play in whichever land you have chosen � denoted by the board � out of a possible five (plus one bonus) my favourites being the Wild West and Space themes. Each player rolls a dice to determine turn-order and then again to get the game rolling, landing on blue spaces will grant you three coins while landing on red will take three away; there are various spaces that will trigger different mini-games plus such things as item shops which can sell you game-changing items, Boo who you can pay to either steal stars or coins from other players, Baby Bowser who will steal � mostly � five coins from you but whatever you do, don't land on Bowser's spot unless you want to get burned.

The main objective in the game is to obtain stars and the main way to do this is to reach Toad somewhere on the board who will sell you one for twenty coins, if you don't have enough though you'll have to go round again so collecting coins plays an important role too and obviously the best way to do this is to partake in mini-games! After each player has rolled a mini-game will always commence, sometimes it'll be everyone for themselves whereas other times you'll be on a team... regardless though the games are for the most-part very fun indeed; two of my personal favourites include jumping over a skipping rope made from fiery Podoboo's and riding in a Penguin-shaped sled in a race down an ice slide SM64 style.

Mini-games are often simple but this seems to mostly work to their advantage as the easiest ones to play are often the best, sometimes they miss the mark and you'll question the inclusion of perhaps one or two but on the whole the selection is solid and being that on the boards they are randomly selected it may take you a good few games to see them all. If you simply just want to play these games on their own though you can in Mini-game Land where you can buy them from Woody the tree using a cumulative total of coins collected by all players that are stored by the bank; once bought you can play them in a variety of competitive ways or just simply for fun adding even more replay value.

Graphically the game is wonderfully presented with a full 3D hub menu from the start plus lots of lavish details added to the beautiful boards that you get to play on each brought to life in a wonderful way; add to that the fantastic costumes that complement each theme and bring Mario and Co to life in new ways. The music is rather cheerful as expected and always manages to elevate the mood making the game all the more of a joy to play, accompanying sounds effects are mostly spot-on and as you'd expect apart from Peach who sadly sounds like a man which is unfortunate to say the least and could have been rectified with either some better voice acting or just re-using voice samples from other games; thankfully the rest of the character voices sound at least half-decent.

Everything about this game is quite simply fun, it has this strangely simple yet addictive quality to it that'll ensure anyone who gets drawn into a multi-player game of it - and single-player to an extent - will most likely want to carry on playing right until the end based purely on how enjoyable it is. While it may not be quite as ground-breaking as the first instalment Mario Party 2 still remains one of the finest entries in a series that has unfortunately fizzled out somewhat over the years, so what better time to enjoy one of the first genuinely decent efforts that made the series a simple joy to play.

Verdict : One of the finest parties Mario has ever hosted.

That's it for another installment of VC Weekly which will return again soon. So until then, enjoy the rest of this festive period and Game On!

Sam Gittins
[email protected]

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