The Mario Party franchise has been a mainstay on Nintendo consoles since the days of the N64, and has even ventured onto the Game Boy Advance and DS handhelds.
But it is the Wii where the series is most at home, with motion-controlled mini-games catering up to four players, tapping directly into the console’s strongest audience: families.
For the ninth iteration, Nintendo has mixed things up considerably by reworking the formula. Rather than the four players being spread across the board, they now progress through the game together.
Their chosen four characters take it in turns to captain the group’s vehicle, which is themed to match the board setting. After they hit the dice block, the magic carpet or rollercoaster car carries all four players to the next space, keeping everyone at the heart of the action.
But there is still an element of competitiveness involved. Captains will have to be on the lookout for shortcuts and alternative routes that will let them make the most of their turn, or make the following one difficult for their opponents.
As always, the aim of the game is to collect more Stars – or in Mario Party 9’s case, Mini Stars – than the other players. But now there is another objective: defeat the boss.
Mario Party 9 introduces boss encounters at the end of each game. Consumers must work together to defeat classic Mario baddies like Bowser and King Boo – while still trying to improve their own score, of course.
The chance of success is improved by winning the mini-games that follow each round. There are more than 80 new challenges available ranging from races and chopping wood to battling giant squids.
All of these can be accessed separately in the Free Play mode. There are also extra distractions outside the main mode, such as the Castle Clearout puzzles and the self-explanatory Goomba Bowling.
Nintendo will once again be positioning Mario Party 9 as a family title, one that stands to become yet another long-tail success for the Wii.
“To complement the launch of Mario Party 9 we will have a large scale marketing campaign on television, print and online targeting the core Wii family audience as well as bespoke activity for kids,” says Nintendo’s junior product manager Roger Langford.
A live action TV ad will show families playing Mario Party 9 together, much like your typical Wii campaign. This will target housewives and kids audiences via both terrestrial and digital channels.
Nintendo will also be specifically targeting children in the run-up to the launch of Mario Party 9. This will include online ad placements on Cartoon Network and Disney portals. There will also be a four-week TV campaign on kids channels.