Overall score 79

It’s been a while since I’ve last played a Mario Party title, even longer for one on a Nintendo handheld. What I do remember though is having fun with them. The Mario Party series do have a reputation for being full of randomness, but the series was always a favorite for local multiplayer fun when growing up with my siblings. I don’t have much experience with the recent Mario Party titles, but I am aware of how non-traditional they have been. When you’re at 10+ of these games, it does seem only natural that changes were eventually going to be made. That continues in this latest release, Mario Party Star Rush, for the Nintendo 3DS. Though it might be different from what I grew up with, I still managed to have quite a surprisingly good time with the game.

Mario Party Star Rush is the latest Mario Party title and it’s for the Nintendo 3DS. The last Mario Party console game I’ve played was Mario Party 9, with my last handheld one being Mario Party DS. So I’m not entirely sure if Star Rush is taking any inspirations from the latest Mario Party 10 release. What can I say though is that Star Rush offers up many of the usual Mario Party mechanics that has been present throughout the series. Things like choosing characters from the Mario cast, collecting stars, and engaging in various mini-games. The big difference though is with how these things are presented.

There are multiple modes being offered in Star Rush ranging from single player to the usual four player setup. Seven modes in total, so there’s a decent amount of variety. Not all modes are available for multiplayer, mainly cause they’re single player. Also, not all have mini-games tied to them. Offering things that are a new type of game on their own.

Support for amiibo is also present and it’s usage can actually give players an advantage in certain game modes. Of course, that stuff isn’t available when playing multiplayer, which makes sense. Using certain amiibo can also unlock things in the game, but you don’t have to worry about missing out on content since those unlocks can become available eventually by playing the game normally. So it’s mainly just a means of unlocking things early if you have the available amiibo.

THE GOOD: Since various modes are available and also mini-games, there will be a group that players could potentially not enjoy. Fortunately, I found a majority of everything in this game to be enjoyable. The modes are simple and straightforward and the mini-games felt more skill-based rather than relying on random elements in order to gain a victory. Not to say that randomness doesn’t exist though, since dice rolls are still a thing.

One of the modes available is Toad Scramble, which is a free for all mode for four players. All players are Toads and the goal is to obtain lots of coins, with 10 coins equaling a star. Player with the most stars at the end will be the winner. The board will be full of coins for players to gather up as they move spaces, but there is also a boss on the map. Once a player reaches the boss, a boss mini-game will start and the winner will gain a star. Also on the field will be allies, which are the Mushroom Kingdom cast, and gaining an ally will give you an advantage. Allies will have their own dice to roll, and will also aid in boss fights. You can have more than one ally in your group too, but other players can also steal your ally if they land on the same space as you. Mini-games will also occur once someone passes through coin balloons that appear on the field as well. Once all bosses are defeated, the game is over. This mode is straightforward once you get into it. It felt pretty fresh and fun from the usual board game setup of dice rolls and buying stars. Players all roll dices and move spaces at the same time, so there’s hardly times when a player isn’t engaged in the game, which I think is a plus for this change.

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With older Mario Party titles, there would be areas in the game where the player would have to wait a while for others to take their turn before they can act again. This made games drag on. With this new setup, games can go by rather quickly and for most of it, players are engaged. A bit of randomness is still present, but not too much to the point of it deciding the victor. Although, gaining coin bonuses at the end of the game for certain objectives is a thing. That aside though, I enjoyed this mode very much, whether played by myself with CPU players or with others via local play. It takes nice advantage of the handheld aspect, since every player has their own screen.

The other mode I also really likes is the Coinathlon, which can be played with two to four players. It’s a racing type of game, where players are competing against each other to complete laps around a track. A rotation of three solo mini-games will be played throughout, and earning a coin moves you one space on the track. It’s a fast paced mode that feels more skill based than anything I’ve played before in a Mario Party game. There is a random element though, since players can obtain items that can attack other players to disrupt them in some way. So, in a way, this can be best described as Mario Kart but with Mario Party mini-games. This also takes good advantage of the handheld setup, since the mini-games are all solo-based. So others can’t fully know how well or bad the other is doing, other than the view of the overall track that’s shown on the other 3DS screen. The only down side I have with this mode is that only three mini-games are chosen to be in the rotation, would have preferred having them all be available. However, the difficulty of the mini-games do ramp up when you revisit, so it’s not entirely the same thing over and over.

One of the surprising things I found too with this particular Mario Party title is with how enjoyable it was to play as a single player. I’ve played Mario Party titles alone, but due to how things were set up before, it was a pretty boring experience. Mainly cause of those wait times for other players turns. Since you’re waiting on CPU players, you no longer have that interaction with others that at least helped kill the time away. With Star Rush, everything goes at a quicker pace, so playing with CPU players never felt boring. That constant engagement really helped in making this a good single player experience, even though it is a party game.

As I mentioned earlier, multiplayer is a thing for this title. It’s kind of done nicely too. Only one player needs to owns the game in order to fully enjoy the Star Rush experience. Other players just need to download the Party Guest version of the game via the eShop. Once that’s done, all players can enjoy all the modes of the game by linking up wirelessly with the full game owner. You are also building up experience as you play, which plays into the game’s unlocks, and you can move that data to the actual full game if you ever buy it.

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THE BAD: Unfortunately, multiplayer is local only which brings up a issue I continue to have with these latest Mario Party offerings. That issue being with the lack of online support. Given how things are set up this time around, online would’ve worked out well. Since there are some modes that have players only focusing on their screen, there’s hardly much interaction with other players that I feel like online could’ve worked. Also, you have a game like Super Smash Bros. that has constant player engagement with each other and that has online. So it continues to be disappointing to me that Mario Party still doesn’t have an online feature, especially with a handheld title.

With multiple modes and mini-games present, there were bound to be a couple that I didn’t much care for. One such mode is called Rhythm Recital. It’s a mode that serves as a rhythm mini-game of sorts, so the mechanics with it are simple. My knock against this mode is that it is probably too simple. There are multiple songs to choose from, all from various Mario titles like Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Galaxy, even Dr. Mario. Once you choose a song, you choose an instrument, then you’re off to the mini-game. All you do is press a button in time with notes that scroll down across the screen. It’s simple, but it’s not exactly fun. There is multiplayer so you can play songs with others like in a band, but you don’t hear their inputs in your game. You only hear your instrument. Though, I guess if you’re all near each other playing with the 3DS volume up, you could hear each other that way. Still, for something that was meant to be its own mode, there could have been more to it. Also, the rhythm you have to follow along with the song isn’t exactly the best either and I feel that stuff could’ve been better. All of this made me feel like this mode was just hastily put together in order to fill up some space, which is a shame cause it could’ve been a fun mode to play if only there had been more there.

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OVERALL THOUGHTS: Mario Party Star Rush kind of surprised me, as I found myself having more fun with it than I originally thought, especially as a solo experience. The way things are set up is well made for the handheld and the fast-paced nature of it makes gameplay sessions not last too long that you can easily jump in and have a quick round of fun and then be on your way. It’s also well suited for local multiplayer if you have other 3DS users nearby. There is still that lack of online support though, which I feel this game could’ve greatly benefited from. There are a couple modes I would have liked to trade in for more mini-games to further expand the other modes that I did enjoy, but I still had a good time with the majority of the content that was there. If this direction of Mario Party Star Rush is a sign of what’s to come, then I’m very hopeful for the next installment. In the meantime, Star Rush is a good addition to the series and one that fits in nicely on 3DS.

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