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Why Mario Party 10 Should have been Online
The inevitable next installment of the Mario Party franchise is set to hit the Wii U on March 20th in both the US and in Europe, helping to round out the Wii U’s somewhat scarce lineup as of late. In a sense at least, the series looks to bring some novel ideas to the table, which is tough to pull off for a franchise that now has 10 home console variations, not to mention 3 titles on Nintendo’s handheld machines.
The addition of the new game mode known as “Bowser Party,” for instance, seems like a fresh take on an aging Mario Party formula, which takes advantage of the Wii U’s gamepad, and for the first time in the franchise’s history, allows for 5 player competitions. The wielder of Nintendo’s tablet-style controller will get the satisfaction of playing as Mario’s longstanding nemesis, Bowser, and face off against 4 rivals in a series of unique mini games dedicated to this new style.
There is also the newly added feature of Amiibo integration, which allows players to scan their preferred character into the game, which translates to an on screen character which you can use in the Amiibo-exclusive feature, “Amiibo Party.” This mode comes with its own set of character-specific board games.
While these features sound like a nice diversion from the typical Mario Party formula we have gotten to know over the years, it still feels as though this newest installment from Nintendo is rife with untapped potential.
The potential of which I am speaking is the use of online play.
It is truly a head-scratcher for me as to why Nintendo decided to leave this key feature out. While it’s understandable that Nintendo likely preferred to focus on the split-screen multiplayer for a franchise that has always thrived on it – and perhaps encourage gamers to play in the same room, why not focus on both offline and online multiplayer? For a game that is so reliant on playing against other people for the meat of its gameplay, it’s nonsensical to me that a feature that lends itself so well to multiplayer is absent. The amount of replayabiltiy it would instantly add would be immense, generating extra value and hype to an already anticipated game.
Sure, one could make the point that you would probably have to deal with a frustrating level of quitters in the middle of your 30 turn board game once it becomes apparent that they are doomed for fourth place. However, this unfortunate side effect of playing strangers online doesn’t stop other developers that provide lengthy multiplayer campaigns from incorporating online functionality. Besides, there are a number of ways Nintendo could discourage premature quitting, or at least minimize incentive to do so.
Why not simply make it easier for the last place participant to stage a comeback? How about penalizing quitters by depriving them of leaderboard position or deducting points of some kind? Or better yet, make the online games much shorter than the traditional multiplayer. Nintendo could simply make it a best of three mini game tournament, or a brief 5 turn board game. Even if a player still decided to get cute and bail on the final round, A CPU could replace the AWOL player and the game would go on as scheduled.. No damage done (except to the quitter who would be charged with a tally in the “loss” column and negated points).
Online play would have not only added replay value, but would also greatly help revitalize a franchise that has been around for over 15 years, and despite having new mini games and features, has begun to grow a bit stale and formulaic. It could open the door for a plethora of fun new options like online tournaments, unique events and competitions, leaderboards, or an xp or ranking system of sorts that could reward you and present you with in-game unlockables.
This isn’t to say that I feel Mario Party 10 will be a bad game without an online feature. After all, it’s not necessarily about what a particular game doesn’t have, but what it does. And if any developer has proven this point throughout its history, it’s certainly Nintendo. Indeed, Mario Party 10 look like it is shaping up to be one of the more interesting Mario Party titles regardless of online play, and will still likely prove to be a blast to play with friends and family. It’s just that, in its current state, it only looks “good”, while a robust online mode could have elevated the game close to Mario Kart 8 or Smash Brother elite status. But alas, at least for now, we will be going into this party wondering, “what if…”