Let’s get one thing clear. To answer the question in the title of this article, we must revisit what makes the whole Super Mario Party 5 ISO series fun in the first place. The great thing about Super Mario is that it’s actually a very easy game.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I just blast through level after level of the game like a hot knife going through some cold butter. I’m not making that claim at all.
The game can get quite challenging. In fact, if you are not paying close attention to the game, it kind of creeps up on you and you find yourself struggling. You plateau. It’s like you hit a certain level, and you can’t get past it.
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It’s very intuitive. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. or some sort of brain surgery medical specialty to figure out the game. You don’t have to be some sort of expert in Sanskrit or some sort of dead language like Latin to figure your way around the game. That’s a part of its distinct charm.
Another key element of the game is that it is consistent. Its character set kind of forms some sort of graphic lore. It, of course, all started out with Donkey Kong and Super Mario then Luigi entered the pictured then all sorts of other characters, whether they be good guys or bad guys doesn’t matter, and it kind of took a life of its own after some time. It’s as if the canon of the whole Super Mario series went through several periods of addition, reinvention and elaboration and, in many cases, exaggeration.
It’s all good though because, unlike other types of games, platform games aren’t really held by the same type of lore. Lore, of course, is the story line or story consistency running through a whole game series. It goes from game to game, title to title and regardless of what happens in the game, there has to be some sort of consistency in the lore.
Now, this sensitivity to lore varies from niche to niche. The game niche of the whole Super Mario series is it’s a platform game. You go from level to level. It’s fairly predictable. Some critics even say that’s fairly flat. However, there’s a certain routine flow to it.
This is very different from an open world game where you explore different sections of the game with the understanding that there is some sort of overarching story. This might seem simple and clear-cut at the beginning of the series, but as you roll out game after game, you really have to keep track of your lore; otherwise, it’s not going to seem authentic. It’s as if things were going smooth and then all of a sudden something got knocked out of place and you’re in danger of losing direction.
You don’t have to worry about that with platform games like Mario Party or the Super Mario series, but you still have to retain some sort of consistency. This is where a lot of the criticism of these games really hinges.
How free are you to innovate? How disruptive should a new series be as far as the previous collection of games go? Is there such a thing as some sort of black-and-white point of departure where you could say that pre-Mario Party 5, this is how the game looked like. After or post-Mario Party 5, this is what you should expect and assume about the Super Mario series.
Thankfully, we haven’t really reached that the point yet. This is due to the fact that Nintendo knows a good deal when it sees. It doesn’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
The problem with this crazy reinvention is that you are very likely to throw the baby out with the bath water. While there’s no such thing as a perfect game series, and there probably never will be, please understand that people do like some continuity. They don’t want you to go off track. They don’t want you to basically redo the series based on something completely new.
I’m not talking about reboots. If you’re going to reboot a series because of new rendering technology, for example, you’re going from flat, two-dimensional rendering to three-dimensional, that’s not really a disruption. It’s a welcome improvement. Of course, it all depends on how you pull it off.
If it is disjointed or it’s obviously badly done, then don’t be surprised if your loyal community speaks up. However, outside of that, technology reboots or reformatting of games is to be expected. After all, video games have to keep up with the latest and greatest video technology. Again, there is no surprise in that.
The reboot that I’m talking about involves game lore where you basically just completely re-engineer the game but keep the characters. Sometimes this works but, most of the time, and I’m talking about nine cases out of ten, this completely falls flat. Either it tries to do too much in too little time or it retains the wrong things and innovates on things it shouldn’t be innovating on. Do you see how this works? There are just so many things that could go wrong.
Let me tell you all those scenarios were going through my head as I downloaded and installed Mario Party 5 ISO. I didn’t really quite know what I was getting into. Was I going to be disappointed? Am I going to look at the whole Super Mario series in a completely different way? Will it kind of kill my passion for everything and anything related to Super Mario?
I was kind of clueless there. I was just completely in the dark, and it felt like I was taking shots in the dark in the first place. I was kind of like trying to play my way around because this game is really a series of games. These are called mini games, and this is a good thing and a bad thing. It all depends on how seamless or well-put together the package is.
It kind of reminded me of why the Swiss Army knife is so awesome. As you probably already know, the Swiss designers are known all over the world because of their watches. Their watches are sleek, elegant and oh-so-functional. In other words, they are the complete package. They’re not just all looks. They’re not just all glitz and style. They can also deliver. They do deliver.
The same applies to mini games. You don’t want just a patchwork of different games that are cobbled together. There has to be some sort of overarching theme. There also has to be some sort of overarching lore and gameplay.
These things are easy to say. These things are easy to ask for. They’re definitely easy to list down. However, boy, are they hard to pull off. You have to understand that you’re not just packaging or organizing a collection of games in one easy-to-use format. It goes beyond that.
You’re wearing different hats really. You’re trying to preserve the lore integrity of the game. You’re trying to live up to certain graphics expectations and you are also trying to deliver a solid game that is quick, easy and fun to play. You want people to come back again and again.
Everything that I have listed out are quite difficult. It’s like having many balls up in the air. This is not easy.
Did my copy of Mario Party 5 ISO make the cut? I’m happy to report that it did, and I’m not talking about barely making it through. I’m not talking about like just barely edging over the finish line and just slumping over and passing out.
This mini game collection is a worthy successor to Mario Party 4. Mario Party 4 had a lot going for it, but Mario Party 5 ISO truly delivers. It swings for the fences in some cases, and I’m glad to report that it often hits a solid double, if not a triple, from time to time. While the home runs are few and far between, let’s face it. That’s too much to ask for.
This game takes the series far. It doesn’t quite score all the way through, but it does a decent job. If anything, it keeps you entertained. That’s precisely the point because the whole soul of the game, so to speak, turns on its ability to deliver game variety. You don’t want to feel like you’re playing the same game over and over again.
The good news is you don’t ever reach that point. You do get that feeling that you are playing a different game each time because there are different mini games inside this unit.
To truly fully understand and appreciate what this game brings to the table, you really have to explore the different mini games it offers. I’m not just talking about taking the time, effort and energy to play each mini game. Anybody can do that.
I’m talking about slicing and dicing them because when you realize that they actually use different gameplay mechanics and they require different strategies, you start looking at the game differently .You start looking at Mario Party 5 not just as some random collection of games that are hastily stapled and patched together, but you see something that is cohesive.
You see that it follows certain themes. You see that the gameplay far from disrupting each other or interrupting each other or somehow cancelling each other out, flow and complement each other. This is not exactly easy. This is why I really have to tip my hat to the designers of this game.
If anything, it recaptures and celebrates everything that is so awesome about Nintendo in the first place. Believe me it’s not easy to pull this off. There are just so many competing considerations. It’s one of those things that if you go too slow or if you go too conservative, you end up creating a game that is kind of suffocating. You kind of end up with a game that kind of chokes at certain points and doesn’t really quite go all the way through.
On the other hand, you don’t want to go overboard and really try to reinvent everything and just blow people’s minds by packing really complicated mini games. That doesn’t work as well. The game starts to feel like it’s trying to be something that it’s not. It begins to feel that it’s like trying to prove something.
When you find yourself in that situation, it’s very easy to seem like a fish out of water. It really is because you are out of your element and you’re just kind of like basically flailing around and trying to connect. Not exactly a winning position if you know what I mean.
This is why I really appreciate how moderate and balanced this game is. It really highlights the genius of the creative powers behind Nintendo. This game is no joke. You get to appreciate character consistency while you witness a tremendous amount of versatility the game brings to the table.
The big problem with mini games should be obvious. If you played one mini game title after another, it should really just jump out at you.
The problem is this. You want the player to keep coming back. You want each game to be different than the last. You want each game to pack some sort of emotional reward that the player feels incentivized to keep playing.
Again, this is one of those game design philosophies that are easy to say. In fact, a lot of these elements kind of roll off the tongue.
However, coding them, testing them, debugging them and, most importantly, incorporating lore into them is another matter entirely. This is why I am simply amazed Nintendo is able to crank out such a huge number of titles in house and only manage to stumble once in a while.
There’s no such thing as a perfect series. Let’s get that idea out of our heads. However, if anybody can come close to that, it is this series because they’re dealing with a lot of assets, they have so many balls up in the air, and it’s too easy to just basically go through the motions. It really is. It’s basically easy to just kill your franchise by, for lack of a better word, recycling yourself.
I wish I could say that this is just pure speculation. I wish I could say that this happens once in a blue moon. Unfortunately, given the competitive pressures out there as well as the market demand and the almost irresistible urge to be the first to market, the incentives are definitely there.
That’s why there are just so many otherwise awesome game series that rip themselves off. I know that sounds kinda weird. Why should you rip yourself off? However, it happens all the time.
A lot of people are saying that the heavy-metal band AC/DC from Australia succeeded in ripping themselves off. They basically ripped themselves off over and over again so that, according to critics, the band hasn’t really progressed much beyond 1980’s Back in Black album. Now, that’s quite an indictment.
If there was a video game version of that, it’s happening everywhere right now. That was really one of my biggest suspicions about this version of the Super Mario series.
At the back of my head, I was really deathly afraid of just basically wasting my time. You can only spin something so much. You can only make so many variations until you quickly realize that you’re basically just going around in circles.
I don’t like going around in circles. I don’t like chasing my tail. I don’t want to experience something new.
Boy was I in for a nice pleasant shock when I realized that this is it. You get to enjoy the classic gameplay of Nintendo’s Super Mario series and I also get to enjoy all the different Mario World characters. I’m able to do this while remaining engaged. It’s not like I’m playing the same platform game over and over again.
Instead, the mini games give so much diversity. The best part is it’s open. You don’t have to use the different mini games in a certain sequence for you to truly enjoy the game.
Finally, if you want to relax with old-school game mechanics and video, this is the game for you. It may look old to a lot of people, but there’s something sexy about old designs because whenever you deal with a classic or vintage look, you’re dealing with something that’s tried and proven.
You’re not dealing with something that’s unsure of itself. You’re not dealing with something that’s trying to be something that it’s not. You’re not dealing with something that’s basically functioning out of obligation.
You let go of all that unnecessary drama. Instead, you focus on what works. I’m happy to report that Mario Party 5 ISO definitely lives up to the Nintendo name, and that’s definitely a good thing.