Mario Party 3 Hands-On

The originator of the digital board game is gearing up for another party. We had the chance to sit down with a near-final version of Mario Party 3 to see what Nintendo has in store for partygoers this time.

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While party-based games have been around for what seems like forever, no game has perfected the digital board game like the Mario Party series. The series that inspired several copycat games is back for another round on the N64. We grabbed a near-final copy of the game, got some people together, and had ourselves a little party.

Mario Party 3 refines the series with more of what made Mario Party and Mario Party 2 so successful. The game boasts 70 all-new minigames, at least two new characters, and five all-new game boards on which to play. As was the case in the previous two games, up to four players select a board on which to play; then they take turns rolling the dice and moving on the board in an effort to collect the stars scattered about the board. After the end of each turn, the characters battle it out in a minigame to win coins. Then the coins are spent to purchase items and stars and used to pay tolls and other penalties. This process repeats itself until either the preset number of turns expires or until one player collects the preset number of stars. Both of these winning conditions are set at the beginning of the game. The game is made even more interesting through random events, the use of items, and special map interactivity.

Not much has changed this time around. The minigames are all completely new, but most of them are simply remakes of minigames from previous Mario Party games. But at least the minigames are fun. Most of them involve some sort of skill, so you don't have to focus on destroying your controller or hurting yourself, as in some minigames in the previous games. Additionally, Hudson has added Waluigi and Daisy to the lineup, who both debuted in Hudson's other game, Mario Tennis. Still, other characters from the Mario universe would have been better suited for the game. The five maps are inventive and really help add flair to the game. Many of the maps have themes taken from the various Mario games, and they feature obstacles and characters that should be familiar to Mario fans.

Mario Party 3 features familiar cartoon graphics and vibrant colors. The game seems inspired by Paper Mario--it even has some of Paper Mario's two-dimensional backdrops. The characters animate and move about well, and most of the minigames have cute themes, some that turn characters into fish. The themes can even have characters piloting aircraft or mine carts. Catchy background music and a good assortment of sound effects add to the game's excellent sound. Still, the game could have used more voice effects, as the characters hardly say anything at all. Taunts or even victory bits might have given characters a bit more personality.

The key to Mario Party 3 is in its simplicity. The game maintains a very simple pick-up-and-play attitude, and it's perfect for party atmospheres. While those looking for a title that would reinvent the series will be sorely disappointed with Mario Party 3, the game sticks to what it does best and simply adds more of it. The game will party its way into stores in May.

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