I’ve wanted to play a portable Mario Party game for a long time. I don’t know when exactly I first started to think about this, but it was probably back during the days where I played Mario Party 4 regularly. Advance is a good enough spinoff and the minigames are enjoyable although the story mode holds it down a bit. It wasn’t really constructed well so I’d advise you to focus on Minigame Mode. I do think Mario Party DS and 3DS will likely end up being better.
The plot of the series is that Big Bad Bowser has stolen all of the gadgets in the world and now Mario must steal them back. The townsfolk have taken them all, but they are willing to give them back if you solve their quests. Sometimes the quests involve going back and forth to find something or 1 on 1 challenges. Regardless, you must complete all 50 quests in order to save everything, but Bowser won’t make this easy on you. He plays for keeps!
Naturally, the plot isn’t really the key thing here. The game board is rather large as you would expect from Mario Party and you roll the dice to see how far you can move on the board. Each turn costs a mushroom and once you are out of them, it is game over and you’re sent home. Your progress is saved though as the only thing that resets is your current quest. You can earn 3 more mushrooms every 3 turns if you win a minigame and there are also spots on the board that have the same effect. Watch out for Bowser Jr though as running into him can have you lose a mushroom or be warped somewhere else. Unfortunately, there is no way to dodge him as it is luck based.
This is where the story mode flops a little. Towards the end of the game Bowser Jr starts to appear everywhere. It’s just not very fair as you can be super close to ending the quest, but suddenly find yourself back at the start. It’s not cool to have to retread the ground that you’ve already covered. The last mission that I did before the final Bowser battle was also a little cheesy and I head to check with Gamefaqs to see what the game wanted from me. The characters kept stating that King Bob Omb was hiding in the Condo, but it only had 3 floors. Apparently you had to hit an invisible option and then you can enter the basement. That’s a bit of a low blow if you ask me.
The majority of the missions were fine though. The trek could just be a bit tedious so I am actually glad that there were only 50 missions. Any more would have been a little excessive. The minigame selection was designed well though as you would typically get a new minigame every time you played. Collecting them all was actually pretty easy for a change so that was a pleasant surprise. Most of the minigames are pretty easy to understand, but some of them will likely take you 2 shots to fully understand.
They’re not made to be overly difficult or anything like that so you should breeze through them. My DS has a weak L button so the Chain Chomp game in particular took a little longer than I would have liked to complete, but the actual game was fair. I didn’t care much for the luck ones, but since when do I ever like those? Mario Party does succeed with its minigame selection and while people have mentioned that the games have gotten worse over the years, I have always liked them. The old games certainly had the best selection, but so long as the newer ones still have that classic fun factor, I’m satisfied. Mario Party’s made to be the kind of game that you can just boot up and play. This one fits the bill although I don’t see why I’d ever choose it over one of the big titles like Party 4.
I enjoyed the retro sprites here. The victory celebration after every minigame was a little annoying after a while though. Once you’ve seen it 50 times, you don’t want to see it anymore. Other running gags were more fun though. I liked Bowser’s little laughing sprite that he’d play whenever you’d go to his lair. It made the whole cutscene a little more enjoyable. His line “*sniff* I really liked that gadget too!” was also pretty endearing. You couldn’t help but feel bad for Bowser as he comes across as a kid who just wants some friends, but doesn’t know how to express himself. In the end, he turned out to be a pretty honorable guy and at least he admitted that he had fun. It was a nice ending for the whole cast. I liked the soundtrack as well. The main Bowser theme was a lot of fun and the rest of the tunes also aged well. There’s just not much to dislike here. It’s a standard Nintendo soundtrack, which means that it is well above average.
There isn’t really any replay value to speak of once you complete the game, but as I mentioned before, the 50 quests should be more than sufficient. It’s certainly a long enough game for the low price that you will have gotten it for. It’s just a fun game overall and a good way to spend a few afternoons. I do hope that the story mode is redone for the sequels though. It should just be a little more fluid and less time consuming to get from mission to mission. I don’t even think that a mission mode is completely necessary as a normal Party Mode would be cool although I guess it’d be hard for the GBA to process. Perhaps by the 3DS game as that one certainly has the specs for it.
Overall, Mario Party Advance is another good party game to add to the collection. I’ve played a lot of party games over the years so trust me when I say that the games here are a lot more varied and entertaining than most. If you haven’t played the game yet, then you should check it out. It’s aged pretty well and just take care not to let yourself get burned out on the story. Play it in batches and you should be just fine. As for the Mushroom Condo, just make sure to look at the invisible option and you’ll also be okay. The Christmas batch of games is roughly at an end now. The only two games left are Buu’s Fury and Kirby’s Mirror, but it could be a little while before I finish those two as I’m working on the New Year’s batch and other games may pop up on the side. Regardless, they will be completed though and that means that the GBA era lives on!