Mario Party 10, as the name makes very clear, is just the latest in one of Nintendo's most substantial franchises. Especially frequent on the GameCube, it's evidently achieved a good degree of success and remains a mainstay on Nintendo hardware, with the home console entries being graced as the main numbered titles.
As we highlighted in our Mario Party 10 review, it's certainly a fun party-game experience, even if we had the lingering sense that the Wii U's capabilities could have been utilised a little more. That said, it is a relatively rare case of a title that utilises the GamePad in some unique ways that couldn't be replicated on other hardware, while the usage of amiibo may be simple but is undeniably charming - if our time with some young players in the Nintendo Life family are anything to go by - to children. For easy-to-understand minigame fun that players of all ages can enjoy in various ways, it's another entry in the franchise that delivers on its goals.
Keen to get some perspective on the Wii U arrival from those that have brought the series into the HD era, we had the opportunity to pose some questions to Shuichiro Nishiya, Game Director from Nd Cube Co.,Ltd., and Jumpei Horita, Producer from Nintendo Co., Ltd. They share a little about the design choices in this entry, and also try to put an old-fashioned Mario Party grievance to rest.
First of all, can you summarise the core focus - from your perspective - of Mario Party 10 in comparison to its predecessors, in terms of the importance of the GamePad, amiibo and Wii U features?
Nishiya-san: When we decided we'd create Mario Party for Wii U, the first thing that came to my mind was to give players the possibility to play as Bowser and compete against Mario using the Wii U GamePad. We had considered this idea in the past as well, but we were reluctant to have Mario and Bowser play board or minigames using the same condition. In this installment though I'm really happy that we were able to use the GamePad to provide the players with the opportunity to enjoy playing as Bowser for the first time in the series.
Horita-san: The section Mr. Nishiya just mentioned, which makes use of the GamePad like this, is called Bowser Party. It's this section and the amiibo support that are the key features in this installment. The novelty of seeing a Mario-themed map or Mario piece appear on screen after touching your amiibo figure to the Wii U GamePad, the fun of collecting power-ups with your amiibo, and being able to use them to turn the tables in your favour, are just a few examples of what you'll find in this new Mario Party.
Can you describe some of the minigames in Mario Party 10 which make good use of the Wii U's GamePad, and therefore which wouldn't have been possible in previous instalments of the series?
Nishiya-san: When playing the same Bowser minigame, the game play is completely different between those playing on Team Mario and whoever is playing as Bowser using the GamePad. We hope players will want to take turns and experience playing as Bowser for themselves.
Do you consider amiibo to be a vital part of Mario Party 10, due to areas such as amiibo Party Mode not being playable without the figures, or is it simply a fun extra in addition to the standard main game?
Horita-san: In my opinion, the Bowser Party and Mario Party modes alone give Mario Party 10 an appeal that surpasses that of any of the previous installments. However, amiibo Party mode is by no means merely a fun extra. It's an important part of this game that further enhances its appeal. This mode not only features a new kind of gameplay, but also a unique toy-world aesthetic that will enable you to experience Mario Party like never before.
The Bowser-based games are clearly a centrepiece in this entry - how did this idea of Bowser being the star of the game, and also being controlled in unique ways with the GamePad, come together?
Nishiya-san: When we considered a minigame pitting Bowser and Mario against each other, we imagined a scene where Bowser and Mario would be standing face-to-face ready for battle. On the TV screen you'd see the enormous Bowser looking at the player, while on the GamePad you'd see Mario charging at him. We worked from this basic format to develop our ideas for the Bowser minigames. We then asked ourselves how Bowser would attack Mario. We came up with fire breathing, tilting the terrain, throwing spiked balls, smashing down with hammers, you name it! It wasn't too difficult figuring out how to translate these into actual controls when we considered using them while holding the GamePad.
I often hear or read doubts about the fairness of the dice roll, that it might be controlled somehow by the game. I assure you that the outcome of the roll is 100% pure luck.
What difficulties, if any, did the development team experience when trying to ensure the gameplay remains fair and balanced when playing a Bowser Party board? Did the 4 vs 1 setup create any challenges you wouldn't usually have encountered when developing a Mario Party game?
Nishiya-san: Ensuring the gameplay was balanced was indeed the toughest challenge during development. The game is based first of all on the outcome of rolling dice, so depending on your luck, the game could end very quickly, or Bowser might never be able to catch up. We encountered a number of possible issues we had to resolve in order to balance fairness with fun. Through our test plays, we came up with various ways to help those lagging behind. For example, players who are out of the game can provide items to their team mates, Bowser Jr. can offer dice to Bowser when he's falling behind, and so forth. Thanks to these additions, the outcome of the game is up for grabs right until the very end. Of course, even with all our careful adjustments, if you end up rolling nothing but "1" you still won't have a chance of winning.
Horita-san: I just want to add an extra point here. I often hear or read doubts about the fairness of the dice roll, that it might be controlled somehow by the game. I assure you that the outcome of the roll is 100% pure luck. That said, even when you're down on your luck, you can still take advantage of the minigames to survive Bowser's onslaught and stay in the running. There are plenty of ways to turn the situation around so I encourage you not to give up until the very end!
Could you tell us more about the pacing of a typical game in Mario Party 10 - for example, why do you travel around in a car together and what other features have you implemented to help keep the flow of gameplay at a good pace?
Nishiya-san: In past installments, everyone would move separately through the board. As a result, the actions of the other players often didn't affect you. You could just look at the TV screen when it was your turn and during the minigames. In Mario Party 10 though, players move together in a car, so each player's action will affect the others meaning you'll need to keep an eye on the TV screen. This way, everyone's constantly involved, and we keep the flow of the game at a good pace.
Horita-san: We also got rid of a lot of the explanatory texts in order to improve the flow. For example, before a minigame starts, instead of a long text, you now just watch a short movie to understand the rules. When playing on the boards, you can tell what's going on simply by looking at the reaction of the characters without the need for any text to spell it out for you. As a result, the messages are kept to the minimum, and I think you'll find the game flows quite smoothly.
In Mario Party, we strive to provide players with a gaming experience in a surreal world, with characters who really show off their individuality, and filled with actions that are overflowing with energy.
Can you outline the process for creating a minigame - how are the concepts brought together?
Nishiya-san: We gather ideas for the minigames from all the staff members. Some of these suggestions are just a single line or sometimes even just a drawing. The planners in charge of the minigames then get together to expand on or merge different ideas to come up with a minigame. I'm actually one of these planners. In my case, I'm constantly looking out for things in my daily life that could translate into a good mini-game. You can find plenty of interesting ideas if you look for them.
Have previous ideas from games such as Nintendo Land, Wii Party U and Game & Wario informed development of Mario Party 10, or provided sources of inspiration?
Nishiya-san: We do look for inspirations in previous games. However, not so much from the three games you mention. We often refer to action games featuring Mario like "New Super Mario Bros. U" or "Super Mario 3D World". When we see a character, new or old, acting or reacting in an interesting way, we take note and consider whether or not we could use it in Mario Party as well.
How would you differentiate Mario Party 10 from these other collections (Nintendo Land, Wii Party U and Game & Wario) of minigames and multiplayer experiences?
Nishiya-san: We pay particular attention to differentiating Mario Party from games featuring Mii characters. Mii characters represent the players so they generally stick to fairly realistic expressions that don't go too overboard. However, in Mario Party, we strive to provide players with a gaming experience in a surreal world, with characters who really show off their individuality, and filled with actions that are overflowing with energy.
In your opinion, what's the most appealing thing about Mario Party 10 for newcomers to the series?
Nishiya-san: The multiplayer is most definitely fun. I hope newcomers will play not only with their friends but also with their family too. I also hope they try out the new Bowser experience, using the GamePad to try and defeat Mario and co.
Horita-san: Mario Party 10 features amiibo Party mode, which uses the rules from Mario Party 8 and before; Mario Party mode, which uses the Mario Party 9 rules; and the new Bowser Party mode. You could say that the latest installment is the most definitive Mario Party yet. I think fans of past titles as well as newcomers will find plenty to enjoy here.
I'd like to share a small tip for all of you discovering Mario Party 10. In Toad's Room, you will find a Photo Studio. There, you can take photos of Mario and his friends in a variety of settings. When you select the characters to photograph, touch your amiibo figure to the GamePad and… well, you can discover what happens in Mario Party 10!
We'd like to thank Nishiya-san and Horita-san for their time, and Nintendo UK for arranging this interview.