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TalkBack / Pac-Man Museum + (Switch) Review
« on: June 23, 2022, 05:04:36 AM »

A great collection for when you get the video game munchies

Despite its grandfatherly age in the video game industry, the 1980 arcade classic Pac-Man has stood the test of time in what has grown to be a very big industry. Granted, it has endured in part to being heavily available on nearly every console in some capacity, but its relevance has also been due to its simplistic, addictive design: eat all of the dots, avoid the ghosts until you get the Power Pellet, and chomp on the fruit for extra points. Pac-Man’s massive success led to then-Namco turning the little hungry yellow ball into a full-blown franchise with mixed results, but with enough wins to keep Pac-Man a household name. How interesting it is to now have a catered collection of these arcade games from over the years all put into one collection. A Namco collection comes out every year or so, but it’s not common to get one based solely on Pac-Man. Pac-Man Museum + is a port of the 2014 title, Pac-Man Museum. The “+” indicates the new games in the collection, as well as new features revolving around customization. How does this collection fair against its own company’s saturated market of compilations? Well, it seems that despite how simple a game Pac-Man is, talking about this collection is a little more complicated.

Pac-Man Museum + comes packaged with 14 games from across the pellet-muncher’s history. These include the original 1980 Pac-Man, its 1982 sequel Super Pac-Man, 1983’s Pac & Pal, 1984’s Pac-Land, 1987’s Pac-Mania, the Super Nintendo version of Pac-Attack from 1993, the Super Famicom version of Pac-in-Time from 1995, 1996’s Pac-Man Arrangement as well as the PSP version from 2005, 2007’s Pac-Man Championship Edition, Pac-Moto’s, and Pac n’ Roll Remix. 2011’s Pac-Man Battle Royale and 2016’s Pac-Man 256 round out the collection. Needless to say, there is a lot of arcade Pac-Man content here, most being variations of Pac-Man’s history through his maze-based games, with a handful of other offerings in the puzzle and platformer genres. While there is a lot here, I couldn’t help but notice a few omissions. Ms. Pac-Man is the obvious missing title. However, if you’re unaware like I was going in, Ms. Pac-Man has been battling some ownership issues and thus wasn’t included. The character was actually struck completely from games that had included her, even as a cameo, and replaced with the character, “Pac-Mom.” While it is a shame that Ms. Pac-Man is not included, there are several other games that try to make up for her exclusion, many of which have had far fewer re-releases. To ask for a collection to cover the entirety of Pac-Man’s history is unreasonable, sure, but there was a small nagging feeling of wanting just a little bit more from Pac-Man’s history that has rarely been revisited, such as the Pac-Man World games, Jr. Pac-Man, or even the hilariously ill-fated Baby Pac-Man. That said, for the price of admission, what is available here is a great offering, even if it’s likely not every game will be played as much as some others.

Admittedly, I didn’t realize how many Pac-Man games existed that I had not played, especially from his earlier ventures. I blame part of this on the fact that many have not been re-released or included in the various Namco Museum collections. That said, after having trekked through maze after maze, I have a better understanding as to why many of these games were not made widely available again: they ain’t great. Sure, the fundamental design of Pac-Man is just as timeless as it was decades ago. And it was interesting to see the journey that Namco underwent to keep the magic of the series alive in each sequel. But that didn’t necessarily translate to enjoying the actual gameplay.

For instance, Super Pac-Man, the sequel to the original arcade game, added locked doors to the mazes that had to be opened with various keys. Pac-Man could use a power-up that made him much larger, invincible, and capable of busting down these doors. At best, it’s a novelty. But it starts to stray away from the appeal of the simple game. The follow-up, Pac & Pal, does away with the mechanic of chomping the ghosts altogether, instead focusing on having Pac-Man chase down a character that is nabbing all of the fruit. Then you have the experimental games that shake up the genre instead of trying to evolve the original concept. These are fairly middling, too. It’s fun to check out Pac-Man as some sort of tilt n’ tumble game or a Tetris-style puzzle game; I also enjoyed seeing where the Super Smash Bros. stage comes from (which was better than I was expecting!). But a lot of these games are a few steps past being novelty items. I found myself only wanting to play a handful of the games for long periods of time: both variations of Pac-Man Arrangement and Pac-Man Championship Edition. Thankfully, even though I didn’t stick to every game available, the inclusion of an achievement system made it somewhat interesting to return to other titles. It’s certainly not a perfect system, but it was a helpful addition to keep me coming back, and also to tie in the Pac-Man Museum +’s newest feature: a customizable arcade.

While I wasn’t majorly impressed by the arcade hub menu given its small size and limitations, I was enjoying the constant unlocking of new skins for cabinets, new figurines, and even characters to come hang out at my arcade. The process for decorating is fairly straightforward: play the games, unlock achievements, earn rewards to decorate. You can also earn tokens that you can use to either play the arcade games, or spend on a gatcha machine for more figurines. It’s rudimentary, but charming. There isn’t a lot to complain about, as it’s all very serviceable, but I did have a few netpicks. Why were there a bazillion different wallpapers, but only two types of flooring? Why did arcade cabinets that were multiplayer get put into a single player arcade cabinet? What’s up with the 30 fps? Again, it’s not a huge deal. It’s a neat addition to this enhanced port that I think would be welcome in any collection celebrating an iconic video game character’s important history.

I did appreciate some of the flavor text that was written about the various games, each providing enough context to its relevance in the history of Pac-Man. In terms of other cosmetics, there’s a CRT filter that has varying levels of quality depending on the game. It appears to be a single filter overlay that doesn’t adjust depending on the game. In some games, such as Pac-Land, the lines that break up the pixels don’t line up with the in-game pixels, and I found this to be distracting. Speaking of, if you aren’t a fan of colorful arcade cabinet borders around your game, I regret to inform you that they are in full swing here with no option to turn them off. Personally, I was enjoying seeing all of the different artwork, but an option to customize the experience seems like a no-brainer that was missed. In some games, resizing the game screen actually will conceal part of the artwork, which often included instructional material. It’s not a game breaker, but it’s another element in this quality control tug-of-war the whole collection struggles with.

What is definitely a game breaker is the lag. I can’t really pinpoint if it’s the horrible drifting that occurs on Switch controllers, if it’s the input lag, or even the emulation itself, but more often than not I was frequently running into instances where I didn’t make a turn while fleeing a ghost, which jeopardized my fleeting strategies in the moment. I noticed this recurring issue across multiple maze games, while experimenting with different controllers and Switch play styles. For fun, I even booted up Pac-Man 99 and didn’t experience nearly the same level of frustration. So while I was having a grand ol’ time re-experiencing my childhood favorite, Pac-Man Arrangement, the experience was soured just a little with some control issues. Thankfully, most of the games are forgiving with the lives / credit system (again you use in-game tokens). But in a high-score chasing experience, it can be frustrating to not be able to claim what you rightfully feel you earned. There are online leaderboards too, which stack you up against both your friends and the best of the best. I like to think I gave each game a fair shake, but with some of those older titles, it was grating having to deal with moments of unfairness in already questionable games. Save states aren’t really necessary in these arcade-based games, but they would have been appreciated in some of the platformers like Pac-Land or Pac-in-Time, as occasionally the games would present you with a very punishing obstacle that did not promote experimentation.

Pac-Man Museum + is a lot to chew on, as there are many upsides to this package. The selection is good, there’s plenty of replayability, the leaderboards are nice, and a few stand-out titles can be found within. Plus, you really can’t beat the entry price being so low. But sadly, it’s a package that is bogged down with a handful of control issues and a lack of options. In a collection celebrating a character via a customizable arcade, it’s unfortunate there isn’t as much care put into the customization of the player experience. Will I still be playing it often? Absolutely. A handful of these titles both promote Pac-Man’s historic legacy, while standing on their own. Others, however, get lost in a game that is ironically all about mazes.

TalkBack / Re: Dream Dropped: Playing Kingdom Hearts on the Cloud
« on: April 24, 2022, 12:40:10 PM »
Awesome job on this, Joe. I respect the lengths you went to test all the versions in different environments. It's such a shame how it has panned out.

TalkBack / Re: Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Release Date Tagged For July 29
« on: April 24, 2022, 12:39:12 PM »
It reads like Splatoon 3 and Xenoblade 3 might be doing the ol' switch-a-roo. Interesting

Seriously? You decide to give to out business credits now? Where were you when I was finishing up college in 2020? It's okay, I doubt RFN is accredited.

Fun show; bummed to hear Guillaume didn't care for The Wild at Heart. I haven't started Triangle Strategy yet, but it is [effectively] in my shopping cart.

My biggest takeaway has to be... "Only an Amico deals in absolutes".

TalkBack / Re: New Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Trailer Released
« on: April 13, 2022, 11:33:21 PM »
Crossing my fingers that Gatekeeper is playable!

oh no

Wow, I was not expecting such a moving speech.

Mario enemies definitely have the advantage of being consistent over the years. Goomba's have always looked like Goomba's, Koopa's walk on their hind legs now, and Thwomp did get a few redesigns, but by and large they do stick to the same style guide; for better and for worse.

I think Wii Sports might be a fun game for a first game, assuming they don't throw the Wiimote into the TV.

Podcast Discussion / Re: Episode 755: Activision Acquisition Isekai
« on: March 05, 2022, 06:55:21 PM »
Goodness, is there. Gift Shop? I didn’t see one at the end of that tour.

TalkBack / The Wild at Heart (Switch) Review
« on: March 05, 2022, 08:55:45 AM »

It wears its wild heart on its sleeve, to say the least.

It’s always a delight when you can tell that the passionate developers of a video game aren’t hiding what their inspirations are, and when they’re aiming to run with familiar gameplay concepts that aren’t often seen. And that is exactly what Moonlight Kids’ latest game, “The Wild at Heart,” is going for. You could easily describe this title as blending the puzzle gameplay of “Luigi’s Mansion 3” with the resource gathering and crafting of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, along with a hefty amount of the “Pikmin” series. And to do so would get the idea across to those first hearing of The Wild at Heart. But for a game that has obvious inspirations, it fares well in trying to stick its own neck out in a crowded industry where everyone is trying to be unique.

   The word “different” is an appropriate one to describe The Wild at Heart. Players take control of a runaway twelve year-old boy named Wake, who finds himself in a magical wonderland teeming with mythical fauna and is soon tasked with saving the forest from a sinister threat. He and his friend, Kirby, befriend a race of cute creatures called “Spritelings,” who are happy to help out however they can by being thrown at various obstacles, predators, or materials that need to be gathered. Each Spriteling also has its own quirks like being able to stick to nets or create clones. While exploring, Wake and Kirby solve puzzles with their vacuum cleaner-esque gizmos, and also gather materials to craft all sorts of meals, tonics, and devices along the way. Narratively, it’s a simple and serviceable but endearing backdrop that lends itself to players getting to explore a world with a lot of tools at their disposal. Even after my twelve hour adventure, I was interested to go back and find the treasures I had missed on my first go around, or to look for secret areas using new Spritelings I had befriended.

Progress is controlled by a day and night cycle; you explore during the day, and camp at night, avoiding the malicious nocturnal creatures that roam about. However, you’re allowed to explore at night, should you so decide. This small level of freedom made me feel in control of my adventure, and in the later half, I was even allowed to explore at my own free will. I could go anywhere I wanted, not being restricted to a completely linear path, instead being given the option to choose which direction I’d like to go. Playing each day and charting out my agenda hooked me, and I found it difficult to step away from The Wild at Heart once this happened. It’s not only hard to put down, but with the number of hidden treasures, it welcomes replayability. I would have liked to see some sort of ranking to compare my play time to others, and/or my percentage of treasures collected. The game instead avoids arcade-style scoring, and opts to share only the player’s play time on their file. My real complaint with this entire excursion is the execution of the difficulty.

Upon beginning your adventure in the Deep Woods, you are provided the option of choosing between a game where exploration and narrative enjoyment is the focus, or a game where combat is more balanced, and there is a greater emphasis on crafting for survival. I began my adventure in the easy mode to at least get a lay of the land. But I very quickly got bored, and by the end of the tutorial, I had already switched to the harder option, and I am grateful I did because that is where the gameplay mechanics are really shown off. That said, I noticed as I played that I didn’t think the game’s difficulty was necessarily hard because of a well-made challenge, but instead because of minor aggravations that were created pretty arbitrarily. Sure, in hard mode you’re probably going to have to take the extra time to craft some tonics to buff up your army for that formidable boss or well-placed group of baddies that you know can deal some major damage to your team. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s moments like when the game doesn’t tell you something that you should probably know, and then punishes you for experimenting, that brings down the enjoyment.

For example, I split up my team, and had a group of Spritelings go pick up a treasure to carry back to base. I then had sent a group to carry an object that would unlock more in the main campsite, and I had one last group go collect small resources for me to craft. While these three groups carried out my bidding, I returned to the main camp to see to other affairs. But after a few minutes, I noticed that I had not been notified of my different groups having completed their tasks, so I walked back and to my disappointment, realized that the game had considered my return to camp as abandoning my Spritelings, all of whom were lost to me. After that, I had to grind to replenish my army, and felt just the slightest bit cheated out of what was a moment of experimentation and strategy. It felt like the game wasn’t punishing me for messing up a challenge, but rather smugly telling me to not overstep my bounds in trying to strategize. Spritelings also aren’t able to be thrown all at once or charge an obstacle. You instead have to manually throw them one at a time, using the same stick that is used for movement. So you will inevitably be aiming to throw, and then inadvertently walk into the very obstacle you’re trying to avoid. And like not being able to throw multiple Spritelings, you are unable to dump your pockets into your storage, instead having to empty each individual item, one at a time. If you couple this with a few other annoyances like the thirty-second loading times adding up between the various areas that you very frequently have to sit through, as well as the inconsistent game performance, you're looking at just a bit of frustration to have to put up with. It’s not even in the ballpark of ruining the game, but it is absolutely worth mentioning as combined these issues did deflate my enjoyment within reason. I had the game crash once on me, and it would slow down every time I had a full army out fighting, too.

One last aspect of the game I would like to touch on is that there is a lack of urgency that I felt was needed. It’s really nice to be able to explore at your own pace in the world—granted with the inclusion of the vaguely designed daytime timer—but I think the trade off here is that it’s absolutely okay to have days where you accomplish nothing. In fact, you could have as many unproductive days as you’d like. The only issue here is that it does conflict a little bit with the narrative’s push for trying to save the forest from a growing threat. At the end of the day, I think it’s still better to have the player be allowed to do whatever they want, but with the inclusion of multiple difficulty options, I would have preferred the inclusion of a limit to the number of days to add some thrill to the experience. Even with these shortcomings, I really think The Wild at Heart was made with a lot of love. Look no further than the art department, which boasts an array of muted colors on a densely drawn cartoon world. The Spritelings, while cute, don’t have the strongest of silhouettes, but they get the idea across quickly on what they are capable of. The friendly faces in the main camp, and even the monsters lurking around the plains are all really silly, and weirdly believable that they would exist in this world. This is also in large part to the way music and sound is handled. The Wild at Heart leans into natural noises, quirky sound effects, and overall a light-hearted romp through the woods. You won’t find any grandiose orchestral sweeps here, and it’s okay because of how well the relaxing music compliments the gameplay.

At the end of my day in The Wild at Heart, I am really happy with the adventure I had. I am going to continue to explore to my own heart’s content, and I look forward to finding every last treasure, missing cat, deep lore page, and mysterious secret. I wish there had been a little more care put into how the difficulty was handled, but even so, this was a really pleasant time. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Wake and Kirby, as I expect that there is a lot of room for them to continue to grow into young adults, and there is room to perfect what is otherwise an enjoyable experience.

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia 88: Hey Pikmin, FOUR...m A Mafia! Day 1.
« on: February 01, 2022, 10:06:42 PM »
I vote Pokepal.

TalkBack / Mario Party Superstars (Switch) Review
« on: January 10, 2022, 01:26:14 PM »

NDCube finally rolled a high number in their party.

Mario Party. The very name invokes fear into nearly every player who has had the honor (and misfortune) of playing a round. Whether you’ve thrown the virtual dice just a handful of times, or are a veteran partygoer, you’re likely aware of the ups and downs the series is known for. The best titles are the ones where players rage against their friends, forming strategic alliances, and sacrificing lifelong friendships. The worst ones pit players against the endurance of the randomness the series revels in, whilst removing the quirks that give players some control of the odds. NDCube’s latest offering is the second in the series to grace the Nintendo Switch, this time promising to capitalize on the parties of long ago, as it harkens back to the Nintendo 64 era. Make no mistake, the series has been in decline for nearly a decade outside of its mini-games. But this time around, NDCube hasn’t pulled their punches, instead delivering a top-notch experience that gives a level of meta context to this Mario-themed celebration.

In 2017, the Nintendo 3DS received, “Mario Party: The Top 100.” This handheld experience promised to bring the 100 best mini-games that the series is known for into one singular title. There was only a single, uninspired game board for players to play the minigames on, however, which polluted the context for the mini-games. Its mixed reception left it as a fairly forgotten excursion, a real wasted opportunity. This time around, the concept has returned with 100 familiar mini-games (that are not the exact same as the 3DS title), and more excitingly, remastered game boards from the Nintendo 64 era. Mario Party Superstars is rolling in nostalgia, and it wants you to know it.

From the attempts at recreating the original game’s main menu, to the narrative of which character is the coveted “Superstar” (whatever that means), down to showing screenshots of the context for each game board—even if you haven’t played the N64 games, the gameplay is a return to the traditional style of gameplay that was utilized in the Nintendo GameCube and Wii eras. Players each take turns moving around a game board collecting coins, trying to buy stars, and then competing in mini-games to screw one another over. The mini-games are from all ten numbered-titles in the series as well, and they look fantastic here. Each looks to be handcrafted to match its source material, with a new HD sheen. I could tell that corners were not cut in the visuals department. From the lighting used to the material textures, everything is really gorgeous. Characters are even just slightly more expressive; pushing other players out of the way when passing them on the board in a very passive-aggressive fashion. Not a big deal, but I did notice that the character animations were reused from the previous Switch title, Super Mario Party, which isn’t a bad thing if it means more of a focus on new content can be achieved. If I had to knock anything at all, it’d be a nitpick, and that’s a compliment. While Mario Party Superstars is using nostalgia as it’s selling point, it’s worth noting what is missing that may be obvious to fans of the prior games. Elements such as the very quirky, stylized Toad citizens of the Mushroom Village that acted as a main menu are gone. Costumes for the characters to wear have not made a return, despite being shown off in screenshots of the source material. Mini-games that had different gameplay based on the time of day are absent. Some of the mini-games even had visual gags that were cut once the mini-game was over. These are all minor elements that I imagine most might not bat an eye at. But it is something worth mentioning in a game that is capitalizing on its history and players’ nostalgia.

While Mario Party Superstars features content from yesteryear, it also puts forth an avenue to bring this content to the modern age via Nintendo’s online service. And shockingly, this is where I found the game to shine the brightest outside of its brilliant presentation. Upon booting up the game, you’re presented first and foremost with how you’d like to play: offline, locally, or online. This precedes the title screen, and sticks out as emphasis of player control over gameplay. Yes, you can truly play every single mode online, with or without friends. If a connection is lost while playing on a board game, you can pick right up where you left off. If you dawdle, a CPU will take over your spot while you scramble to get back on. The single-player focused Mt. Mini-games allow players to compete against others online for the best score, and there are friend invite systems. Various modes pit players against one another as they try to survive the most mini-games, collect the most coins, or brawl it out in sports; it's a swift and clean attempt at creating an enjoyable single player experience. I didn’t think I’d enjoy playing random strangers, but even that has been contorted into something that left me with a smile on my face. The inclusion of stickers that can be used during the game board segments are a wonderful way to taunt and communicate with others. Couple this with the light progression of leveling up your player profile to unlock more from the in-game shop, and you’re in for a fairly addicting time. As someone who has been with this series since Mario Party 4, this is a dream-come true. Of course, you will occasionally hit lag issues (I’m looking at you, “Pushy Penguins”!), but by and large I can say this is the most fun I have had with Nintendo’s online multiplayer maybe ever? Mario Party is all about playing with your friends, and while nothing can replace the joy and laughter of being with your friends in the same room, the option to finally be able to duke it out with online friends is arguably a bigger treat than the nostalgic trip the game focuses on.

So where exactly does Mario Party Superstars falter? Aside from the footnote on its pure representation of the older titles, there really wasn’t a moment where the other shoe dropped. Everything here is a grand ol’ time that I highly recommend. It has been my most played, and most enjoyed multiplayer experience since Super Smash Bros. Ultimate dropped three years ago. If anything, I just wanted more. Mario Party Superstars is quality over quantity. There is really great content here, but the entire time I could not help but think, “there could be more of this idea.” Call me greedy, but five boards still isn’t enough to satisfy even if it’s still more than Super Mario Party. I don’t know how fair it is to compare it to older titles, simply because while some of them boast seven or even eight boards, the ones here are phenomenal reimaginings of the originals, which were flat images.

As of now, there are five boards, 100 mini-games, and ten playable characters. Rumblings of DLC have been floating around, and that would be very welcome. Such rumblings invoke a greater discussion on whether a sequel should be made with the same or different mini-games, or if this title could now act as a platform for the series. It’s a tricky issue, that I don’t envy the creators having to face, but the fact of the matter is that NDCube has set a bar for themselves now that they absolutely cannot afford to go under. Whether they continue to remake older, beloved experiences, or take this success as an experience to apply to new, original content, they have won me over with this Mario Party. I suspect this get-together is one for the books.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 297: Greedy Gamers for Mario Party Superstars
« on: November 05, 2021, 10:55:20 AM »

There ain't no party like a Mario Party

Neal and John are taking a week off which means Alex is back in the host seat joined by fellow staffers Xander Morningstar and Matt Zawodniak. The gang puzzles at the existence of Pikimin Bloom before gushing over the surprisingly excellent Mario Party Superstars. But their joys might be dashed and their friendships challenged in the upcoming Mario Party Monthly streams beginning with the first Friday of each month (that's TONIGHT!) at

Connectivity has joined Twitter, so be sure to follow @ConnectivityNWR to be up to date on any announcements. We are wanting more listener participation, so feel free to ask questions, they may show up in the show! Email us at

TalkBack / Our Dream Mario Party Superstars GameCube DLC
« on: October 18, 2021, 07:43:00 AM »

What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary than with a party?

With the upcoming release of Mario Party Superstars, we here at NWR are very excited to put on our party hats, and return to some of the classic Mario Party boards and games that we’ve grown up with. But not all of us have grown up with the N64 boards that this upcoming title is remastering. Unfortunately, the first three N64 titles are hard to come by, as only Mario Party 2 saw a Virtual Console release. Some of us (myself included) did not start partying until the series hit it’s climax on the Nintendo GameCube. And you wanna talk about exclusive, hard to-come-by games; four titles remain exclusive to that system. With the beloved purple lunch box console turning twenty years old this year, I can’t help myself and hope that Mario Party Superstars will get some continued support in the form of DLC. I’ve heard many say that five boards being remastered seems a little low, and to each their own on that. But I do think it would be very fun to return to the first full fledged 3D boards that the GameCube showcased.. With that said, let’s take a look at the rundown from each game and discuss what that could look like.

Current Lineup for Mario Party Superstars

  • Peach’s Birthday Cake - Mario Party 1
  • Yoshi’s Tropical Island- Mario Party 1
  • Space Land - Mario Party 2
  • Horror Land - Mario Party 2
  • Woody Woods - Mario Party 3

As cool as it would be for the GameCube boards to make a return, it should be noted that the GameCube era is heavily designed around specific gimmicks. Hudson began to experiment more with the series, with small ideas in each, meaning that a direct translation may be a bit tricky as the boards themselves are designed with mechanics specific to each game. If DLC happens, it’s worth asking if these boards are coming in full swing on how they were presented originally, or if they have been tweaked at all. In several cases, a few changes could actually fulfill an opportunity to improve these boards. But if the gimmicks that some of the boards are designed around are removed, it may leave players feeling a bit hollow when revisiting. Or not, it just depends on how the approach is handled. Suffice to say that these charming games are known for their personality, and while an HD revisit is something many players would like, removing instead of improving is a fine line to walk. And if you’ve played Mario Party with drinks, you know how hard it can be to walk in a straight line.

Mario Party 4 - Designed around Mini/Mega Mushrooms

It doesn’t get said enough, but Mario Party 4 was a lot of the Mario cast’s first appearance on the Nintendo GameCube, which is why it may look like it features the characters we are familiar with, but just slightly “off”. With the upgraded hardware, Nintendo opted to show off these higher poly characters via the Mega Mushroom and Mini Mushroom gimmick. Gone are the Skeleton Keys that locked off shortcuts on the board; instead there are now pipes that can only be accessed via Mini Mushrooms. Another emphasis are Mega Mushrooms, which predate New Super Mario Bros., but act similarly. Players use them to grow large, and stomp on other players, stealing coins in the process. The emphasis on these two items is abundant, with many spaces being devoted to replenishing a player’s inventory with them. If a board from this game were to be added, would they be reworked to remove or accommodate their design for these mushrooms? Let’s take a brief look at each of the boards. Mario Party 4 and 5 all feature boards with the classic gameplay: trade 20 coins for a star that jumps around the board. It will be redundant to mention that for each board, but we can discuss how things change a bit when getting to later games in the series.

Toad’s Midway Madness

This board is based on an amusement park that has roller coasters that players can ride to get around easier, which can also be used to move other players if they are on the roller coaster track. A common headache that players have is how the teacup junction can unfairly lock players in a loop on the board. If revisited, it may be worthwhile to add a feature that lets players pay to change the junction if they don’t want to stay in the loop.

Goomba’s Greedy Gala

You may catch a running theme here, Mario Party 4 has a tendency to lock off players in different parts of the board in endless loops. Goomba’s Greedy Gala is no different and features four distinct islands that players travel to via a roulette wheel deciding who goes where. Interestingly, players can pay off the Goomba who runs the wheel to spin in favor of where the Star is.

Shy Guy’s Jungle

The loop mechanic here is a little less of a headache, in that it divides the entire board. If the Shy Guy statue doesn’t like a player’s wish, it will flood the central part of the board, gating everyone off from half of the other part. There are ways to cross, with Klepto and a small raft being available. This is a much more bearable problem presented to players compared to other boards.

Boo’s Haunted Bash

Interestingly, there is no way to get stuck in a loop in this board, but there are still bridges that can gate off players. The central mechanic is if the player makes Red Boo appear, the Red Boo Bridges will also be present, allowing players quicker access to different parts of the board. But if the players have Red Boo vanish, the bridges follow, making the path around the board much longer. The upside though, is that there is a Ghost Train that players can ride when the Red Boos are not present, and this allows players to get to specific points instantly, and even strategically kidnap players to take with them.

Koopa’s Seaside Soirée

So far, all of the Mario Party 4 boards have been good picks, and this board is no exception. With the caveat like Toad’s Midway Madness, that it would be very nice if players can have a little more control in where they go when they reach a junction. This time around, it’s worse in that there is a 50/50 chance if a player goes the direction they need to, and there is no way to control it. The loop just to return to this spot is much longer than the one in Toad’s Midway Madness, making it much harsher for players. Again, some may really enjoy this randomness, but others may not. Maybe there could be an RNG option to preserve and also rectify this? Or is that too in the weeds?

Bowser’s Gnarly Party

Like every board before it, the bridges that collapse after being stepped on three times ensure that at least one player will be stuck in a loop. Adding an ability for that player to pay up to still progress would be handy, and make the penalty a little more forgiving. However, like the first board, many sadistic players may also relish in the completely unfair RNG system that Mario Party is known for. This board is one of the few to also feature Mini-Games that use the Mega Mushrooms. Would they bring back the wrestling mini-game with Bowser?

Mario Party 5 - Designed around capsules

It may have one of the most calming, serene themes, but the dream-centered Mario Party 5 is notorious for it’s reworking of the item system. Gone are shops in their entirety, and instead are capsules which are randomly distributed at specific locations on boards. These capsules can be used by the player in two different ways: throwing them across the board to change the effects of a board space, or using the capsule on oneself for a small fee. What is key here, is that the capsules that change the spaces on the board do not pledge allegiance to the player who threw the capsule. Anyone is vulnerable, which can make for a frustrating experience in terms of strategy, and a hilarious experience when approaching a game with a group of friends who want pure Mario Party chaos. Still, despite it’s surreal aesthetic, Mario Party 5’s experimentation of the item method leans more towards a cynical experience than a fun time. One more thing to mention is the new inclusion of Donkey Kong mini-games, as at the time he was removed as a playable character. If the base package and hypothetical DLC don’t include DK games, then it is unlikely that the DK spaces on the boards will return as well. But the real question is, will the colorful Koopa Kids and Paper Mario’s Star Spirits make a return?

Toy Dream

Likely the first board players will have played back in the day, this would have been the first instance where many see a Mario Party board in full 3D. It features a few events where players can ride a train, get launched from a cannon, etc. Truthfully, there isn’t much of a gimmick here. It’s more of an excuse to showcase some 3D modeling for it’s time.

Rainbow Dream

Like Goomba’s Greedy Gala in Mario Party 4, this board features islands that are connected by a central mechanic. But this time, there are toll bridges on each island that connect them, making it a bit easier to get around. There really isn’t much else going on, it’s a big loop cut up into four smaller loops.

Pirate Dream

So far, this board has the most going on in terms of traversal. There isn’t much to it gimmick-wise, but there are Whomps that block paths that you can pay to pass. You can also pay Thwomps to ride as a shortcut. Thematically, it’s interesting, even if it’s a reused idea. It could look very nice given a remaster treatment.

Undersea Dream

Unfortunately, the trend in Mario Party 5 that you may have noticed is that things are all very by the numbers at this point, which is probably why it’s sequel mixes things up. The Undersea Dream is yet another pretty board, with not a whole lot going on. It serves the classic gameplay fine, but isn’t too memorable. In terms of board layout, it is very reminiscent of Shy Guy’s Jungle Jam from Mario Party 4, with the two connecting bridges in the center. Ironically, this whole board is underwater though.

Future Dream

The islands that are connected return, with the inclusion of teleporters and rocket ships for transportation. The only big difference from Goomba’s Greedy Gala and Rainbow Dream is that this board features only three islands rather than four, making players feel a little less spread out and probably less intimidated at chasing down a star that is far away. And while the next frontier is a great setting, Mario Party Superstars is already bringing back Space Land from Mario Party 2, so if you ask me, that lowers this board's chances of being brought back because I imagine they’d want to be a bit less redundant in their theming.

Sweet Dream

Another board that has a predecessor that already is being revitalized… Peach’s Birthday Cake from the first Mario Party has been the most shown board for the new game. It’s not completely out of the question, Nintendo often makes decisions with reasoning we don’t understand (like what if they don’t have GameCube DLC?), so who is to say another desert-themed party board couldn’t be added? This board features cookie bridges that crumble when crossed, closing off a route and opening up another. It’s something we’d expect from Mario Party 4 to be frank.

Bowser Nightmare

The largest and most spread out board, it also features a small gimmick! If you have played Mario Party 2, you may recall the Blooper Carousel in Bowser Land. This concept returns with a ring of red spaces, a Bowser space, and two escape spaces. Players continue to travel in a small loop where they are drained of coins, until they manage to land on a space that lets them escape.

Mario Party 6 - Designed around reworked capsules and day/night system

Mario Party 6 brings a lot of experimentation to the classic gameplay. Only two boards present the traditional “20 coins per Star Space that jumps around” concept, which has been used in all of the previous titles. One board has players chasing each other to steal stars, rather than adding any to the economy. Another board has one Star Space in the center that has a shifting price, which allows players to buy multiple stars; a mechanic brought back in other games including Super Mario Party on the Nintendo Switch. Returning from Mario Party 2’s Horror Land board, is the day/night mechanic, but this time every board and many mini-games have it. Every three turns, the time of day will shift and the board will reflect changes. Lastly, capsules do return and work similar to before, except now they can be purchased from shops like the older titles and the ”thrown” capsules do not affect the players who threw them.

Towering Treetop

The first of two boards in the game that have the classic gameplay. There really isn’t much to say about this board, it’s a solid choice. However, with the inclusion of Woody Woods from Mario Party 3 already present, it is unlikely this could be chosen.

E. Gadd’s Garage

One of the few inclusions of the full-time ghost hunter that isn’t set in a haunted location, E. Gadd’s Garage features classic gameplay with lots of rotating paths. If capsules don’t return, and items are used, the special event spaces that mix-up capsules could still work fine.

Faire Square

The first shake-up in the lineup has a Traverse Town-looking area with only one spot on the board where players can purchase stars, but the twist is that players can purchase up to a whopping five stars at a time, if they can pay for it. In the daytime, the stars cost 20 coins, but at night, the price fluctuates randomly.

Snowflake Lake

Rather than asking players to chase down a Star Space for 20 coins, instead players start off with a handful of stars, and then pay to ride Chain Chomps around the board to steal stars from other players. It’s Mario Party’s version of cat-and-mouse. At night, access to the center part of the board is gated off by Freezies, meaning players are either safe, or left very vulnerable to have their stars stolen. Paper Mario fans may also recognize that Whacka makes an appearance!

Castaway Bay

A linear approach is taken for the first time on this board, where players race around a tropical island to meet Donkey Kong who acts as the Star Space. If the players give Donkey Kong 20 coins, they get the star. Not too different from the classic gameplay, albeit the linear approach. That said there are a handful of forks in the road for players to pick from, so it’s not a fully straight line to the goal. After reaching the end, players are sent back to the beginning and the cycle repeats. The catch here is that once Donkey Kong gives out a Star, he and Bowser swap places. Bowser steals coins from the player, and there are multiple ways through the day/night cycle to have the duo shift positions before players reach the end. In a way, it’s a game of chicken, and a race with other players.

Clockwork Castle

Donkey Kong and Bowser return once more to give out stars, but aren’t confined to a single space this time. Instead, they actually roam the board just like players do, dice blocks and all. Depending on the time of day, will dictate which character is roaming. The fun here is trying to catch Donkey Kong to get a Star, but risking getting too close and having Bowser show up when night falls.

Mario Party 7 - Designed around more experimentation of boards

In this final entry on the Nintendo GameCube, night time is removed entirely in this entry, but otherwise, it is a straightforward sequel to its predecessor. The theme is a trip around the world, with each destination having a new spin on the classic gameplay. Mario Party 7 also really emphasizes Mic Mini-Games and even boasts having eight-player play, but those are likely not on the discussion for boards coming to the Switch title.

Grand Canal

An Italy-themed board that is much more traditional, leaning on the 20 coins per star gameplay where the star space hops around.

Pagoda Peak

A Chinese-themed board that merges Faire Square and Castaway Bay from Mario Party 6. In this stage, players will have to climb up a linear path to reach a character that will allow a player to purchase a star for a price that increases for every star bought. Only one star can be bought at a time, and the price returns to its lowest amount after reaching the highest. It’s a race to get to the top when the stars are cheap, and an effort to stay away as long as possible when they are expensive.

Pyramid Park

An Egyptian-themed board that acts as a spiritual successor to Mario Party 6’s Snowflake Lake. Players pay to ride Chain Chomps and steal stars from other players, with the added inclusion of a souped-up Red Chain Chomp that allows players to roll three dice blocks for maximum coverage.

Neon Heights

An American-themed (and one may argue RNG-themed) board that has three potential Star Spaces, except only one of them is real at a time. Players will have to reach one of the spaces where a treasure chest is located that they can pay to open. A Star may be inside, or a small coin profit, or a bomb that resets the player’s position. Once the Star is discovered, the chests all reset, and the random goose chase begins anew.


A Dutch-themed board that tackles a monopoly-styled concept of players “owning” certain spots on the board. The more coins a player puts into their space, the more it is worth, which is a substitute for having Stars. If a player puts more money into another player's space then what is already in it, that property will be stolen. These spots are windmills, and each has a different value of stars that players can obtain, so long as they own the space.

Bowser’s Enchanted Inferno!

The final board of this game returns back to the classic gameplay of 20 coins a star, with it jumping around, just like in Grand Canal. It harkens back to other familiar mechanics, like having four islands to traverse, and even being an amusement park, like Mario Party 2’s Bowser Land.


Needless to say, if Nintendo does decide to pursue DLC for Mario Party Superstars, or maybe even do a sequel with the GameCube games, there are more than a handful of good choices to pick from. If I were to pick, I would struggle. I am incredibly nostalgic for all of these games, but Mario Party 6 and 7 offer a variety that the base game doesn’t have and that Mario Party 4 and 5 can’t really provide. That said, I think it would still be interesting to pick my own list. To make it easier, I am going to pick just four, one from each game. My picks would be… (and this is hard, I am having to make some serious sacrifices here people!)

Goomba’s Greedy Gala - Mario Party 4

This would be the only board with various islands to visit, which is represented in many of the GameCube games. It has a stylish setting, and a lot of folk complain that Mario Party 4’s board designs are brought down by the reused board walkway that is in every board. The design of that walkway fits the best in this board because of it’s large, box-like shape with lights on it.

Bowser Nightmare - Mario Party 5

This one was the easiest and hardest to pick from. Like I mentioned earlier, as great as Mario Party 5 is, it’s just hit the wall in terms of it’s board creativity. It actually puts a lot more effort into its side modes of all things. Plus, with the Space and Sweet Dreams easily being taken out of consideration, I thought that it wouldn’t really be a Mario Party without a Bowser-themed board. That deadly circular trap in the center of the board can make for some real fun.

Snowflake Lake - Mario Party 6

One of the most unique ideas brought to the series that hasn’t been explored too much aside from the sequel’s Pyramid Park. I’ve always really loved the idea of stealing stars from other players in any Mario Party, and to have a whole board dedicated to that, is a lot of fun. It keeps the players engaged with one another more than ever before. Nintendo tried fixing that problem with the car mechanic in later games, but I really think they solved it way before, back in this game. Maybe make it a little less easy to sneak in to the safe zone before night falls though.

Pagoda Peak - Mario Party 7

Picking this board felt like I was compromising with how I picked Snowflake Lake. Pagoda Peak combines Castaway Bay and Faire Square. Mario Party 7 has some other boards with other really fun and unique twists, but this one felt like it was easily catching some of the best ideas of Mario Party 6 as well.

There you have it folks. Of course, everyone will have different lists. We went through all of the boards, and you saw just how many great options there were. Which is why, myself and probably many others are interested in what you all think! Let us know down in the comments what four boards you would pick.If they sold DLC that was more content than the original, that would be something. And if I could pick one board from Mario Party 8, it’d have to be Koopa’s Tycoon Town. That monopoly concept meets Mario Party is hours of  fun, and a very similar concept was first used in Windmillville in Mario Party 7! Who knows, maybe if they do actually announce DLC, it will be more N64 boards that leverage the board mechanics and gameplay of the base game. But alas, we are all done. Now I can finally rest easy. No more boards to think about. Nope. None whatsoever.

Now let’s talk about DLC mini-games.

Awesome show, guys. And congratulations on 50 RetroActives, that is quite an accomplishment.

Podcast Discussion / Re: Episode 740: Mario Creator Jim Davis
« on: September 28, 2021, 02:51:53 PM »
Unfortunately, the "list of celebrity names that the mainstream crowd recognizes" has been a business practice to sell animation over the medium for over two decades now, arguably even longer depending on who you ask. It's a shame because I would rather the medium be able to stand on it's own. I think it certainly can. Voice actors certainly don't get the recognition that celebrities do, and in a way that means they are pulling off their job remarkably well. I think of the Castlevania TV show, and am hard pressed to name a cast member. There are of course the very famous voice actors (Jim Cummings, Mel Blanc, Tara Strong, etc.) but the sad reality is what it is. I commented on this on Twitter, by referencing the Disney / Robin Williams issue with Aladdin from way back when. You are all right, the Mario movie cast reveal did unfortunately outshine Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and every other announcement in the Direct. That said, I am trying to remain optimistic.

Here is an interesting idea my friend Drew had for the Mario movie. Perhaps, the filmmakers are going to continue down the path of Mario and co. being "actors", and the adventures they go on in the games are still just productions. This makes swallowing the celebrity voice acting a little easier for me. Foreman Spike could be the antagonist of the film, because he is bitter that his character was written out of the show (having only appeared in two Wrecking Crew games, and a lot of his schtick being given to Waluigi). If you're losing to Waluigi, of course you'd be upset, and maybe want to ruin Mario and co.'s gig. Whenever the productions are happening, Charles Martinet is the voice, doing what we are familiar with, and when the camera is turned off, Chris Pratt takes over. What do you think? Too optimistic of an idea to salvage the dread of this film before seeing any of it?

TalkBack / Re: Smashterpieces Podcast Episode 17.1: Earthbound (Part One)
« on: September 27, 2021, 11:41:55 AM »
This game is hard to break into. It's funny because I love wacky, off-the-wall character designs, and super strange, nonsensical humor that is as you guys said, mostly the Japanese take on an American suburban setting. But yeah, it's a tough wall to climb at first. Everything between Buzz Buzz leaving the scene and getting to the Happy Happy Village is kinda hard. Lots of old-school systems, grinding, and open-ended direction. That can be fun, not being told what to do specifically, but the difficulty that you hit everywhere you try to explore, can be exhausting and honestly probably a lot of game-enders for many players. If they ever remaster this game, I'd love for their to be some customization in how the player wants to experience the game. Maybe it's as simple as a difficulty setting, maybe it's working in some of Mother 3's combat system, maybe there could be a toggle between a classic experience and a modernized one.

I played the demo of this game several times growing up on Brawl's archive menu, and I also briefly had the Zelda Collector's Edition disk when I got my GameCube. I remember really liking Kokiri forest, and having a lot of fun exploring. For some reason though, I never was able to progress in the early part of the Great Deku Tree. It was the first room where you have to repel a Deku Scrub's nut back at it using your shield, and I just did not understand that when I was 6. So I am very nostalgic for the opening of the game, but everything else I didn't end up getting to until the 3DS remaster. And I remember liking the game in high school, but trying to replay it in college and really hating it. One of those weird things I have gone back and forth on, but I think I have settled on loving the scope it goes for, it's importance in crafting 3D adventures, it's bomb sound track, and understanding that it's a product of it's time. And yes... do indeed slip.

I've played this game so many times front to back...and is certainly one of the first games I ever played. I remember talking to my friends in kindergarten about it! Great discussion; it's a shame the Lego set was announced so long after this episode. I think building that would have been a funny inclusion for the win condition. A few (of many) things that have stuck out to me over the years are that "Break the Wall" is incredibly cryptic and I have no idea how I managed to figure that out as a youngin'. I also thought that Bowser being multi-colored in the final fight was really cool for some reason, but it now kinda plays into the whole "so-long-gay, Bowser" bit. I also thought it was interesting you guys didn't mention the DS remake, unless I missed that.

Ranking your favorite three levels and the three you enjoyed the least is a fun idea. It's hard for me to pick, but I think I would go with:

1. Bob-omb Battlefield
2. Lethal Lava Land
3. Big Boo's Haunt

1. Rainbow Ride
2. Tick Tock Clock
3. Tall, Tall Mountain

TalkBack / Re: Smashterpieces Podcast Episode 36: Luigi's Mansion
« on: September 27, 2021, 11:18:56 AM »
It was a pleasure to be on this one, and not too long before the spooky season too. Thanks guys!

TalkBack / Re: Smashterpieces Podcast Episode 37: Pikmin
« on: September 25, 2021, 05:53:21 PM »
Awesome discussion. I watched the stream and Joe’s den mother persona was hilarious. I also think it’s so clean that you went in to Pikmin right from Luigi’s Mansion, which in itself has the demo video on it. Looking forward to more GameCube galore, and maybe Pikmin sequel streams! Ideally, someday we could see Matt and Joe tackle Pikmin 3 deluxe together but I suppose the stars would have to align.

TalkBack / Re: Nintendo Direct To Air September 23
« on: September 22, 2021, 09:55:03 PM »
It's that time of the year, when more games are dropped that I want to play, then what my wallet can handle. Self control... self control

I loved that Amiibo Trivia game. I will proudly say I managed to get all of them correct, although that last question stumped me and I had to think on it for awhile. Great inclusion!

As far as bad endings go, I really struggled with thinking of something. A lot of my favorite games, especially first party Nintendo games, have endings that are the least enjoyable part of the game (the third floor Boo hunt in Luigi's Mansion, Corona Mountain in Super Mario Sunshine, the backtracking of Chapter 7 in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, etc.) but none of them ruined the game for me. The Zelda series has several games where the last act of the game isn't as enjoyable for me (the Triforce hunt in The Wind Waker, the Ganon fight in Breath of the Wild, facing the Imprisoned and collecting Tadtones in Skyward Sword, etc.). If I had to pick one game with an ending I didn't really care for that kinda stepped a bit harder on my enjoyment of the whole package, I guess I'd go with Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. I won't spoil anything, but I think the conclusion was not quite what my expectations were hoping for, and narratively, it spoils just a bit of the mystique of the prequel series' arc.

Podcast Discussion / Re: Episode 739: Catching Feels for 5-Volt
« on: September 21, 2021, 10:56:29 PM »
Sunshine slander aside... (try saying that five times fast!) great episode gentlemen. I enjoyed that conversation about the re-releases strategy experimentation. James' point about Mario Kart having the inverse issue of F-Zero was something I had never thought about in regards to there being an inverse. I wonder how much that Fire Emblem timed release was a part of the "experiment". It makes some sense, have one big game, the grand 3D Mario collection be a test, and then also have a smaller, less-likely to be picked up title, also test the waters. Maybe in the future, we will see timed releases, but only for "smaller" titles. I wouldn't actually call Fire Emblem small, but you understand.

Can't say 5-Volt made me feel anything, other then fear.


Arguably too much Alexander.

Resident editor Alex de Freitas and resident doctor (Mario World expert) Xander Morningstar fill in for John and Neal to cover the Pokemon Presents and Indie World events. But first, Xander gives a report on Dr. Mario World as he feverishly rushes to beat the game before its final days this fall. Alex shares his gripes with the less-than-stellar Garden Story and his hopes for Eastward and Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. Finally, the Alex/Xander duo wraps it up by discussing their favorite uses of photo modes and photography in video games.

Connectivity has joined Twitter, so be sure to follow @ConnectivityNWR to be up to date on any announcements. We are wanting more listener participation, so feel free to ask questions, they may show up in the show! Please send in some hard-hitting questions for the Connectivity gang to ponder over: the address is

TalkBack / Smashterpieces Podcast Episode 36: Luigi's Mansion
« on: August 09, 2021, 08:47:32 AM »

Tonight I’ll make an old family recipe. Pickled dandelions with barnacles in a diesel marinade!

Hello and welcome to our latest seminar on the housing market in the Mushroom Kingdom, I know you’re all dying to get started so I’ll make this quick. Our usual speakers are here but we have also prepared a guest speaker presentation on the subject of what to do if you win a mansion in a contest you don’t remember winning, only to find that the mansion is full of ghosts and the boss of all those ghosts has trapped your brother in a painting, forcing you to equip a weird vacuum to destroy those that have come from the realm beyond who stand in your way. You may be thinking that this is a very specific subject on which to hold a presentation, but apparently it happens frequently enough that it’s warranted.

Presented by Anonymous Dinosaur and Nintendo World Report, this is Smashterpieces - a casual walk through the history of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Roster. On this show, hosts Joe DeVader and Matt Zawodniak are playing one game for every fighter in the newest Super Smash Bros. game, from 1984's Duck Hunt to 2019's Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Each game will be live-streamed by both of us, and then we'll convene to talk about it on the podcast.

Our guest, Mr. Xander Morningstar, joins us to tell the cautionary tale of Smashterpiece #36: Luigi’s Mansion. How do we feel this game stacks up against its more recent sequels? Why is Joe over the moon about the sound design? And why are the boos so mean? All that and more in today’s semina- er, episode!

Join us next time as we crash land on a distant planet in Smashterpiece #37: Pikmin!

You can find previous episodes at Anonymous Dinosaur's website!

Our list of games can be found here!

You can watch Matt and Joe stream these games on the NWR Twitch channel!

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