It's odd. We always wanted this to happen but if we're honest, we never really thought it would. And yet, with the ninth game in the 13-year series Mario Party has finally had the firm kick up the backside it has so badly needed since the GameCube days.
With Hudson booted off the series and Nd Cube - the team responsible for the surprisingly fun Wii Party - in their place, Mario Party 9 has a different feel to previous games in the series, particularly in the way the main game is played.
Rather than simply going around the board for a set number of turns and then seeing who has the most coins by the end, Mario Party 9's boards aren't really boards at all, they're linear maps and stages that you travel along from start to finish. Anyone who played the Board Game Island mode in Wii Party will be familiar with the concept, but Mario Party 9 fleshes it out into a full game.
Driving Princess Daisy
The way in which players move around the level has also been changed for Mario Party 9. Rather than everyone rolling their own dice and going their own way, all four players now travel around the map together in a vehicle, taking turns to be the 'captain' and to roll the dice.
While you're captain, anything the vehicle lands on - Mini Stars, Bowser squares, special Toad houses - only happens to you, so even though you're travelling around together, everyone will still be looking out for themselves and making sure they're in control when the vehicle lands on a good spot.
The large increase in the frequency of special dice items isn't a coincidence, as travelling around the board is much more tactical now. If an opponent has stopped the car right in front of a bunch of hazards and it's your turn, you'll want to have the special dice that only rolls a 0 or a 1 to try to get a 0 and pass the danger onto the next player.
The other main reason for the addition of vehicles is that the overall aim has changed a little. While you still have to be the player with the most stars at the end, they're not the rarities they were in previous games. This time you're collecting Mini Stars, which are dotted all over the place.
Not only does winning mini-games earn you Mini Stars (there are no coins in Mario Party 9), there are also loads all around the map which are collected by the captain as your vehicle passes through them.
This adds a great level of tension to proceedings, because these Mini Stars on the board can be pretty important in the final standings. Since it's a linear board, if you're not in control of the vehicle as you pass by them they'll go to an opponent.
Any ardent Mario Party fans reading this Mario Party 9 review will probably be starting to get a little worried. After all, the Mario Party games have a large following and breaking a 13-year tradition could potentially rock a boat that, while not the most exciting vessel in the world, was stable enough for those who enjoyed sailing in it.
Get On Board
With Mario Party 9 you can kiss goodbye to epic, 50-turn matches and the chaos of every player being located at different parts of the board. That might disappoint some long-term fans of the series, but these changes are definitely a good thing. Each stage still takes a while to beat (between 45 and 90 minutes depending on which one you've chosen) and since you're usually going forwards you actually feel like you're making progress through each stage rather than just going through the motions until the number of turns runs out.