Mario Party: The Top 100 (Nintendo 3DS) Review

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Originally announced in September during a Nintendo Direct, the idea of Mario Party: The Top 100 took me back to a time when the series was pure. A time before the dreaded car of Mario Party 9, a time where I could spend hours roaming the same paths, yet draw from them a refreshing and unique experience nonetheless. It took me back to the days where Mario Party truly was a game to end friendships, to break controllers. For all the steps and missteps Mario has taken since this golden age, can The Top 100 reignite the flames of this smouldering series?

Games of Gods

The premise of The Top 100 is made clear in its name; a collection of minigames that for so long served as the backbone of the series. To be considered a top 100, these games had to be the best of the best, and yet be balanced in a way so not to leave fans of any single Mario Party game dissatisfied. Be it through intense focus testing or simply the passion of the development team, I felt a connection to the 100 chosen. Far more frequently than I had anticipated, I found myself transported to a state of child-like excitement, recalling moments of my favourite games appeared before me at a critical point of a party. Of course, akin to its predecessors, The Top 100 doesn’t give you access to every one of the games from the start, instead relying on a key game mode as means of progression.

Welcome to the Island

Minigame Island is quite unremarkably home to the game’s mass storage of classic gems. Starting with as few as 55 minigames, it lies on your shoulders to work your way through the challenges of this unforgiving climate, and rise above the rest to reveal the bulk of the game. The nature of the island is really quite simplistic; each space representing a different minigame. Depending on how you fare in said game, you’ll get between one and three stars, as well as the game being added to your collection. While this mode does nothing revolutionary, it provides you with an opportunity to work through the games you perhaps don’t recognise, and may have otherwise overlooked. As well as this, it allows you to set a high score for each game before challenging your friends, giving them something real and competitive to play against; in oppose to the ridiculously low standards set by default. 

Board Games

The evolution of Mario Party is something really quite interesting. From its humble N64 beginnings, it’s seen fancy dress, stamp collecting, dream hopping, even a simple birthday party. Though the theme may have changed, the core gameplay remained a constant and consistent joy. A great number of factors contributed to this end to create something brilliantly unpredictable, where even those who have been behind from the start have a chance right up to the last turn. This chaos is in my opinion the foundation of a successful Mario Party game; and it is in this The Top 100 is flawed.

Minigame Match is a mode where players have the opportunity to traverse a simple board, collecting coins and exchanging them for stars as they go. The formula sounds right; it feels like the basic level required for a Mario Party game to be well received. Where the game falls short is in its modern approach to board games. No longer can a player losing catch up in a twist of fate befitting a lottery draw, nor can a person be knocked from their pedestal should they forge a solid lead. I would compare it to removing the Blue Shell from Mario Kart; it ultimately aims to create an experience far more reliant on skill than luck, and ultimately takes away the very spirit of Mario Party. This isn’t a trait unique to The Top 100, the board design lifted from the previous release Star Rush. Wait, what rush?

A Jaded History

Perhaps the most charming part of this game comes not from the gameplay, but from the menus, and a small series guide nestled away within the collection. For younger players who saw Mario Party 8, or even 9 and 10 as an entry point, a look back at what they missed—to put a face to the owner of the minigames they aren’t familiar with—it’s a fantastic idea. Or at least, it had the potential to be a fantastic idea. 

For reasons beyond my comprehension this series guide remains incomplete, disregarding portable entries into the series. While I can appreciate the minigames of Mario Party Advance being relatively obscure in nature and ill-suited for a game like this, I find myself unable to reason its omission in this context. Mario Party DS I share similar feelings, however struggle to even justify its lack of minigame representation, especially with the 3DS being so well suited to the nature of these games. It would be easy to write it off by saying it simply has no games befitting of a top 100, but when housing such joys as Rail Riders, Camera Shy, and Peek-a-Boo, the argument swiftly weakens. While I fail to recall minigames from the 3DS entries, I echo my disappointment of their absence in the series guide. I understand this isn’t necessarily a big deal for most, but for a game to be celebrating a series, and yet so blatantly ignore a portion of it is something I feel should be brought to attention. 

In Closing

Ultimately, Mario Party: The Top 100 is a fun game. If you’ve been a fan of the series as long as I have (or perhaps even longer), I guarantee there is some joy to be found in reliving the minigames that once tore you from your friends. Of course, this must be balanced with the disappointment of how the games have turned away from the very nature of events that lead to the aforementioned fallings out; perhaps for the better? I think not. While its shortcomings don’t necessarily hold it back as an individual entity, its place in the larger scope of the series puts an unexpected spotlight on them. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Nintendo Switch) Review

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Released as one of the Wii’s big-hitting JRPG trio, the Xenoblade series has quite rightly found itself a devoted fanbase, eager to see a repeat of its initial success. With Xenoblade Chronicles X proving mediocre for many, both fans and Nintendo alike look to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (XC2) to be the Switch’s December star. Will it guide the way for future entries, or doom the series to a black hole of irrelevance?

That Which Lies Beyond a Stormy Sky

Upon starting the game, you are greeted with a title screen that, for a lack of simpler term, feels wrong. With no logo for the game, no bright field to draw hope, it feels dark, ominous, as though the world you are about to enter is long-since broken. Contrary to the scenic nature of its Wii predecessor, you are lead into this world expecting a tragedy; in oppose to the scenic nuances of the Bionis. Paired with a remorseful piano melody, XC2 sets a tone largely unfamiliar to the series. While these tones are soon cast aside as you burst through the storm into the light, they are not forgotten as you advance through the game.

As with many a modern JRPG, XC2 starts out slowly, taking time to teach the player many of its interesting features and systems. These are presented in short bursts of interaction with the HUD, casually breaking the fourth wall in a conversational way. I wouldn’t call it particularly entertaining, but it does strike a good balance in presenting features, whilst not being overwhelming to the player. While I appreciate getting through these can feel like a pain initially, their contribution to the slow start does an incredible job in highlighting the shift in pace when it finally hits. It changes what would have been just an interesting event to a rite of passage; it forces upon you an appreciation for the fluid action and tense events that wrap up the introduction so well.

To be Scene and Heard

Large, action-packed cutscenes such as the introduction finale put forward some of the game’s greatest strengths. Demonstrating clean and interestingly choreographed movement, along with engaging dialogue passionately delivered by the cast, I found it difficult to avoid becoming engrossed in the ongoing events. Each swing of the oversized sword, each falling drop of rain, you feel every element of the scene come to life around you. These scenes take the Xenoblade name further than any previous iteration, delivering enjoyable and captivating content. I just wish this content could have remained consistent.

The problems become clear when looking at smaller-scale cutscenes; those that sadly occupy the majority of the game. The root of these stems from a simple issue—lip syncing, or lack thereof. Through my hours of playing, this was never something I truly adapted to. My only fix came from occasionally blurring my vision (not recommended) or simply focusing on the subtitles, instead of the characters themselves. The cutscenes are quite possibly my favourite thing about XC2; and to have them held back by something so glaringly obvious truly saddens me, and all I can really hope for at this point is a day one patch. It is worth noting I was playing with the English audio, so one can assume the Japanese track is synced properly. Or at least one can hope, as I never got a chance to try the JP audio while playing.

Looking past lip syncing, and onto the voice actors themselves, you may find yourself conflicted. I’m sure by this point, the majority of people reading this will have seen a trailer for XC2, and already formed an opinion on how they plan to boycott the English audio track. In my opinion, this would be a mistake. I obviously cannot speak for the quality of the Japanese voice actors, but I can say for certain avoiding the English cast because of an initial impression would be doing yourself a disservice. Initially, the characters feel wrong, the voices and the designs mismatched. First listening to Rex’s voice, I recall comparing him to a hoodlum on the streets of London. It’s bizarre, but as time went on, the dialogue soon felt catered to the voice actor, playing the part quite fantastically. The main cast is an amalgamation of English, Welsh, American, and everything in between; and yet it works.

To back up what I believe to be a fantastic cast, we also have some of the best writing I’ve seen in the series. Playing this, I felt the writers’ passion from small quips and deep conversations alike; XC2 has dialogue from across the spectrum and knows just when to hit you hard, or when to break tension with a clever line of ineptitude. The lines feel as though they were written with both the character and voice actor in mind, and I find myself smiling to myself even as I write this thinking back on what I experienced.

Despite their faults, I couldn’t help but enjoy the cutscenes. While lip syncing issues definitely detract from what could have been something truly spectacular, the fact I still hold them in such high regard should speak volumes on the quality of the content itself.

Ode to a Titan

Supporting the cutscenes from start to end is a masterfully crafted soundtrack. Rarely do I see audio so wonderfully capture the essence of a game; from the whimsical and vast open areas, to the dark, uneasy air of war on the horizon. You hear it in every cutscene, tense or timid; in every environment, every encounter or shift in the tide. It stands out exactly where it needs to, and blends seamlessly into the background as an ambient track to encourage immersion when exploring. It goes beyond what I expect from an experience such as this, despite having no real need to in this context. For such efforts, I find myself excited to listen, eager to engage.

Uncharted Territory

Fans of the original Xenoblade Chronicles will likely feel at home in the living environments we call Titans. Reminiscent of the Bionis, they each harbour their own nation; a small civilisation to which they guide across the Sea of Clouds. Each Titan offers a unique landscape to explore, vast and visually stunning on the screen of the Switch.

These areas provide incentive to explore in the form of treasure troves scattered around the environment. Each trove offers something different, be it money or crystals required to get new Blades, it will almost always be worth the time spent finding if you’re willing to go off the beaten track. For those wanting to follow a map through to the end, XC2 also has interesting means of assisting. Even early on, environments feel interactive, and far more alive than previous games in the series. An example that springs to mind is the floor of an ancient ship. At first glance, it seems weak; as one might expect from a ship so old. What caught me by surprise was falling through the aforementioned floor after stepping on it. It’s a small addition, yet acts as a means of pushing the player in the right direction naturally. Of course, you could still rely on map icons to guide you to where you’re going, but small changes like this go a long way in making you forget to check your map. You soon feel little need to.

That’s not to say the environments are perfect. While the game puts good effort into natural progression through maps, it does little in the way of natural limitation when it comes to exploration. For the truly adventurous amongst us, we may want to see exactly what lies at the end of the map. A secret message? Perhaps a treasure trove? Alas, the possibility of such things is ruled out with a simple dialogue box. “Turn back,” to put it simply. I suppose you could call it a secret message, as dissatisfying as it may be.

Live to Fight Another Day

Combat in XC2 is as it has always been in Xenoblade; simple, but engaging. At its core, you just have to move your character close to an enemy, and you’ll start attacking automatically. Standard, bordering on basic, but not necessarily in a bad way. The simplistic nature of automated attacking allows the player’s focus to shift to Arts; skills charged with each automatic hit. Each art requires a different amount of hits to charge, and different conditions to be met for an optimal attack. This may come down to positioning, or the current state of the opponent. Moving while the enemy is distracted to land perfect hits soon becomes a challenge as more allies and enemies are added to the fray. Add to this powerful specials and the possibility of combos with allied Blades, and you have a deep, immersive system to play with.

New Blades are acquired in a system not dissimilar to the ever-popular loot box that has been running rampant around the games industry as of late. Requiring a Core Crystal, the bonding process randomly gives you a blade of rarity one through five. What I’m sure will be of no surprise, all of this is done in-game, with none of the negative strings attached you usually see associated with loot boxes. I would go so far as to say this system is wholly beneficial to the game. Through its random nature, it offers a unique gameplay experience to each of its players, having them rely on different Blades, and in turn, different skills and combos. It also offers a degree of replayability for those wanting a reason to come back. While the distribution of Core Crystals sometimes felt lacking, I never felt as though I was underequipped for battle. The thought of a unique Blade always kept me looking for more.


Quests have always been an integral part of the Xenoblade formula, and as they always have, are distributed across the world to solve a variety of issues. Whether it be a game of hide and seek, or saving a travelling merchant from a horde of enemies, there will always be something to do. The variety in quest types really didn’t disappoint me, and while there were some duplicates in structure, the story and dialogue throughout kept them feeling unique and interesting

The real catch of the quests in XC2 comes in the management of rewards. For each quest, you will get a distribution of Gold, EXP, and SP; and sometimes an item or two for your trouble. While it sounds standard, I came to appreciate how the game distributes the EXP gained. Instead of directly inheriting it, it gets stockpiled as Bonus EXP. Bonus EXP can then be accessed by sleeping at a local Inn, where you get to decide how much of it you want. If you feel the game is too challenging, you can use up all your Bonus EXP to level up your character as much as possible. If you feel the game is fine as it is, you it can be completely ignores until deemed necessary. To me, this system is fantastic. It presents the player with choice of difficulty without forcing their hand; it keeps a struggling player engaged, instead of being too stubborn to change the difficulty to Easy. Perhaps most interestingly to me, it gives completionists a chance to experience a challenge while playing the game, instead of being constantly over-levelled because of the plethora of quests already completed. Such flexibility from a small design choice goes a long way in providing a memorable and player-tailored gameplay experience.

The X-Factor

XC2 recaptures a lot of what made the original game so great to me. It provides a story with unpredictable twists and turns; it provides memorable experience after memorable experience in its landscapes, its dialogue, its humour. It encourages exploration through a lack of punishment in death; it encourages death in giving you the choice to explore areas far beyond your capabilities. Despite being a linear experience, Xenoblade has never felt more open, more alive. Should you journey to the skies of Alrest, you will not come back disappointed.