Super Mario Kart
I will get this out of the way early and admit two things. First, this choice was totally inspired by Bailey’s pick for the Retro Showdown on episode 74 of 1 More Podcastle. Second, I did actually have an experience with this game as a child. A friend had it and I played it a couple of times. That said, it has probably been about 2 decades since I have played it and so I think I’m still safe. In those decades, I have played and loved games like Mario Kart 64, even if I don’t think it is as good as Diddy Kong Racing. Right now, I am totally hooked on Mario Kart 7 on my 3DS. The point is, I am a fan of the series and I never really went back and studied the roots of the franchise. As I had this thought about doing this game, I had a second thought. What if it turns out like Star Fox did for me? What if playing these before ever truly experiencing the original will ruin that original for me? One way to find out.
Turning the game on greets the player with a tune that is familiar, even to a first time player, as it has been used again and again in other chiptunes or versions of the music. It’s pleasant and I immediately felt at home. The background of the title screen reminds me of Super Mario World and that can’t be a bad thing. I decide to hop into a GP race and I start at the beginning with 50CC in the Mushroom Cup. Now here is where a matter of preference comes into play. I like a lighter driver like Toad. I like the maneuverability and I think the collision disadvantage is a fair tradeoff for it. I’m not even sure if that matters in this game but I went for it anyway. The tracks are vaguely familiar and I notice a few things immediately. First the game, at least at the 50CC level, is WAY too easy. I was lapping people for crying out loud.
While 50CC is astonishingly easy, I found that 100CC and 150CC ramp up appropriately and together offer a great range of challenge. Play a Nintendo game of almost any variety now and none of them ever leave “50CC” difficulty. Second, the races are 5 laps. I was so used to 3, it was screwing with me at first. The extra laps come at the cost of shorter tracks. Of course, at that time, you didn’t know they were shorter tracks so it isn’t really a criticism as much as an observation. Then comes the thing I liked the most. The items. There was a very finite number of item boxes and they were only at one or two places on the track. That made strategy key to item use. No longer could you just fire things off immediately because another item box was right around the corner. I wish they had kept that. Now it’s more like the person who gets the luckiest with their item box can win instead of the person who was smartest about using their items.
The tracks were very well done, a tradition that has stood the test of time. Each track reminded you of something from the Nintendo universe and that was nice. I am glad they kept that idea going over the years. The music was just amazing as were many of the first party Nintendo games of that generation and the ones before and since. I don’t know if I was alone, but even though the songs are mostly not reused throughout the series, they all just felt right. Like they definitely fit and belonged with every other piece of music in the whole series. Or maybe I am just weird. Or both. The sound effects were instantly recognizable to me, which was especially cool. They all just work so well that all they ever really needed was just a bit of updating with the times.
Well. There is certainly nothing else noteworthy or worth mentioning in the least about Super Mario Kart so I guess I will see you guys in 2 weeks with a new N64 Connoisseur piece. What’s that? There is a multiplayer part to review? Hmm. Well that is not in my contract. FINE. Jerks. That miniature skit is to draw attention to the fact that I do not usually review multiplayer of anything. Why? I don’t have anyone here to play with for couch multiplayer.
As far as today’s online multiplayer, I avoid it. It usually falls into one of two categories. The first one requires you to stick to a schedule with a clan or a team of some kind or else you will be stuck with randoms who don’t match your skill level and therefore your experience is not what it could be. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat. Seriously. The rest of my life follows enough strict schedules. My gaming life will never fall to the same fate. The second has you encountering the very worst part of the entire gaming community. You know the types. Rage quitters, family insulters, 11 year old potty mouths, phony braves, and just flat out poor sports. I play video games to have fun, not be told that my mother is promiscuous or that you plan on penetrating me in the most uncomfortable of places. No, not the back of a Volkswagen. Nevermind.
For the purposes of this review, I did gather a friend and have at some couch multiplayer, although you don’t wanna know what sort of act of Congress that took. You can bring a friend into the grand prix, but honestly if you are planning to find out who has the better racing talent among your friends, you have not chosen Super Mario Kart to be the judge of that. Where multiplayer is really at is the battle mode. You and a friend drive around the course with three balls orbiting your kart as if you were the Sun and they your planets. You pick up items and try to cause harm to your foe. Doing so removes a ball from your opponent. Remove all three and a winner is you. For some reason, they chose to include the mushroom as a weapon in this mode with has roughly the effectiveness of a screen door on a submarine. Other than that, this mode is flat out fun. Grab a buddy and a beer or two and swear the night away at each other. Screen lookers be damned.
After all was said and done, this did not turn out at all like my experience with Star Fox. In contrast, it actually gave me a greater appreciation for the series on the whole. I loved it and can see myself coming back to it time and time again. A loose cart is selling for around $23 right now which is a bit steep. I went with the Wii Virtual Console version for a far more reasonable $8. Of course, some of you may know of some way to play this game for even cheaper than that but I couldn’t possibly begin to know of such things…