i hadn’t really been that into super mario kart when i played it last year, but i found myself curious about its first sequel, mario kart 64. MK64 has the advantage of true 3-D graphics and as a result much more varied tracks, but it also offers up some great new items (triple green and red shells, the ghost item, the fake question block, and the dreaded blue shell). the biggest changes to the setup are that each cup consists of 4 tracks instead of 5, there are less laps, and you get unlimited retries. all those changes make the game much, much easier, something i found myself having mixed feelings about but in the end preferred.
because of the latter changes and also because the tracks were easier (it seemed like there were far fewer hairpin turns), in general i didn’t have much problem getting the golds all the way up to the 150cc mode using my man luigi (didn’t bother with mirror mode, though). like many sequels, MK64 feels like a leap forward, and i ended up enjoying it much more than SMK; in fact, it’s made me a convert to the series. the main complaint people continue to have about the series is that the AI opponents pull off superhuman feats and that the better items are given to those who are losing. in my playthrough of the solo mode i found the AI’s rubberbanding to be a bit annoying, but given that your computer opponents are usually relying on weaker weapons (e.g. banana peels) and pretty much never chuck a red shell at you i didn’t think it was too unfair. i also didn’t have much of a problem with the item distribution, and i actually really grew to like the fact that even if you make some mistakes you can still win a race thanks to some much-needed items when you’re lagging behind. racing games in general rely on perfection more than most, something i dislike in games in general, but the kart series helps alleviate those types of headaches. and even though the item distribution makes for a more casual experience, the game still requires more than blind luck to win each race. i can definitely see how the item randomness could be a big pain in a multiplayer game, though.
all in all, despite being a bit too easy this was a thoroughly enjoyable game, and despite some misgivings i decided to give it the benefit of the doubt since it’s just too much stupid fun and i officially inducted it into my “top games of all time” list. it doesn’t look like the series has evolved very much, but i’m looking forward to trying out the rest of the series (although it looks like the next entry, super circuit on the GBA is a bit of a step back).
– a nice look at MK64 in the context of the series as a whole
– comparison of metacritic scores and sales of all the games in the series at wikipedia and a chart of the playable characters
– “The real Rainbow Round has been found!”: funny pic at gonintendo
– entry at wikipedia
– PDF of manual at replacementdocs.com
– random collection of cheats