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
geez, where does the time go? i’ve got a review coming up, but here’s a quick post to catch up a bit. i randomly came across this random italian guy’s blog that collects official renders and artwork. it includes two nice collections of official super mario renders/artwork from the sports and RPG series, most of them high-resolution versions. check them out here and here.
finally beat the special cup (just 100cc, sadly) of super mario kart. i’m not a big fan of racers in general, and i had mixed feelings about the game. a significant chunk of my ambivalence may be due to my lack of fully mastering the power slide which i’d only really used on the occasional hairpin turns. but after viewing some of the many videos on youtube it seems to be a much more essential technique at the higher levels than i’d thought, esp. w/ mario who was the character i was using. since i wasn’t constantly power sliding, the central use of weapons seemed to add a significant element of chance, in a way that was a bit frustrating when i compared it to a game like f-zero GX.
anyway, this was the first time i’d really sat down and played any of the mario kart games. from what i’ve read the series seems to have a reputation for having unfair computer-controlled opponents. i’ll have to wait and see about the others, but at first i felt that in this iteration the computer-controlled characters did seem to have the advantage in that they have unlimited weapons, not to mention abilities that seem impossible, e.g. almost immediately recovering from getting hit by a shell or suddenly catching up from being last. after playing for awhile, though, the computer’s advantages didn’t seem too unbalanced to me since they don’t get to use weapons during the first lap and their actions are all fairly predictable. psychologically, though, it does seem like a questionable game design to have the opponents’ abilities be so different from the player’s, something i think other entries in the series has remedied to some extent. another complaint i seem to hear a lot is that the players near last place get better items than those near the head of the pack, but i found this to be a good way to help even things out a bit and help you recover if you make a mistake.
after getting schooled by special cup 100cc (@#$%!in’ rainbow road!!!1!) i’m not even going to try to get into 150cc at the moment. but all in all despite not becoming a fan of the series overall i had a decent time playing this game, with the mix of fun and annoyance that i’ve come to expect (and kind of hate) from racing games in general. i have a stack of them accumulated, though, so i’ll prob. try another one before too long. oh, and let’s not forget the enduring legacy of this game, the original mario kart, which has had its a score of emulators. not surprising, seeing as it’s another game produced by the venerable miyamoto.
but for now, get karted with some mario kart links:
– PDF of instruction manual at replacementdocs.com. has info on power sliding, character stats, and collecting coins.
– course maps at snesmaps.com
– pretty decent FAQ
– youtube is full of videos, but this one of bowser on rainbow road is pretty cool. talk about power sliding!
– entry at strategywiki
– entry at wikipedia
– hard-core group of competitive mario kart racers online