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 Super Mario Kart Review (SNES, Wii VC)

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Cap'n Pancakes

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Join date : 2014-03-31
Age : 21
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20140530
PostSuper Mario Kart Review (SNES, Wii VC)



As the impending release of Mario Kart 8 draws ever nearer, I thought it would be a good time to look back to where the series began with a little game called Super Mario Kart....




One sunny day back in 1992, someone at Nintendo thought up a brilliant idea, why not take the company's flagship character and put him in a racing game? Thus became what we would all come to know as Mario Kart. The premise of the game is quite simple, you have eight racers who compete across four Grand Prix, (five different courses each), all for the glory of being on the top of the podium and having the ever so desirable golden trophy. What separated Mario Kart from the plethora of racers that came before it was the variety of power-ups pulled from the Mushroom Kingdom that could be used gain an advantage over the competition. These include a banana peel to drop behind your kart to slip up other racers, green Koopa shells that once flung, bounce wildly off walls, red Koopa shells that home in on the nearest target, Super Mushrooms to gain a boost of speed, a Boo to turn invincible for a short period of time and steal an enemy’s item, thunder bolts to shrink the opposition, and Starmen that turn your kart into an indestructible force of terror. Unique to this first game in the series is the feather item from Super Mario World. Unfortunately its usefulness is nowhere near the levels of that game, as it simply allows you to jump over pits or other obstacles. Items can be picked up simply by driving over one of the many question mark blocks scattered along the tracks, though unlike future games in the series, once a block is uses it cannot be used again. Also sprinkled across each race course are coins from the Super Mario Bros. series. Collecting said coins slightly increases your top speed when racing, but having no coins will cause you to spin out on contact with another kart. These elements make the gameplay a bit more exciting without taking away from the actual racing. Items will help you out in your quest for first place, but skilled driving is still required to come out on top.



The single player game is split into two modes, Grand Prix and Time Trials. The Grand Prix mode allows you to pick from 50cc, 100cc, and the unlockable 150cc. As each engine class increases, so does the speed of your karts as well as the difficulty. Players can then choose one of eight different characters and race through four cups, each containing five tracks. Coming in a top spot in one of these races nets you points with first place getting nine, second place getting six, third place getting three, and fourth place getting one. Coming below fourth place is considered such a failure in the Mario Kart world that it requires you to retry the race. You have three retries at your disposal if you happen to mess up on a particular race, which is very welcome for harder difficulties. At the end of a Grand Prix, points are tallied up and gold, silver, and bronze trophies are awarded to first, second, and third place respectively. Time Trial mode allows you to race alone on any of the 20 available tracks in the game in an effort to set record times. As you may have noticed when looking at screenshots of the game, the screen is split into two halves. The top half follows the gameplay while the bottom half is relegated to either a map or rearview mirror. This may seem like an odd design choice at first, but the reason is quite simple. Splitting the screen in two halves allowed for the game to support one of the first instances of splitscreen  multiplayer. While it may be a standard feature in games nowadays, this was a revolutionary concept back in 1992. Two players could compete in races against one another or in a battle mode where the objective is to use items to take out your opponents three balloons. The sole problem with this aspect of the game is how lacking the single player feels compared to it. Racing in Grand Prix’s gets old after a while and there simply isn’t much else to do or unlock.



One issue that is always brought up when talking about Mario Kart is the rubberbanding AI. Fortunately that problem is absent from this first installment of the series, however it has a few problems of its own. The most noticeable flaw is the fact that each computer controlled character has access to a signature item whenever they desire. While this does mean they can’t utilize certain items that you can as the player, such as Lighting or Red Shells, it can be downright infuriating when Yoshi is constantly lobbing eggs to halt your progress or Luigi takes you out with his infinite supply of Starmen. This issue is most prevalent in the 150cc races where the AI is much more aggressive and one slip up can cost you the race. If one compliment could be handed to the game though, it would be that once you are in first place it is very easy to stay there as long as you don’t make any mistakes. This goes both ways however, as it can be extremely hard to catch up to the leading racer when you mess up. Some of this is due to the rather difficult controls. To say they are bad would be a stretch, but there is a definite learning curve to fully grasp the slippery handling of your kart. In terms of audio and visual quality, the game is fairly mediocre. The visuals look decent enough, though they do appear a bit squished because of the way the screen is split. The music tracks that accompany the courses are pleasant, but there aren’t any standout pieces.



Super Mario Kart is undoubtedly an important piece of Nintendo’s history. It spawned one of the company’s best-selling franchises that is now reaching its eight installment. Apart from the historic value though, it’s rather hard to recommend Super Mario Kart today. Apart from the iconic Rainbow Road none of the courses stand out and the learning curve required to master the controls may turn some off. If you have a friend on hand or are just interested in seeing where the series began, by all means go ahead and give the game a spin, otherwise, you should probably steer clear.
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Super Mario Kart Review (SNES, Wii VC) :: Comments

It's finally done! Here is my review for Super Mario Kart. It's probably a bit longer than it needs to be, but I feel content with it.
Nice review Cap'n! This is the only MK I haven't played besides Double Dash I believe.
 

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