Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mario Kart 64 (N64, 1997)

Sometimes it's just better to stick to a successful recipe. OK, so Nintendo transferred Mario to the 3D world with Super Mario 64, but that was a different story. Arguably, the 2D platformer was a dying breed. It offered all that it had to offer. Nintendo had to update the concept and it did so in a neat way. But racing games are a different matter. The gameplay is timeless and such updates are unnecessary.

Super Mario Kart was a stonking game on the SNES and understandably so. The racing engine offered tight, fast and groovy gameplay which added on a successful franchise. Instead, the racing engine of Mario Kart 64 offers loose, slow and uneven gameplay which depends on a successful franchise. Had this been released with different game characters, it wouldn't
even sell half as many copies as it did.

Oh the graphics are great, no doubt about it. Despite the sprites looking like they're made out of cardboard, the scenery is beautiful and engaging. But what does it matter when the racing is dull? The tight circuits and fast pace in Super Mario Kart worked wonders. Here the circuits are wide, the controls feel loose and the pace is, er, not so fast. Didn't I just say this in the previous paragraph? -)

In fact it's only in the last 2 Grands Prix that the action gets wild, in circuits like Bowser's Castle and Banshee Boardwalk. But even there it's rather uneven. And it's in the last Grand Prix that the greatest casualty of the game is located: Rainbow Road. The Rainbow course was probably the most intense in Super Mario Kart: an adrenaline driven light-speed circuit, with no barriers and just void around. Here Rainbow Road is a very long course, with barriers everywhere, that just feels slow and boring.

Really, this is just an average racing game and a waste of a popular franchise. So sometimes it's just better to stick to a successful recipe. Or even better, not release a sequel at all if you have nothing new to say.



shteev said...

What did you think of Diddy Kong Racing?

Jim Slip said...

Woah, didn't see this comment, sorry Shteev.

I loved Diddy Kong Racing. The levels were much more "meaty" (I particularly loved the water worlds), and the slight arcade-adventure elements added an extra twist.