Review by Sour
"Blue Shells FTW!"
Since Super Mario Kart for the SNES was such a big hit, they made the decision to green light a new Mario Kart game for the Nintendo 64, and it paid off. It keeps the core elements of game-play from the first game, while adding in some new weapons. This game turned out to be as much of a hit as the first, and rightfully so. The Mario Kart series has been long praised for it's playability and fun tracks. All of the original characters from the first game appear in this one as well, only helping to add to the familiarity. Being a long time fan of the series, here's my take on it.
Gameplay: 10/10: If you haven't played the Mario Kart games by now, here's a rundown of how it works. You pick whichever character that you want, but most have pros and cons. If you choose a small character, like say, Toad, you'll get really fast acceleration. There's two downsides to small characters. They'll max out their speed quick, sure, but that max speed isn't very fast since they have such small cars. On top of that, the really big characters (Donkey Kong, Bowser) can flatten you, leaving you stuck to the track for a second or two. For big characters, they may have the ability to take out the smaller racers, sure, but their acceleration rate is so slow that it takes a while to get moving at a decent speed again. And throughout the game you'll encounter environmental hazards, such as cars and trucks in Toad's Turnpike.
Upon starting up the game you can choose what the maximum engine block size is allowed for the races, which will make things move a lot faster or slower. It's best to decide which you want depending on your skill level. If you want high-octane, go for 150cc. If you're a beginner you may want 50cc or 100cc. There's also Mirror mode, which puts all of the tracks in reverse. You'll also get to choose which cup you'll want to compete in. There are four of them, the fourth being an unlock-able cup with special tracks. One of which is the infamous and beautiful Rainbow Road. The cups are Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special.
The Mario Kart series, this one included, obviously, have question mark blocks throughout the track. Upon running over one, you'll pick up a weapon. You won't know which one it'll be right off the bat however, as it goes through a sort of slots animation. You can ever stop the animation early if you think your timing is good enough and get it to stop on the weapon you want. It may be a green turtle shell which you can shoot straight and it'll keep going and ricochet around. There's also the red turtle shell which will home in on the nearest enemy in front of you. Then there's the mushroom which gives you a speed boost. There are a few fixed blocks in the game, however, that will give you the same thing every time you run over it. Most of these are pretty hard to get as they boast quite a powerful weapon. The Blue Turtle Shell. This turtle shill fixes immediately on the first-place holder during the race and will not stop until it hits them. This can be pretty useful when in the final stretch of the last lap when you're only in second place. Mind you that the computer or other players may acquire one too! So watch out!
Graphics: 9/10: Overall they're pretty good, about Super Mario 64 graphics. Nice, detailed environments, but blocky character design. Still, it's nothing horrible by any stretch of the imagination. It has sort of an innocent, cartoon feel to it which is great for the atmosphere of the game. It's simplistic, silly, and yet fun. At the time of it's release though, these graphics were great, in a time when game developers and companies were trying to shift the majority of gaming into 3D to help capture and immerse the players. It most definitely worked, look where we are today!
Sound: 10/10: Mario Kart 64 boasts a great soundtrack. Many of the songs from the original Super Mario Kart have been remixed or their quality heightened due to the the the sound chip limitations on the SNES for the first game. The sound quality took what the first game had which was already good, and simply made it amazing. And now all of the characters have voices. Upon picking Mario you'll here "Here we go!", or when picking Bowser, you'll hear his infamous roar from Super Mario 64. The sound effects are great, and to this day I love the sound of using the mushroom to give you a boost. That one is most certainly adrenaline pumping for me. Or hearing the beeping alarm noise when a blue turtle shell is closing in. That's when you know it's a good time to back off and let someone else take first place before it's too late!
Overall: 9.5/10: The only reason this game doesn't get a perfect is because of the graphics, which were actually high quality back in the day and have actually aged *very* well. If you owned the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES and loved it, you'll love this one just as much. I'd have to recommend finding a cheap used copy. It's a very strong entry in the series and helped pave the way for more Mario Kart games, as all of the subsequent ones have had the blue turtle shell, and the racing tracks are almost all instant classics. A must have for a racing game fan or a fan of the series that missed out on this gem.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/09/10
Game Release: Mario Kart 64 (US, 02/10/97)
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