I could not contain myself when I heard about the release of this game. Mario Kart is the only series that I’ve purchased two systems in order to play: Nintendo 64 and the 3DS. The only Mario Kart game that I do not own is Mario Kart Wii and that’s because I had two roommates at the time with Wiis. I apologize for the review being a little bit tardy. I made a promise to myself that I couldn’t post a review until I’d gotten all golds on Mirror Mode. Right now I have six out of eight golds on Mirror. Whatever, I’ve promised myself things in the past…
For those of you who are interested in a brief history of the series, please continue reading…otherwise skip down to the same picture shown above. I don’t mean to preach to the Mario Kart choir. The first Super Mario Kart was released in 1992 for Super Nintendo with the pack of jobbers seen above. I didn’t own a SNES when I was a kid and so I only played the game at friends’ houses. The first installment is ridiculously fun and also, believe it or not, the most difficult of the series. After a cocktail or two, I’m lucky to pull 3rds on 150cc nowadays. The graphics were decent considering SNES was a 16-bit system. Above you can see how sharp Lakitu looks holding the green light (more on that asshole later). Donkey Kong was still wearing a chach. The tracks were much more linear and if you didn’t know how to power-slide around corners, you were fucked. If you played as Koopa, you were a moron…simply put. Then Nintendo released their next home console, Nintendo 64, four years later with Mario Kart 64 as one of its launch games. As soon as I played this game at my friend’s house, I needed to own it. Some months later, I was gifted a Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart 64 as a birthday present assuring my parents that it would be a gift for the family (i.e. me…oh, and my little sister who actually ended up getting really good at the series though she has a disgusting obsession with Toad). Above: Mario hauling ass around Luigi Raceway, a classic 64 course that was revamped for the latest sequel. Countless hours were spent playing this game. Between the grand prix mode, the new balloon fight multiplayer mode and time trials, weekends were lost to me. Friday night sleepovers with my friend Jon became 72-Hour underground (at home) racing syndicates: myself Luigi and he Yoshi.
I can’t tell you how many times I saw this scene minus metal, plus midi, minus Mario, plus Luigi…oh, and the bulimic Cheep Cheep. I became so good at the game that I was able to beat 150cc with my feet using the above: the Mad Catz 64 Steering Wheel. One foot on the gas, one foot on the wheel. I still have it too; I found it at my parents’ house last weekend. Other accessories like the Game Shark made mindless Kart ventures like this entertaining: Toad Brutality.
* * *
To the GameBoy! Mario Kart on road trips??
I received Mario Kart: Super Circuit for GameBoy Advance as a graduation present from my buddy, Jon. Super Circuit was like revisiting Super Mario Kart on a handheld: the courses, though new, were structured linearly and the physics were on par with the SNES release. It’s not a bad game and I did play it a lot at the time, but it was at a time in my life when I was completely overstimulated with the the amount of games that I played…namely Pokemon Gold/Silver and Mario Golf. I hope you people appreciate honesty. Super Circuit really acted as a hold over until the release of Mario Kart: Double Dash for the Nintendo Gamecube… I was incredibly skeptical when I first played the demo of this game in the stores. Two players, one cart? It sounded too much like a filthy viral video.
The character select above doesn’t account for all of the unlockable characters. Missing are King Boo, Petey Piranha, Toad and Toadette. You built a team based on weight and special items. My team was Luigi and Paratroopa. Why Paratroopa? His special item was 3X red shells. My sister, a pathetic toadamaniac, used the infuriating couple of Toad and Toadette.
The gameplay was amped up from previous versions of Kart and the items strategy changed because you could constantly switch driver and passenger. There was always so much going on…sometimes too much. Because the courses were so gratuitous with item blocks and the fact that both of your characters could be in possession of items simultaneously made races interesting to say the least. On one kart Toad’s got mushrooms and Koopa’s got a pocket full of shells. Sound dangerous? It was. You could literally be in 1st rounding the turn to the finish line and then get blue shelled (or “sporked” as my friends liked to call it), red shelled, hit by a character in star mode and cross the finish in a sniveling 8th.
* * *
Mario Kart DS was easily one of the best releases for the Nintendo DS. The game switched back to one-player karts which I think the series needed. Team Kart had a great novelty, but I think it would have ultimately killed the series.
The graphics were slightly better than the 64 graphics. The top screen was used for racing and the bottom screen was great for navigating when you your vision was obscured by a squid shart or when you had somebody packing heat on your tail.
The game was not easy. This was the first Mario Kart to employ a star grading system. You could finish a grand prix in 1st place, but you might only be awarded a 2** rating out of 3. You needed a flawless victory. ’3***’ became a slang term among my dorky friends. For instance, “the Don made a 2** artisan breakfast. It was good, but the eggs were a little cold.”
The best part about the game hands down was the local multiplayer. At the time, around a dozen of my friends owned DS’s and so 8-man local multiplayers became the new thing. Picture a dimly lit room with 8+ 20-somethings (all males of course), faces illuminated by DS backlights, empty 18-packs of EB beers (Bud Heavies), shouting, cursing, spiking handhelds. We’d elect two captains and then have them draft four-man teams. I was usually picked 7th or 8th. Jerkoffs.
I also have to say that despite the fact that I hated the man[bot] at the time, I do miss one driver who you won’t find in 7:
I got muscled around in Mario Kart DS by this man at the hands of the one they call Timbo. Never again…
* * *
After three years of Mario Kart DS tournaments, my Wii-less (no pun intended) friends all peer-pressured those friends who did own Wiis to buy the new Mario Kart Wii.
I don’t want to pretend like Mario Kart Wii was a disappointment, but it proved to be what most 1st party releases have been on the system: mediocrity in order to employ pointless gadgets (i.e. the Wii Wheel). People either like this game or hate it; I don’t think anyone loves it.
One interesting new development was the motorcycles.
One could site this as an exploratory vehicular precursor to the new installment.
Mario Kart Wii also had a handful of really well put together original courses. Two of which, in particular, appear in Mario Kart 7: Maple Treeway and…
Above: Coconut Mall. And like most Wii games, Miis were typically incorporated in some fashion, here rubbernecking in a mashed up sedan.
* * *
And finally, what most (if not all) of you were waiting for…
The new game is just plain sick! The new courses are inventive and fun. I like the fact that they have scrapped some lapped courses for segmented courses. In short, instead of doing three laps on one course, you race three segments of one course. The best example in the new game, and I never thought that I’d ever say this, is the new Rainbow Road! Mario Kart 7′s Rainbow Road…it’s magical. The Donkey Kong driver in the video is not.
Most notably, they have added both underwater and aerial racing, though not for entire courses. A warp tube will plunge you into an underwater Cheep Cheep chamber or a jump will thrust you into the air for a piloted stint between hot air balloons. It’s like a happy medium between classic Mario Kart and Nintendo 64′s Diddy Kong Racing. The driving physics change constantly, but in a good way that both keeps you on your toes and enhances the game’s difficulty for seasoned veterans.
Above: Mario hang gliding up Toad’s ass.
Mario Kart 7 also forces players to pay attention to coins. You can collect up to 10 coins per race, but you lose coins every time another player hits you with an item. Aside from giving you a brief speed burst, coins are important in that they have a lot to do with your star rating for grand prix (see Mario Kart DS above). I’ve gotten four 1sts but only netted 36 coins and so I’m awarded a 2** gold. It makes me furious when I’m about to finish a race in 1st and then I get lightning’ed or blue shelled compliments of Honey Queen…it’s always her.
The new playable characters are Metal Mario, Lakitu, Honey Queen and Wiggler. Metal Mario is sort of cool…I guess. Ever since Super Maro Sunshine he’s been getting a 1st party push. Lakitu has nostalgia appeal, though I am now questioning reality because I’ve seen Lakitu pull his own ass out of a pit of lava (are Lakitu a race???). Wiggler is just plain un-charismatic: a bug that could give ten handies at once. Honey Queen. More on her later.
There are two new items: the Lakitu tail which swats away enemies and caused all the controversy a few weeks ago (see my article PETA vs. Nintendo) and the 7 (shown above). The 7 is interesting because it gives you two of the most useful items in the red shell and the star, but it can be a white elephant if you run into another player while carrying it as the bomb will cause you to explode.
The local multiplayer is just as solid as it was on the DS, though I say that having played with only one other: Joeboy. I don’t really know what true competition is. The online multiplayer may be the most impressive online experience that I’ve had with Nintendo thus far…finally. I was paired up with seven randos from all over the world. ”Mom” from Great Britain gave me the most shit…but I came out on top.
Above: Mario visits San Francisco on the Wuhu Loop.
I have very few complaints about the latest installment. In fact, I only have three: 1) I wish that Nintendo would develop a handheld that wouldn’t induce carpal tunnel/arthritis, 2) You cannot giveth, produceth a sequel, and then taketh away (one of the Ten Video Game Commandments) and 3) Honey Queen.
1) Christ. After a few hours playing, I have to stretch in order to get feeling back into my hands. I did discover that my left pinky may be double-jointed (a silver lining to every phalangic cloud). It has been the same with every Mario Kart released on a handheld and it is less Mario Kart’s fault than Nintendo’s handheld hardware development team. Nintendo, if you’re going to make bumpers a necessary part of gameplay, figure out a more comfortable design for those who don’t have pygmy hands. The cliched question: “He’s got big hands…you know what that means??” now answers: “I bet it hurts to play Mario Kart on a handheld.” Who knows. Maybe Nintendo is purposefully trying to force their adult male demographic to grow up.
2) You should never have characters and modes in one game, then release a sequel and leave them out. Mario Kart 7 is far less guilty than some series; however, if your character was Waluigi or Baby Mario (God help you) or if you had a huge boner for racing individual courses against the computer…sorry, you won’t find it in Mario Kart 7. On the other side of the same coin (boost!), some people want to hate on the fact that 16 of the tracks were recycled from previous games as a product of lazy development. Ok, I understand to a certain extent…but we are given 16 new courses of which about 8 are instant classics. The “classic” courses, though I have some arguments as to which were selected (not exactly the cream of the Kart crop), have been rehabbed and don’t feel stale. And Mario Kart has been rehashing classic courses for the past three iterations of the series.
3) I cannot stand this bitch! I discovered that I’ve listened to David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” more in the past two weeks than I’ve listened to it the past two years.
The brooch is gaudy. The shoes clearly don’t fit her unless she binds her feet. The lipstick is drab and whorish. And she’s got a stinger that suggests that she’s been doing serious steroids for years. I feel like she’s the Jackee of the bee world…
Honey Queen keeps tagging me. I thought it might have been a coincidence at first, but 9 out of 10 times that I get dicked out of 1st place, it’s at the hands of the Honey Queen.
Buy a 3DS during the holiday sales and then come on over for some local multiplayer!
I made my own hipster kart: classic green frame and red monster wheels. Who’s driving? One handsome Mii.