Mario Kart: Super Circuit (Game Boy Advance) review
"And if you have a constant supply of Mario Karting friends, then don't expect to ever be rid of it. This one's a keeper. "
I didn't want to give it such a high score before I played it. I looked at all the reviews and said' It's all hype!' while stroking my non existent beard. But you see, the thing is, occasionally (Make that VERY occasionally) a game will entirely live up to it's hype. The unfortunately named Mario Kart: Super Circuit is one of those games. For those who have been searching for the ULTIMATE Mario Kart experience their whole lives (Haven't you got anything better to do?) they have finally found what they are looking for. You could even say it's the second coming of.... No, hold back Max, hold back.
For those of who who have been sitting in a cave for the last few years, raving about the technological achievements of Pong, I shall explain for you. Mario Kart is a kart racing game. It pits eight Nintendo characters against each other in a three lap race on a relatively short and cutesy Nintendo track. It doesn't sound special I know, but you must experience it to believe it. Mario Kart invented the karting genre, and it's sequels have constantly raised the bar for lazy developers. And I can happily say that this is the best incarnation yet.
Super Mario Kart was a way of life on the SNES, and the 64-bit sequel didn't quite live up to it. It was a brilliant game in it's own right, but it didn't have the handling or the battle mode to compete properly. Also, winning was quite often a case of good luck and good weapons (Some of the people who beat me are a testament to this. And no, I'm not just a bad loser). Because the brilliant handling is at least a third of the reasons why you should own this game. Unlike quickly cobbled together licensed rip-offs, the handling isn't about luck. It's all about learning to time EVERY SINGLE button press just right and using your weapons tactfully. The satisfaction in Mario Kart comes in the reward of practicing. Not necessarily a tangible shiny award, but the pleasure in gaining experience and becoming more skilled. In Mario Kart, the best player will win.
Controls are simple and easy to pick up. Button A will power the kart forward, B acts as the breaks, and the D-pad will control your direction. Those are the basics, but if you want to know this game then you're going to have to make friends with the shoulder buttons too. The left shoulder button will fire any of the weapons you might have happened to pick up. The right shoulder button will perform the powerslide. This is one of the most important moves in the game, without it, you'll be forever bumping into walls, or worse, surrounding lava or water. It's not a simple case of randomly jabbing at the R button, you have to learn how to master it. Especially tight corners will need an early and prolonged holding of R, while tapping the shoulder button will shave milliseconds of your time when faced with the easier, more sweeping corners.
The perfect handling is also helped by a well balanced set of weapons. The power of the red shell and the pathetic banana have become well-established facts with most people over the past few games. But even the shamefully pitiful banana can bring on the biggest wave of gloat-inducing happiness when used correctly and timed well. In fact, just all of the weapons here can be used for last minuted place-climbing or sweet sweet revenge. Like everything else in the game, the weapons aren't there for the sake of it. Everything in Mario Kart, such as this, is geared towards having a good time and being easily accessible, while still remaining a gamer's game.
Now onto the second third of why you should buy this game. The track design. Easily the best tracks in a karting game ever, these manage to include bits for you to practice (and show off) all your skills, but they also give plenty of chances for any racer to win. While lesser racers are content with a confusing string of set pieces that makes navigating the track wholly unfair, Mario Kart delights with it's quietly thrilling genius track design. If you fall to last place, there's hardly ever a chance that you can't get back to first. The decent dealing of weapons helps this, but that brilliant handling also helps. If you find you always lag behind in the Grand Prix Races then play them again and again. Because instead of remaining crap (No offence, crap gamers) you will find that the distance between you and the rest will get shorter and shorter. Because the more you race, the more you get to grips with the controls, the more you know the controls inside out and the better you'll do.
So by keeping the tracks fun to navigate to newer players, while making them tough enough for hardened ones, Nintendo manages to keep everyone ecstatic. Practice does indeed make perfect. There's nary a gaming experience more satisfying than racing a perfect three laps on Mario Kart. It's scarily well balanced and there's also lots to do and unlock. As well as 5 cups of new tracks, each containing four tracks (One cup locked at the beginning) there's also all the old SNES tracks to unlock! They aren't quite as impressive as the new ones, but they're still clever and solid, and make for a good teary eyed trip down memory lane for people like me. There's also a time trial mode, and a mode where you can have a quick run on any track. And it all comes in three different difficulties! (Well, speeds technically, but they get more difficult anyway).
The last, and most prominent, third of the reason to buy Mario Kart is the multiplayer. Despite early warning signs from goldeneye on the N64, nothing comes close to four player Mario Kart. Racing against your friends as your favourite characters (You have to have one, it's the rules) is unbeatable in terms of sheer hilarity. Those of you with male friends like me will hear constant arguing on who's better at powersliding. While girl gamers will be content with 'not smashing into that wall again!'. No offence to girl gamers as a whole, the one i play with just aren't very good.
And that's just the normal racing, bring in the weapons, and that's when the fun begins. Gameboys will be thrown across the room, punches will fly, and swearing will fill the air. Fantastic stuff. You will learn to build a love/hate relationship with the thunderbolt (A weapon which shrinks your opponent, therefore slowing them down and making them vulnerable to flattening). Hating it, and your friend when it is used, but relishing the moment when you possess it. But really practicing hard reaps the real rewards in multiplayer. Generic computer characters who shout 'Oh no!' when they lose, are no match for breathing human opponents who scream 'No that's not fair, you must have cheated! @%**£$!'.
And that's just half of the life-sucking multiplayer. The battle mode is, as MK veterans will know, a whole other game. The rules couldn't be simpler, four players are placed in a relatively compact arena, each has three balloons (or hit points) get hit three times and you're out. Racing is all well and good, but THIS is what gets the competitive juices flowing. Turning yourself invincible just as you are about to be hit by a red shell, and then going and killing your attacker. Take a moment to absorb that sentence, for it is most definitely on the 'top ten best things about games' list. Goldeneye who?
As well as playing perfectly it looks the part too. The character sprites are exactly the same as the ones found in the N64 version, rather than the ugly SNES sprites. The characters all move smoothly and are animated exactly as you'd expect. The tracks are also mesmerisingly beautiful. While not quite as expansive and epic as the N64 tracks, they are nowhere near as dull looking as the SNES ones. They incorporate a lot of colour and detail and (Especially) charm into the tracks, while keeping a stylish simplistic look.
The track details are mind-blowing. Scenery such as the presents on the gorgeous Ribbon Road or the mountains of cheese in Cheese Land is almost enough to distract you from the race. And the colors, my god are they primary. And so bright. This is so good to look at, that it almost seems to impress as much as the current next gen games do. On the GBA, it doesn't get better looking than this.
The sound is Nintendo through and through. Sound effects are cartoony but snappy and strangely realistic at the same time. While the music remains cut, hauntingly catchy and packed full of references to past Nintendo tunes. The voices are all authentic, my only problem is that they've replaced Yoshi's cool noise (Which sounded a bit like a vacuum cleaner turning off) with the horribly sickly speech from Yoshi's Story. Once again Peach proves to be the MOST ANNOYING VIDEO GAME CHARACTER EVER. Besides constantly trying to nudge me her voice remains as shrill and loathsome as ever. But if this wasn't so, then I'd scream bloody murder. Not being able to hate Peach would take a considerable amount of fun away from any game containing her.
Will this game last you a long time? I have no doubt that you'll be playing it months after you get it. Even after you've unlocked everything, you can always do better on your times. And you'll want to because playing the game is an immensely joyous experience, and make no mistake. And if you have a constant supply of Mario Karting friends, then don't expect to ever be rid of it. This one's a keeper.
Despite not wanting to fall for the hype, it didn't take me long to love Mario Kart like it was my own. It's all made to give gamers a good time, and that's exactly what it does. As a racing package, it's just about impossible to find fault. An out and out classic, and the best kart racing there is to be had. If you haven't been persuaded yet, come out of your pong-loving cave and give it a go.
Peach is dead!
+ Sublime handling
+ Genius track design
+ Easy to pick up, satisfying to master
+ Always fair, always fun
+ Unspeakably brilliant multiplayer
+ Full of nods to past nintendo games, in sound and graphics.
+ Very challenging
+ It doesn't get old
+ Lots to unlock
+ Looks dazzling
+ Those voices
Wait, she was just sleeping. Damn!
- Those voices
- You don't like the previous Mario Karts? Expect to hate this.
- If you don't plan to multiplay, then you'll get considerably less out of the game.
- I'm assuming Nintendo were on their 'power up' mushrooms when they named this one.
If you like this....
Super Mario Kart- SNES: The game that started it all, and you're only chance to play as Koopa Troopa!Mario Kart 64- N64: Impressive and enjoyable karter, with a couple of letdowns
Konami Krazy Racers- GBA: It seems unnecessary with Mario Kart ruling the handheld now, but this is still a solid, fun karter.
Community review by maxh (Date unavailable)
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