Mario Kart 64 Review by Andy007
Nintendo 64 Reviews
Mario Kart 64 Review

In the world of Mario, everything is a fantasy; nothing may be real, nothing may make sense. But happens when characters from the world of Mario are put into the drivers' seat?

How bizarre can racing become? Find out once you launch a few red shells at your opponents to take the lead on Mario Raceway. Do you have what it takes to rule the Mario roads? Can you outlast 7 other racers?

Mario Kart 64 is an outstanding sequel to Super Mario Kart (SNES). The original Super Mario Kart contained four modes of play: Mario GP, Versus Mode, Battle Mode, and Time Trial – available for only 1-2 players. But the capacity of the N64 allowed Mario Kart to improve the quality of its gameplay. Now, 1-4 players can duke it out on all new raceways. In Mario Kart 64, the Mario Grand Prix Mode contains 16 new courses divided into four cups: Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Star Cup, and Special Cup.

These new tracks are new challenges for returning Mario Kart players and new players alike. You can race in 50 CC, 100 CC, or even the furiously fast 150 CC. Basically, the class cups are the difficulties of the game; the higher the class cup, the faster the racers are. The four cups become progressively harder; Mushroom cup contains the easiest courses while Star and Special Cups comprise of surprising twist and turns. In these races, your goal is to place first and win a Gold Cup - the ultimate prize - for that cup race. However, in your way stands 7 other racers armed with weapons designed to prevent you from winning.

You must fight your way through aggressive racers, narrowly dodge banana peels, and exact revenge on those who hit you with a red shell! Winning’s not easy; projectiles and weapons stand in your way. In 2-player GP mode, you and a friend can join forces or compete for first against six other computer racers. With 2-4 players, you can also compete without computer players in “Versus Mode.” In this mode, several human players can race on single tracks of any class cup and cup to see who’s better. Like GP mode, there are question boxes and items in which you can hurt each other with. Use these items to your advantage to take first place. However, versus mode does not reward you with Bronze, Silver, or Gold Cups for winning. It is merely a fierce competition between rivals.

An artwork scene with Wario, Bowser, Mario, Peach and Toad

Mario Kart 64 features 8 playable characters; several of which returned from the original Mario Kart. The 8 characters include: Mario, Luigi, Princess, Toad, Wario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Bowser. These racers are classified into three different types: lightweights, middleweights, and heavyweights. Thus, each “weight” class has a strength and weakness; you must find the most suitable racer. The lightweights may be the fastest in speed and accelerations, but the heavyweights push them around. The middleweights are well balanced; they can push around the lightweights, but not the heavyweights. With the heavyweights, you can cause everyone to spin out of control by simply bumping into them.

The racers have advantages in different tracks. Since Super Mario Kart, several new weapons have been added to the arsenal of racers. The classic weapons: banana peel, green shell, red shell, ghost, and star return with the same effects. New weapons include the banana bunch, which is actually a vine of many banana peels – used to swing around and multiple dropping. Now, green shells and red shells can come in bunches of 3.

They can act as a protective barrier or offensive projectiles. The fake question box is notably interesting: it’s a bomb disguised as a question box. This trap deceives your opponent into thinking they are obtaining an item. They’ll run into the box and boom! They get heaved upwards as the other racers pass them. The unique style of Mario racing makes it remarkably clever.

Set your goals high and complete a track in the fastest time possible. Time Trial allows a single player to obtain the best times for courses. If you’re not satisfied with your results, simply retry the tracks until you get a good time. The purpose of Time Trial is to get fast times and beat them, or beat other people’s times. It’s quite uneventful compared to Mario GP and Battle Mode. It’s one racer steering down a road trying to achieve his best time. The ghost in Time Trial is quite helpful, usually it helps you find easier paths to improve your time.

Tired of racing? Battle mode is your break. Battle Mode, available to 2-4 players, allows them to play a game of “hit and run” on four different arenas. In Battle Mode, a player’s goal is to eliminate all his enemies by hitting them with shells or tricking them into running into a trap. Each player gets three balloons. A person who loses all of his/her balloons is eliminated for that round. There’s many ways to pop your opponent’s balloons. The four arenas include Big Donut, Block Fort, Double Decker, and Skyscraper. Each of these environments carries a different strategy to it. Unleash havoc on your enemies with red shells, green shells, a Star, or leave traps such as banana peels and question boxes to stop your opponent. Competitively fun, battle mode is a great break from racing.

Mario Kart 64’s graphics takes a giant step from the simple 2D world of Super Mario Kart of the Super Nintendo. Instead, Mario Kart 64 thrives in a 3D-rich environment. The courses have become more lively and realistic. The character sprites possess more “spunk” and detail than before. Unlike Super Mario Kart, shells now have a trail of smoke as you fire them. This adds to the impressive quality of N64 graphics – much improved from the SNES graphics. The tracks are relatively fancier than before – a colorful 3D fantasy world.

Sound effects have improved as well. Now, each racer has several distinguishable taunts. Whether it be Mario’s “yahoo!” or Wario’s evil laugh, these taunts will force you to compete harder. Each character has his/her unique taunts. Other than that, there is nothing more special about the sound.

A group artwork featuring all the characters in Mario Kart 64

The game's controls aren't too frustrating. Accelerate is ''A'' and brake is ''B.'' ''Z'' selects an item or fires an item. ''L'' and ''R'' causes your driver to hop. The ''C'' pad changes views. The analog stick is used for driving. The default controls are in comfortable and convenient places.

Mario Kart 64 is ideal for playing against your friends. The competition makes it thrilling as you nail each other with shells in hopes of winning. When playing against your friends or other people, you feel that you have to prove that you are the best. Battle Mode gives you nearly the same feeling. You feel like throwing a few shells at your opponents. Also, the courses in this game never get monotonous. First of all, attempting to earn a Gold Cup in every single 150 CC cup is challenging enough to keep you busy. By earning Gold Cups in all the 150 CC cups, the “Extra Mode” becomes unlocked. It’s quite a surprise; I’ll leave it up to you to find out what’s “new” in Extra Mode. Even Extra Mode is worth mastering – which will take some a considerable time to finish. Though this game is not extremely difficult, there are many goals to keep you occupied; making all the fun worthwhile. Unfortunately, the easy difficulty of Mario Kart may leave you abandoning this game. The savior to remaining hooked to this game is battle mode - always fun and always competitive.

Future Mario Kart games should be enhanced with a new battle mode. Hopefully, there will be a battle mode in SINGLE player (that’s right). A single player would fight against computer bots – in various difficulties. What Mario Kart also needs is a bigger arsenal of weapons. Racing would become totally chaotic with all kinds of road threats. Mario Kart could use more courses and arenas for battle mode as well. Too easily beaten, Mario Kart needs possibly a 200 CC mode or more handicaps in the faster engine modes. The tracks are conquerable after experiencing a track and mastering its tricks. There is no insanely impossible track in this game, rather the majority of the tracks are easy.

Mario driving his kart

Mario Kart 64 is a well-made game. Its superb gameplay and controls adds to the upright reputation of Nintendo and Mario. It continues the success of the original Super Mario Kart. Hopefully the Mario Kart series lives on with several versions on GameCube and future Nintendo systems. The Mario go-kart legacy must live on!

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