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Mario Kart Super Circuit

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Intelligent Systems
Publisher:  Nintendo
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Racing
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  9-25-01

Quick, name the N64 game that outsold every other N64 game in Japan. Not Zelda: OoT…not Super Mario 64…but Mario Kart 64. Most people know that the franchise is a popular one, but very few realize just how big it really is. With sales like that, it was a no-brainer that it would appear on the Game Boy Advance. The challenge facing Nintendo was not how to bring the core gameplay to the system (the GBA is more powerful than the SNES, where the MK series began), but rather how to bring the series’ awesome multiplayer action to the GBA. It’s a challenge Nintendo met and conquered with ease.

If you’ve played a Mario Kart game before, you know what to expect. Eight different Nintendo characters race each other over a variety of inspired tracks. Utilizing various weapons and power-ups, things quickly turn frantic and chaotic as racers jockey for position. At the end of each race, characters are awarded different point totals depending on where they finish the race. At the end of a Cup (a collection of four tracks), the winner is crowned based on his/her/it’s accumulated point total. It’s a simple formula that everyone should be familiar with, as virtually every kart game copies the original Mario Kart in some way.

As in previous games, each of the eight different characters has their own capabilities. Wario, Donkey Kong, and Bowser are heavier and accelerate slower (but have a higher top speed); the Princess, Toad, and Yoshi are lighter and accelerate faster (but have a lower top speed); and Mario and Luigi are balanced between the two extremes. Each set of courses is better suited to different characters, thus making the character you use a big part of your strategy.

Aside from this tried-and-true balance in gameplay, what’s really set the series apart has always been the multiplayer modes. The GBA version is no different, as it utilizes the GBA’s link capabilities to deliver stunning multiplayer gameplay. Up to four different players can race or battle. In the battle mode, each player has three balloons rotating around their driver. Each time they get hit by a weapon, they’ll lose a balloon. Once they lose all three, they turn into a bomb that can then foil the other players. In some ways this multiplayer is better than the N64 version’s, since each player has their own private screen to enhance the strategic nature of the gameplay.

Graphic-wise, this looks much better than the SNES version. Colors are more vibrant, sprites are better animated, and each course is much more complex (in terms of obstacles, backgrounds, etc.). In some ways it looks better than the N64 version, as the use of sprites allows for more objects on the screen than simple polygon models (the riders in MK 64 were sprite-based, but the environments were polygonal) do. Mario Kart: Super Circuit also adds new graphic effects into the mix, including some excellent weather. Overall, this is one of the best-looking GBA titles yet and totally demolishes the ludicrous opinion that the GBA is nothing more than a portable SNES.

The sound is wonderfully executed. The music is your typical Nintendo stuff, with a generally upbeat sound and feeling to it. Again, the music here sounds much better than the SNES version as it comes at you in full stereo with a really rich feel. Sound effects are adequate enough, with the standard effects you would expect to hear. This version also contains speech samples for each character, although they’re a little more limited than they were in Mario Kart 64.

In terms of extras, MK: Super Circuit definitely delivers. In addition to three different racing classes (50cc, 100cc, 150cc), it also features a ton of hidden tracks in the form of all of the original Super Mario Kart tracks. This alone is a wonderful addition, as those classic tracks feature some of the best course design ever (not to mention the sheer nostalgia factor involved when you unlock them). All told, there are over 40 unique tracks in the game. Not only that, but also four players can play off of one cartridge (although that mode is limited to multi-colored Yoshis). That’s a whole lot of replay value.

While it doesn’t really do anything different from past Mario Karts, it delivers the type of karting experience handheld gamers have longed for. In some ways, it’s actually better than previous Mario Karts. That alone would make it a worthy purchase. Throw in a ton of hidden tracks, upgraded graphics and sound (versus the SNES version), and an excellent multiplayer mode, and you’ve got a wonderful game for any gamer. Don’t miss this one.

Highs:

  • Classic Mario Kart gameplay.
  • Vibrant graphics with lots of detail.
  • Hidden tracks & awesome multiplayer modes deliver a ton of replay value.

Lows:

  • After extended sessions, holding onto items that trail behind you (by continually holding down the "L" button) can be difficult for larger hands due to the GBA’s cramped design.

Final Verdict:

Mario Kart: Super Circuit is an awesome racing game that will appeal to anyone with even a casual experience with the genre. It totally redefines what can be accomplished by a handheld racing game.

Overall Score: 9.7

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