By: Jared Black
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.
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
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.
- Classic Mario
graphics with lots of detail.
- Hidden tracks
& awesome multiplayer modes deliver a ton of replay value.
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.
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.