In the video game industry, it is rare that a game comes along and defines a new genre. SUPER MARIO BROS. set a new standard for a genre not really explored since PITFALL. CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN basically set the wheels in motion for a decade of walking around in a first person perspective with a gun shooting things. When such a title comes along the developers can't help but be proud of the product, not to mention the snowball they started of rip-offs and look-alikes. One such title: SUPER MARIO KART.
The MARIO KART franchise has been steadily going strong since the early '90s around the time of the Super Nintendo's launch. SUPER MARIO was met with success and respect in Japan and in the U.S. Topping the success of such a quality title was none other than its predecessor, MARIO KART 64. One couldn't hope to even find a copy on shelves for the first couple weeks of its release, as so much well-deserved hype had been buzzing around the game for over a year before hitting shelves. Racing games had been seen in the past, but not in the form of cute characters from a previous series armed with weapons of destruction. Such a concept couldn't have been done before that time because the proper nostalgia hadn't been worked up for any other group of characters.
The year is now 2001, and handheld gaming has surpassed what many would have thought impossible even five years ago. For a mere $89-$99, anyone can now pick up a widescreen color game system that is nearly half the size of the original 'pea soup' Gameboy, and that can display more colors onscreen than the Super Nintendo. What better game to harness such power and continue a tradition of quality than MARIO KART SUPER CIRCUIT.
Mario Kart SC is a simple concept: the gamer chooses a character from a previous MARIO (or DONKEY KONG) title to race in a long championship, or link up to do battle with a choice of a few arenas. Selectable characters include: Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Princess Toadstool, Toad, Bowser, Donkey Kong, and Wario. In the Mario Grand Prix, one can choose between three different engine classes: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. In each cup, the player must dominate 4 races. After all four cups have been mastered, only then can the gamer get a shot at the Special Cup. Mario GP mode offers a total of 20 tracks, which is more than can be said for other racing games on TV-based console systems.
In Battle Mode, players can choose between Battle Courses 1-4. This may create a slight problem in terms of replay value of Battle Mode. One thing that Nintendo made sure to do is create the urgency to purchase more than one cart for multiplayer gaming. If all four, three or two players have a MARIO KART SC cart, then every aspect of the game can be taken advantage of. If only one cart is used, a slight slowdown occurs. Basically, all the weapons are there from the other MARIO KARTs: Mushroom, Triple Mushroom, Lightning, Boo, Banana, Red Shell, Green Shell, Triple Red and Green Shell, and Spiny Shell. The handling in MARIO KART SC has been tweaked from the Super Nintendo version, though it's not quite as responsive as the 64 version (more sliding is involved). The learning curve isn't too great, for the handling can most likely be mastered within the first hour of play.
MARIO KART SC's graphics nicely display what the Gameboy Advance was meant for: beautiful 2D backgrounds with fully rendered characters and a Super Nintendo-style mode 7 ground. Since the handheld Gameboy Advance is slightly more graphically powerful than its Super NES father, the scaling and rotation properties are a tad smoother due to better handling of pixels and more colors being able to be displayed at once. This allows for more colors to be used to fill in the jagged edges of an object being fed through mode 7. Another surprise to see on a handheld system is the fact that all the characters are rendered which makes for easy scaling.
No one could have asked for more when it comes to the audio. The music is as catchy as any other classic title and character voices have been recorded using a noticeably high sample rate, making for a pleasurable gaming experience. With the advent of CD-based consoles, it seemed for a while that developers were getting lazy with the audio. Development teams were simply taking pre-recorded CD quality electric guitars or bad repetitive techno music and throwing it into the background. This differs tremendously from what had to be done basically since the NES days, when music began to be a factor in gaming. Taking prerecorded music and throwing it into the background is fine and dandy, but it doesn't show off the audio processor at all. Now, with the release of the Gameboy Advance, programmers are forced to revert back to the good old days of cartridge-based audio. Not only does this mean that they can't slack on the music, but programmers are allowed to show off the skills that gamers today rarely get to experience.
When it all comes down to it, MARIO KART SUPER CIRCUIT is a must-buy game for any Gameboy Advance owner. The MARIO KART series has always been a staple of gaming for every Nintendo system for the past ten years. What makes this series so enjoyable is the quality gameplay, beautifully designed courses, and competition between friends. Basically, MARIO KART SC offers gamers a quality racing title with weapons, and the ability to keep players' attention for years.
Platform: Game Boy Advance
ESBR Rating: E
Genre: Kart Racer
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Fun Factor: A
Reviewer's Wild Card: A