Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mario Kart : Generations

In just over two weeks, I'll be playing Mario Kart Wii. Mario Kart is one of my all-time favorite game franchises, and I've been along for the ride from the start. As the awesome - looking Wii version approaches, offering 32 tracks with an all-out online mode, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the previous installments of the series and remember those who've I have had the honor of racing against.

Super Mario Kart - SNES

I got this game shortly after acquiring my Super Nintendo in the fall of 1992, not sure what I was getting into, but completely enthralled nonetheless. The characters, the tracks, the power-ups, and the shortcuts to be discovered made this game an instant classic. And it wasn't just racing - there was a battle mode as well.

I was living alone then, but was joined at the time for the two-player game by good friends Dave Frye and Adam Silverman. We would drink beers, get high, and race for hours. Both of them quickly got as good as I was and we were pretty evenly matched.

Adam and I later enjoyed some even more mind-altering substances to try out the trippy Rainbow Road course, which was just silly. We also made a video of one of our races and edited in the music of the Grateful Dead, in a sort of pre-YouTube YouTube moment. Someday I'll get off my ass and send that VHS tape somewhere to convert it into DVD.

I miss those guys, and I miss those days.

Mario Kart 64 - Nintendo 64

When I got Mario Kart 64 I was living with my good friend Chris Chase, and although his gaming habits were more sports and action oriented, he took to Mario Kart 64 quickly. We had the system set up in the basement den of our apartment. This version had just amazing tracks and, at the time, great graphics.

I had two memory cards full of ghosts, which were time trial races I had run with my best times. These were so good that years later I still couldn't beat them. In some of them, I used the shortcuts on every lap for an impressive score.

We were joined in the awesome four player splitscreen matches by a veritable host of our co-workers - Jeff Shupe, Michael Meija, Matt Hanks, Dan Wesley, Noah Cushwah ( not sure on the spelling there), and possibly several others. Many of this same group were also coming around later that year for Goldeneye 007 sessions.

It was good to have a lot of different people to play against, although I'd always get taken out by Chris using a lightning bolt on Wario Stadium at the huge ramp jump (this move put me back about a third of a lap).

I miss those guys and those days, too. However, I have this game on my Nintendo Wii (via the Virtual Console selection) and still play it from time to time.

Mario Kart - Double Dash - Nintendo Gamecube

At first, I didn't have anyone to play this game against. Once I started dating Monique, though, I found out that she liked Mario Kart games as well, and we played this one quite a bit.

Although I personally didn't like the idea of two characters per kart, I still had a lot of fun with this title. For me the best part was the cup where you can play all sixteen tracks, creating a longer and more enjoyable experience. I've always wanted longer races - either long tracks or the ability to set the race to ten or more laps - in Mario Kart.

Monique and I still play Double Dash from time to time.

Mario Kart Super Circuit - Game Boy Advance

My least favorite of the Mario Kart series, Super Circuit offered the same graphics as the SNES version, and even some of the same tracks, but seems to control a bit sluggishly. I picked up this one late, though, and never really got into it much.

Mario Kart DS - Nintendo DS

This was a great Mario Kart game, bringing forth much better graphics and finally, online play. There was one problem, called snaking. Snaking involves doing powerslide mini-turbo boosts all around the course, which is usually wide enough to do so, to gain extra speed.

The online mode was absolutely ruined by this. I always felt that Mario Kart should be about racing and combat, not repeated carpul-tunnel inducing moves. I could snake fairly well, and did it sometimes, but it left the experience so hollow that I rarely play the DS version online anymore.

So, this one I got to play against the world, but the world kind of sucked. Hopefully the world of racers that opens up with Mario Kart Wii will be a little better. Supposedly, the snaking is much more limited. In two weeks, I'll find out.

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