Mario Kart 64
It had it all-stylized graphics, brilliant control, a huge cast of Nintendo's superstars and Shigeru Miyamato's creative genius to bring everything together. Yes, the Super NES' classic Super Mario Kart is one of the finest games ever made.
But will the much-anticipated 64-Bit update, Mario Kart 64, shine as brightly as its predecessor? Will it offer the same power-sliding, banana-launching thrills; the same well-balanced characters; the same excellence in multiplayer gaming? Don't worry-it does EGM recently nabbed a Japanese copy of MK64, and our staff descended on the game, often four at a time, to put it through its paces. We're happy to say it packs all the glorious playability-and all of the little Miyamato touches-of the 16-Bit classic, jays well as the fancy new, ant aliased visuals gamers have come to expect from the Nintendo 64.
But before we get to what's new with the Mario Kart gang, let's look at what has stayed the same. Nearly all of the original's racers have returned, including Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool (now better known by her Japanese moniker, Peach), Toad, Yoshi, Donkey Kong and Bowser. The only MIA is Koopa, who has been replaced by Nintendo's more noteworthy villain, Wario.
As before, all the racers possess different driving characteristics. The lightest three- Yoshi, Peach and Toad-boast the best turning and acceleration capabilities, but their top speeds aren't too speedy. Mario and Luigi are the middle-of-the-road guys and give a solid-if not stunning-all-around performance. The heavyweights-Warrior, Bowser and Donkey Kong-are the speed demons of the group, at least once you get them moving. Their turning skills and acceleration leave a lot to be desired.
MK64 gives its drivers 20 courses to race and battle on. Sixteen courses are designed for the Grand Prix and multiplayer race modes, in which players race against the entire Mario pack or just each other. These courses are divided into four classes-or Mcups"-of increasing difficulty, the Mushroom, Flower, Star and Special cups. Funny thing: You don't have to proceed through the cups to race on later courses; all 16 can be played right away (which leads us to wonder if there might be more, hidden courses that open when you earn gold trophies in the four cups). The final four courses are reserved for everybody's favorite Mario Kart feature, the Battle Mode.
MK64's race courses pack most of what you'd expect from a typical Mario Kart track-hidden shortcuts, plenty of power-ups, turbo arrows and the occasional critter hazards (such as the first game's moles and SM64's penguins). Of course, much is new and improved now, too. For starters, the courses are longer, and many extend through buildings and tunnels. They're not the flat, often stark raceways of the original's Mode 7 courses, either. MK64's tracks undulate with hills, banks and ramps, and track portions often wind around and above other portions. The only things missing are gold coins, which could be collected in the first game to build speed.
No Mario Kart track would be complete without power-ups. and MK64 features most of the items of the 16-Bit game, as well as a few ingenious new ones. You get the Bananas, unguided Green Shells, homing Red Shells. Mushroom turbos, item-stealing Ghosts and Lightning Bolt shrink rays, all of which are hidden in the rainbow-colored power-up blocks that you'll find grouped in patches along each track. New power-ups include the Decoy Block and the blue Super Shell (see the sidebar to find out what they do). Only the first game's Feather power-up. which boosted your jumping abilities, is missing.
Most of MK64's items come in two varieties, the standard, one-shot type and the enhanced, multiple-attack power-up. For instance, shells can come singly, and be launched once, or in groups of three. If you nab a three-pack of red shells and tap the trigger button, they'll begin circling you, acting as a sort of force field. You can then launch the shells once a cluster of enemies gets in range, or just ram other racers and let your orbiting shells take them out. The type of power-up you get is determined both by random chance and by what position you hold in the race. A kart driver in last place is more likely to get a choice power-up than the racer at the head of the pack.
Control in MK6A is what really sets it apart from its predecessor. Thanks to the analog stick, power slides are no longer crucial to a successful race. The stick gives you nearly all the control you need to slide around tight corners or keep from flying off elevated tracks that lack guardrails. In fact, once you get used to the analog stick, you'll wonder how you ever played Mario Kart without it.
A few new control tricks have been added to MK64, too. Your Kart can now go in reverse; an ability you'll especially appreciate when you get stuck in a corner in Battle Mode. You can also hold down the gas and break buttons to execute U-turns and donuts. Finally, the four camera buttons adjust your view and switch between the various onscreen displays, such as the map and speedometer.
MK64 is the third N64 game whose premise was borrowed from Nintendo's 16-Bit glory days (the other two being Super Mario 64 and PilotWings 64). With Zelda 64 and a Kirby game on the way, it looks as if Nintendo's 64-Bit library won't stray from tried-and-true-and-money-making titles. But then, with games as good as MK64, who's complaining?
- MANUFACTURER - Nintendo
- THEME - Racing
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 - 4
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Mario Kart 64's Japanese roll-out was quite simply one of the decade's most anticipated software launches. A nationwide time trial competition was supported by thousands of stores, as well as the hit TV show 64 Mario Stadium, The game itself came in a special presentation box, complete with free two-tone controller, all for the standard 9,800 yen price tag. Nevertheless, in the UK import prices soared to levels not seen since the 16-bit console boom. It is, after all, not every day the World's Most Loved Race Game gets a sequel...
While EA grind out a new FIFA each Xmas, Nintendo prefer to get things right first time - five years after its debut Super Mario Kart is still topping the Super NES charts. A truly legendary game, it's one of those titles which videogames journalists always mention in their top ten lists and - gasp! - even buy for themselves.
When it first appeared, in late 1991, Nintendo was so utterly dominant they never showed a game before it was finished. The first most journalists saw of it was a huge pre-production cart, and early impressions were disappointing. Graphics were cute, but simplistic and the first racing class was tediously slow. Only at 150CC did the game deliver enough speed to expose the kart's subtle handling qualities. To save on memory, later circuits had to re-use graphics from earlier ones. More significantly, there wasn't space to provide an optimised, full-screen version so one player mode used the same split-screen perspective as the two player mode. Finally, even all these compromises didn't change the fact that the Super NES is a 2-D machine. Its Mode 7 trickery was limited to rotating entirely flat landscapes, albeit brilliantly disguised with clever track design and 2-D obstacles.
Challenging, but silly-looking in one player mode, it took persistence and competitively-minded friends to unearth one of the world's best multiplayer games.
Back to the Future
Work began on the N64 sequel long before the console's hardware was complete. Its importance to Nintendo was twofold: firstly, it provided the company with a guaranteed mega-hit to follow the launch titles. Secondly, it emphasised the N64's unique support for four joypads - one of the features the company was keen to associate with next level, 64-bit gaming. Just as Super Mario Kart's perfectly balanced two player mode made it at least twice as good as its rivals, Nintendo expected a similar multiplication of popularity with the sequel's four-player mode.
Shigeru Miyamoto was, inevitably, the game's producer but his commitment to Mario 64 and managing overseas projects, such as Paradigm's PilotWings 64, left little time spare. Fortunately, in Hideki Konno he had a Nintendo veteran who could direct the project with minimal supervision.
From the start, Konno saw his principal objective as realising all the ideas they'd had for the original game, but couldn't be handled by a 16-bit machine. True 3-D tracks, complete with tunnels and spectacular jumps were an obvious starting point for the sequel. Ample cart memory also meant there needn't be any reusing of graphics - each of the 16 race tracks would have their own unique look this time.
Konno's conservative approach contrasted sharply with the revolutionary tack Miyamoto was pursuing with Mario 64, but then again Mario Kart was from the start a 3-D game engine and didn't need such a radical overhaul. Moreover, reworking the circuits in true 3- D, while retaining enough horsepower to run a four player mode, would push the N64 hardware considerably further than Mario 64. Despite Konno's devotion to the original 16-bit concept, by the time of Mario Kart 64's completion he felt moved to stress the game's difference.
Luigi Circuit 717m
A simple starter circuit consisting of a figure of eight with two very gentle 180° turns. The N64's 3-D trickery is limited to a gentle, Daytona-like bank to one turner and a dipping straight through a nicely lit tunnel. Further interest is provided by a balloon which rises and falls with a power-up temptingly suspended underneath - collect it and you'll always get a Bowser Shell.
Moí Moí Farm 527m
After Luigi Circuit's conventional layout, the Farm offers a wacky change of pace. In plan view it's a simplistic, slightly irregular oval. In play, it's a very broad, incredibly bumpy stretch of terrain which novices can easily get lost on. Watch out too for kamikaze moles who cheerily pop out of their burrows to upset karts which drive over their homes.
Noko Noko Beach 691m
A cheery breeze around the beaches of a mini-island. Tiny crabs amble about to provide skid-inducing hazards, but observant players will notice two crucial shortcuts: one with a semi-submerged stretch of land across a bay, another a leap into a tunnel through the middle of the island.
Kara Kara Desert 753m
A loose, figure of eight track intersects with a simple oval railroad track. In one-player mode, the beautifully detailed locomotive pulls a string of carriages which sadly disappear in multi-player mode. Either way, the train only rarely interferes with the flow of play. The openness of the track puts the emphasis on combat, but the narrow track makes for a mean speed trial.
Kinopio Highway 1036m
What sort of nutter sets a mini-kart race on a busy highway? Alongside the Koopa's Castle, this is the game's most technically impressive track with eight karts nipping in between a stream of huge juggernauts, school buses and cars. The lack of slowdown is highly impressive, and weaving between such massive vehicles is exciting fun. On the other hand, getting shot by a 'friend' and then run over by one car immediately followed by another can be annoying. Aside from the traffic, the track is a little dull - if it were more exciting it might also be impossible - so this isn't quite the thrill you might expect. On the other hand, this is the one circuit which delivers a real surprise in Mirror Mode: the traffic switches direction and comes straight at you!
Frappe Snowland 734m
A beautiful-looking circuit complete with an ice statue of Mario and falling snow which looks gorgeous in one player mode. The track layout is relatively gentle and the snow isn't that slippy - it's the cute little snowmen which provide the real challenge. These chappies sit with just their heads poking up, but when driven over quickly pop up and send the offending kart tumbling into the air. Avoiding these guys requires quick, precise driving.
Choco Mountain 687m
A highly entertaining little track with tots of bumpy hills, a narrow mountain side turn and a great muddy feel for fast, aggressive action. There's even a rockslide, although only the most careless drivers will get flattened by the handful of rocks which tumble down.
Mario Circuit 567m
This is the game's second shortest circuit with broad run-off areas and only the gentlest of inclines and banked turns. Fast and simple. So why did Nintendo select this circuit for their Japanese time trial tournament? Power-slides. Speed around using the normal controls and this is a very bland track. Use power-slides and it's a heart-stopping test of split-second reactions, slicing through hairpin turns with millimetres to spare, the wheelspin smoke burning yellow then red. Although there are no significant hazards, the track itself is narrow and demanding for true speed demons.
Wario Stadium 1591m
The second-longest circuit is played out in a huge mud-track arena complete with one crucial leap (miss it and you drop on the track about a third back on your original position). Initially, the circuit can seem a bit too long, but lots of corners and the slippery, muddy track are ideal for mastering those power-slides. Add in some outrageously hilly terrain and you've got Nintendo's masterful take on Sega Rally.
Sherbet Land 756m
A short, fast course with some tight corners all played out on ice. Judging how close you can get to the edge isn't easy, particularly with huge, mad penguins slidin' about for fun. Fall in the water and you're pulled out encased in ice-amusing, if only for your competitors!
Peach Circuit 1025m
A deceptively tricky, demanding course with a particularly nasty pair of hairpin bends leading into the main straight - a large lake provides a watery reception for the careless. On the right of the game's largest leap is Princess Peach's Castle, which also plays host to the reward ceremony. It's exactly the same as in Super Mario 64, but is here sadly uninteractive.
Bowser Castle 777m
Proof positive of just what the N64 can do. Huge Thwomp cubes whirl about overhead, rush into the distance and then slam down on your head just as you're negotiating a particularly nasty turn. A couple of narrow bridges and a leap over bubbling lava, plus a fire-breathing Bowser statue all add to the fun. Although a little overwhelming initially, it soon reveals itself to be an extremely fast and fun track. Unlike the similarly ambitious motorway, this is a real classic you'll return to again and again.
Donkey Jungle Park 893mm
A wild, riotous track which consists of a long river jump, a tight corner located in a cave and some very fast twisting turns through the jungle. The latter are spiced up by rocks bouncing about in the jungle, veer off track and these provide a disorientating pounding for the careless.
Yoshi Valley 772m
An agreeably confusing track with most of its length consisting of numerous different routes running through a canyon infested with bizarre, hedgehog creatures. The shortest route is, of course, the most difficult and gives players an admirable insight into the precision of the N64's 3D with kart wheels slippin' and slidin' on the edge of some very long drops!
Hyuudoro House 747m
Something of a homage to the original: an entirely flat wooden track suspended over icy water. The fact that some barriers have been left off tight corners makes for some hair-raising corners, while a bat-infested ghost house is particularly tricky if you've just been magically shrunk!
Rainbow Road 2000m
The track you loved to hate on the original - a long, fiendishly twisted course with no barriers, no run-off areas: only your skill kept you on track. The 64bit version is even longer and twistier, but sadly there's barriers along every metre of its 2000m length. It's impossible to fall off, except if you drift off on one long jump. A huge chain-chomp enemy whizzes about, boasting a beautiful mirror finish, but aside from this and some lovely neon graphics in the sky this is a real disappointment. Still, all the loop bits and slidey track make for some awesome power-slides.
Just like its illustrious forebear, first impressions of Mario Kart 64 are misleading. Once again, the 50cc class can be regarded as toddler fodder and should be ignored unless you want to spend time sight-seeing. 100cc is adequate for getting to grips with the courses and control system, but in very short order only 150cc will do.
The overall emphasis of the game is very much on four player mode which is undoubtedly its strongest point. The slower frame update, and consequently reduced responsiveness, don't so much harm the game as perfect it. The game is never so demanding, never so fast-feeling as when operating under these limitations. It's the first game I've seen which doesn't just work in four-player split-screen mode, it actually soars and is brilliantly, irresistibly playable.
A wider, more powerful range of power-ups, with the really powerful weapons invariably provided to those in last place, mean players of varying ability can play together much more easily than the original. However experienced you are, however far in front your are, you can never totally relax with so much wacky mayhem exploding behind you. The Battle Mode variation does make you aware of how small your individual screen is, but the richness of four player gameplay more than compensates: 'yes, of course we're a team... oops!'
Without three or four players the game's strengths remain, but the compromises become more evident. The most obvious of these is in the graphics. Preview shots of Kinopio Highway's traffic and Kara Kara Desert's locomotive suggested an outrageous new level of 3-D trickery and excitement. The reality is considerably different with just two tracks delivering on this promise. Bowser Castle is an unbelievable riot with huge Thwomp cubes whirling all about the place. At first it seems too much, even the screen shuddering as the cubes crash down, but with practice it becomes excellent fun.
Kinopio Highway, by contrast, looks excellent but is ultimately one of the less interesting tracks - not least for the way it transfers attention from interplayer combat to simply avoiding traffic. Perhaps because of this, other extravagant 3-D creations such as the riverboat, rock slide and locomotive are all limited to looking pretty, while affecting gameplay barely at all. In four player mode there's no need for such distractions, but in two or one player mode you keep waiting for surprises which never appear.
Similarly, some of the arenas in Battle Mode can seem a little too spacious for less than four players, even if the increased range of power-ups and 3-D terrain makes it far superior to the original 16-bit version.
In Versus or Grand Prix mode, however, this wide range of firepower can seem initially overwhelming. The wildness of the combat, especially with the bias of power-ups against leaders, is fun but blunts the precision of Super Mario Kart and can make the tracks seem dull by comparison. It's all very enjoyable, but some of the original's buzz seems lost.
16-bit veterans should persist with the game, though, because under the gentle, forgiving surface there really is the 'wolf in sheep's clothing' which its director has talked about. The key to getting a hard-edged, adrenaline-pumping racing game is the power-slides. Faster and more sophisticated than anything seen in Super Mario Kart, they emphasise just how much thought has gone into both handling and track design. Using this technique, even the most bland seeming tracks suddenly take on a fiendish challenge. While novices will have a ball fooling around with the firepower, experienced gamers will discover there's a real race game underneath. Overall, Mario Kart 64 undoubtedly delivers on its promise of unrivalled four-player gameplay. In other modes, a consequent conservatism lessens the immediate impact but the familiar richness of gameplay, and plenty of underlying depth, ensures in no department does the game disappoint. It's simply awesome fun and, once again, the more you play, the more you enjoy.
It was a pleasure to play this one...play it again and again. Another winner comes to the Nintendo 64 direct from Nintendo. When a game is this good, where can I start? Since I only have one gripe I'll start there. I really wanted more battle tracks. If there were at least two or three more I'd be more pleased (let's hope for secret tracks!). Other than that, the game was perfect. The graphics were flawless and the sound fits the game nicely--both in effects and music. All of the different modes make for even more replay value even though it already has plenty. The characters are good choices as well. Need I say it--Mario Kart 64 rocks!
Once in a while, a game comes along that's so much fun to play, that you'll look past all its problems. Mario Kart 64 fits that bill. What's wrong with the game? The power-ups are unbalanced, and they help out the trailing players too much (let the losers suffer in the back!). The lightning bolt is cheap and, when used in certain stages at certain times, can pretty much insure a win for its user. But who cares! The game is a blast and takes over Super Bomberman for my favorite multiplayer game of all time. This game is several times better than the Super NES classic, and that's saying a lot. This is a reason to buy an N64.
Does MK64 offer the dead-on control, sizable selection of racers, multiplayer thrills and secret-packed tracks of the 16-Bit original? Yes, yes, yes and... well, almost Control with the analog pad is outstanding, although players used to the old joypads may find themselves tap, tap, tapping the stick around corners. You'll need to buy several controllers, too, since the game's Two- to Four-player Modes give it sky-high replay value. My only gripe is the track design. The 16 courses-which reverse when you beat the game-are long for sure, but they don't pack quite as many secrets and shortcuts as the original.
Once again, Nintendo comes away with another show-stopping title that captures your interest and keeps you coming back for more. While best experienced with four players, I found great enjoyment even with one-player games. The computer's Al has improved dramatically, with fewer cheap weapons thrown your way. I also liked how the courses changed slightly to increase difficulty for hardcore gamers (fewer or no barriers at higher CCs). I sorely miss the feather power-up and hidden shortcuts, however, and the miniscule selection of courses left me greatly disappointed. The sequel had better be HUGE.
Mario Kart 64 is one of the most highly anticipated N64 games yet. Why is everyone so excited about this title? Mainly one reason: four player battle races!
Sure the graphics are leaps and bounds over its 16-bit predecessor. And sure the kart handling will be all the much better with the N64 analogue controls. But you can't have more fun than racing (and pushing off the road) three of your friends.
You can play a strict race, where the first player to finish all the laps win. But as any Mario Kart fan could tell you, that's not where the true fun is. The battle mode is a type of race as well, but this is a race to beat up your opponents the quickest. You can run around the track and pick up various power-ups and weapons to help in this goal.
One notable improvement over the old Mario Kart is that you can now gather more than one weapon. For example, you can carry six bananas around at a time.
There are over 20 courses in Mario Kart 64, some more interesting than others. P One of the more impressive locations f is the inside of the Princess' castle. Imagine racing around, trying to avoid big Thom Blocks at the same time.
To coincide with the release or Mario Kart 64, Nintendo will be shipping a special edition, controller. What's so special about this new joypad? So far, absolutely nothing except that it will be split colored (black on top, gray on the bottom). These controllers are to be bundled with the Japanese version; we'll have to wait to see if the American version will get a pack-in controller as well.
Mario Kart 64 should be hitting American shores by February 1997.
NTVIC's Fastest Lap is an authentic Formula-1 racing simulation. An added feature is that players can design and build their cars from the tires up and race them.
People moan about our score, but MK64 isn't as good as the SNES version, and the cheating racers do spoil things. So nur!
The multiplayer modes are outstanding and you'll still find yourself racing the one-player tracks long after you've beaten the game.
Something of a disappointment, considering how good its Super NES forebear was. Mario Kart 64 is fun at first, but the computer-controlled players cheat to an obscene degree (no matter how fast you are, they always catch up in moments) and some of the tracks provide nothing but irritation instead of challenge. Still good for multi-player racing, though!