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Mario Kart 64 Package Art
GENRE
Racing
DEVELOPER
EAD
PUBLISHER
Nintendo
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1-4
CONTROLLER PAK
no
RUMBLE PAK
no
RAM PAK
no
BUY NOW AT

Mario Kart 64

The sequel to Nintendo's classic SNES racer has finally hit the United States. And if you're into multi-player gaming and you haven't picked it up yet, I suggest you shut down your computer and do it now! This game is multi-player mayhem at its best.

The graphics are N64-typically smooth, and faithfully represent Mario's cartoon world. Some levels look a little dull (with not enough detail) and too "pilotwingsy," but others like Bowser's Castle are really a sight to behold. The game mixes polygon graphics and sprites (like Doom 64). For example, the drivers are all pre-rendered sprites, and look pretty good unless you get too close... But the use of sprites didn't stop Nintendo from implementing lighting effects: When you drive into a tunnel, your driver gets darker, when you drive by lava you turn red and when you fall into the icy water you look blue.

visuals

As with all Mario games, there are plenty of imaginative enemies, like those pesky moles, the giant barking ball thingy, bats, hedgehogs, walking bombs and of course the obligatory Miyamoto penguins. But there's more: In the desert level you have to watch out not to crash into an old steam train (Number 64, no less) and in Toad's Highway level, there are even big trucks and cars driving around with you. It's this attention to detail and originality that makes Nintendo games such a delight. The track design is pretty good, too. There are a total of 16 (plus four battle arenas) with plenty of shortcuts (tunnels) and branching roads. Unfortunately, one of my favorite tracks from the SNES version, Rainbow Road, got messed up. Nintendo decided to fence the road in, which means you can't fall off any more--but you also can't push off your enemies...

audio

The music sounds surprisingly well, with some memorable tunes, cool stereo effects and a great, booming bass in the ghost house and bowser levels. The sound effects are of equally high quality. The karts sound like they should and all characters talk quite a bit. I especially like Wario's spiteful laughter when one of his traps work.

gameplay

The game setup and feel is very much like its predecessor, only this time everything looks a whole lot better, with tracks going up and down hills and through tunnels and buildings. You can race in a Grand Prix against seven other (computer) drivers, try to beat your best times in "Time Trials," or take part in a vicious multi-player battle mode. Like in SNES Mario Kart, there are three different kart classes; 50cc, 100cc and 150cc. The higher, the faster (but the same holds true for your adversaries as well). You also get to choose from eight Miyamoto characters with slightly different attributes: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Wario, Donkey Kong and Bowser. The heavier drivers slow down more when they drive on grass or mud, whereas the lighter guys can get knocked out easier.

Apart from being able to accelerate, brake and skid, you can also pick up items, like bananas, turtle shells and invicibility stars to take out your enemies. The items are largely the same as in the old Mario Kart, but the feather has been dropped. Instead you can get a spiky, homing turtle shell that goes directly after the leading driver and a fake item box, that blows people up when they drive through it. The ghost item steals your enemies power-ups and makes you invisible for a short time, the mushroom gives you turbo boosts and the lightning bolt shrinks the other drivers so that you can squash them. A new addition is also the ability to get three green or red turtle shells at the same time, which can spin around your kart acting like a shield.

The one player mode is pretty fun, but it's not where the game's strengths lie. Everything was laid out for competitive multi-player races and battles. For example, from the very beginning all GPs are freely selectable and all courses are available for "Time Trials." The motivation to "finally get to that one darn ice-level," like in Wave Race 64, is not there. But plug in up to four controllers and you discover what this game really is about.

Some players have complained that the game is easier than its predecessor because of wider tracks and offers less technique--which is certainly true for the lower classes. But if you want to succeed in the 150cc class (and drive all courses in mirror mode), you have to learn to skid well (it doesn't slow your kart down) and utilize mini turbos (a combination of skidding and moving your 3D stick). One of the differences of MK64 from its predecessor is the stress of action / use of items over racing. This usually makes the race more interesting because you don't know who will win until the very end, but it can also become annoying when countless computer cars suddenly catch up with you by using turbo boosts or the like (some people say "by cheating"). And two more minor quibbles: Although the cart saves your driving records, you can't enter your name like in Wave Race. And even when two drivers tie in a GP, Player 1 gets awarded 1st place -- which often leads to screaming, kicking, and broken thumbs.

multiplayer

When playing with two players, either in GP or in Time Trial mode, the screen is split horizontally in two. Nintendo did a really great job here in preserving the high detail level and frame rate of the one player mode! For example, there are really nice ice reflections in the snow levels--and naturally I expected those to be gone in the multi-player modes. But nope, the reflections are there, even when racing with four players. Of course, the multi-player modes have to cut a couple of corners here and there, e.g. the train in the desert level is shorter, but it's nothing noticable.

In the four player mode, things can get a little tiny unless you have a big TV screen. You can either do four player races or battle it out in one of four arenas. If you're playing with three or four players, the gameplay here truly rivals Bomber Man! Like in the SNES MK, every driver has three ballons. When they are gone, you're gone. The last remaining player wins. At first I was sceptical about the inclusion of a radar where you can see the other players--but believe me, you'll need it (and it doesn't detract from the fun). I started playing with a couple of friends on the day MK64 came out and we didn't stop until the morning hours. Nintendo knows that the four joystick ports are an important feature of the N64, and they've added great features to make the three or four player battles worth your while. For example, when one player dies, he turns into a little bomb with wheels that can crash into another driver and have his final revenge. A little suggestion though: Play Battle Mode either with two or three players, and go for the Versus Race with four players, since it gets a little slow with four player battles.

overall

Although it doesn't break any new grounds in originality (like Mario 64), Mario Kart 64 is a great addition to the N64 line-up. The solid graphics, good sound, and addictive gameplay--coupled with features like being able to race yourself (from a former race) in a special ghost mode--make you want to play it forever. If you primarily race alone, Wave Race 64 would be the game of choice. Otherwise, Mario Kart 64 is a must-have. The only draw-back is that you'll be speaking with Italian accents before long... And now leta me go-e, I have an appointmente witha three verry, verry deade people.

final score 9.0/10





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Staff Avatar Peer Schneider
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