bill-swift - December 11, 2013
Super Mario Kart, as we know, kicked all kinds of ass. We don't need Ron Burgundy walking around that office with his massive erection, telling us that it was kind of a big deal. Unorthodox as it was, the game's success sparked all manner of half-assed imitations. Everyone from Crash Bandicoot to the Crazy effing Frog had their own kart racer.
The question, then, was where did Mario Kart itself go from there? Four years after the first release, the horde of clones hadn't yet arrived. With a spangly new Nintendo console doing the rounds, it was time to try to replicate that swear-inducing, blue-shell-up-your-ass-on-the-final-straight magic.
Let's party like it's 1996, and take another look at Mario Kart 64.
This installment made changes to the slightly crazy-ass character roster of the original. Donkey Kong Jr, after all, was nothing more than the famous ape in a shit-stained Die Hard vest, so the switch to the standard Kong was more than welcome. Also new here was Wario, Mario's slightly sex-criminal-y counterpart. He replaced both Koopa Troopa and Kamek (who featured in the early builds), neither of whom we gave much of a shit about.
As such, the 64 release established the core crop of characters Mario Kart still offers, though with none of the unlockable freaks who would surface later in the series. When the newest game, 3DS's Mario Kart 7, offers obscure ballaches like Honey Queen, we're not missing much there anyway.
But anywho, 1996 saw the franchise's first tentative steps into 3D. Much like Super Mario 64, this was a bold step into an even more ridiculously colorful, toon-tastic world. Also much like Super Mario 64, it has aged horrendously. That's just a sad fact of gaming though: lovingly drawn 2D art has a kind of timeless quality, while 3D is doomed to look about as attractive as a rottweiler's asshole in a few scant years.
In terms of gameplay, though, this was quite the step forward. No more need for Mode 7 (a sort of primitive ‘rotating background' effect to give the illusion of turning and such) gave scope for far more interesting tracks. Jumps and cannily hidden shortcuts were now possible, and everything was much more vibrant. Except the relentlessly brown brownly brown of Choco Mountain. There was too much damn brown going on, right there.
Time hasn't been kind to Mario Kart 64. Indeed, time has been a big ol' bastard to Mario Kart 64. Still, it has that great nostalgia factor of the most beloved retro games. Remember trying to make that damn jump on Koopa Troopa Beach? Or wondering why in holy hell your kart makes a Batman-style ‘pooomp' sound as it lands? Of course you do. You always will.
Finally, here's a nightmarish and bizarre commercial for your delectation:
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