Blast from the Past: Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA / Wii U)
The Mario Kart franchise has evolved significantly over the past ten years. With all the progression that has occurred over the years it’s difficult to argue that, at the time, Mario Kart: Super Circuit was one of the top handheld games of its time.
Essentially, Mario Kart: Super Circuit is an updated version of Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo. The handling is a lot more sensitive and takes quite some time to master. I’ll openly admit that after becoming accustomed to the tight controls in later handheld Mario Kart titles it took me some time to get accustomed to the controls, specifically around sharp corners. There are eight unique characters to choose from with some being more accessible than others. The heavier character such as Bowser, Wario and Donkey Kong weigh far more than the lighter characters, who in turn handles far easier. The faster characters such as Peach and Toad might do better in the straight sections but you’ll need to invest some time with them before mastering those slippery corners.
Super Circuit consists of three different modes: Grand Prix, Time Attack, and Quick Run. Grand Prix is what has become the staple of the Mario Kart franchise and is made up of five cups; Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Lightning Cup, Star Cup and the Special Cup. Each cup is made up of four courses. Shy Guy Beach, Cheese Land, Bowsers Castle are a few of the iconic tracks available on Super Circuit (you might remember some of the courses you would have played on Mario Kart games released thereafter). The AI in the Grand Prix mode is nowhere near as cheap than that found in Mario Kart 64, but still provides a decent challenge, especially throughout the 150cc races. As you’d expect the 50cc and 100cc are a lot easier but going back to this, now, retro title you’ll probably need these easier engine classes to get used to the aged mechanics. The Time Trial allows you to race without any pesky competitors and set your best lap times while the Quick Run is single player versus mode that lets you race on any track you’ve unlocked. The number of laps and return of coins and item boxes can be toggled on/off. Not much of an extra mode.
A reoccurring theme with GBA virtual console titles is the lack of multiplayer. Nintendo could design a clever way to integrate the system in a similar fashion to the GBA link cable, but this isn’t worth their while it seems. Unfortunately this isn’t the only shortcoming to Super Circuit. The larger the screen the larger the pixels that are hurting your eyes in this particular title. This can be overcome by playing on the Wii U Gamepad, but why not then rather just purchase Super Circuit on the 3DS? This is quite a disappointment as the game was one of the best-looking games of the GBA era. On the opposite side of the spectrum, an advantage of the Wii U system is that the controls feel smooth with the pro controller, even more so than on the GBA or GBA SP.
Overall fans of the Mario Kart series should look into Super Circuit even if it is only to admire how far the series has progressed. If you are willing to invest quite a bit of time and have the patience to master the aged controls you’ll have a decent challenge on your hand. Sadly the visuals don’t translate well onto a larger screen and if visuals are the be all and end all of your experience, stay far away. If you are a fan of the franchise and are looking to challenge yourself on some superbly designed track, Mario Kart: Super Circuit is well worth the purchase.