One of the most difficult aspects of this industry is coming up with a unique concept that sets you apart from your rivals. Back in 1992 (Europe) games were moving into next gear and the competition was fierce. SEGA was all but making a mocking of Nintendo, or at least attempting it with their Nintendon’t campaign, but Nintendo had the last laugh. Super Mario Kart formed part of that triumph result.
Car games were all about realism with games like Outrun and Super Hang On providing a glimpse of where games were heading. Nintendo had other plans. They were focussed on the ‘fun’ aspect of games, and with that Super Mario Kart was born. Nintendo took Mario and all his buddies and threw, what looked like oversized giant puppets, into tiny karts. It was the birth of the kart racer. How has it held up for over 20 years and is it worth a Virtual Console purchase on the Wii U?
I’m not going to lie, up to this very point I’ve never played the game, hence my nostalgia can’t ruin the moment of gigantic pixels on my 47″ television. Yes, it’s certainly not aged well when it comes to the visual appeal on the larger LED TV’s of today, but that’s why the Wii U comes bundled with the Gamepad. It’s the perfect combination to get cracking at the 50cc races, the slowest ‘n00b’ level. So, here I was, a self-proclaimed Mario Kart Veteran taking on the Mushroom Cup, made out of five races… and I got my ass handed to me. People, the older retro games were indeed tougher than anything out there today.
After much licking of wounds you’ll eventually get your gold cup in 50cc Mushroom, Flower and Star Cup. It’s then on to the 100cc. If you thought the 50cc was tough you’re in for a surprise. It’s as tough as nails and the cast of eight characters (seven rivals) will do their utmost to CHEAT. Especially Koopa Troopa. No matter what happens, he’s always right on your tail. And if it’s not him it’s that furry Donkey Kong ape. Red Shells never miss and Green Shells somehow have the ability of homing in on you (Read: AI Cheating Bastards!). There is good reason for going through all this hardship – you’ll open the Special Cup if you obtain a gold cup in all of the cups.
What sets this even further ahead of its time is the fact that the screen is split in two. You virtually have a “widescreen” viewpoint of the racing on the top half and a map in real-time on the bottom. So peeking at the lower part of the screen gives you an idea of your rivals positioning on the track. When there’s an incoming threat (Read: Koopa Troopa) the lower half of the screen will switch to the action that’s taking place behind you. That’s innovation that’s not even available in modern day Mario Kart games.
It’s a massive amount of fun to play and really does feel more at home on the gamepad. Add another player into the mix and the rivalry is as strong as it ever was. It might have aged over the years when it comes to visuals, but it’s one of the better 16-bit showcases of 3D you’ll find on any platform. It’s simply Super.