Review: Mario Kart 64 (N64)

In this review, we power slide our way through the game Mario Kart 64. We find out if this N64 racing game is worth playing again.

This game was released in 1997 and would be a sequel to the SNES version, Super Mario Kart.

There are many things that make a return in this version. This includes the characters that were previously playable. In this game, each character has subtle strengths and weaknesses. The ideal character does depend largely on your racing style.

The item you can get are very similar to what you can get in the SNES version. This includes a mushroom for speed boost, banana peels to cause your opponents to spin out, and shells to knock your opponents off their wheels and crash. This game also includes a blue shell that can hit multiple opponents at once and a gold mushroom that gives you unlimited boosts for a limited period of time. A major difference in this game is that items aren’t collected from squares found on the ground. Instead, they are collected from batches of floating question mark boxes that replenish themselves. Another major improvement is that computer opponents can now use the same items you use as opposed to just having their own sets of weaponry to use on you. This was definitely a much-needed improvement.

Another element that makes a return are the difficulty ratings. These are found on the grand prix mode where they are split into three: 50cc (easy), 100cc (medium), and 150cc (hard). Also making their return are the different cups. The cups that are found in this game are the mushroom cup, the flower cup, the star cup, and the special cup. If you win in the special cup on 150cc, you’ll be awarded with the credits and you get to unlock the “extra” difficulty along with a new menu background. The extra difficulty is basically 150cc, but everything is mirrored. While in some races, this isn’t a huge deal, but on some races, there are major changes that make racing far more difficult. On toad’s turnpike, for instance, the traffic on the road now drives towards you as opposed to away.

There’s plenty of things to give a thumbs up to in this game. for one, it retains a lot of what made the SNES game so great. There are the characters that allow you to find your own racing style. There’s the nice sizable selection of courses in each race. Each race has plenty to offer in terms of a racing experience. An improvement over the previous game is the fact that the number of laps is nice and uniform to 3 laps. The ending was nicely done. The game is approachable at the 50cc level and challenges you at the 150cc level. The only real downside to this game is the fact that it doesn’t manage to break away from the menu system. There’s also a complete lack of a story involved here. So, I would say that this isn’t as mind blowing as Diddy Kong Racing, but it was definitely enjoyable in its own right.

Generally speaking, the gameplay is quite solid and is definitely something I would go back and play again from time to time. It has a lot going for it. There’s plenty of great elements it carried over from the SNES version. So, a very successful transition from the quasi 3D 2D environment into the more fully 3D world.

Graphically, this game is definitely great. I really like how this game has such vibrant colors. The environments in this game are very well realized as each track really has a life of its own. My own complaint is the fact that this game does rely a little too heavily on 2D sprites. The award ceremony cutscene does look a little silly with all the characters still in their karts. Still, a great effort here.

One place this game really shines in is the audio. The sound effects work quite well. The small amounts of speech sampling are enough to give this game plenty of personality without being overbearing. Then there is the music. I thought the music was amazing. The fact that just about every track has its own music was impressive, but the fact that the quality was so high was even more impressive. Things like the music behind the end credits and rainbow road really knocks it out of the park for me. So, fantastic here.

So, overall, this was a great game to play. It doesn’t quite break out of the menu system and it has a complete lack of story, however, the gameplay itself worked very well. It’s both approachable to new players and challenging to the experienced racer. This game kept a lot of what made the SNES version great and adds small things here and there to help make this game a better experience. The graphics do rely on 2D sprites a little too much, but the environments were very well realized in each track. The audio was excellent. Overall, this was definitely a great game to play and is definitely a recommended one.

Furthest point in game: Beat Extra difficulty on all cups.

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 84%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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