here we go!!

At college, my room was part of a suite in a tiny brownstone with about 20 students in it. I had about the biggest TV in the house, so I put it in our suite’s common room along with my N64. It must’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of hours of use playing 007 and MarioKart. When I got the Cube and put the N64 away, Kart was one of the games I missed the most. My wife and I were still playing it pretty regularly, but I hoped something else would fill its place. There were a number of contenders, but we were both eagerly awaiting the new Mario Kart.

During the months leading up to the (far too late-in-cycle) release of Double Dash, I got more and more anxious. The new two-character concept seemed totally cool, but the goofy kart design seemed dumb. The supposedly slower karts seemed bad, but the graphics promised to be great. And so on. The whole LAN situation seemed like a bad joke. When the lackluster reviews came out, I started to feel really worried, but I picked the game up on release day and ran home to see how it really played.

The game looked great, and the controls and response felt right. The only troubling thing was the speed, which did seem a bit slow compared to MK64–until I remembered that I always played that at 150cc and was playing MKDD at 50cc. With the cranked up engines, everything seemed much better. In fact, the engine speeds worked out perfectly as levels of difficulty. At 50cc, I cruised through the levels with no difficulty. At 100cc, I had to work for my gold. I’m still trying to win things at 150cc.

Every gold cup brings with it an unlockable. Most of these are new karts. Since karts have actual statistics in MKDD, this matters. There are also some unlockable race modes, arenas, and racers. Once again, I am disappointed in both the quantity and the quality of a Nintendo game’s unlockables. There are a total of four unlockable characters, maybe eight karts, and very little else worth mentioning. Super Smash Brothers Melee was like a giant piñata of Nintendo goodness. Not only did it mean the game was packed with crazy options, but it gave me reasons to keep playing and pushing myself. Mario Kart offers much less of both, and I resent it. Sure, MK64 had almost nothing to unlock, but Nintendo set the bar high with SSBM. Now they need to maintain the same high level of awesomeness.

The same goes for other tidbits of SSBM strangely left out of subsequent Nintendo games: quirky gameplay modes, scenarios, and /of course/ the incredible tournament mode. I think trophies would be a fine addition, too. They were a great motivator in SSBM, and they were fun (as figurines) in Zelda.

So, maybe I agree with the reviewers, so far. It’s a great game, but it just doesn’t live up to what Nintendo (and HAL) showed is possible. I’m hoping that it will really kick ass with four players. Too bad I can’t play them over the internet.

Written on November 25, 2003
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