Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mario Kart Memories, pt. 2 - Mario Kart 64 (N64)

This is part two of a feature on the history of Mario Kart. Today we take a look back at Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64.

One of the best features of the N64 was that it had four controllers ports built-in, which was unheard of at the time. This allowed four players to compete without the need for extra hardware. Mario Kart 64 took advantage of this by allowing four-player split-screen racing. And it was glorious.

Mario Kart took 3D racing head-on by providing some insane tracks designs. Race through Moo Moo Farm while avoiding moles. Drive through Christmastown in Frappe Snowland. Or face traffic head-on in Toad's Turnpike. Insanity achieved.

Battle mode is also amazing. The block fort, the skyscraper, the donut... Mario Kart 64 probably has the best battle tracks of any Mario Kart. The block fort in particular is excellent because you can hang out at the top of a fort and launch green shells to the bottom and watch people try and avoid a swirling green sea of death.

First Played: The first time I played Mario Kart 64 was at a demo station in Wal-Mart. The track was Yoshi Valley. For those who don't know (shame on you), this track has multiple paths, so you can go in any direction you want. In fact, the leaderboard just shows a bunch of question marks since rankings can drastically change throughout the race. Plus, there are few rails. All ingredients for a good time.

As a stupid teenager, this track was very difficult. I believe I finished one lap in just a shade under 5 minutes. I was very proud of myself at the time. Later, I would sneak into my older brother's room when he was at work and try to get a few races in. He only caught me twice, which means I only got beat up twice. Worth it.

A couple of years later, I got my own job, and Mario Kart 64 was one of the first games I bought. My younger brother and I would stay up all night playing Kalamari Desert, talking about having our friend Steelbutt get our football out of the sewer. Don't ask. It was very late.

Regardless, Mario Kart 64 holds a very large place in my heart as one of the best multiplayer games of all time, even though most of my friends stopped playing it with me. It's not my fault they suck so bad.

Best Track: Koopa Troopa Beach - Mario Kart 64 has some of the best tracks of any Mario Kart game, but Koopa Troopa Beach is the best in my mind. Like Ghost Valley 1 (SNES), you can skip a big portion of the track if you have a mushroom. In fact, if you're playing on 150cc, you can actually do it without a mushroom if you do it just right. I've played this level thousands of times, and I always get noobs complaining that I use this trick. That is why I love this level. For pwning noobs. And that's not the only secret. If you can grab the box at the top of the big mound by the palm trees, you will get a Blue Shell, regardless of what place you are in. And yes, I have obtained this item while in first place and used it on myself. Deal with it.

Best New Item: Triple Red Shells - Mario Kart 64 had a ton of great new items (like the Golden Mushroom; sweet), but I have to give the nod to the Triple Red Shells. They orbit around the player like a protective barrier. Not only that, but you can launch a shell whenever you want and it will home in on the closest player. Plus, in this version of Mario Kart, if you're in first and you launch a red shell, it will roam around the level until it runs into someone or something. That's pretty rad. Naturally, this is a very desirable weapon in Battle Mode.

(Mario Kart 64 is available on Wii Virtual Console for $10.00)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best one ever! :) this is the Mario Kart I grew up with. So fun! :)