Monday, November 5, 2012

Those Forgotten Mario Kart Games Play Like a Dream

A few weeks back, I took the train down to meet some friends in Long Beach. They were delayed in picking me up, however, so I toddled to where people were and found a living, breathing arcade — one that had the arcade Mario Kart games, no less. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who loves Mario Kart more than I do, yet I’d never actually played these games, just because I’d never encountered them before. Finally seeing them, brightly colored and zippy as Mario Kart games tend to be, I knew what I had to do: sit down and play until my ride arrived.

The curious thing about Mario Kart Aracade GP, however, is that it were developed by Namco, the company that made Pac-Man, and only published by Nintendo. As a result, you can play as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Blinky the ghost in addition to the usual Mario crew — and in the sequel, you can even race as a Tamagotchi, like you always wrote about doing in your Mario Kart fanfic.

And as another result, the following description that I gave to my friends and caused myself to sound like someone who’d abused cold medication: “It was actually pretty cool. There was this one stage where you were racing through, though this little pastoral scene, and then you drive into the crotch of a tree and it looks like a Disneyland dark ride, and then all of a sudden you’re going through what’s clearly supposed to be one of the Pac-Man mazes, only it’s three dimensional, and moving around you are the sprites from the original Pac-Man, only they’re three dimensional too, but still blocky, and they’re moving around you. But it’s only for a few seconds, and then the scene shifts and you’re back in the field and oh my god, I sound like I’m describing some weird, nerdy dream I had, but I swear that’s what actually happened.”

That’s what I said, more or less, but importantly it wasn’t some weird, nerdy dream. Here’s the proof:

If you’re comparing the game to the “real” Mario Kart games — the ones Nintendo acknowledge and re-create for retro courses in new games — you’d probably notice that the courses are a little bland. That said, the level of detail around you is amazing to the point that you almost want to blow the race in order to see what you’re zooming past.

Check out the Yoshi Park course, which plays like an actual amusement park:

The game is also expensive as hell to play — a major minus — but you have to nod approvingly in the direction of a Mario Kart that allows you to infect your opponents with the viruses from Dr. Mario.

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