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Mario Kart 64 Retrospective & Review

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Just to let everyone know who reads this, this is my script for my Youtube video I'm working on, but it is slightly modified that way it won't be super confusing to read.

Intro:

Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo Entertainment system kicked off the first ever Mario Kart game to ever come to a Nintendo home console. While the game was a solid first entry to the series, Super Mario Kart definitely had it’s issues. The whole 3d but not 3d thing worked, but it wasn’t ideal. Single player races were quite frustrating and unfair at times, and there were many tracks that were tweaked somewhat and renamed an entirely new track. I enjoyed Super Mario Kart, and I give credit where credit is due because I can still go back and play the game and get some fun out of it.

However, with the Super Nintendo’s life cycle coming to a close, a new Nintendo console was on the horizon. Nintendo had finally announced their next home console, the Nintendo 64. With a new console coming to home’s worldwide, new horizons were being breached. We no longer had to dream about 3D gaming, because it was finally a reality with the Nintendo 64. With the Nintendo 64’s upgraded system, 4 controller ports, and one interesting/unique controller design, the Nintendo 64 was released in June of 1996 in Japan, September 1996 in North America, and March 1997 in Europe and Australia. However, we aren’t here to talk about the Nintendo 64, but rather, we are here to discuss probably one of the games that holds the throne for nostalgia, Mario Kart 64.

(Intro x2)

Hello everyone, and welcome to another retrospective today on the channel. Obviously, we are going to be discussing Mario Kart 64, the successor to Super Mario Kart on the SNES. This game is probably almost as revered as Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, and after playing this game yet again, I can see why. There’s just so many memories that people cherish when they play a game as a kid and then replay it as an adult. It’s no wonder Nintendo is cashing in on the nostalgia train. But without further ado, let’s dive a little bit deeper into Mario Kart 64 on the Nintendo 64.

My Personal history with Mario Kart 64:

Honestly, Mario Kart 64 was a game that I played sometimes, but at the same time, it’s been so long that I can’t really recall whether or not I had a copy of this game. Ironically, I remember playing Diddy Kong Racing more as a kid, but that’s a different topic for a different video. So since I am an adult, I decided to buy another copy of Mario Kart 64 instead of paying off my student loan debt cause why not?

Basic Info/History of Mario Kart:

Mario Kart 64’s production began in 1995 under the original title of Super Mario kart R, where the r stood for rendered. This game was actually intended to be a launch title for the Nintendo 64 console, however, more resources and time were being thrown at Super Mario 64’s development, so the game was pushed back a couple of months in Japan, North America, and Europe.

Early gameplay of the game was showcased at a software exhibition in Japan on November 24th of 1995, where Miyamoto stated that the game was in fact 95% complete. However, Nintendo chose not to display a playable version due to the difficulty of demonstrating the multiplayer features that this game would offer.

With that being said, it wouldn’t be until a year later that Mario Kart 64 was released for the Nintendo 64. Mario Kart 64 is the second installment of the Mario Kart franchise and this iconic game was released in Japan on December 16th of 1996, in North America on February 10th of 1997, Europe on June 24th of 1997, and in China on the iQue player on November 17th of 2003. So it’s safe to say, when you think of the Nintendo 64, you think of Mario Kart, because the game was practically almost released with the system.

*Starting Screen*

And here we have the Nintendo logo spinning a lot and giving me motion sickness because why not.

*Let intro music play*

Ahh yes, welcome everyone, to Mario Kart 64 here on the Nintendo 64. And what does Mario Kart 64 have to offer? Well, there you go, there’s all the content right there.

Now typically there is a debate around this general topic of should all the content be available at the beginning of the game, or should you have to perform tasks to unlock other things in the game. Scott the Woz talks about this in his video on Mario Kart 64, and I must say, I kind of lean towards his viewpoint on this subject.

Sure, it’s nice to have all the stuff already unlocked in this game. For starters, you don’t have to do meaningless tasks to unlock stuff, you can pick whatever cup at whatever speed you want to play, no characters have to be unlocked and you can pick whatever character you want, etc. However, for me, having everything handed to you at the beginning really gives me no incentive to keep playing the game after I’ve completed everything. I would argue to say that a good majority of people who play video games want to at least feel somewhat accomplished when they play a game that they buy. Sure, it is an accomplishment to acquire the first place trophy in all the cups, but at the same time, I wish there was a more fulfilling sentiment when playing this game. So for me, I tend to lean on the “I want more unlockable stuff in video games” side of this discussion.

*Back to the Game Select screen*

Moving back to the Game Select Screen, I must say, I like it. It’s very compact and very organized, and for someone like myself who gets distracted easily, the more compact and neat something is, the least distracted I’m going to get.

In the Game Select Menu, you have the option for 1 player, 2 player, 3 player, and 4 player game modes, along with Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS, and Battle Modes to go along with that. Since I don’t really have anyone to play this game with, I can’t really speak on the battle and vs mode, so I’ll be focusing solely on single player gameplay. I can speak from experience, when I played this game as a younger child with my brother and friends, it was mass chaos, and it was glorious.

Character Screen:

In regards to what characters you can race with, Mario Kart offers 8 different characters for you to pick from. The game brings back fan favorites such as: Mario, Peach, Yoshi, and Luigi, while removing Donkey Kong Jr. and Koopa Troopa and replacing those two with Donkey Kong and Wario.

Interestingly enough, while the game was in development, Donkey Kong was actually not included in the character list. Kamek, one of Bowser’s minions, was actually in the game for most of the development, but at the last minute, this person was pulled from the game and instead replaced by Donkey Kong.

I’m glad they added Donkey Kong to the game because I feel that Donkey Kong was more essential to the Nintendo universe, however, it would have been interesting to see Kamek in the game.

But overall, these 8 racers are spot on for the game in my opinion.

Final Opinions on Modes and Characters

Overall, one could argue that this game lacked characters and content compared to other Mario Kart games that we have today. While I would agree with those Statements, we have to look at Mario Kart 64 in its own unique time period of when it was released. Because to me, it is quite difficult to compare games across different platforms when not only hardware improves, but so do controllers, gameplay mechanics, graphics, etc.

However, for what Mario Kart 64 was, I think the 8 characters that the game offered along with the modes they offered was more than enough content for its time period.

Gameplay Mechanics:

When it comes to the gameplay here in Mario Kart 64, you will launch into 3 different speeds which are 50cc, 100cc, 150, which are standard for every Mario Kart that’s ever been released.

In Mario Kart 64, you have 4 cups to choose from which are:

  1. The Mushroom Cup
  2. The Flower Cup
  3. The Star Cup
  4. The Special Cup

And each of these cups offers 4 unique courses each. I’ll discuss my thoughts on each specific track later on in this video though.

When it comes to mechanics of this video game…. I mean, it’s a Mario Kart game, and as well all know, Mario Kart is probably one of the easiest games for gamers and non gamers alike to pick up and just immediately start playing because of how simple it is.

*Super Mario Kart Gameplay*

First and foremost, in the first installment of this franchise, the base Super Nintendo controller did not have a joystick, so everyone was having to use a d-pad in order to maneuver their character throughout the course.

*Back to Mario Kart 64*

However, with the Nintendo 64, players now have the opportunity to use the joystick on the Nintendo 64 controller, which allowed for more concise handling when it came to steering the character of your choice.

You’ll use the A button to accelerate, the B button to brake and put the kart in reverse if needed, the Z button to use items, and the R button to drift.

So overall, it’s Mario Kart, nothing too difficult for anyone to pick up on instantly.

However, one thing I will say, drifting is still somewhat difficult in this game. It’s nowhere near as difficult as it was in Super Mario Kart, but it definitely isn’t as easy as it is in a game like Double Dash or even Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. Even in Mario Kart 64, I still prefer to brake around super tight turns. Whenever I would try to drift around a super tight turn, it just ever worked well for me.

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Another thing to at least bring up is the fact that Nintendo did get rid of the special items that your opponents had in Super Mario Kart, which made the game less frustrating, especially in the higher up speed categories. Nintendo took out a couple of other items such as the flying leaf, but Nintendo did add some unique items such as:

  1. Triple red shells
  2. Triple green shells
  3. The fake item block
  4. The blue shell
  5. Boo
  6. Golden Mushroom
  7. And triple mushroom

Overall, all the items seem to mesh well in this game. Each one of these items offers something different, and they offer new strategies for you to use while you are playing. And the addition of the blue shell was just the meanest thing Nintendo could have ever done. If they only knew how many friendships that they have ruined because of the blue shell.

Overall thoughts on gameplay:

Honestly, many can argue that Mario Kart 64 is dated in terms of its gameplay, and I can agree with most people on that. But for some to say that it’s terrible and it isn’t worth playing anymore, I don’t think that’s the case here. The game still plays fine all of these years later, even though the drifting mechanics are not as smooth as they are in the newer Mario Kart games. Plus, Mario Kart 64 along with games like Mario Party and Golden eye were the pinnacle of couch multiplayer games.

Courses in the game:

When it comes to racing games, I believe that the gameplay is very important. The game needs to feel smooth, play smooth, and run smoothly for a person to enjoy a racing game, however, when it comes to Mario Kart, it really boils down to the courses that are offered in the game. Take Super Mario Kart, the courses were good, but at the same time, they didn’t offer any type of variety in the long haul besides Rainbow Road being its own stand out track in the game.

However, that is not the case here in Mario Kart 64 on the Nintendo 64. Like I said earlier, Mario Kart on the N64 offers 4 unique cups which are:

  1. The Mushroom Cup
  2. The Flower Cup
  3. The Star Cup
  4. And the Special Cup

Each of these cups offer four unique courses for you to race on. Quickly, I’ll briefly go through each track, and then I’ll discuss which ones I like and dislike.

Mushroom Cup Tracks:

So starting off with the Mushroom Cup:

  1. The first track is Luigi Raceway, and well, it’s just a generic track with a couple of turns. Overall, it’s not a bad track, but it’s nothing special in my opinion.
  2. After Luigi’s Raceway is Moo Moo Farms. Moo Moo Farms is a very interesting dirt course, however, this course is filled with moles that jump out at you while you race throughout this course.
  3. After Moo Moo Farms is Koopa Troopa Beach, a nice sandy beach course where you will race on the beach side. This track features some shortcuts and quite a few ramps which are honestly really fun to ramp on. Koopa Troopa Beach is quite peaceful as well, and it’s probably my favorite course in the Mushroom Cup.
  4. The last course in the Mushroom Cup is Kalimari Desert. This track is based in the middle of a desert, and while this course is quite nice, the most interesting part about it is that there is a train that runs through the entire track, sometimes cutting you off from advancing until the train completely passes. As a kid, I used to try to race on the train track to beat the train, but I usually failed.

After the Mushroom Cup, you will then race in the Flower Cup.

  1. The first track in the Flower Cup is Toad’s Turnpike, which from what I’ve seen on the internet, is a lot of people’s favorite track. This track is probably the most advanced, because you are not only racing against your opponents, but if you aren’t careful, you will be running into other vehicles as well. So for me, this map is probably the most challenging of all the courses in the game.
  2. After Toad’s Turnpike is Frappe Snowland, a course based in the wintery places of Mario Kart. Honestly, I really like this track. It features random snowmen that block your way, lots of twists and turns, and just overall fun for everyone.
  3. After Frappe Snowland is Choco Mountain, a course that well, I don’t think a lot of people are fans of honestly. For me, I find the course interesting because while you are racing in a certain area there are boulders falling down. But this course can get confusing because if you fall off at a certain place, it makes you turn around completely.
  4. The last course in the Flower Cup is Mario Raceway and well, it’s a course in Mario Kart. It’s okay at best, but it’s nothing special in my opinion.

After the Flower Cup, you will then race in the Star Cup.

  1. The first track in the Star Cup is Wario Stadium, which honestly, is probably one of my favorite courses in the entire game. I like the atmosphere of the stadium, and while it isn’t the most pleasant track to look at, I think the jumps, twists, turns, and everything else make it a complete course. However, this track is kind of long, which is probably my only complaint about Wario Stadium.
  2. After Wario Stadium, is the dreaded Sherbet Land, another winter track in Mario Kart 64. This course is pretty much based on being on a very icy surface, and there’s also penguins on this track as well that if you hit them, they will make you spin out of control. Overall, a good course in my opinion.
  3. After Sherbet Land is Royal Raceway, a track that is based around Peach’s castle. For me, this is a fantastic track in my opinion. My favorite part is this long jump that you make, and it’s even more satisfying hitting someone before they make that jump. This track definitely requires some drifting skills as well because there are a lot of tight turns.
  4. And last but not least is Bowser’s Castle, and well, the name says it all. This course is just chaotic for me. You have all types of obstacles and turns and just my gosh at times I kept getting hit by everything. It’s not a bad course, but sometimes it can get pretty hectic trying to come in first place.

And last but not least is the Special Cup.

  1. The first track in the Special Cup DK’s Jungle Parkway, which the greatest thing about this track is this massive jump over a river. Other than that, it’s an okay track, and if you run off the road, you get stuff thrown at you.
  2. After DK’s course, you then race on Yoshi Valley, which to me, is a great course, but at the same time, it’s pretty hectic. There are so many different ways to go in this track that it can get super confusing at times, but I still think it’s a good track that offers a lot of fun. I also like the Yoshi egg in course, it gives a nice little touch.
  3. After Yoshi Valley, next is Banshee Boardwalk, and well, to me, this course is somewhat forgettable to me. It’s nothing special, but it isn’t just downright terrible.
  4. And last but not least, is the world famous Rainbow Road. Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64 isn’t necessarily a bad course to me, but it just drags on and on and on and on. But other than that, it’s definitely not a bad track.

*Overall Thoughts on Tracks*

Overall, the courses here in Mario Kart 64 are very memorable in my opinion. I think that’s pretty obvious because some of Mario Kart 64’s courses have made their way into some of the newer Mario Kart games as well, so obviously they did something right. But the courses in this game were a big deal because they were true 3D courses. For me, I think my least favorite or least memorable course was Banshee Boardwalk, and I think my favorite course was Wario World. But the courses here in this game definitely gave me a trip to nostalgia town.

Overall Thoughts on Mario Kart 64:

For me, Mario Kart 64 is a fantastic game to play in today’s modern world of video games. With Mario Kart 64 being the first true 3D Mario Kart game, you can definitely tell where the developers have continued to build and build upon this distinguished first party game for their platform. I still think there are benefits to playing this game. Mario Kart 64 is definitely one of those games you can pull out with the family to teach the younger generation how we really played video games back in the glory days before online gameplay became a thing. Unfortunately I can’t speak on the battle mode of Mario Kart 64 because I didn’t have anyone to play battle mode with.

Final Review of Mario Kart 64:

Mario Kart 64 offers nostalgic memories for most people who play this video game. It offers 8 characters important to the Nintendo franchise, 4 cups with 4 courses each, you will enjoy each and every track as you try to race your way to the gold. The gameplay is simple, yet at the same time, there is some finesse when trying to drift around tight corners.

After coming back and playing this game all of these years later, the game still holds up quite well. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but let’s be honest here, a lot of Nintendo 64 games didn’t age well at all, but Mario Kart 64 is one of those games that is still playable all of these years later.

After considering everything, I definitely rate Mario Kart 64 at a 4 out of 5 stars. For me, the game is a solid first entry into the 3D Mario Kart world, however, future games would really improve on the basic core elements of the Mario Kart franchise.

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