The original SNES Super Mario Kart game transcends spinoff and has become a series of its own, more of a celebration of what everyone loves about the Mario universe. It’s spawned almost every other platforming video game character to take that stab at making a kart racing game of their own, some delightful, yet grossly overlooked (like the N64’s Diddy Kong Racing), and others that are just barely short of a video game Chernobyl
so damaging, those who played the game jabbed their eyes out with a rusted dinner fork in desperate attempts to unsee the seen. I would’ve finished with the other eye, but I was called upstairs for dinner. Honestly, if you never played Sonic R and thought that Sonic 06 was the very worst it could get, in between this and Sonic 3D Blast, the original Sonic offed himself and the new, sleek Sonic was unveiled on the Dreamcast! Happy 20th Birthday, Saturn!!!!
But I digest, I’m not talking about Sonic’s new scarferchief in Sonic Boom, I’m talking Mario Kart Super Circuit!! Soni…Mario Kart Super Circuit is third entry in the series and feels like Kart 64 and the SNES title mashed together (the N64 character sprites are replicated reasonably well on the Advance, some frames of animation omitted of course). While it may seem like a downgrade from the textured world of Mario Kart 64’s courses, this game is packed with snarl and attitude that, honestly, the more modern Mario Kart games lack. GRAPHICS & ANIMATION 8/10
Super Circuit is bright and colorful, fast and fluid with little hiccups. The courses emulated the Mode 7-style illusion of 3D the SNES was known for, but more crisp. Some courses, like Cheese Land and Yoshi Desert, can be a tad bit disorienting with the palette and I would sometimes go careening into a trap or a bumping into a wall trying to target a shortcut. Background images like a glowing, tempering volcano and Boos floating around with candle holders in Ghost Valley courses are brilliant aesthetic touches that shows off the power of the Game Boy Advance.
MUSIC & SOUND EFFECTS 9/10
I’m probably in the minority on this, but I have never been a fan of the Mario characters talking. Since this inevitability, I’ve always cringed to have to hear “Here we go!!” or “Luigi time!!” or everyone’s favorite “Hi, I’m Daisy!!” Really? You’re Daisy? I was mistaken. I thought you were Samantha Mathis, holding a rifle and telling Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo that they wouldn’t believe this.
I have begrudgingly gotten used to them as time passed, mostly because the hammy nature of the voices has noticeably been toned down. I don’t know if the Mario guy is getting sick of it, but when he says, “Let’s go”, in New Super Mario Bros. U, compared to the exuberance exhibited in Mario 64, he sounds like he’s phoning it in. Much like that entire game, if I say so myself (OOOOOOOOHH SNAP!!! HE DIDNT JUST SAY THAT!!!!). Some of the voices, sounding slightly garbled, are sampled from the N64 game and slightly altered. The music is great, not only do the Super Circuit original scores sound amazing, but the SNES courses are back with the original music intact, some even sounding like they some extra mixing, as I noticed some bass drops in the Mario Circuit score. I still totally love that Bowser theme. This might be a little nitpicky (What a shocker, coming from me…), but I have always been sad that individual character themes for winning a race has never come back since the first game. It added a little personal touch to the characters that left them feeling more defined by anything other than weight classes. Nintendo, if you happen to read this, I’ll promise to stop bagging on Hyrule Warriors if you grant me this reasonably small request.
GAMEPLAY & DIFFICULTY 10/10
Circuit is silky smooth (blah, alliteration) and retains the tight controls from the SNES, putting some slight variations on weight classes. Only Mario and Luigi seem to be identical as the most balanced drivers, but Peach and Yoshi, who were equal, are slightly varied. Wario is lighter and handles better than the heavyweights, Donkey Kong and Bowser. This was back before the weapons got completely out of hand, so it remains balanced with no new additions, and that great, as far as I’m concerned. The overabundance of the items in later Mario Kart games has turned the once challenge-oriented lottery pick acquisition system (1st place gets bananas and green shells/ 6th-8th star and occasional lightning bolt) into Twisted Metal! Now you shoot shit while shit gets shot at you and first place is held for 13 seconds until a Bullet Bill comes zooming in from a racer so far back in the pack, he’s stuck in Kirby’s Avalanche, now you need to get a boomerang that succeeds in hitting nothing to try to hold on to 2nd place while a Blooper squirts ink in your face and someone uses a POW block……when you’re hit by the lighting bolt, shrink, and your reaction is “Phew, that was close,” that’s a problem. This is a race at 100cc and the opponents are prone to use weapons, but they would rather be aggressive drivers.
That’s the kind of challenge I wish Mario Kart would return to. The HD courses are beautiful, but the lack of hairpin curves and racers trying to run you violently into obstacles really would up the ante. Speaking of courses, Ribbon Road can burn in hell!!
The 20 additional tracks are unlocked via a high course ranking. A high rank is determined by how many coins are collected, continues used, how many times you go off course, FALL off the course, and the frequency of red and green shells used to hit other racers. Yeah, YOU have to follow a code of honor while everyone else can pummel you into oblivion and you can’t retaliate. Unless you use a well-placed banana. It took a great deal of patience to not fire triple red shells when 1st place is right there and it’s the final lap, but you CAN’T do it unless you want those extra courses. This also puts the incentive on not being weapon-reliant and sharpening driving skills. It also keeps the replay value fresh as the cc gets bumped higher, because there will always be an increased degree of challenge, making this one of the longer Mario Kart replays I’ve ever toggled with.
Time Trial returns and quick run is an abridged version of GP where you can kind of sample courses without the pageantry of the main game mode. Battle mode is also available, as long as you have linking cables and friends. I have linking cables, but missing the other part…just kidding, I have all of you!!!!
I feel this game contends with the recent Mario Karts, and in some ways is kind of better, at least better than Kart Wii and 8. The difficulty is much more primitive and satisfying than the rubber band position jockeying, mostly due to the overpowering weapons and crap just getting in front of you for the sake of doing it (like the cars in the Mall course on Wii. EEEAAARRGHH!!!!). The replay value is through the roof and the classic courses are a great jog down memory lane and it felt earned to unlock them. In my personal tier of Mario Kart games, this one is juuuuust beaten out for second place by Double Dash (DD’s courses were amazing and the multiplayer is second to none. Forget online, play Double Dash in a room with friends, you will lose sleep!), and the first is still the best. Those Namco arcade ones are pretty sweet, but I’ve only played one of them.
FINAL SCORE 9/10
PROS: Well-rounded challenge. Great controls. Music. Bonus SNES courses.
CONS: Small roster. Trying to play SNES Rainbow Road on a GBA.