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Mario Kart 64

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Let me start off by saying that I consider myself one of the world's biggest Super Mario Kart fans. I also consider myself one of the best players in the world at it. From that standpoint, I was anxiously awaiting a sequel to the game. It took long enough, huh? Almost four and a half years after the original game came out, a sequel has finally arrived. Does Mario Kart 64 live up to the original? Yes and no. Fortunately, the good far outweighs the bad. First of all, as you already know, the graphics have received a major overhaul. The courses are now three-dimensional and much larger. Although a lot better than the graphics in the original, they are still not all that impressive for one reason: they need to keep up the frame rate in the three- and four-player modes. The trade-off is well worth it, though. One of the more impressive facets of Mario Kart 64 is the sound. All the characters have several voice samples that are played back throughout the race. Surprisingly, at least to me, I haven't gotten tired of the voice samples yet. Of course, I never got tired of them in Super Mario 64 or Wave Race 64, either. There is also a wide range of full, rich musical tracks coming to you in lovely stereo sound. So let's get to the goods. How does Mario Kart 64's gameplay compare to the original game? In some ways it's better, and in some ways it's not. The tracks are much longer and wider than the original. I thought this might ruin the balance, but it doesn't. There are now question boxes at several places on the track; this is essential since the tracks are a lot longer. There are new items such as triple shells, banana bunches, spiny shells and fake question boxes. These items definitely help the gameplay. Alas, the feather was removed from the sequel because it would be too easy to take some massive shortcuts. The original's proven formula is also retained with GP, Time Trial, Versus and Battle modes to choose from, depending on how many people are playing. The GP mode is the same as before, except there are only four courses in each cup this time. The Time Trial mode is nicely improved over the original. There are three great Time Trial courses, and you can now save a "ghost" of your best race to the Controller Pak. That means you can take your "ghost driver" over to your friend's house so they can race not only against your best time but against an exact replica of your best race. The Versus mode is pretty much the same as the original, except there's these annoying "kart bombs" you have to avoid. Finally, there's the Battle Mode, and this is where one of the two major problems with the game lies. The courses are just too large and unexciting. Though they can be a blast with three and four players, they just aren't any fun in the two-player mode. What's the game's other fault? The questionable artificial intelligence. This problem is evident in two areas: how the items are given out and how the computer plays in the GP mode. First of all, the type of item you get is completely dependent on what place you are in. So if you're in first, then you'll pretty much only get green shells and banana peals. But if you're behind, then you'll get all kinds of good items such as stars, lightning bolts, spiny shells, triple red shells, etc. The problem lies within the fact that you can just hit the brakes so your opponent passes you, and then you can get a better item and win the race. Since the items are so frequent and liberally dealt, it commands a whole new type of strategy over the original. The other fault in the AI is in the Grand Prix mode. The computer opponents have the uncanny ability to make sure they're always close to you. Even if you get a lightning bolt and cruise by everyone, they'll be back close to you within a few seconds after they become big again. Both of these AI quirks will cause you and your friends to say "That's unfair" or "That's cheap" on a constant basis. After you start to get good and master the power-slide, though, you'll begin to somewhat appreciate the "cheating" ways of the computer. Now the question is, which game is better, Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64? I would have to say that the original game is better because of the better Battle Mode and cheat-free AI. But Mario Kart 64 is by no means anything less than a great game. The gameplay is more different than you think because of the AI, track design, new items and different power-sliding technique. And you can't forget there is a four-player mode. Even if you don't like the four-player Battle Mode, you'll probably have a blast playing the four-player Versus mode. Despite those few flaws outlined above, I just can't help but play the game...a lot. Even though obscenities will often fill the air in the multi-player modes, you eventually learn that you can fight cheapness with cheapness of your own. Once you start to get good enough, you may find that races turn into a chess match of sorts. So go grab a friend and get this game. I personally recommend playing a best-of-five in the GP mode.

Graphics: 4.1 out of 5 Sound: 4.1 out of 5 Control: 4.7 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.8 out of 5 Lastability: 4.8 out of 5 Overall: 4.8 out of 5

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