Last time, I discussed the history of Mario Kart. Today, I'd like to discuss how the game mechanics works before diving into Mario Kart DS itself.
The series, of course, focuses on racing. I'll be upfront in admitting it's a genre I'm not too fond of, as it shares the same trait with shooting games in that there's not much variety. Thankfully, Nintendo works its usual magic in Mario Kart seperate it from the rest of the herd and not just rely on its mascot image.
Eight characters from the avaliable roster are used for a Grand Prix, one of which is obviously whoever you choose. The other characters are selected randomly by the game, two of which are designated as your "rivals"; in other words, the ones who will be on your tail the entire time.
My character: Mario
The rivals: Yoshi and Bowser (These characters will be on my tail for the whole Grand Prix. This is accomplished by employing a technique called "rubber band AI", in which the game can make the computer controlled opponents suddenly cover a twenty second distance in three! So you can never let your guard down)
The others: Luigi, Peach, Wario, Donkey Kong, and Toad (The rest of the racers. They aren't as big of a threat, but they have tricks up their sleeves as well. One thing's for sure..you never want to be eating their dust!)
Each of the Grand Prixes in the game are divided into different engine classes: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc, each one more faster and difficult then the last. In each of the classes are numerous Cups to choose from, each with exactly four courses. In Mario Kart DS, there are eight cups, with four made up of original courses and four dedicated to courses from previous games in the series.
The courses in Mario Kart are all quite varied and have their own nuances and landmarks. You won't just be driving through raceways. You'll be racing in jungles...
bouncing on mushrooms over a gorge...
coursing on Icebergs..
and even in a factory!
Are there variations of the courses I listed above in Mario Kart DS? You bet! We won't be discussing all of the tracks, but you can bet I'll be talking about the very best!
And of course, there's the items. In other words, weapons you can use to get ahead of the competition. In every Mario Kart, you'll come across rainbow-colored boxes that look like this.
These are the item boxes that contain the items, and upon driving through them you'll receive a randomized item. These include the following:
Mushrooms: These give you a quick boost! If you're behind, there's a chance you nab three at once. Then there's the Golden Mushroom, which you can press repeatedly to gain as many boosts as possible!
Koopa Shells: The shells of Bowser's henchmen are yours to throw around and attack other drivers! There are two types: Green and Red. Greens are unwieldy and have to be aimed precisely in order to be effective. Reds on the other hand immediately target the character in front of you all, but have trouble navigating around turns. If you're behind, you can obtain three shells that swirl around you...a nice defense!
Bananas: Donkey Kong was kind enough to donate his banana peels to the Grand Prix. Once thrown or dropped, the peel simply litters the track and will cause disaster for any unfortunate racer that runs over them! You'll want the five banana peel bunch that will trail behind you!
Boo: Mario and Luigi's ghostly nemesis is up to his old tricks. He'll steal another item from another racer and lend it to you...that is, if there are any avaliable!
Thunderbolt: Only avaliable to those who are in the lesser ranks. Once used, a flash of thunder turns everyone tiny for a limited time...except for the user!!!
Starman: Ah, the invincible power-up from Super Mario Bros.!! It serves the same use here, as your body becomes decorated with a flashing rainbow sheen, your top speed increases, and you will mow down anyone in your way!!! Also, you are impervious to attacking items.
There are others, but we'll get to them in later chapters.
Are those all of the mechanics? Not quite. But like the rest of the items, we'll describe the ins and outs of racing techniques when the time comes. Now that we have this out of the way..who are the racers?
Well, I DID mention the word "brothers" in the title...
This is Luigi.
When juxtaposed to his brother Mario, there are some noticeable differences. Mario is brave, outgoing, and impulsive, while Luigi is timid, aloof, and cowardly. Well, perhaps "cowardly" is a bit harsh, but he seems rather averse to danger and does not want to confront giant monsters (especially ghosts!). Despite this, Luigi shares much of Mario's fun loving personality and could be considered to be just as moral as his brother.
Luigi's permanent position as the second player has earned him quite a fond reputation over the years. Many younger fans, having played second fiddle to their older brothers on the Mario game, make up the most of his fanbase. Many humorously suggest that Luigi harbors a "green envy" for living in his brother's shadow, which stems from, once again, being the second player. Nintendo has recognized this trait over the years and poked fun at this idea, as seen in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, where the residents of the Beanbean Kingdom recognize Mario and his many famous deeds, but seem unaware of Luigi's presence.
Other notable information are as follows:
-Many in the Mushroom Kingdom praise Mario for his jumping prowess, but they don't know that Luigi can jump higher! In Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi could jump higher then the other characters, and is a trait that has carried over to future games.
-Luigi found himself a sweetheart by the name of Princess Daisy, a relationship that wasn't fully established until 2000's Mario Tennis. The shy, timid man and the outgoing, spunky girl. A trophy of Daisy in Super Smash Bros. Melee states that she is "Luigi's answer to Mario's Peach."
-The aforementioned phobia of ghosts is revealed in the Nintendo Gamecube launch title Luigi's Mansion, in which Luigi must explore a mysterious, haunted mansion and rescue his brother. Armed with a super-powered vacuum, he has to face his fears and triumph over the many colorful ghosts found in the mansion's walls. Many criticized the game's short length, but it was Luigi's big break!
-In the last console generation, Nintendo decided to embed Luigi with a more goofy personality and became an invaluable trait of the character. This is most notably seen in titles such as Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, where he embarks on a quest of his own to save the Waffle Kingdom, and in the Super Smash Bros. series, where his moveset consists him making flapping random movements. Series director Masahiro Sakurai describes him as the "dreamy, comical poster boy" of Smash Bros.
In Mario Kart, Luigi has always been a balanced character, much like Mario. In other words, they have no big flaws or advantages, they're just average, and are great choices for beginning characters. Hooray for the man in green!
It is 2005.
The game industry has been steadily rising. The DS had begun to outgrow its baby steps and landed some truly colorful titles on the market such as WarioWare Touched! and Kirby: Canvas Curse. The Playstation 2 gave birth to new franchises such as God of War and one-hit wonders such as Shadow of the Colossus, all of which were immense critical successes and sold very well. The industry was still reeling from the previous year's heavy hitters such as World of Warcraft and Halo 2, and the Xbox 360 was looming in the distance. It was a good year for video games.
And I felt like complete shit.
When you become a teenager, the rules change. Things you didn't notice before suddenly pop at you, and not all of them are pretty. Interests shift and new ones pop up, the passion of what you had previously lost forever if you are not careful. Old friends leave you behind and make new ones, and you are forced to do the same. Becoming a teenage means you change. Forever.
Being thirteen was not an easy process for me, but I'll skip the details that scarred me over the summer of that year, since it's not relevant (besides, I can think of another game where this would be much more suitable). I'd like to discuss something while in the middle of my depression.
It is October. I received a phone call from my brother. It turns out he was using drugs, sold all of his valuables and had to drop college. I stood there and listened to his voice. It was static, without any inflection and yet was apologetic at the same time. I wondered if he was going through the same thing I did.
It was something that I found difficult to wrap my head around. My brother? Drugs? He always had a bad side to him, but I thought he was smart enough to stay away from it.
...it's difficult typing this. There is so much I could elaborate on here. But this is a feature on Mario Kart. How does a Mario Kart game fit in here?
I still remember. It is November 2005. I stay in my room or basement all day. I still remember the visits to my brother's drug meetings. I still remember reading Dragon Ball every night. I still remember crying to sleep. Then I remembered...the new Mario Kart is coming out.
It crept up on me. I found it hard to believe. I was so caught up in my own little world that I forgot about the buzz about the game's online features were bringing. It was Nintendo's first foray into the world of online gaming! How could I possibly have ignored this? I turned my attention right onto the game's release date: November 14th.
My grandfather picked it up for me. I played it all day.
Excluding the adventures I took with action figures/my friend Matt, I smiled for what seemed like the first time in forever. Characters that I had forgotten while growing up came back to lift me up, even if only slightly. Mario's ever-present cheer always played when the Nintendo logo popped up, and I could never not crack a smile at that. Even with the pain I had in dealing with my brother and my life, he was there for me.
In my feature for Mario Kart DS, I want to focus on not just the game itself (which will be extensively covered from here on out!), but the ways it helped me, the experiences I had with it, the impact its online mode had, and even playing it at Michael's drug meetings will be brought to light at the end of each post. Please look forward to it.
I've been thinking about the blog's future over the next few months, since I won't be updating much in this lovely December. I'd like to make some announcements:
-Mario Kart DS will probably continue off and on until around Feburary. I don't want to rush like I did with Kirby's Adventure, but then again, I don't want to kept it going for too long. I have some ideas.
-I'd like to write some essays relating to gaming in the next two months, so that will add some variety.
-The Donkey Kong Country Returns review is a tough cookie. I'll TRY to get it out by the new year, but if not, then by early January. Also, expect something for Epic Mickey, which I'll be receiving for Christmas.
Annnd that's about it.