These posts will focus more on my reflection and what ultimately led to me playing the game again. They'll be a little shorter, but I'd think they're important.
I played Mario Kart DS for a few months.
It's strange how things only stick with us for what's in reality a short amount of time, but feels like as if they were with us forever. Gamers of the 80's share tales of how they played Super Mario Bros. 3 or Mega Man 2 for years, never tiring of their addictive nature and rich features. These days, we maybe only play games for a month of two. Occasionally, it might only be several months, and even rarer are the ones we play for years. We revisit titles, of course, but it's never longer than a few weeks
Time changes things.
It always happens to be case, however, that the titles that last longer are those that focus on multiplayer and competitive play. It is no secret that gamers seek to constantly improve their skills, and it is these games that provide such opportunities. Shooting fans flock to Halo to perfect their innate sense of aiming, and fighters practice every day with Street Fighter to discover and master new techniques. Fans of Team Fortress 2 scramble around the arenas, delighting in both the wacky nature and teaming up with their comrades to develop new strategies. Pokemon games become replaced with each passing title, but once focused on, no other game franchise can match the in-depth analysis of every character, every attack, every type, and every function that make up every Pokemon you see in the game.
Mario Kart is no exception to this rule. Despite the presence of items, everyone has accepted the weapons as an essential part of the experience. However, it is the racing that everyone focuses on. We study each character, picking out their pros and cons, eventually settling on who we favor the most. We practice day in and out with that character, intending on becoming the best in our circle of friends. It is a game we can certainly label as competitive, and many still play the older titles in the series, preferring their old-fashioned mechanics.
The reason why Mario Kart DS was hailed as the best in the series was because of the monstrous diversity it brought to the series. Characters were no longer glued to a single kart, they could now select from 36 different vehicles! The possibilities this factor brought to the game were endless. You had 432 possible combinations to pick from! And there was an online mode! It wasn't perfect, but it was there! You had star rankings, player rankings, and the ability to test your skills against the entire globe!
It was for this reason Mario Kart DS left such a strong impact for me long after I put the game down. The community remained healthy for several years, and gamers were marveled at the excellence of the title. It was listed along with Kirby: Canvas Curse as the killer apps of the system by numerous game publications and gamers. Players continued to break records and score thousands of points online. Everyone raved about how amazing it was.
I suppose this led me to wish I held on to the game longer.
A few years down the road, which was 2009, I made the silent decision to pick the game back up eventually. Sure, maybe the excitement and gusto that surrounded the game had dispersed over time. But the fun I would have to return to it! Why, I could update all of my Time Trials! I could improve my star rankings! I could turn around my Win/Loss ratio and become a pro on Wi-Fi! No longer would I be turned off by losing. I was no longer a childish youth...I was now a budding young adult. I would have nothing to lose now.
I was ready to return to Mario Kart DS.
...but I never got that chance.
This is Bowser.
The big, bad antagonist of the Super Mario series, Bowser is known as the King of Koopas in his realm. Cruel and unrelenting, Bowser commands a massive army of varying forms of Koopas, Goombas, Shy Guys, Boos, Dry Bones, Pokeys, Bob-ombs, Hammer Bros., Bloopers, and Cheep-Cheeps, all of which are only the tip of the iceberg. Since he's just so evil, he constantly terrorizes and invades the Mushroom Kingdom on a regular basis, kidnapping Princess Peach in the process. The Mario Bros. chase him down every time and engage in epic battles that always end in his defeat. It's no easy feat, however, as Bowser's own array of brute force, fire breath, and simple yet effective plans that grant him immense resources of powerful magic. To the Mario Bros., he is their worst enemy.
Despite all this, Bowser isn't the most evil villain Nintendo has to offer (that title probably goes to Zelda's Ganondorf or Earthbound's Porky Minch). In the past dozen years or so, Nintendo has portrayed Bowser as a comical figure, with the character often delighting in his humorous attempts to conquer the kingdom. Why, he's even kind enough to call a truce with them on many occasions when the gang decides to wind down so he can join their various sporting adventures (with the exception of Mario Party). With this in mind and his obvious infatuation with Princess Peach, could it be that...he has a good side?
-Believe it or not, Bowser actually has his own children! Named after famous music composers (Clockwise: Lemmy, Morton, Wendy O., Ludwig von, Larry, Roy, and my personal favorite, Iggy), the Koopalings served alongside their father in many of Mario's early adventures. Their most famous appearances were in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, but they even left their mark in obscure titles such as Mario is Missing! and Yoshi's Safari.
Soon after the Super Nintendo, however, the Koopalings disappeared without a trace. They were eventually replaced with Bowser Jr. in Super Mario Sunshine, a change that disappointed many retro fans. However, the Koopalings gradually made a comeback, beginning with their eerie lack of dialogue in 2003's Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. They finally returned with the advent of 2009's New Super Mario Bros. Wii, right where they belong in the world of 2D!
Still, there are many mysterious surrounding ALL of the Koopa children, such as, you know...where they came from. But I suppose that's a can of worms we don't want to open.
-My favorite Bowser battle? It's gotta be the one in Super Mario 64. Now, don't get me wrong. The ones in both Mario Galaxies were amazing, particular in the example of Galaxy 2 where my mouth dropped to the floor (HOLY SHIT HE'S HUMONGOUS). But for some reason, it's always the final battle in Mario 64. I suppose it has to do with the setting. I mean, you're fighting in the sky and he stomps the suspended platform so hard that it turns into the shape of a star. And there's organ music playing in the background! And, and, and...RAINBOW BOWSER!
Lord, I love Mario 64.
-Even though they are mortal enemies, there were times when Bowser had no choice but to team up with the plumbers on their RPG adventures. It's happened on at least three separate occasions: Super Mario RPG, where the takeover of his castle and abandonment by his remaining troops forces him to team up with Mario; Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, where the alliance lasts maybe five minutes before he falls off his aircraft and develops amnesia; and Super Paper Mario, where he joins the plumbers and Princess Peach to prevent a series of dimensions being ripped asunder by the evil Count Bleck.
Of course, you can't forget the above Bowser's Inside Story, in which through a series of events, he swallows the brothers and goes on a rampage throughout the kingdom, targeting the nasty Fawful. He finds it to be a fun romp, but there's one catch...the Bros. are helping him from within, and he doesn't know it! What a goof!
-In Mario Kart, Bowser ranks as an, obviously, heavyweight racer. He shares stats with Wario and Donkey Kong in that they have low acceleration and awkward handling, but have a huge amount of weight and thus aren't to be messed with. Also, he easily has some of the best karts in the series. Super Mario World fans will no doubt recognize the motif below:
Yet, he's not used too much as the others. I wonder why?
I've dropped hints throughout the series of Laps that I've had to start from scratch with Mario Kart DS. It's time I explain why.
One of the rules I have made when it comes to my games is that I never delete my game files unless absolutely necessary. That is, if a game has three or more save files and I want to play a new one, I ignore my old file and begin a new file. If all files are occupied, then I delete one and move on. My original files are relics I dare not trifle with, as each and every one of them represent an era I had once lived in. They may not evoke the same feeling within, but it doesn't feel quite right not to have them there. And I was, and am still, happy with that.
...but as I found, there are times when that balance can be forever ruined.
If you read my tribute to Michael, you probably know that I had gone in length over the many trials and tribulations my brother put us through. He relapsed in secret numerous times and lied to us about it. He somehow always found the company of drug dealers at work and bought drugs from them. During a vacation to NYC for the both of us, he was on drugs the whole time and used them behind my back.
In a gradual process over the year of 2009, my brother stole nearly twenty of my video games so he could score more drugs.
Mario Kart DS was one of the video games my brother stole.
I can't even begin to tell you the rush of feelings that coursed through me upon hearing and digesting that event, but I can list what I was angry about. I was angry over the fact that it happened. I was angry over the fact that I was right in suspecting that my video games were being stolen and no one believed me. I was angry over the fact that my brother did it. I was angry over the fact that he used my games as tools for his bullshit addiction. I was angry over the fact that my brother played dumb over stealing my games when I told him of my suspicions not even three weeks earlier ("Who could have stolen them?"). I angry over the fact that my games were stolen.
Of all the games Michael had stolen, it was Mario Kart DS that hurt the most. With my stolen Wii/PS2 games, my save files were still retained in either my system memory or in my memory cards. But the DS cards are different, the memory is saved onto the game cards. Once that card's gone, everything goes with it. My time trials, my rankings, my wins and losses vanished into the darkness, and any evidence of that isolated period in 2005 was gone. Forever.
With Kirby Super Star Ultra, I could pretend that it still had the same game-erasing bug as the Super Nintendo version. With Zelda: Phantom Hourglass...well, I can live without it. But Mario Kart DS was different.
Naturally, the drama and angst that resulted over that put a halt to my plans for Mario Kart DS. My brother bought several of my games back, but the interest to play them was gone. My new copy of Mario Kart DS was...well, new. It was shrinkwrapped, never been opened, a virgin. It was something I didn't dare touch.
The bitter irony that the game I used to escape Michael's addiction eventually became a victim of that very addiction and became a tool to fuel it never left my mind, and as such I didn't dare remove the shrinkwrap.
But did it ruin the game for me?
The conclusion details that answer in our final Lap.
We'll probably wrap this up on either Thursday or Friday.