Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 08/26/01 | Genre: Driving
I can't think of another game that has spawned more awful clones than the original Super Mario Kart (except Mario Party, but that one was awful to begin with). Super Mario Kart had a unique formula never before seen in racing--personality. Almost all previous racers (I'm pretty sure it was all of them, but I say almost to cover my tracks) lacked definition. Sure, the vehicles had different performances, but nothing to give them a unique character all their own. And of course, Super Mario Kart introduced the weapons. Now, nearly ten years later, Mario Kart: Super Circuit follows in that tradition without skipping a beat and making it on the go.
Several modes are available from the get-go, including Grand Prix, Quick Run, and Time Trials. Grand Prix is the main game, wherein you choose from 3 engine classes (50, 100 and 150 cc), and then from 5 unique Cups with 4 races each: Mushroom, Flower, Lightning, Star, and Special. During the race, you can collect coins to slightly boost your top speed. Get as many of those as you can, and be sure to get the best time possible, because at the end of the Cup, you are assigned a rank based on coin collection, standings, and time. Get a gold trophy and at least 100 coins in a Cup, and unlock 4 hidden tracks from the original Super Mario Kart (totaling a whopping 40 tracks between the original and new tracks).
Quick Run is a single race on any track you have already completed in Grand Prix. Options like extra laps and placement of item boxes can be tweaked. Finally, Time Trials is a single race against the clock for your best time. You are armed with 3 speed-inducing Mushrooms, and nothing more. Once the track is completed, your time is saved in the form of your "ghost". When you race on that track again in Time Trials, you now can race your best time, your "ghost", which mimics what you did last time you raced.
Characters to choose from are no different than those in Super Mario Kart 64: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Donkey Kong, Wario, and Bowser. Each has weight, top speed, and acceleration ratings, which affect their overall performance. The weapons are all from SMK64, as well, with a few of minor changes. First, the Boo will now circle around the target that you have stolen an item from, slowing them down and stealing coins. The Red Shell can now be placed on the track behind your kart, and it will follow the next person to pass it. And, unfortunately, there is no False Item Box to be found, but I think the new function of the Red Shell serves that purpose.
The most incredible part about MK: SC is the graphics. Unbelievable. In fact, the first time I played the game, I was really bad because the psudeo-3D graphics on the little screen were a bit disorienting. The menus are your first taste. The scrolling colored backgrounds and pulsating icons look almost unreal on a system the size of a pop-tart. And on the Character Select screen, your chosen racer actually spins around, giving an almost 3D look. This is a Mode 7 effect, called rotating, that adds several more frames of animation to a character model to make it appear three dimensional. During play, backgrounds move accordingly to your position on the track, adding realism. It looks a lot like the N64 version, except without rising structures...all track barriers are flat, save for a few trees or bushes, which are sprites anyhow. Animation seems sluggish, or it skips a couple frames during Single-Pak multiplayer because it cuts back on loading.
Musically, Mario Kart delivers. It's very light and bouncy for the most part, and each track has an appropriate song to go with it. Sound effects are spot-on, and are pretty much cartoony in nature. The use of voice is pretty good, with no crackling static, but they sound faint sometimes. Luigi sounds like a girl though, which may be why Peach has never hooked up with the more physically fit of the brothers. Overall, it's nothing breathtaking, or something you need the soundtrack to, but it is above adequate.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit keeps me quite entertained on the few stupid car trips I go on (except when my younger brother bugs me to play the Single-Pak multiplayer because he's too cheap to buy his own Pak) and even when I have just a few minutes for a Quick Run. So whether you're looking for a lengthy game to hone your skills on, or to just kill a half-hour after school, MK: SC has your name on it. Besides Advance Wars, it is easily one of the best the Game Boy Advance has to offer.