Almost six years after the release of Super Mario Kart, Nintendo brings the kart-racing fun to the Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart 64. Originally titled Super Mario Kart R, MK64 doesn't deviate far from the basic design of Super Mario Kart; eight Mario characters race go-karts in Grand Prix mode, Time Trials mode (one player), or multi-player Vs. and Battle modes. Items are handled pretty much the same way as before, but this time there are four new items, including the Triple Red Shell (three Red Shells for firing at opponents) and a blue Spiny Shell (attacks the first-place driver).
To compare Mario Kart 64 to Super Mario Kart is not entirely fair. Each game was on a different system, with different technological limitations. Regardless, MK64 was not a great improvement over SMK, and it just seems to lack the "magic" that SMK had. Mario Kart 64 has the power of the N64 behind it, and it is disappointing that the developers/programmers did not take advantage of this. In fact (not including the extra mirrored courses), MK64 has four less courses than Super Mario Kart! Mario Kart 64's longer, wider courses and improved items barely compensate for its shorter Grand Prix mode and mediocre battle arenas.
For the most part, the graphics are smooth, and very Mario-ish. But the drivers are sprites, and look blurred and fuzzy when viewed close up. It's not really a big deal, but it's enough to bother me. The course designs range from bland (Moo Moo Farm) to breath-taking (Bowser's Castle).
The music is above-average, and compliments the racetracks nicely. The programmers included some nice sound effects without over-doing it, but they certainly came close; each racer repeats cute phrases during certain situations, which might end up annoying some players.
The one-player Grand Prix mode is a bit dull, offering only "mirrored" courses as an incentive for finishing it. What really saves Mario Kart 64 is its immensely fun multi-player battle mode. If you liked Super Mario Kart, a four-player battle with your friends in MK64 is probably the most fun you'll ever have in a Mario game! The four arenas are completely different from those in SMK, but the objective remains the same: use items to destroy your competition. The battle mode's rules were also unchanged, making it easy for a SMK veteran to immediately start battling without any pre-game preparation.
In conclusion, Mario Kart 64 is good, and at its best in multi-player modes. Essentially, it is the Super Mario Kart of the Nintendo 64. If you've never owned Super Mario Kart, and if you can gather up enough video game-loving buddies, pick up a copy of MK64 and let the fun begin!
Pros & cons
Review by Deezer, 12/29/99