Still Master of Its Domain
Ever since Mario Kart appeared on SNES, many direct rip offs have been spawned attempting to capture the same style of play but never successfully emulating the level of pure fun. Mario Kart is still the best in its class and is one of the best titles on Game Boy Advance because it gives gamers everything that they could want in a kart racer. From first look, Super Circuit closely resembles that of the SNES version with its Mode 7 graphics but manages to incorporate key elements of the N64 game. This combo works perfectly on the GBA. Everything about this game is a plus and you will always compare every other racer that comes out to it.
Kart racers are different to play than realistic style racing because they are more colorful, cartoonish, and just offer something more than what you can do in real life. Super Circuit basically has the same feel of the SNES version with incredible new levels as well as the classic SNES tracks. When you play this game, you will wonder how they managed to cram those brilliant graphics into that tiny little cartridge. The texturing and weather effects are truly wonderful for a GBA game. The characters support a nice 3D feel as the spin out, get hit by items, and turn around sharp corners. Particle effects play a part in the eye candy as you can watch the rainwater splash around while getting rammed from behind sends stars flying out of your kart. Five cups wait to be played, each composed of four tracks. In addition to many new levels like Cheep Cheep Island and Cheese Land, several of the old classic level designs are back including Rainbow Road and Bower’s castle. Each has its own unique feel and can be played in 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc mode. The higher the number, the more difficult it is to win and the faster the game play will be. The AI in this game sparks quite a challenge. You will find yourself cursing at times because Bower nailed you with a shell right before the finish. The AI can be rough, but not impossible. The higher levels are designed to bring forth a challenge and they do that successfully.
The game brings back the entire cast from the N64 version. Each character supports a difference in handling, weight, speed, and turning. Finding a character that suits your style of play is just a matter of time. Once you start racing and begin to get a few gold trophies, the classic SNES tracks become unlocked. This doubles the amount of tracks that the game offers. The one player mode is different from the SNES version in that the player has the entire screen to himself. In the SNES version, the screen was split horizontally and the player drove on the top while watching the position of the computer players on the bottom by radar. Despite the smaller screen, everything is always visible. The placement of racers is on the left hand side while a map of the level is on the bottom right. This is great for studying the positioning of others and yourself. The number of laps is on the top left while the timer is on the top right. The weapon that is currently in your inventory is placed in a black square on the top middle. None of these extra on screen details ever get in the way of game play. Many tracks have some kind of short cut too, and if you look hard enough, you’ll be rewarded if you find them. Also, there are many other obstacles on each track. Watch out for pitfalls, thwomps, puddles, and walls, but be sure to hit the booster arrows. Hitting a boost right before driving over a jump beam will often times result in a massive short cut. In addition to the game’s visual layout, the sound and music also fit the mood of Mario Kart perfectly. You’ll want to hear the upbeat tunes of a joyful race, or the haunting sounds of Boo’s Lake and Bower’s Castle. The sound effects work great too. Listen to the smack of a shell against your kart or hear your character’s trademark yell as he falls off an edge. It’s best experienced with headphones.
The weapons are what make a game a kart racer. Super Circuit sports weapons from the previous versions. Some of them include red or green shells, banana peels, super stars, and boos. Red shells can now be dropped behind you where they sit, wait, and snipe the next person that drives by. Red and green shells can also come in packages of three. While these shells are spinning around your racer and creating a force field, you are free to pick up another item and hold it in storage until your shells run out. This is where strategy comes into play. Holding down the item button brings out the item and holds out it behind you. This blocks any projectiles that are coming from the rear, plus it allows you pick up another weapon. Brilliant! The controls work well with the four button lay out. “A” and “B” are used to accelerate and brake, while “R” does a jump/slide turn, and “L” shoots weapons. The only problem is if you have bigger hands, pressing the “L” button to hold a weapon out can be difficult while doing a slide turn as you are tapping “R.” Don’t worry though, after a short while, you will be accustomed to it. The select button even honks a horn. Every racer has a different horn sound.
What would a Mario Kart be without the multiplayer? Super Circuit supports up to four players. What if little Johnny doesn’t have a copy of the game? Not a problem as four players can play off one game pak. Each player sports a different colored Yoshi and can play from a menu of four levels. The frame rate is just slightly choppier than in multi-pak mode, but it is still fun to play. Once again, the programmers did this to save on the limited RAM space of the GBA. Despite the fact that the animation isn’t as good as it is in the single player mode, it’s still great. Of course if everyone has a copy of the game, you can choose from any racer and any track of your choice. There are two different kinds of versus modes. The first is the classic race where the first to get to the end wins. The second game type is battle mode where each player has balloons floating over his or her head. Shooting another player with an item pops the balloons. Once a player has lost all of his balloons, the game is over.
In one player mode, you can choose to race against seven more computer players or you can play time trial. In time trial mode, your character is alone on the track trying to get the fastest time possible. You can even save your ghost of your fastest time. What is a ghost? Well, the game remembers exactly how you drove the track, every turn and jump – and saves it. So the next time you play that level, you will be racing against the ghost of yourself. You can even trade ghosts with a friend through the game link cable.
Owning a GBA without Super Circuit is like kicking someone when they are down; you just shouldn’t do it. This game delivers in every way possible. There are not many games with better graphics on the GBA. And what more could you ask for in the multiplayer department. Tell your friends to buy this game and get a link cable. Every kart racer that comes out from now will have to try to live up to the high standards set by Mario Kart Super Circuit. This game is at the top of kart racing and continues the Mario Kart lineage in style.
To see a small Easter egg, at the character select screen, highlight any character and press the “R” button to jump, the “L” button to shoot an egg, and SELECT to hear that character’s horn.