Posts Tagged ‘gamecube’

mariokart

Mario Kart Month continues… surprisingly (new readers may not know I tend to take a lot of breaks or start-stop projects). A lot of focus and discussion, or rather, arguments about the Mario Kart series centers around either the characters or the games, themselves. This is why I chose to do the Top 5 on the tracks. I don’t feel like tracks come up enough when discussing the merits of the Mario Kart games. I feel like the tracks have as much personality as the racers. I can’t think of any particular track that feels exceptionally bland. Between actual go-kart tracks and tracks that take you into space on a road made of reflected and refracted light, there are enough tracks to fit anyone’s playing styles. The following is my personal Top 5. These are my favorites, not necessarily THE best tracks in all of Mario Kart. Let’s a-go!


Honorable Mention- Royal Raceway (Mario Kart 64)

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I actually added this one in as an honorable mention after I finished typing this article. While I don’t care for MOST of this track, there is one corner near the end of the circuit that I wanted to highlight. This corner ALWAYS gave me fits when I played this track. I always ended up either in the grass, well off the track, or in the water. The corner is very reminiscent of the infamous corkscrew turn at Laguna Seca. Those that play Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport may be very familiar with this corner. It’s a quick left turn, immediately followed by a quick drop, immediately followed by a quick right turn. This corner cost me quite a few 1st place finishes for me. But the reason I wanted to highlight it here is because it MADE me want to become a smarter Mario Kart player. This corner made me not want to rely on items and luck to ensure victory. I wanted to learn how to take this corner smarter. I learned the merits of drifting, letting off the gas, and even braking because of this corner. Lessons I would apply to other racing games and even real-world go-kart racing. I learned you can’t just go flat-out all the time. Sometimes slow-and-steady DOES win the race.


#5- Excitebike Arena (Mario Kart 8)

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This is one of the newest tracks in the series, being part of a DLC pack for Mario Kart 8. While I haven’t raced on it more than a few times, it has left quite an impression on me. I love how it combines simplicity with exciting atmosphere. The Excitebike Arena is a basic oval shape, but features motocross-style jumps and classic Excitebike hazards. This takes the 5-spot solely for being the newest of the tracks on this list.


#4- Baby Park (Mario Kart: Double Dash)

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I look forward to this track and this track alone when playing Mario Kart: Double Dash. This track is so frantic and fusterclucky, but in a good way. It’s an extremely short track but lasts for 7 laps. The action is so frantic, that anyone can win this race. Even if you find yourself sitting in a low position, you can still affect the outcome of the race, due to the ease of lapping and getting lapped by other racers. It’s one of the few bright spots in a Mario Kart game I don’t hold in too high of regard. It’s a good thing this track was brought back for the retro cups in future Mario Kart iterations, because this is a track that makes an already fun series, just that much better.


#3- Toad’s Turnpike (Mario Kart 64)

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This was my favorite track when I was younger (read: before I could drive). I always thought it would be fun to take a go-kart onto a real road and this was as close to simulating that as I could get (actual, real life go-kart tracks, notwithstanding). The track is a rather basic shape, but the cars and trucks on the road provide one of the most frustrating hazards to avoid in the entire series. Successfully avoiding those that you’re sharing the road with is almost as rewarding as getting the victory. It’s like “Yeah, I only finished 3rd, but at least I didn’t plow into yet another semi-truck for the 17th time.” I feel like this is one of the most challenging tracks in Mario Kart 64. If it were a more abstract shape and not a figure-8, it could have probably fit in with the Special Cup tracks.


#2- Neo Bowser City (Mario Kart 7)

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Wow. What a track. The setting is unique. It’s dark, but not in a typical Bowser way. The environment is much different from your typical Bowser’s Castle course. It reminded me more of the Oil Ocean and Metropolis levels from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Or even downtown Hill Valley in Back to the Future Part 2, with Biff’s Pleasure Paradise smack dab in the middle. It has a very dystopian vibe. Like, it almost feels like this course takes place in an alternate universe where the Mario Brothers don’t exist and Bowser grows more powerful. As for the track itself, it is superb! I’ve never seen a track where one stat had such an advantage over the others. This track has so many tight corners, a well-handling character/kart setup combo is a MUST. Top speed is useless here. You are turning, one way or another, almost the entire time on this track. Even the few, short  straightaways have to be spent planning and getting into position for the next corner. This track is the technical Mario Kart racer’s dream course and it’s no surprise that it remains a favorite of the diehard Mario Kart community.


#1- Mario Raceway (Mario Kart 64)

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This right here, I feel, is the DEFINITIVE Mario Kart track. I’ve always enjoyed the tracks that actually look like go-kart tracks (not to discount the other, more imaginative courses). But this has everything going for it. Semi-realistic setting, long straightaways, tight corners, sweeping corners, tricky shortcuts. This circuit is the most complete course. It has everything. Even the hazards are subtle. There’s nothing in the environment designed to screw you over. The only thing you have to watch out for is your fellow racers. All these are factors I took in to account when I decided that this was my favorite track in the entire Mario Kart series.


So there we are! Those are my top Mario Kart tracks! What are your favorites? Agree or disagree with anything on the list? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page!

As always, thanks for reading!

mariokart

I love Mario Kart. The series provides multiplayer gaming bliss like no other. Which is why I’m going to devote the entire month of June to Mario Kart! It’s Mario Kart Month, baybay!

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I don’t have a graphics department.

I want to kick off a month of Mario Kart-related articles by ranking all eight Mario Kart games from my least favorite, to my absolute #1. As with any list I do or have done, this isn’t a list to say “this list is fact, your opinion is wrong.” I know my list differs from other people’s (SPOILER: I have Double Dash ranked lower than most other people would). Let’s get this thing started!


#8- Mario Kart: Super Circuit

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This was a was a game I didn’t play until well after it was released. When I say “well after” I don’t mean it was a few months or a year. It was over 11 years before I got to really sit down and play this game. I played it for maybe 30 seconds while I was at a Best Buy when I was 14 years old. I received this game for free as a part of the 3DS Ambassador Program (Nintendo’s way of rewarding early 3DS buyers before a rather quick price drop). Maybe it was because I already had several years of more technologically advanced Mario Kart games under my belt, but I never felt the connection with this game that I do any of the others. But, that’s not to say it’s a bad game. This is surprisingly only the 3rd game in the series. This game was released in Sept. 2001 and missed being a Game Boy Advance launch title by only 3 months. It was the first handheld Mario Kart handheld game and really didn’t look bad for being a near-launch title. But the problem is nothing really stands out about it for me aside from being the first handheld Mario Kart. It doesn’t hold any special place in my heart for nostalgic reasons or anything. It’s the only one on this list that’s just kinda “there” for me, which is why I have it ranked last.


#7- Mario Kart DS

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Because I was never REAL big on Double Dash (more on that later) or Super Circuit and was Mario Kart 64 just kind of appeared for me one day, Mario Kart DS was the first Mario Kart game I actually got hyped about before release. 3D-modeled characters, online play, etc. This game was gonna be big! And it was! But it was surpassed by every Mario Kart that came after it and didn’t have the staying power that the classics did. It was super fun at the time and definitely gave you an idea of where Mario Kart was heading in the future (online play, kart and character stats), but by the time the next game in the series, Mario Kart Wii, came out, it seems like this one was forgotten.


#6- Mario Kart: Double Dash

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I know this will be THE controversial selection for this spot (if at all). Mario Kart: Double Dash is fun, don’t get wrong. Remember, I like ALL the games on this list. But I know a lot of people who would rank this game, or the game I actually have #1, at #1. Maybe it’s because this was the newest console version of the game when my friends and peer age group were in high school. I really don’t know. But I just don’t see what other people see in this game. It does have the unique feature of two racers per kart allowing for a little bit more strategy when selecting your racer. But later entries would see the strategizing go further with the expansion of stats for karts. For me, I feel like this is the first game that took a turn for the worse. It can get to be a real fustercluck during races with the number of items and characters flying around the course (something that persisted during Mario Kart Wii as well). Playing with friends was alright, because you could share in the misery of getting destroyed by 3 red shells in a row. Single player was a nightmare for me, however. But for whatever reason, it remains the go-to party game if you have a Gamecube laying around. Although my enthusiasm is low going into it, I always end up having a good time by the end.


#5- Mario Kart Wii

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For me, I feel like I hold Mario Kart Wii on the same level as Double Dash, but I think the hype surrounding Double Dash and some features in Mario Kart Wii helped me decide to put this one at #5 and Double Dash at #6. The item and character fusterclucking return for this one, but some gameplay enhancements keep it from dropping lower down the list. I did enjoy the different vehicle types (this game introduced dirtbikes and motorcycles) as well as auto-drift if I was playing with a Wiimote. This seems to be another popular version of the game for get-togethers, but its popularity seems to be waning (at least in my social circle).


#4- Super Mario Kart

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The game that started it all! This game is quite the challenge and still gives me fits, even today. This is the only game in the series to have 5 laps per race, as well as 5 races per cup. I was only 4 or 5 when this game came out and I didn’t get my first Super Nintendo until Christmas 1995, so I discovered this game a little late. I remember being blown away by the idea of a Mario racing game. Usually Toad is my go-to character, but I usually go with Bowser in this one, only because I love is post-race results screen music. Bottom line: How cool was this game back in the day? Heck, it’s still a cool game to play today even with 7 Mario Kart games building upon what this one started.


#3- Mario Kart 8

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This is the most recent game in the series, having only been out just over a year as of this writing. But man, did they do a lot of good things with this game. The anti-gravity, topsy-turvy tracks, the customization, the DLC, everything about this is great. There’s some characters in this game that I’d never thought I’d see in a Mario Kart game (Link!). The DLC is worth every penny and adds plently of neat courses and characters (including one track I’m now including among my all-time favorites). Some of the tracks that go heavy on the anti-gravity stuff are intense! It’s so easy to lose track of your orientation and where you are in the game world, but I feel it just adds to the fun and excitement. I actually, legitimately got dizzy during one race. I haven’t been able to spend too much time with it. It took a while to track down a used copy of it (I’m on a budget, yo!), but I know this will go down in the annals of, not just great Mario Kart games, but great Nintendo games.


#2- Mario Kart 7

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This game blew me away when I first picked it up. I put so many hours into single-player, unlocking nearly everything. I put a lot of time into the online aspect too, becoming one of the few games I regularly won playing online.The unlock system in this game made me a better Mario Kart player, not just in this game, but in all Mario Kart games. Since you have to collect coins to get unlocks, you had to play the races over and over again. This made me discover better lines, better strategies, and better kart customizations. Online multiplayer matchmaking (especially when playing with friends) could have been better, but that is my only major gripe with this game. As far as I’m concerned, this is EASILY the best handheld Mario Kart game. But not THE best Mario Kart game. That distinction of course goes to…


#1- Mario Kart 64

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Yes. YESSSSSS! Mario Kart 64 is the DEFINITIVE Mario Kart experience for me. It provides the fun, multiplayer goodness, and action of the others, but it lacks the gimmickyness of games like Double Dash. It’s a pure Mario Kart game. Mario Kart 64 defines the phrase “less is more.” I could talk more about this game, but I have something planned for later this month where I will delve deeper into Mario Kart 64.


So that’s my ranking of the Mario Kart series. How does this list differ from yours? What do you agree or disagree with? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page.

As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned as I continue Mario Kart Month, taking a look at my favorite Mario Kart racetracks!

Growing up, I was all about Nintendo. I still prefer Nintendo to this day. That’s not to say I don’t like Sega, Sony, or Microsoft. But I feel that with Nintendo being a big part of my life for the better part of 25 years, I could do them justice with a Top 5 list of my favorite Nintendo consoles. Now, of course, this is purely subjective. This list isn’t to say “These are the best, in order, and what you think is wrong.” I will be doing a “Handheld-only” list sometime down the road. This will concentrate on the ones that required a TV to enjoy. I currently own all 5 of these consoles (only 1 of which I’ve never had to re-buy over the years, I’ll explain that later).

#5- Wii

The Wii is a fantastic system. Don’t take me putting it at #5 as anything bad. There are only 5 Nintendo consoles anyway. This just happens to be my least favorite of the 5. I still like it though. I was able to get my hands on one only about 3 weeks after it launched (and if anyone remembers these things coming out in 2006, you know how freaking impossible it was to find one). I had a blast playing Wii Sports and… and… well, I never really bought much for the Wii. I rented and borrowed a lot of games. There really wasn’t much for the Wii where I felt “OMG, I MUST HAVE THIS!” Some games I likely would have bought anyway, I received as gifts, such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns. I think in the time I’ve owned a Wii I’ve actually purchased about 5 games. For me, this was a revolutionary console, without the revolutionary games I thought it would have.

#4- GameCube

Back when the GameCube was released my friends all made fun of it. They all made the same “lunch box” jokes that everyone else did. They badmouthed the mini-disks. I thought the GameCube had potential though. I wanted a GameCube so badly, I put a GameCube sticker over the logo on the front of my Nintendo 64 and wished it was a GameCube. None of them thought it could unseat the dominance of the PS2 (it wouldn’t, but they all eventually got GameCubes anyway). So when my 15th birthday came up, I had a decision to make. Did I want a Playstation 2 which had Grand Theft Auto III and was getting Grand Theft Auto Vice City in a few months? Or did I want to remain loyal to The House of Mario and hope the rumor I read in EGM about Vice City coming to GameCube was true? I went with the GameCube and Super Smash Bros. Melee, was sad about the false rumors, but still had fun. I don’t have quite the warm and fuzzy memories I do with other systems that I have with the GameCube, but I remember being a staunch defender of it with my friends, then hearing all those criticisms fly out the window when they all played Super Smash Bros. There are still some fantastic games I’ve yet to discover on this system and some games (such as Windwaker and Mario Kart Double Dash) command a higher price than the system itself in most used game stores.

#3- Super Nintendo

I was torn about what to put in this spot. I didn’t know whether what I had at #2 should go here at #3 and the SNES goes to #2. But I took a step back and thought about it. Even though this system was the 1st I could truly call my own (not counting the Game Boy), I didn’t necessarily “grow up” with it. I got my Super Nintendo for Christmas in 1995. I was completely excited for it. I loved it. I played the HELL out of it. The only problem is that the Nintendo 64 was just on the horizon and the SNES was soon to become old news. Despite the amount of time I played my Super Nintendo when I was a kid, I’ve done more SNES gaming as a “retro gamer” than I did when the SNES was the bees knees. The Nintendo 64 replaced my SNES only about a year-and-a-half after I got it. But the Super Nintendo still has some of my favorite games. Super Mario RPG introduced me to role-playing games. Kirby Super Star totally suckered me in with the whole 8-games-in-1 thing. This is still a very fun system to play.

#2- NES

I spent the first 13 years of my life with this guy. I have so many fond memories with the NES, some of which were covered in my 1st Top 5 article. I was devastated when it was stolen along with all my games in 2000. I think I would still have it today if not for that. I re-bought one a few years ago, and have tried to build back up the original collection and then some since. But my earliest memories of gaming involve the NES. Not only that, but some of my earliest memories in my entire life involve watching my dad play the Nintendo. My favorite game of all-time, Super Mario Bros. 3, calls this system home. The love-hate relationship I went through with Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! started and ended on my Nintendo. Overall though, there is still one I hold above all others…

#1- Nintendo 64

Here it is. Not only my favorite Nintendo console, but probably my favorite console of all-time. I still have the very same Nintendo 64 that I got for my birthday in 1997. I don’t think I would ever let it go. Over 15 years I’ve spent with this machine. Loving it when I first played Super Mario 64. Hating it for 6 months when I was wishing I had a GameCube. There are so many great games on here and so many games I wish modern-day games would take a page from. I wish they made wrestling games today like they did with Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy. I wish they made action-adventure games like they did Super Mario 64. Mario Kart 64 is THE BEST Mario Kart. When I have a crazy idea for a created wrestler, I don’t boot up WWE ’12, I pop in WWF No Mercy. Pokemon Stadium 1 & 2 helped me get through some tough days when my dad and stepmom divorced. The rollercoaster of emotion one feels in just a few seconds in Ocarina of Time is amazing. One second, you feel sad when Saria stares longingly at Link as he leaves Kokiri Forest, then the very next moment you feel inspired by the panning shot of Hyrule Field as you take your first steps out of your home. When I got my 1st car and drove somewhere on my own for the 1st time, I felt just like Link stepping out onto Hyrule Field. The Nintendo 64 had this middle ground between when you had more ability to tell a story with graphics than the NES and SNES, but not so much that you could rely on voice acting in games on later consoles. There is a reason why when people talk about moments they love in Zelda games, a lot of it centers around Ocarina of Time cutscenes. The Nintendo 64 was the 1st party machine. It was the 1st time I could remember me and a bunch of friends all sitting on the couch and gaming. There was no “taking-turns.” Everyone could play Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart and Wrestlemania 2000 and Mario Party at the same time. The Nintendo 64 was, and arguably still is, the ultimate dorm room machine. It is also my ultimate Nintendo machine. Nintendo may claim that the Wii and soon, the Wii U, will bring families and friends together, but for me, nothing does it better than the Nintendo 64.

So what do you think? How would you rank these consoles? Leave a comment or post something on my Facebook page, or tweet at me on Twitter!

As always, thanks for reading!

System: GameCube (also available on: Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, Playstation 2, Xbox)

Release Date: September 19th, 2005

Rarity: 10%

Price/Location: $4.99/Gaming Warehouse (Grandville)

The Tak series of games was always one that intrigued me. I like platforming games. I grew up on Mario, Sonic, and Crash Bandicoot. I really enjoyed the couple of Ratchet and Clank games I played in my early adult years. So I would say I have a favorable opinion of the genre. The problem with the platforming genre is that some games fail to innovate. A lot of games merely copy the formula of another, more successful, game and while it may be able to function properly where it needs to, you sometimes get the feeling that if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all.

How can you screw up giving Sonic the Hedgehog a freakin’ sword?! Sonic Team found a way. Innovation!

This is always the fear I had when looking at a game like Tak. Especially since it was a licensed Nickelodeon property. Interestingly enough, the Tak property was licensed by Nickelodeon for the 1st game in 2003 (Great Juju Challenge is the 3rd game), but the series did not debut as a cartoon on Nickelodeon until 2007. This is a good sign since Tak was imagined as a video game first and not a cartoon-based game. Most times, games based on licensed properties fall somewhere between “not that good” and “Superman 64-esque.”

Pictured: Gross misuse of a licensed property.

With this in mind, I jumped into Tak: The Great Juju Challenge with… not really high hopes, but rather hopes that it won’t completely suck. As with any game I check out for the first time, I jump into the Options menu first. The only change I make is turning subtitles on, as per usual. The story starts off with the chief of Tak’s tribe, the Pupanunus (Get it?! It sounds like poop! Ha!), explaining that the Juju Challenge only happens once every 60 years, and is a competition among the 4 tribes including the Grammazons (beautiful Amazonian-type women who sound and act like grannies), the JibbaJabbas (who speak via beat-boxing), and the Black Mist (token evil guys). The winning tribe will gain the favor of the Moon Juju (a kid-friendly way of saying Moon God?) for the next 60 years. This competition must be serious business. Which is why you have to call into question why the Pupanunus would choose Tak and Lok to represent them. See, Tak is but a mere child, and Lok… Lok is a man-child. We’re introduced to Tak and Lok via a scene immediately after the chief’s introduction and Lok is goofing off while Tak is trying to keep focus. It would be an average scene if it weren’t for the fact that Lok is voiced by Patrick Warburton, most famous for being the voice of Joe Swanson on Family Guy.

Patrick Warburton as The Tick? NAY! It’s a tick dressed as Patrick Warburton. He’s that awesome.

As the opening level unfolds, I quickly get a feeling for the controls. A: Jump, B: Attack, Z to switch between Tak and Lok. The Y button throws some kind of projectile attack, but I never found a good use for it during my playthrough. The game at this point is not bad. The controls are good, the challenge is certainly there, and the music, while fitting for the setting, has an issue I haven’t heard since the original Playstation. Instead of the music continuously playing throughout the level, the music track will end, stay silent for a second or two, then start over. It’s not a big gripe, but it did detract from the atmosphere the game is trying to create. After plucking the feather from a certain bird, Tak and Lok are granted acceptance into the Juju Challenge.

Not a ticket to the Olympics.

After a less-detailed-than-desired explanation of the Juju Challenge, we jump into the first level. The competition appears to be point-based. A timer in each level ticks down, giving you more points the quicker you finish. Although you don’t lose if it counts down to zero, you lose out on your main source of points. Checkpoints add time to your timer, unless you hit zero. If your timer hits zero, time can no longer be added on, but you can still finish the level. There are also opportunities to collect points based on item pickups and defeating enemies. I get the feeling this was the developers attempt at innovation, but I can’t help but feel the competition aspect was tacked-on, rather than being fully-integrated into the gameplay. If the competition storyline were removed from the game, the core gameplay and level design would likely not change. It plays just like any other platformer and the competition does nothing to distinguish it from other games. However, that’s not to say I’m not enjoying other aspects of it. Patrick Warburton is fantastic in this and the cut-scenes are genuinely funny. The gameplay itself functions as it needs to… until we get to the first head-to-head-to-head-to-head competition, some kind of demolition derby.

Me vs. my optimism for this game.

This event was terrible! The controls are bad, there is no explanation of what to do or how to win, and points only seemed to be awarded on an arbitrary basis. After this event mercifully ends and I eek out a 3rd place finish, the following cut-scene, while funny because Lok finds out the truth about the Grammazons after an attempt to hit on them, completely renders everything that has happened up to this point invalid. The Black Mist were supposed to be eliminated but a “scoring error” allows them to stay in the competition. Fine, I get that it’s supposed to be because the Black Mist used underhanded tactics and cheated to be allowed to stay, but what’s the point of earning points and scoring, if the outcome seems to be predetermined through the use of storylines? Why am I going through these levels and scoring as many points as I can if the cut-scene after the first 3 levels and mini-game shows that I could have been blowing through these levels without scoring points, since it was programmed by the developers that Black Mist would have been in 4th place, regardless of my performance? No matter how lackadaisical I was in completing these levels, the worst I would have finished was 3rd place.

Yay.

Verdict: BARGAIN BIN

I really, really wanted to like this game. Patrick Warburton was basically my only reason for getting through these levels. Otherwise the gameplay was merely average and did nothing really new or innovative to distinguish it from the rest of the platforming pack. The fact that the points you accumulate for the competition are meaningless really left a bad taste in my mouth and ruined whatever goodwill the game was building with me. This game is not terrible, but there are some questionable programming and story choices that affect the gameplay and my enjoyment in a major way.

Episode 11 has earned a completion certificate of it’s own! If you want to leave comments, praise, criticisms, or suggestions you can leave them here, or on The Official Five Dollar Gamer Facebook Page!

Thanks for reading!