Title  : Mario Kart Super Circuit
Platforms  : Game Boy Advance
Publisher  : Nintendo
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 8.3
Review by  : Ken Gagne

On your mark — get set — vroooom! 

Almost a decade ago, the racing genre was expanded and redefined by Nintendo's innocuous title, Super Mario Kart. The myriad racing courses, fanciful items, well-known characters, and an engrossing multiplayer mode combined into a sleeper hit that enjoyed a repeat performance on the Nintendo 64

Now you can go-kart on the go with the Game Boy Advance sequel, Mario Kart Super Circuit. 

This racer sends players on a light-hearted circuit of various racing kingdoms. Mario, Wario, Donkey Kong, and other Nintendo icons are behind the wheel in five racing cups of four courses each. These all-new tracks cover a lot of territory: beaches, deserts, clouds, and cheese. Items such as shells and mushrooms provide players with the capability for offensive strikes, turbo boosts, and more. 

This handheld kart game is akin to its Super Nintendo counterpart, with flat courses that lack hills or slopes. Coins decorate the landscape; picking them up increases a driver's speed and his tolerance for being sideswiped. 

Some Nintendo 64 features keeps things from getting too old-school. Triple shell and spiny shell items are present, and are acquired by driving over 3D rotating blocks. 

As good as Mario Kart 64 was, many people — myself included — preferred the original. With the Game Boy Advance version, Nintendo has done a perfect job of balancing the strengths and features of both previous games. 

But if you've grown accustomed to the analog steering of Mario Kart 64, or the high speed of F-Zero Maximum Velocity, you best take a few practice laps on this game. The steering is touchy and takes some learning, especially the jump-and-slide move necessary to take corners. The buttons cannot be remapped from their default setting, which some players will consider a crime; regular use of the shoulder buttons can be awkward on the Game Boy Advance, making effective item use difficult. 

Control isn't the game's only tough spot. With such a small, dark screen, it can sometimes be hard to spot the details of the courses; for example, coins can blend in with courses composed of cheese and desert sand. The game does forewarn racers of the course layout by flashing arrows indicating upcoming turns and curves. A player familiar with the track cannot disable these signs. 

The courses abound with sound effects. Each character crows or cries according to his progress, from Mario's "Let's-a-go!" to Wario's wicked laughter. Turtle shells, banana peels, and other gear are each also deployed with their own effects. It's more than just ear candy; these effects accompany the graphics to provide a better picture of what's happening, or about to (as with the tell-tale sound of the spiny shell). 

Mario Kart supports linking with up to four other Game Boy Advances. If only one person has a copy of the game, then only race mode is accessible with limited driver and course selection. If each person has their own Mario Kart, these restrictions are removed, and the Battle Mode becomes available. Up to four players can duke it out on four different courses. 

Link mode sports all the fun and challenge Mario Kart is known for, but occurs more rarely due to the hardware necessary for such a linkup. Multiplayer mode has often been the most popular aspect of the Mario Kart series, has has attributed greatly to its longevity. It's a shame that this entry in the series does not easily beckon players to gather in the name of kart battle. 

Any problems with Mario Kart Super Circuit are more the fault of the hardware than the software. These minor flaws do not diminish two overwhelming facts: we have a new Mario Kart game, and it's on a handheld system. Whether by yourself or by a friend, it's two great reasons to have your Game Boy a la kart.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 03-Sep-01