Billy's been playing Mario Kart Advance since it's first showing at Space World. Has it been worth the wait? Read the full import review!
Mario Kart is the original Kart Racer. It’s spawned many knock-offs, but when it all comes down to it…there’s nothing that has ever beaten the original Mario Kart series. Regardless of if you play the game alone or if you race with friends, Mario Kart has become a Nintendo institution. I can remember the hours I played this game in college alone and with friends. The amount of time and practice I have sunk into Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 should never be divulged to my parents or my old professors. (I was sick! Honest!) The import has finally hit Japan, and after logging countless hours once again, it’s good to know the series just keeps getting better.
It’s kind of a throwback to Super Mario Kart on the SNES with the control scheme. Mario Kart Advance’s controls are rather easy to get used to, except for one part…the power slides. Power slides are probably the most difficult thing to master about the game. Fortunately, they really aren’t too needed until the higher stages. The slide will take practice, but eventually you will need to know it to succeed. Each of the characters still have their different attributes as usual, but some of the characters I refuse to race with due to the way they handle. I’ve always been known to race with Toad, but now the Princess is my favorite racer. She seems to hold the ground a little tighter, and Toad just seems like he’s sliding all over the place. Could just be me, but Toad’s sitting curbside waiting for the short bus.
One thing I did like that they kept control-wise was the power turn. Get locked up against a wall, or tossed in a corner and press A+B together, and you can spin right out of there. Nice! You can also trail a shell or a banana peel behind you just like the N64 game. Trust me, you’ll need the added protection.
Mario Kart is all about game play and Mario Kart Advance does not disappoint. In my opinion on the prior versions multiplayer usually was what kept you coming back for more, and single player seemed to be something just to train you on the tracks. Nintendo has added a new grading system to the mix of things to extend the life of the single player. Grades are determined by what place you get in each race and how many coins you get on each track. In a sense it’s a remix of the coin challenges in Diddy Kong Racing. At least, this time there is a purpose to the extra work. By increasing your grades for each track, you unlock the single player SNES tracks from Super Mario Kart. This basically means there are 20 more tracks to race on in Mario Kart Advance bringing the total to 40 single player tracks if you unlock them all. Once unlocked you can play them on Multiplayer. The 50cc levels are pretty easy to unlock, but it gets rather hellish after that. Personally, I think it forces you to be a better racer. If you beat these, you’ll probably be able to beat your friends. You will know every nook and cranny of each track. Since you’re going to gain mad skills, and another track (essentially the whole SNES game) I think it’s well worth it.
Speaking of multiplayer, the single-pak version is pretty good. It’s the first cup from Super Mario Kart, and yes, you have to all race with different colored Yoshis. Speed-wise it was pretty decent, but you could tell there was some slow down. Otherwise I thought the experience was much better than playing it on the SNES. The speed problem was a minor drawback, but it was slightly better than what I tried during the multi-pak beta test that I had 2 weeks ago.
Not to forget how many options are included in this game. First you have your basic time trials where you can race for the best times on each track. There's even instant replays that you can check out of your race! You can also can save and trade ghost data over the Mobile GB adapter in Japan. Unfortunately you can't trade over link cable like the US version will allow. Then there's Quick run, where you can toggle laps, items, and coins. Many options for such a tiny game pak. It's actually refreshing to finally play a Game Boy Advance game that has options for mostly everything!
Unfortunately that’s it as far as the single pak experience goes. You only get 4 SNES tracks. I mean, I guess that’s fine, but I don’t think battle mode would have been too difficult to add in. At least 1-2 courses. Plus, why couldn’t there have been a battle mode bot match or something for the single player? That would have been a nice addition. Granted, Nintendo obviously wants more people to buy Mario Kart Advance, but giving the single player the largest experience would have been the best.
This brings us to the multi-cartridge experience, which I have not played with Mario Kart Advance. But after getting a beta testing last week of the almost finished version of Mario Kart Super Circuit, the multi-cart experience was a bit disappointing. While the battle modes were as speedy as ever, the racing had some serious slow down. It wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t want to play, but it was really noticeable to the point where it slightly hindered the gameplay. I am not sure if this was fixed for the final build of the US version or not. There is still reports of some minor Mario Kart Advance multi-cart slow down from the people that I’ve talked to that have played it, but I guess it’s a bit better. When I get more first hand knowledge of this I will be modifying this review.
If you and your friends are big fans of multiplayer Kart, I would say that it’s going to be worth getting your own cartridge. You’ll get to play multiplayer in 40 tracks (instead of 4), with the character of your choice (unless chosen by someone else), and you’ll get battle mode. Battle mode was a total blast. There also wasn’t any apparent slow down at all. It would be nice if there were options to toggle the radar on or off, but it’s a nice edition for rookies. In comparison to Super Mario Kart and N64 battle modes, I think this one plays better.
Basically what it comes down to, if everyone has their own cartridge, Mario Kart Advance is the ultimate Mario Kart multiplayer package to date. I’ve logged about 20+ hours into the single game experience, and I still have plenty of tracks to unlock, and then I have to beat those of course. For the first time in my life, I really have a driving ambition to get my grades up. Pun totally intended.
This game has completely surprised me graphically. If you think all this game is, is a portable version of Super Mario Kart, you are totally wrong. This blows away the SNES version. Mario Kart Advance has to be the best looking Nintendo-published title made that I’ve seen as of yet. Every aspect of this game looks delicious. Even the menu design is nicely detailed!
I would have to describe the in-game graphics as a pseudo 3-D title Sure, it’s got that Mode 7 feel to it, but after a while, it looks almost as good as the N64 incarnation. The characters look fantastic, and their animations, albeit cute, are gorgeous.
The courses are vibrant, and artistically brilliant for a handheld system. There’s plenty of interactive elements on screen. From volcanoes in the background burping up lava rocks, to little mousers running across the track…everything looks perfect. The different environmental effects are also a nice addition. During certain courses there will be a change from day to night, sunny to cloudy, plus there’s even rain or snow thrown in the mix. You won’t believe how good this looks until you play it.
One major problem with the sound, you better have headphones on if you want to experience the beauty of Mario Kart Advance’s audio. Otherwise you can barely hear anything. If you are in an open area where there’s people, forget it…you won’t be able to hear a whole lot. The only noise I have that’s going on in my apartment is a fan or two, and I can barely hear anything. But once you put on headphones and can hear the sound, it’s a whole new ballgame. The music is very well done, and for how many different style tracks there are, it never seems to get repetitive. Very catchy too. I’d love for Nintendo to put out a soundtrack of some of the greatest hits!
Each of the characters have sound effects like Mario Kart 64, but they are toned down a bit and aren’t overbearing as they were in N64 version. The samples are all high quality, and there’s plenty of them for the different things that happen during a race. You can hear the wood rattling as you cross a bridge, as well as hear where a shell hits. The stereo separation seems to be well done too. You can hear racers go from left to right, or when you are passing them. I would say the sound is almost as good as its N64 predecessor, but a little tinnier. Overall though, it’s a job well done with sound on the GBA. Too bad you can’t get the full effect without headphones.
No matter how you look at it, Mario Kart Advance is a fantastic addition to the series. Beginners along with Kart veterans will be very happy when they play this game. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to import this game since it’s coming out in about a month, plus you never know if it will be compatible multi-pak wise. Chances are it won’t be. I’m a freakin’ Kart junkie, and I took one for the team, and forced myself to play this game for hours just for you! Overall, Nintendo seemingly took all of the good things from Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, sprinkled a touch of Diddy Kong Racing (coin challenges), and created a portable Kart-fest. The game does have some minor flaws, but overall Mario Kart Advance is not only the best Kart game on a handheld system, it’s one of the main reasons you should have a Game Boy Advance.