The original kart racer is headed to Nintendo's next-gen handheld, and j00ny Metts got to play it a bit at E3.
I'll admit it: Mario Kart Advance didn't exactly blow me away at E3. It was impressive and quite fun, but nothing close to, for instance, Tony Hawk 2 or Diddy Kong Pilot. Perhaps it's just that the playable stuff in the E3 demo was very, very similar to the Super NES version, which I've played fairly recently.
MKA sports some nice Mode-7 graphics, and as you've probably read already, everything is somewhere between SMK and MK64. The characters and item boxes are modeled just like Mario Kart 64, but the courses themselves (including flat coins) are straight up retro Super Mario Kart. Nothing wrong with that of course, but graphically, MKA brings nothing new to the table because of its unique position between predecessors. I should note that each course has a detailed and very beautiful background.
The gameplay is again standard stuff. It's fun, but still the same game that we've already played twice with apparently no new features implemented. The one thing I really badly wanted to be included was not, at least in the E3 demo: powerslide smoke boosts. They added so much skill and strategy to Mario Kart 64 that I'd be very disappointed not to have them in the final burn of what is essentially MK64's sequel.
Now here's some good news for you: the game controls well. A is gas, B is brake, R jumps/powerslides, and L fires your weapon. Each character has a different feel to him/her, and getting used to that unique handling style is critical to your success.
It's impressive to see such a complex racing game running on a handheld system, but until I try the multiplayer and see some cool new features, I can't be very excited about Mario Kart Advance. The battle mode in particular will be of utmost importance in my purchasing decision, and only time will tell if that works out.