Volume 2-2: The Flower Cup
Traditionally, the Flower Cup only offers a slight increase in difficulty following the Mushroom Cup, whilst also serving to introduce players to some of either the general gimmicks or intricacies that a Mario Kart game has to offer. The Flower Cup in Mario Kart 64 is no exception, delivering further on the greatly enhanced and more varied conceptual design, as well as the heightened amount of obstacles to overcome; something for which the game would become widely memorable.
My personal favourite track in the Flower Cup, and the third longest course in the game, Toad’s Turnpike was interesting because it introduced a visual concept that not many players would have associated with the character Toad to begin with, and it still doesn’t seemed to have been explained why this happened. The name turnpike wasn’t even supposed to describe the course’s design, but rather it was used in both the UK and Holland as a form of alliteration. The course is actually called Toad’s Highway everywhere else.
While the cars passing by on the track look fairly generic, the best feature is undoubtedly the shading of the night sky, which creates a tranquil atmosphere in a course wrought with challenge and danger. Like most of the other courses in the Flower Cup, there are no cultural references to make things even more interesting, but I think it still stands out as unique in concept against everything else seen in Mario games at this point. The soundtrack also does exceptionally well to add to this atmosphere, given how slow it is; and at times, even melodic. But the best aspect of this track is it’s level of challenge; especially in mirror mode, as the cars start to come in the opposite direction, as well as at faster speeds than lesser classes, thus making it much more difficult to dodge them as they come along. It is without a doubt one of the most challenging tracks in the entire game
Design – 4/5
Soundtrack – 4/5
Level of Challenge – 5/5
Frappe Snowland, to me personally was an improvement on the ice-themed stages in Super Mario Kart in a few respects, but in terms of challenge, it seemed like a step down. One of the most interesting about it is the fact that it has a couple of different names in different regions; Snowy Circuit in France, Cold Cold Road in Spain, and in Germany, the course is called Polar-Parcours as a pun on the word Polargebiet, meaning polar region. The course’s scenery and style were fairly well executed, making use of both very realistic sound effects and icy textures throughout, and ice sculptures darted around the course of both Mario and Yoshi. The course’s soundtrack is also fairly catchy, and does perfectly add to the overall feel of the track.
Unfortunately, unlike the ice-themed stages of Super Mario Kart, Frappe Snowland doesn’t provide anywhere near as much of a challenge in my opinion. There is a section whereby the player must avoid a multitude of explosive snowmen, and if they aren’t careful, there is a body of water they can fall in towards the finish line, but other than this, it’s mainly smooth sailing throughout.
Design – 3/5
Soundtrack – 4/5
Level of Challenge – 2/5
Reminiscent of the Choco Island stages of the original Super Mario Kart, and the stages in Super Mario World, and paying homage to the first game like Koopa Troopa Beach in the Mushroom Cup, Choco Mountain is also a massive improvement on the Choco Island courses in a lot of different ways. First off, the name itself is a lot more relevant to the track design, which was much better developed in Mario Kart 64, containing elements such as towering mountains and slopes in the road. A more fitting name for the course was Choco Canyon, which was what the course was named in Italy, but at this point, that would be splitting hairs.
An element that I was glad to have seen taken out were the puddles of mud in the road, which in the first place didn’t do anything to add to the course’s level of challenge or scenery. The soundtrack is also far better, having more of a, old American West feel to it, which is why I believe Kalimari Desert may have worked better with this soundtrack as opposed to the one it ended up with. The course’s level of challenge is also a very positive departure from the chocolate-themed tracks in Super Mario Kart, containing a greater amount of obstacles. Specifically, there is a turn where players must avoid a series of boulders that are coming down from a mountainside on the right. Not only that, but the player must also do as well as they can to not keep on the road at that point, since there is also a pit on the left side, which players can fall into, and potentially lose places at a crucial moment in the race.
Design – 4/5
Soundtrack – 4/5
Level of Challenge – 4/5
Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal to say about Mario Raceway, since in terms of each individual aspect, there isn’t a great of difference between it and Luigi Raceway, and is most definitely the worst course of the Flower Cup in my opinion. Conceptually, it’s only fractionally better than Luigi Raceway, containing a little bit ore scenery throughout in the form of more billboards, oversized mushrooms, a pipe tunnel and the same display over the stand of fans at the starting line as the former course; only this time, the cap is red in homage to Mario. The soundtrack is also the same, and consequently, of the same quality; doing the decent job of establishing the overall feel of the game.
It’s level of challenge is also fractionally better than Luigi Raceway, containing a lot more turns, but not much else. There aren’t obstacles to slow players down unless they accidentally swerve off the track. Even the American description of the track in Mario Kart Wii describes the course as a means of taking things back to basics, giving even further testament to how basic this track is overall.
Design – 3.5/5
Soundtrack – 4/5
Level of Challenge – 1.5/5
In summation, though it isn’t without its flaws, he Flower Cup was most definitely an improvement on the Mushroom Cup, and indeed did a decent job of slowly introducing more intricate elements of the game, as well as offering an increased level of challenge in comparison to the previous cup. But although the conceptual design of each track was also kept consistently interesting in this tournament, it gets even better from here, as next time, I will critiquing the next tournament; the Star Cup.
Scouse Gamer 88