Mario Kart: On Track (Vol.2-3 Mario Kart 64: Star Cup)

Volume 2-3: The Star Cup

In every Mario Kart games to date, the Star Cup typically introduces players to a much greater of level of challenge than what they experienced prior, as well as also introducing them to tracks that are a lot more intricately designed than in the previous two tournaments. Mario Kart 64 perpetuated this concept by introducing players to not only more wonderfully designed tracks, but longer, or even wider ones too. The Star cup in Mario Kart 64 features not only some of my favourite tracks in the game, but also some of my favourite tracks in the entire series.

 

 


 Wario Stadium

Wario_Stadium_MK64

The second longest track in the entire game, clocking in at 1591m is in fact the only course in Mario Kart 64 to have not been re-mastered for use in a future instalment; and in all honesty, it perplexes me, as I think it’s one of the best; certainly the best in the tournament. The track design is many times more unique than any of the other courses modelled after the main Super Mario characters, since it revolves around a completely different theme; motorbike racing. The roads are made from dirt, and there are several hills that players must traverse across before the end. The only gripe I have about the course’s design is that the billboards are pretty unimaginative, merely containing Wario’s face throughout the entire track.

The soundtrack is the same one used in both Luigi Raceway and Mario Raceway, and whilst consequently isn’t too catchy, I think it somehow adds to the atmosphere in a much greater capacity than the two aforementioned examples. Luigi and Mario raceway’s track designs were pretty basic in comparison, but because Wario Stadium is much more intricately designed and affords a greater level of competition, the soundtrack can more effectively let players knows that they’re taking part in a competitive race in my opinion.

In terms of challenge, this track is not to be taken lightly. Though it may seem like smooth sailing in parts, a lot of the corners can be fairly tricky to take; especially in the higher classes. On top of that, it is the only course in the game that includes a jump that can set the player back for up to a quarter of the track. It adds quite a bit of tension, since no player knows when and if a lightning bolt will strike him or her at that precise moment.

Design – 5/5

Soundtrack – 5/5

Level of Challenge – 5/5

Score

15/15 (5/5)

 


Sherbert Land

Sherbet_Land_MK64

Out of the two ice stages in Mario Kart 64, I favour Sherbert Land for a number of reasons. Firstly, the design of the track is far superior, and much more varied, containing not only elements new to the Mario Kart series, but also from Super Mario 64, such as the penguins and a vague retaining of the feel of the downhill penguin race in the hut at the beginning of the level. Aside from that, it’s also a lot more wide and open, and there are also a couple of alternative routes to take along the way. Since the soundtrack is the same as Frappe Snowland, it has more or less the same impact as the former. It’s reasonably catchy, and does perfectly to add to the snow-themed tableau of it’s respective track.

But the biggest reason why I believe it to be better than Frappe Snowland is its level of challenge. Reminiscent of the last ice stage in Super Mario Kart, there are certain jumps that can be exploited in order to gain time and go further in front, or to go gain a lot of slight advances on racers that may be ahead of the players. But by proxy, they can also go horribly wrong if the player makes the jump at the wrong time, causing them to either lose time, or even lost the race entirely. Aside from this, there also exist a great deal of obstacles to slow players down, such as penguins in the road and pillars in the caves.

Design – 5/5

Soundtrack – 4/5

Level of Challenge – 5/5

Score

14/15 (4/5)


Royal Raceway

 Royal_Raceway_MK64

The last course in the game to follow the motordrome tableau associated with a select number of other tracks in this title, Royal Raceway is by some distance the best of the bunch. The general track design is a lot more intricate and well though out than either Luigi or Mario Raceway, and there is also the added option of going off-track to the area which the trophies are handed out at the end of each tournament, which in turn, features the same castle in Super Mario 64. It gave the course a certain charm that no other track in the game has, and while it may seem trivial to some, to me, it’s quite an amusing distraction.

It’s also here where the motordrome soundtrack is at its most effective, since the course has the strongest feeling of intense racing to it. It still feels about as catchy as it does in the other tracks, but it’s still here where the atmosphere is most appropriated. Aside from that, it’s also the most challenging of the series of stages it belongs to; having a particularly high jump, that which if executed wrong, can cost players either the race, or an extraordinary amount of time, as well as a great number of twists and turns in the road to have to overcome.

 

Design – 5/5

Soundtrack – 5/5

Level of Challenge – 5/5

Score

15/15 (5/5)


 Bowser’s Castle

Bowser's_Castle_MK64

Whilst this incarnation of Bowser’s Castle isn’t the best I’ve ever seen in the Mario Kart series, it’s still certainly one of the more interesting and atmospheric tracks in the entire game. The design of the course is particularly interesting, as many different things influenced it. For example, the Bowser portraits throughout were taken from previous artwork used in Super Mario Bros 3, which were also used in the Lethal Lava Land level in Super Mario 64. There is also a caged green Thwomp in the level, which fans have taken to nicknaming it Marty. The method in which to release him is particularly convoluted, and for the longest time were considered false until someone managed to do it on YouTube, but no one knows for certain how the rumour came about, adding an air of mystery to the course.

The soundtrack is also particularly atmospheric and dark. It gives testament to how if the developers try, even a Mario game can be considered scary. Whilst it may not be at all catchy, it’s certainly dark and gritty, and works extremely well for use in the track. But the most standout thing about the course, as indeed in most other Bowser’s Castle incarnations, is its level of challenge, Throughout there is a great deal of sharp corners to have to get around, and a spiral staircase that if a player happens to be unlucky enough to be hit by a star or shell, can actually fall off, and lose a considerable amount of time. Not to mention that there are also potholes in the road toward the finish line, which can instantly turn a race around.

Design – 5/5

Soundtrack – 5/5

Level of Challenge – 5/5

Score

15/15 (5/5)

 Mario Kart 64_Jun22 0_17_08

Overall, the Star Cup was a massive improvement on the two previous cups, and certainly helped to introduce players to a more intense and challenging side of the game; especially whilst playing through on the much higher difficulty levels. Everything about the tournament seemed to improve dramatically on what players had seen so far, but even despite that, the best was yet to come. And I will explain why in the next article, as I cover the fourth and final tournament; the Special Cup.

Steven Tench

-AKA-

Scouse Gamer 88