Volume 3-2 Mario Kart: Super Circuit: Flower Cup
In terms of keeping up with the general traditions of the series, the Flower Cup in Mario Kart: Super Circuit to me only offers a fractionally higher rate of difficulty than in the Mushroom Cup, and it doesn’t really introduce players to any new intricacies that the game may have had to offer if it had been developed differently, because the game in general is by in large, a combination of two pre-existing games and at the time, there was nowhere near as much scope as there seemingly has been in recent years to modify the overall gameplay formula to any great extent. Although the standards of tracks do increase with the next few tournaments in the game, to me, this wasn’t the best example of how to design a Flower Cup in a Mario Kart title.
The tournament opens with a course similar to Peach Circuit called Mario Circuit. It plays out a lot like the former, and even looks similar to it as well, but in my opinion, it’s worse than the former for several reasons. Firstly, there is less to look at in terms of scenery, and it doesn’t really speak of Mario Kart in any way possible, and simply features empty forest land, which is much less to say for it than the Mario-themed track in Mario Kart 64, which at least had some nice background features, like signs with Mario on it, and the stands at the start of the race with a huge Mario cap on it. However, there isn’t anything like that in this course, and it represents a lack of imagination on Nintendo’s part in my opinion.
The music is also the same as Peach Circuit, and consequently it doesn’t truly add a great deal, since as I said in my last article, I believe it to be the least catchy opening theme to a Mario Kart game. In terms of offering challenge, it also seems like a step down from even Peach Circuit, offering less obstacles, and more smooth sailing throughout. There are sharper turns, but nothing else to add to what little challenge there is. Overall, it’s a very disappointing opening track, but thankfully, things do get better from hereon in.
Design – 1/5
Soundtrack – 3/5
Level of Challenge – 2/5
The first track in the game based on the haunted house levels featured in the likes of Super Mario World and Super Mario 64, Boo Lake is a massive improvement on Mario Circuit in every way. First of all, the scenery looks like nothing else seen in Mario Kart tracks focusing on the same theme prior, featuring dead trees throughout, and the very unique feature of the sky growing even darker on the last lap, which added a really nice and atmospheric touch to the track. Though the general design of the track looks largely like the Ghost Valley circuits in Super Mario Kart, the scenery had a lot of those intricate details that players may not have noticed the first time round, but will eventually realize how much it adds to the track.
The soundtrack, whilst not catchy, as it isn’t intended to be, also adds a lot to the track’s atmosphere, as it sounds a lot like a mixture between the Ghost Valley theme from Super Mario Kart, and the Banshee Boardwalk theme from Mario Kart 64, which both sounded delightfully foreboding in their own right; especially Banshee Boardwalk. The level of challenge is also a massive improvement on the last track, with the track focusing on many of the same principles as the Ghost Valley tracks. There are many turns and falls to have to avoid in order to win, and the they are also fairly narrow making it quite easy for other racers to knock the player off the track and send them falling down. The reason why it is somewhat easier than Ghost Valley is because it is easier to take advantage of the shortcuts darted around the track, and the shortcut in Ghost Valley required more precision than in here.
Design – 4/5
Soundtrack – 4/5
Level of Challenge – 3/5
Deviating away from regular tropes of the Super Mario series, Cheese Land to me represents an attempt from Nintendo at trying something new in terms of track design, but is largely hit and miss. The general design of the course is the biggest gripe I have with it, since I never looked upon it as the most imaginative of ideas, and I’ve always thought of as being too much of a departure from the general design and atmosphere of the Super Mario universe in general, and consequently looking and seeming far too out of place. I understand that it’s supposed to allude to the old folklore motif that the Moon is made of cheese, as the moon appears in the background, but for the most part, it seems like a very feeble attempt at making something new.
The soundtrack of the course, however, was particularly well done at least, since it makes for one of the catchiest themes in the game, and does well to go along with the somewhat happy atmosphere of the track, as well as it being quite suited for a fast paced-race. Speaking of which, the level of challenge in this course is also fairly satisfying, as it features not only a series of particularly sharp turns to have to undertake, and narrow tracks throughout, but there are also a great deal of mice in the road to have to avoid in order to stay in front, and since the track is not particularly long, it may not take the racer behind very long to catch up if there is a mistake made.
Design – 2/5
Soundtrack – 4/5
Level of Challenge – 3/5
Bowser Castle 2
The tournament then closes out with yet another track designed after the theme of Bowser’s Castle, which is most definitely the best track in the tournament, but only slightly worse than the first. The reason being is that the background of the track is less menacing than the previous track in the mushroom cup, as that track featured an all red background, whilst this track also has a splash of purple to show a series of Bowser statues. Some may argue that this looks more intimidating than in the last, because there is more scenery to look at but the former was scarier in my opinion.
The brilliant and catchy soundtrack of the former also returns, and adds just as much to the course’s foreboding atmosphere, as well also being a catchy tune to race to. It also personally makes me feel really determined to win the race, and I think any Mario Kart track that can do such a thing deserves a high score. The level of challenge is also just as demanding, with players having to be careful how they aim weapons so as not to get inadvertently hit along the sharp corners, and it’s just as easy to fall into lava, and thus be held back several positions on the track.
Design – 3/5
Soundtrack – 5/5
Level of Challenge – 4/5
Overall, whilst Super Circuit’s Flower Cup isn’t the best in Mario Kart history, it does have it’s standout moments, and after a very questionable start, vast improvements can be seen in the latter stages. It’s also a massive improvement on the Mushroom Cup, which as I said in my last article, is in my opinion the worst tournament of any Mario Kart game.
But again, things get much more interesting later on in the game. Join me next time, and we will be looking at what was a new edition to the series at the time; the Lightning Cup.