Volume 3-1 Mario Kart: Super Circuit: Mushroom Cup
Marking the franchise’s debut on a handheld console, Mario Kart: Super Circuit was released worldwide on the Game Boy advance back in 2001, and like it’s two predecessors before it, was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews and critical acclaim, in total selling over 5.9 million units, and finishing as the fourth highest selling game or the system behind Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, Pokémon Fire Red & Leaf Green and Pokémon Emerald. In many ways to me, it a lot like a combination of the first two games, incorporating the same method of 3D rendering as the original Super Mario Kart as well as the same method of sprite rendering, menu layout and style of play as Mario Kart 64. Put together, the game does indeed make for a fairly enjoyable experience; even despite it being in my opinion, the worst game in the series.
The main reason for this is that in terms of track design, I think it’s more of a case of hit and miss than the previous two games, which for the most part, had excellent tracks attached to them. However, the one aspect I can’t fault this game for is that it showed Nintendo’s willingness to try new and different layouts for tracks as opposed to simply sticking to all the different settings synonymous with the Super Mario series, which I will be discussing in much more depth as this chapter in the series progresses. But for this article, I will naturally be looking into where the game begins by tradition; the Mushroom Cup.
Kicking off the Mushroom Cup was Peach Circuit; a very basic course in the sense of both general layout and track design, created as such to provide players with an adequately accessible introduction to the game, giving them a vague idea of what intricacies await them in later tournaments and races. The basic design of the track is interestingly similar to Royal Raceway from Mario art 64, featuring similar elements such as Peach’s castle off in the distance (though the courtyard can’t be traversed like in Mario Kart 64), and lush green surroundings to accompany it. Though it doesn’t stand out to any particularly extent like many other tracks in the game, it’s still nice to look at whilst cruising through the relatively easy race.
In my opinion, however, the course has the least catchy soundtrack of any of the introductory courses in the series. It’s relatively fast-paced, somewhat setting up the feel of the game overall, but I found it doesn’t do that quite as well as any other first track in any other Mario Kart game. In terms of challenge, I was actually somewhat surprised to find that isn’t all a walk in the park. There are a few twists and turns towards the end, which keep things interesting, and can cost players if they deviate too far away, which isn’t completely unavoidable, as would be expected for the most part.
Design – 3/5
Soundtrack – 3/5
Level of Challenge – 3/5
Shy Guy Beach
Combining elements from both the Koopa Beach stages in Super Mario Kart and the Koopa Troopa Beach stage in Mario Kart 64, Shy Guy Beach is set on a tropical island wrought with a variety of different traps and obstacles designed to slow players down. The track’s basic design, however is much more reminiscent of Koopa Beach as opposed to Koopa Trooper, since there is much less scenery in this course than the former, and about as much as the latter. The soundtrack also seems to me like a re-worked version of the soundtrack for Choco Island from Super Mario Kart, albeit this is fractionally catchier than the former, and it also goes along better with the nature of the track itself in my opinion. In terms of challenge, it also offers a somewhat distant departure from Peach Circuit, featuring a lot more in the way of obstacles to be overcome, since not only are there things to avoid on the road, but there is also a pirate Shy Guy firing cannons from a galleon at the player that they must look out for in addition. Though it ultimately provides around the same level of challenge, it is a very effective introduction to various different elements that players need to look out for in upcoming courses.
Design – 3/5
Soundtrack – 4/5
Level of Challenge – 3/5
As I said, to me Super Circuit was much more hit and miss in terms of track design than the previous two games, and Riverside Park is a primary example of a weaker track in the game. Though it was named as such to most probably attempt to deviate away from the settings of the Super Mario series, the track design to me simply looks like an alternative rendering of DK’s Jungle Parkway in Mario Kart 64, which I prefer greatly. Though the layout may be fractionally more intricate than the previous two courses, it doesn’t provide any more scenery beyond trees in the background, which just makes it look all the more generic. The soundtrack also doesn’t stand out particularly well in my opinion, and is perhaps a little bit more fast-paced than what it ought to be. It was fair enough to incorporate the same tempo in DKs Jungle Parkway, since that course was a lot more challenging, but in a course like this, to me it doesn’t work.
Speaking of challenge, it actually seems to me like somewhat of a step down from even Shy Guy Beach, featuring next to no obstacles to slow players down, and no particularly sharp turns to keep players on their toes
Design – 1/5
Soundtrack – 2/5
Level of Challenge – 2/5
Bowser Castle 1
Things start to change within the Mushroom Cup for the better, however, with the introduction of the last track. Bowser Castle 1 is one of four tracks in the game to go along with this theme, and make fro some of the most exciting tracks in the entire game; the first being no exception. Featuring about the same level of dark atmosphere as the Bowser courses featured in Super Mario Kart, but being nowhere as dark as Bowser’s Castle in Mario Kart 64, it features bricks made of a red material to match the lava surrounding the track, which players will fall into at least once whilst playing through the four Bowser courses. The course’s soundtrack is also exemplary in my opinion. Though it works to relieve it of it’s dark tone to a certain extent, it’s definitely one of the catchiest tunes in the game; if not, the catchiest. It also progresses at an adequately fast pace, which sets to the tone for how difficult and testing they can become.
Challenge within this course lies in the fact that there are an uncomfortably large amount of sharp turn that players must be mindful of whilst racing; especially if other racers happen to be close by or not far behind. Players also need to watch out how they fire weapons around the track, since the corner are so tight and the track is only so wide, that players can very well accidentally hit themselves if the weapons misses the target and deflects back at just the right angle.
Design – 4/5
Soundtrack – 5/5
Level of Challenge – 4/5
Overall, the Mushroom Cup is not only the worst Mushroom cup in the Mario Kart series, but also the worst tournament in the series, featuring the least intricate track designs, the least catchy soundtracks and the lowest amount of challenge to accompany it. It was redeemed somewhat with the inclusion of Bowser Castle 1, but in lieu of Mario Kart tradition, the best was thankfully yet to come, and it does an adequate enough job of introducing players to the rest of the game.
Join me next time when I will cover where some improvements were made to the feel of the game with the next tournament; the Flower Cup.